Govt plans Bill to check low-level graft

Govt plans Bill to check low-level graft

New Delhi: A draft Bill aimed at redressing complaints against junior government officials is likely to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament to check graft at the lowest level, where most citizens interact with the administration.

The proposed law comes at a time when the Congress party- led government is facing public anger and protests over a series of corruption allegations. Ramesh had proposed the grievance redressal Bill in August during the anti-corruption protests spearheaded by activist Anna Hazare. The protests had found nationwide public support and forced the government to agree to some of Hazare’s demands on a proposed anti-graft legislation known as the Lokpal Bill.

“The idea is to put the draft Bill out in the public domain perhaps this week itself. The broad contour of the Bill is to have a system of grievance redressal in place for government programmes," Ramesh said. “We hope to introduce it in the winter session of Parliament after consultations."

The winter session of Parliament will be held in November-December.

The proposed Bill seeks to empower people with the right to seek action against offending officials in the lower echelons of the bureaucracy and will be similar to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, with a decentralized structure.

One of Hazare’s main objections to the government’s version of the Lokpal Bill was that it excluded the lower-level bureaucracy from its purview.

The draft grievances Bill proposes that the legislation be implemented at three levels —national, state and block. RTI is implemented through commissions at two levels— the Central Information Commission at the national level and an information commission in each state.

The rural development minister had said he would draw on the experience with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) that has an institutionalized mechanism for grievance redressal.

Meanwhile, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), a non-governmental organization that was instrumental in pushing the RTI legislation, has been demanding that the structure for grievance redressal be decentralized and made independent.

In a two-day convention on the grievance redressal and whistleblowers protection Bills that ended on Tuesday, NCPRI concluded that the grievance redressal mechanism should be able to use the whistle-blower’s law to protect complainants. It has also demanded that private bodies responsible for implementation of entitlements or sovereign functions under any government programme or law should also come within the ambit of this Bill.

“There are four-five essential elements. A decentralized, district-based, people-centric and independent grievance redress authority should be set up across the country," said Nikhil Dey, activist and NCPRI co-convener.

“The vision is basically that it should be decentralized so as to give physical proximity to people and that it must be supporting and accountable to people," Dey said.

Some states, including Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, already have such legislation.

While the former has the Public Services Guarantee Act, 2010, that guarantees delivery of public services within a stipulated time frame failing which officials will have to pay a fine, Bihar has the Right to Public Services Act, 2011.

Anuja contributed to this story.