Are delays part of Indian DNA? They seem to be everywhere. Long delays in regulatory clearances have slowed down the infrastructure sector in India. Delay in environment clearances have proved expensive for the roads sector. In Mumbai, many infrastructure projects, including monorail and metro rail projects are facing delays. Similarly, one of the major flaws of India is the delay in its legal system. Over two million cases are pending in 18 High Courts alone and more than 200,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court for admission, interim reliefs or final hearing. Normally, it takes five to fifteen years for a case to be decided in an Indian Court.
So, it is welcome news that institutionally, the government has now chosen to act on these chronic delays by giving approval, in principle, to a bill providing for time-bound delivery of services like pensions, passports, caste certificates, death certificates, ration cards and tax refunds, among others, to the citizens. Defaults will attract a penalty of Rs 250 a day subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000.
The planned legislation, fronted by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, also fiats a public authority to set up a call center, customer care center, help desk and people's support system to guarantee time- bound provision of services. It also pursues establishment of public grievance redressal commission at the Centre and every state. The move, therefore, is really to introduce a “Right to Action” Bill along the lines of the Right to Information Act. The only fear is that like the Information under the Right to Information Act is subject to delays, in spite of such a Citizen’s charter being passed, delays will remain endemic to India.
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