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Mains Answer Writing

16-March-2024

Q1) Enumerate the limitations of Citizen charter as a governance tool. What are the recommendations of 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in relation to citizen charter? (250 Words/15 Marks)

ANSWER

Citizen’s Charter is a document of government commitments to public w.r.t. public services. Its basic objective is to make administration citizen centric and empower citizens by bridging information gap and make governance transparent, accountable, and citizen-friendly.

Indian experience shows that Citizen’s charters have become a virtual dead letter with pious statements of intention. A Public Affairs Center’s survey reveals that most of Citizen’s charters suffers from unfamiliarity among officials, lack of grievance redressal in charter and lack of periodic review. The limitations of Citizens Charter can be seen from:

  1. Poor design: Unclear vision, absence of critical information, poor definitions, lack of grievance redressal mechanisms etc. make charter useless for public. Measurable standards of delivery are rarely defined.
  2. Lack of awareness: Inadequate publicity, complex terminologies, illiteracy etc. make citizen charter unknown to public.
  3. No statutory backing: Citizen’s Charters are not supported by any law and are thus nonjusticiable, making it mere formality; In absence of statutory backing, the grievance redressal mechanism also remains in a state of want.
  4. Linguistic gaps: Most charters are prepared either in English or Hindi with very less emphasis on translation in vernacular language. Even translated charters contain linguistic errors, creating confusion.
  5. Poor stakeholder consultations: Stakeholders like end-users, civil society organizations and NGOs are not consulted when charters are drafted. This results in very generalized charter across and within ministers/departments.
  6. Absence of periodic review: Charters are not updated regularly, making it a one-time exercise with no change over decades.

Citizen’s charters need transformation in terms of content, design and objectives. Following are the changes suggested for the same:

  1. Recommendations of the 2nd ARC:
  2. One size fit all approach should be discarded. Citizen’s Charter should be prepared for each independent unit under the overall umbrella of the organization’s charter.
  3. Wide stakeholder consultations which include civil society in the process of formulation of citizens charters.
  4. The institutional resolve towards the implementation of the charter should be firm and unwavering.
  5. Adequate Redressal mechanisms should be ensured in case of default or non-compliance of the charters.
  6. Periodic evaluation of Citizen’s Charters should be done in order to keep them relevant with changing times and needs of citizens.
  7. Charters can be made more responsive and interactive by incorporating a user-feedback mechanism.
  8. Lastly, the responsibility and accountability of officers concerned should be fixed in case of violation of the charters.
  9. Clear vision statement: Citizen’s Charter should carry a clear statement of vision framed after an open and consultative process.
  10. Specification of time-frames: There should be a clear commitment about time-frame for service delivery and grievance redress.
  11. Specification of quality standards: Charter must indicate the specific quality standards to which organization is committed. This will enable citizens to keep the organization accountable.
  12. Efforts must be made to translate charter into local languages. The procedures to avail the services should also be mentioned in vernacular languages.
  13. Grievance redressal: Charter should encourage the citizens to complaint their grievances and organizations should aspire to redress these. Charter should clearly lay down the grievance redressal procedures.

In addition to above measures some of the best practices can be followed. For instance, Sevottam model of postal department can be replicated in other departments. This will make Citizen’s Charters an effective document for good governance.

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