General Studies

Polity & Governance-Citizen’s Charter

CITIZEN’S CHARTER

Why in news?

Recently, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) in collaboration with National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) has released a Model Panchayat Citizens Charter framework. Model Panchayat Citizens Charter Panchayats in India constitute the third tier of government in the rural areas. They are responsible for delivery of basic services as enshrined under article 243G of the Constitution of India, specifically in the areas of Health & Sanitation, Education, Nutrition, and Drinking Water.

  • The basic objective of the Gram Panchayat Citizen Charter is to empower the citizens in relation to public services and to improve the quality of services without any prejudice, and in accordance with the expectations of the citizens.

o It brings professionalism in Panchayat functioning and helps to reach out to all sections of community without any discrimination.

o The standards committed by the Panchayats are useful yardsticks for monitoring and evaluation of service delivery.

o It will help in making the citizens aware of their rights on the one hand, and to make the Panchayats and their elected representatives directly accountable to the people, on the other hand.

  • It has been prepared for delivery of the services across the 29 sectors, aligning actions with localized Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • It would ensure transparent and effective delivery of public services for sustainable development and enhanced citizen service experiences, deepening inclusive and accountable Local Self Governments by incorporating diverse views while designing and delivering services.

How did the concept of Citizen charter evolve?

  • The concept was first articulated and implemented in the United Kingdom in 1991 with an aim to improve the quality of public services for the people of the country.
  • Originally, six principles of the Citizens Charter movement are framed.
  • India adopted citizen’s charter in 1997 at Conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories held in New Delhi.

o The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) initiated the task of coordinating, formulating and operationalising Citizen’s Charters.

o The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 (Citizens Charter) seeks to create a mechanism to ensure timely delivery of goods and services to citizens. However, it lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014.

What is Citizen Charter and why is it significant?

  • Citizens’ Charters initiative is a response to the quest for solving the problems which a citizen encounters, day in and day out, while dealing with the organizations providing public services.
  • Key features of citizen charter:

o It is a written, voluntary declaration by service providers about service standards, choice, accessibility, nondiscrimination, transparency, and accountability.

o It is not legally enforceable and, therefore, is non-justiciable.

  • Significance of Citizen Charter

o It is a tool to achieve good governance. The three essential aspects emphasised in good governance are transparency, accountability and responsiveness of the administration.

o It provides services to the people in a time bound manner, redressing their grievances and improving their lives.

o It enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users and empowers the citizen in relation to public service delivery.

Challenges in implementing Citizens Charter (CC)

  • Issues with respect to design of CC:

o Difficult language: The effectiveness of CC is questioned on many accounts. Often, the citizen charter is published in a difficult language which is not easily understandable.

o Rarely updated: Citizens Charters are rarely updated which makes it a one-time exercise, frozen in time.

o Devoid of participative mechanisms: In most of the cases, it is not formulated through a consultative process with staff who will finally implement it. End-users, Civil society organizations and NGOs are not consulted either when citizens’ charters are drafted.

  • Issues related to Implementation of CC:

o Standards of delivery: Measurable standards of delivery are rarely defined that makes it difficult to assess whether the desired level of service has been achieved or not.

o Uniform CC for all agencies: There is a tendency to have a uniform citizen’s charter for all agencies under the same parent organization. CC has still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments which overlooks local issues. Also, there is lack of diversity in citizen charter across all agencies.

  • Issue related to citizens:

o Information asymmetry: There is lack of awareness regarding the charter, and departments are reluctant in handing out punishments for non-compliance with it.

o Lack of interest: Organizations are generally disinterested in following through with the standards committed in the CC since these is no incentive or motivation to enforce it on their employees.

  • Issue related to grievance redressal:

o Lack in Accountability: In case of most organisations, no reporting and periodic review mechanism has been evolved to assess the implementation of Charter. Even the Annual Report does not include a review of Charter implementation or plans for implementation.

  • Issues related to human resource:

o Lack of trained staff: In many cases, the concerned staff were not adequately trained. For any Charter to succeed the employees responsible for its implementation should have proper training.

o Transfer of staff: Sometimes, transfers and reshuffles of concerned officers at the crucial stages of formulation/implementation of the Citizen’s Charter in an organization severely undermines the strategic processes which were put in place and hampers the progress of the initiative.

Way Forward

  • Clarity and Precision in Standards: To deliver on Citizens Charter’s purpose, it is important to include precision into standards and commitments to address the ambiguous vision and mission statements.
  • Participatory Structures: Effective monitoring and evaluation system ensures regular review of the performance on the Charter and thereby make the organization participatory, responsive, and accountable.
  • Easy language: Effort should be made to use local language while formulating the Citizen Charter.
  • Sevottam (Service Delivery Excellence Model): It can help in improving the quality of public service delivery, effective grievance redressal mechanism, and successful implementation of Citizen’s Charters.
  • Capacity-Building Workshops: For enhancing the capacity of trainers, staff, effective implementation of charter and generating awareness among the public, capacity building workshops should be organized.
  • Technology upgradation and incorporation for smooth implementation of rules and guidelines and revision and updation of the information about Citizen’s Charters.

Question that could be asked in exam:

Question 1. What significance does Model Panchayats Citizen Charter hold in providing public services and improving the quality of services? Discuss.

Question 2. Critically explain how new Model Panchayats Citizen Charter could bring a drastic change in rural administration.

Question 3. How Panchayat Citizen Charter is different from Citizen Charter of India? Explain.

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