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Indian activists denounce government’s grievance redressal bill

Nov 17, 2011

Activist Aruna Roy led NGO has criticised Indian Citizen’s Rights to Grievance Redressal Bill pointing out conflicting interests in its clauses which may render it ineffective in addressing the problems of the poor.

New Delhi: Activist Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) has opposed the government's grievance redressal bill saying it was "seriously compromised" and would be ineffective in providing weaker sections of society with any relief in its present form.

NCPRI's stinging critique of the bill is significant because Roy is an influential member of the National Advisory Council that functions under UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The government is already battling a hostile Team Anna which wants the grievance redressal mechanism to be under the Lokpal. With NCPRI's opposition to the bill, the differences between activists and the government appear to have widened.

The government draft proposes a separate information and facilitation centre for each public authority which NCPRI feels will dilute the single window system.

NCPRI has demanded that four main features must be added to the bill including setting up of a single window facilitation centre. "We are very distressed with the government's grievance redressal bill as it does not tackle the problem at the grassroots level. It will not reach the poorest that need it the most," Roy said. The group has raised objections with Sonia and PM Manmohan Singh and has also shot off letters to the department of personnel and training and rural development ministry.

The government draft proposes a separate information and facilitation centre for each public authority which NCPRI feels will dilute the single window system. The NGO has also suggested setting up of an independent appellate authority at the district level while the government bill proposes that appeals against the grievance redressal officer of a public authority will be heard by the head of the same department. "There is an inherent conflict of interest in this set-up since at least some of the complaints will be because of the negligence on the part of the department," NCPRI member Nikhil Dey said.

NCPRI has also objected to the lack of compensation to the complainant for entitlements that are wrongly denied or delayed. "A nominal amount of compensation is an important reparative feature and will help encourage complainants to pursue complaints and provide some justice for entitlements denied," a statement said.

The organization has also demanded codification of section 4 of the RTI Act that mandates proactive disclosure of information by all public authorities.

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