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Suggestion boxes, app, helpline: Outreach that’s out of reach

by Legal DesireMay 18, 2015

The municipal corporations of Delhi started several public outreach programmes in their current term. The idea was to be more transparent in their development and welfare work and involve citizens in the decision-making process. But it now turns out that the corporations were perhaps the only people interested in these schemes as they have failed to generate any interest. Reasons for this include poor publicity as well as a lack of follow-up action to get the public on board. So much so that the measures are not published on the corporation’s websites.

While the Congress calls this the BJP’s “big hoax”, the ruling BJP says it is “unaware” of the reasons why the schemes may have been stillborn.

Suggestion boxes

Municipal records say there’s one suggestion box in every zonal office, put in place a year ago. The idea was to invite suggestions for new schemes as well as improve on old schemes. Officials say while the South municipal corporation has received a total of six complaints from all its suggestion boxes, the boxes placed in zonal offices in North and East were never opened.

Chairman of the standing committee in North, Mohan Bhardwaj, said the complaint boxes were opened last Wednesday. “We opened the boxes but very few complaints have come in. I have asked officials to take immediate action and send us an action-taken report.”

The reason the civic bodies provide for not opening the boxes is that they were supposed to be opened by the “political wing” of the corporation, which hasn’t met in the past year for this specific purpose. This includes the mayor, deputy mayor, chairman of the standing committee, leader of the House and leader of the Opposition.

Third Eye

Techies Vivek Thakur and Abhishek Sharma donated a smartphone application called Third Eye to the corporations. The app was designed to enable citizens to directly lodge a complaint and upload related photos. It was launched in July by BJP’s state unit president Satish Upadhyay, who had called it “part of a seven-fold scheme launched by the civic body to reach out to citizens”.

The application is no longer available to users in the android market, for which it was launched. It was said that the app was being developed for iOS platform as well, but that has not happened yet. And South officials don’t know it isn’t. “I am unaware of the fact that Third Eye is no longer functional,” Mayor Subhash Arya said.

East also launched the app to increase its public outreach while North never adopted the scheme. Abhishek Sharma said, “It is possible that the app is unavailable due to a technical glitch.” Sharma was unable to provide figures for the number of downloads for the app before it went offline.

While launching the application, Upadhyay had claimed that all complaints will be reviewed directly by him and the grievance redressal system will be monitored by the enforcement director. Leader of the Opposition in the South corporation, Farhad Suri, said, “They make a string of announcements at the beginning of every financial year. Not just public outreach, their other schemes are also failing. The repetitive promises made in budgets are a testimony to that fact.”

Mayor’s helpline

The latest addition to public outreach efforts is a “mayor’s helpline” to address public complaints related to corruption and sanitation. This was also launched in the presence of Upadhyay on April 29, the day North elected its new mayor.

New Mayor Ravinder Gupta had claimed that complaints would be addressed within a week. “And we will make sure that after the complaint is addressed, we call back the complainant and ask whether they are satisfied with our services,” was Gupta’s promise.

In the nearly two weeks since, North has received 661 calls on this helpline, including five cases of alleged corruption. At the end of the first week, the mayor tried to sit down for a review of the helpline but the meeting had to be cancelled owing to “technical problems”.

North officials claim that at least 50 per cent of these complaints have been dealt with and action-aken reports filed in approximately a third of these cases.

Source: ENS

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