Complaints: a tale of few cities – #1

E-governance is a two way street, no initiative is complete without an electronic and easy way of taking in suggestions and complaints, and may I add – RTI (Right to Information) applications as well. How about we look at relevant online systems of a few city governments?

KALYAN-Dombivili gets cited for having one of the best egovernance implementations. As about the complaints system, you can lodge one via 4 clear steps. You get a token # in the end that you use to get status on your complaints. Even better, there is a citizen charter there that tells you the number of days a complaint should take to get addressed and who all get to act on it. One curious thing – even though Kalyan has concept of “unique citizen #” for its residents, it is not used in lodging complaints.

HYDERABAD lets you register complaints, as well as check status on same. One thing that sets them apart is – you can search and lookup all complaints. 1491 entires for March 2007, what says you, is usage high or low? Searches showed me that most complaints lodged and disposed are about street lighting. Understandably enough, most complaints in “encroachments” category are ‘pending’!

Hang on, there is more about Hyderabad. They have an online system to take in RTI queries! From what I could search, no other local government system has this facility. It isn’t a fire and forget system, you can track the status of your RTI query.

MUMBAI‘s Municipal corporation (BMC) takes online complaints via a partnership with Praja foundation. Your usual system to register and track your complaints, though there is an elaborate citizen’s charter that tells you about people and processes responsible for handling your complaint. But, since I can’t dig out all open complaints (like Hyderabad), it isn’t easy to get a feel of activity and responsiveness of this complaints management system. And just like the Hyd and Kalyan, there is nothing to make life easy for me to lodge frequent complaints (have to type my contact info each time).

DELHI too has an on-line complaints system. Lodge a complaint and you get back a “grievance number” you can use to check status later. They take in a lot less details than Kalyan or Mumbai though – just your details and a long prose detailing your query. Easy to see this getting misused and in turn wasting time of public officials – should it be so easy to lodge a complaint? And once again, no Hyderabad style generic search means one can’t find out whats happening to complaints in general.

I could talk about more city’s systems (AHMEDABAD, PUNE etc) in next few posts, but before I sign off on this one, let me respond to a frequent comment regarding online citizen services. Yes, online population is still fairly low in our cities. Does that mean that these online services can’t be of use to many? Wrong. First, online services help the provider government itself in setting up multiple citizen kiosks. For example, in Bangalore, if all citizen services were to be online, each cyber-cafe, literally, could be what those BangaloreOne centers are. Next, online services open the door for entrepreneurs and NGOs alike to offer citizen-government mediation services.


9 Responses

  1. Great post. Didnt even know that these things existed. Good going sir. Thank you.

  2. information is quite useful . however i think this system need to be expanded to whole india instead of few cities

  3. great jasoosi.

    online service is just like any other medium that city govts have to use to inform, educate and disclose. the content is the same irrespective of the medium only presentation changes. online services allow formatting content in a format that allows all the wonders of a databases, CROSS-REFERENCING, and automation.

    in the world of the babus info is money. and if this info can be provided accurately & impersonally then that reduces corruption by that much.

    online services also encourage attitude changes.

    kalyan has unique ids for each citizen? perhaps it is to protect the ‘whistleblower’?

  4. its really good for the india to develope through Egoverence because india is to back in every field so it make india to awair from internet services .

  5. SB, Can you clarify what you meant by your statement – “online services open the door for entrepreneurs and NGOs alike to offer citizen-government mediation services”? Why do I want a mediator? The idea of improving service delivery is to remove any role for corrupt middlemen. Don’t we have enough ‘mediators’ in the off-line world who hang around RTOs, registrar’s offices, courts etc.? Are they entrepreneurs?

    Some local bodies are genuinely trying to improve their services. It often involves a dynamic city commissioner to get things moving. Namakkal, a small town in TN has obtained an ISO certification for sanitation services. Vizag and Hubli-Dharwad city corporations have received ISO certifications for delivering various city services. An ISO cert may not mean a lot, but these are probably small steps in transforming the local bodies into professional organizations.

    E-governance by itself does not amount to reforms. What’s the use of automating age old processes? Another problem is that our local bodies are weak – politically and financially. How many of us vote in corp elections or know the names of our corporator? or even mayor? There are too many overlapping agencies and too much political interference from state and central legislators. Thanks to our excessive centralisation.

  6. RA, online interactive services (feedback, or access to information) are great equalizers. But a lot of people are not online yet. I can see NGOs, or even small businesses providing use of online services to those who are not online.

    I see your point, but idea of improving service delivery, first and foremost, is to break the monopoly of babus and clerks on information. Middlemen of the kind you are referring to thrive because they work with those who “own” information (“own” as in they have the easiest access). If access to most public information was free – it currently is, but you still have to ask for it – you can kill this middlemen sarkaari-men nexus.

    As an example, think railway reservations. You can do it yourself online, or you could go ask you nearest cyber-cafe friend to do it for you. They key thing is, you don’t have to know a booking clerk who could use his access to availability-information to manipulate a berth for you.

    Egovernance does not amount to reforms, but it brings efficiency and transparency. For example, if you automate their billing and payment processes, you introduce more accurate fiscal responsibility and reporting capabilities at local government levels. If you automate revenue collection systems, you make local bodies more efficient so that they can collect even more.

  7. SB, I have no doubt that proper automation will improve efficiency and revenue collection. I have seen the improvements brought about by the Bhoomi project myself. I have registered a property with ease and no hassle in a small town in Karnataka!! No middlemen were allowed there and it made the experience a pleasant one. In this context, I see no role for any mediator.

    But revenue collection alone won’t solve problems. These local bodies need to be politically strong. That means changes at multiple levels. E-governance should be part of the overall reform process. One member of the PM’s Knowledge Commission has already criticised E-governance for blindly automating existing processes. I am not sure which agency he was referring to or what the context was. This is exactly what we need to avoid.

  8. Add just one more item to list of benefits – transparency. And, ease of citizen participation (part of which is what I was focusing on this post).

    But yeah, you are right. I too have heard that egov things cant go that far till some local governance reforms go hand in hand. But there is certainly some ground that can be covered (transparency, participation, accounting?) before those roadblocks are reached.

    BTW, the little that I know and see, seems like the thing to ‘fix’ is accountability and split of finances and responsibilities b/w state and local governments.

  9. Good,
    I would appreciate if their is any online complaint mechanism in West Bengal

    Please bring to light about these

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