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Welfare schemes need to be fortified by grievance mechanisms: Poonam Muttreja

Nov 12, 2014

Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, Poonam Muttreja, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that community participation in welfare schemes is discouraged due to lack of proper grievance redressal mechanisms. Excerpts from the interview.

Poonam Muttreja

OneWorld South Asia: Why is people’s participation crucial for making government health schemes successful?

Poonam Muttreja: No public health schemes can work, if people don’t know about their rights and entitlements. The main objective is to bring public into public health. If public doesn’t know what time the doctor is available at the clinic, what are the free treatments, then there is no accountability in the system.

You know, in many hospitals, doctors come once in a month and that too, to collect salary. So, government can’t work sitting in the state capital or at the centre, without ensuring people’s participation.

OWSA: How can a well informed community ensure efficiency of the public health system?

Muttreja: You have to have community involvement in public health. For example, people will not go for Janani Suraksha Yojana which is the cash entitlements which women have for delivery, unless they are told by somebody. So, community action requires first informing people about their rights and entitlements, and then enhancing their participation.

OWSA: Sometimes even if people are aware of their rights, they are not able to claim those rights?

Muttreja: Absolutely right. It is not only about rights but also about entitlements and obligations. It is about making public health sector work.

Further, the government gives money but it doesn’t reach the people. We are not talking only about fixing the system, we are also talking about the existing leakages.

OWSA: How can community participation actually plug those loopholes?

Muttreja: People are now being more demanding. They are going to authorities and asking why the doctors are not there. They are rating the doctors. Then there is a Jan Sunwai about the performance of the doctor based on which a report card is made. Doctors oblige once the report card is sent.

OWSA: What kind of pressure a community can build on bureaucrats responsible for the implementation of certain welfare schemes?

Muttreja: Grievance redressal mechanism has not come of age in India. There are a very few experimentations and we are also working on developing the grievance mechanism. The weak link has to be fortified with a workable mechanism for grievance. Social welfare schemes need to be fortified by grievance mechanisms.

Government has to do it and we are putting pressure on the former to act. Infact, once we put pressure on the Prime Minister and he constituted a committee but the committee never met. I was on the committee and in three months, the term of the committee expired.

The authorities don’t want grievance redressal mechanism in place but we as civil society have to push for it, and we have to ensure political commitment to realize it. There has to be political commitment for putting systems in place.

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