Bihar is the only state to have made grievance redressal a right for the residents of the state.
Imteyaz Ahmed, 42, has a small cloth store at Mushkipur village under Gogari block of Khagaria district in Bihar. He struggled for five years to pay the tax for a chunk of land, measuring less than an acre, inherited by his father from his grandfather; which would have given his father Wazruddin the title rights.
His father passed away during the intervening period as Ahmed was made to run from pillar to post, with revenue officials in the block raising some frivolous objection or the other.
“A year later when Bihar introduced the public grievance redressal forum, I made an application to the public grievance redressal officer at Gogari sub-division. It worked like magic. In just two hearings, the matter was disposed of in less than two months’ time and I was handed over the land tax receipt in my father’s name,” said Ahmed.
Krunesh Kumar Mishra, 52, a farmer and a political activist in Srisiraniya village of Gogari block of Khagaria district, also benefitted from Bihar’s Right to Public Grievance Redressal Act. He took up cudgels for around 1,900 farmers, who were denied diesel subsidy for three years after the drought in 2016-17.
“Around 1,900 farmers in my village were not being given diesel subsidy due to some corrupt officials. We complained to officials at the block level, but nothing happened. Finally, I petitioned through the Right to Public Grievance Redressal Act. After three hearings, in just over a month, the government had disbursed Rs 36 lakh (approx.) as a diesel subsidy into the bank account of all the farmers in my village,” said Mishra.
Manish Kumar, 28, who owns a small flour mill at Bechhi in Biharsharif block of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home district Nalanda, had suffered at the hands of officials, as the energy department failed to provide him electricity connection at his flour mill.
“I waited for six years before complaining to the sub-divisional public grievance redressal officer in January this year. Though the matter was resolved in a couple of sittings, I got the electricity connection at my flour bill through the South Bihar Power Distribution Company Ltd only last week, benefitting 20 other households in my locality,” said Kumar.
There are many such stories where people in Bihar have actually benefited from the Public Grievance Redressal Act.
“Bihar is the only state in India to have given its people the legal right of redressal of grievance by bringing in the Right to Public Grievance Redressal Act through an act of legislation. It ensures right of hearing, redressal and the right to know the decision taken by authorities on their complaint,” said Dr Pratima, additional mission director of Bihar Prashasnik Sudhar Mission (Bihar Administrative Reforms Mission).
Anyone can log a complaint either online or offline. Online complaints can be made through the portal (lokshikayat.bihar.gov.in) or through mobile app ‘Jan Samadhan’, which can be downloaded from the Google play store. One can even file their complaints through e-mail (email@example.com). One can even log a complaint by making a call to its call centre (18003456284). Offline complaints through applications are also entertained at three levels — sub-division, district and department level.
“During coronavirus pandemic, we conducted virtual hearing through our B-Swan network. We also extended the period of hearing and gave complainants the option to attend virtual hearings either by latching to our system through a private network or going to the nearest office of the public grievance redressal officer in sub-division, district or state headquarters,” said Pratima.
A citizen can expect redressal of grievance within 60 working days under the Act. There is also a provision to penalise errant officials. As many as 550 officials have so far been penalised and Rs 15 lakh penalty has been imposed and disciplinary action has been initiated against 325 erring officials, she said.
“At least 26% complaints are filed online. We also receive as many as 100 complaints per day through our call centre. We have disposed of 7,26,837 of the 8,02,167 complaints — a success rate of over 90% — received till now since June 5, 2016, when the system was put in place,” said Pratima.
From the analytics, it has been found that 23.71% of the complaints received are of revenue department, followed by home (14.53%), rural development (10.29%), energy (8.93%), social welfare (8.72%), food and consumer protection (5.86%), finance (4.23%), panchayati raj (4.23%), education department (3.82%) and disaster management payment (3.71%).
Most complaints are land-related, pertaining to encroachment, taxes, land mutation and even exaggerated electricity bills, non-payment of government pension schemes like old age and widow pension, those related to lack of hand pumps and piped water supply, issues pertaining to public distribution system, the PM Awaas Yojana, police cases — both pertaining to coercive action and inaction, non-payment of ex gratia for deaths due to natural disaster, etc.
Other states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana are now approaching Bihar, having shown interest to replicate its model. A team from Karnataka was here in February to examine the Bihar model, with scholars and researchers also showing interest in analysing it.