The Narendra Modi administration has introduced a new model for the flow of information, grievance redressal and public participation in policymaking using technology and diverse media platforms to achieve its goal of bringing the government closer to the people in the remotest corner of the country.
While this helps make governance participative, it also enables the administration give the results of various schemes on a real-time basis and showcase its performance.
Political analysts say the move increases accountability of the government, but more needs to be done in terms of increasing people’s direct participation in lawmaking.
Resolving public grievances relating to services by central government utilities is one area of focus. One could file a complaint either on the Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System website or through a mobile phone app. Ministers, especially railways minister Suresh Prabhu and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, are often seen personally intervening to resolve customer grievances expressed in social media platforms such as Twitter.
Among all its direct citizen interaction initiatives, the most noticeable is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat radio programme.
“Through Mann Ki Baat, the prime minister expresses himself unmediated and people like that. Through its grievance redress mechanism, the government has opened itself up for more scrutiny,” said Manisha Priyam, a Delhi-based political analyst. Priyam said expectations about good governance from an aspirational population will only go up.
Cutting red tape, which imposes a huge cost of time and effort on the common man, has also been a priority. About 51 government departments and most of the states have abolished the requirement of affidavits and attestation by gazetted officers, except in cases where it is required under a statute. Self-declaration and self-attestation will now be enough for official submission of information.
The website mygov.in releases policy proposals for public suggestions, while a host of web applications give real-time updates on various schemes. In the power sector, for example, updates about the availability and price of electricity at power exchanges, progress made in village electrification up to the block level along with mobile phone numbers of the official in charge, movement of coal to small and medium enterprises and payment of wages to contract employees of Coal India Ltd are available in real time. More mobile applications are under development.
Some experts say the government needs to increase its consultations with the public.
“This government certainly has harnessed the potential of information technology to interact with the people, which is a welcome development. This engagement needs to happen on more issues, especially on legislative work as this directly impacts the public. I think that is missing,’’ said Venkatesh Nayak, a New Delhi-based programme coordinator of the access to information programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. Nayak added that little consultation has taken place on key bills such as the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, and the Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015.
The Modi administration has also promised to help after an emotional appeal by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur over the overburdening of the judiciary. While concrete steps are still awaited, the prime minister mooted the idea of an annual bulletin to highlight the oldest cases being dealt with by the courts to highlight the problem of pendency.
Priyanka Mittal contributed to this story.