Essay on the benefits of Citizen-administration interface

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Man evolved a system of regulating and even controlling his life when, after discarding a life of isolation and loneliness he began co-existing with fellow human beings.

The development of the community thus induced him to contrive a pattern of governance to direct his affairs. From such a viewpoint, government can be considered as old as society itself-ushering government into society as well as society in government.

Of all the forms of government practised by mankind, democracy has been the youngest. Democracy, in the modern institutional form, first originated in Great Britain but it is only in the present twentieth century that democracy is able to acquire its representative character.

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This democracy in its earlier phase was an open-ended oligarchy. Blacks did not enjoy the right to vote. Women were enfranchised in various countries only between the two World Wars. France enfranchised its women as late as 1945.

Belgium conferred voting rights on its women in 1949 in a cross-cultural study on democracy, conducted in 1951 by the United Nations Educationalist Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), it triumphantly con­cluded: For the first time in history, democracy is claimed as the proper, ideal description of all systems of political and social organisation’. Democracy proved to be an expanding phenomenon.

Democracy as visualised, even practised was political, its external symbols being periodic elections based on adult franchise with no discrimination based on religion, race, sex or beliefs. Freedom of expression was unabridged.

This conception of democracy was discovered to be narrow, weak and inadequate with the passage of time. Democracy, in order to be viable and acceptable, was to include and articulate social and economic concerns also. Society was moving from individualism to collectivism, which could not but influence the agenda of democracy also.

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Paradigm shift

Democracy is a dynamic, even demanding concept, never static in its contents and connotations. Since the eighties a new wave is in evidence of which the most notable feature is a shift from mere govern­ment to Governance. The latter is a broader concept covering themes like judicial review, due process, public interest litigation.

Newer Concerns such as ethics in administration, accountability, openness, and client-friendliness etc. animate or inanimate public administrations among these new vibrations rank Responsive Admini­stration.

The term became popular since 1946 when a conference of chief secretaries of states was organised in Delhi at the instance of the late Prime Minister. The Department given the responsibility of promoting this attribute is the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in the Gov­ernment of India.

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Responsive Administration may not be confused with responsible government. These two terms are organically inter-linked and inter-twined. But they are separate. Responsible Government is a political concept and carries a definite connotation. It is a macro-concept. Responsive administration is basically animated at the cutting edge of public administration. It is micro level concept deriving its credibility and validity from the delivery system of a country’s public administration. Responsive administration is best defined by Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient. Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.

Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and spiritually starving millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away’.

Responsive administration is an apparently moral concept in public administration in as much as it calls for public functionaries’ and accountability directly to the people. Responsive administration en­tails mechanism of redressal of grievances also.

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Mahatma’s talisman, thus, is the acid test of responsive administration. Citizen empowerment constitutes the single most critical element of responsive admin­istration.

Hindrance

The problem of administrative responsiveness is to be addressed within the larger social context. The present national scenario has to reckon with certain parameters of which the two are of paramount concern.

1. First is economic liberalisation to which India is firmly committed since the nineties.

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2. The second parameter in the governing framework is the constitutionalisation of local government as a result of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments. Responsiveness is to be operationalised within this larger context.

3. Contents of Responsive Administration. Citizen satisfaction is also described by a catchy expression such as ‘service with a smile, not by a mile’. Since seventies particularly, public administration is showing growing-interest in customers (or consumer) satisfaction measured in the quality of service delivery, client perception of service quality and consumer satisfaction.

Quality of service in public administration is reported to be poor even in industrialised countries of the West and what is worse it is deteriorating despite the existence of free market. In developing countries like India, the quality of services is appalling.

4. Responsive administration explicitly acknowledges the citizen-sovereignty in administrative deal­ings and relationships. This orientation is its chief component, the other being well-defined constitutional mechanisms for redressal of citizen’s grievances.

Public administration is already seeing the emergence of devices like representative bureaucracy, lok adalats, consumer courts, citizens’ Charter etc. These must be strengthened and made effective. Citizens, charter laid down a code of practice in delivery systems.

It seeks to re-define the citizen as a customer and improves responsiveness and performance in the public services. It establishes minimum standards of public service reflecting the following six principles of social rights: fair treatment, entitle­ment, participation, openness, public administration and cooperation.

Excellence of administration

Responsive administration is a concept which needs emulation in all administrations. Its need is how­ever much more obvious in a developing country like India with its long colonial background resting on stiff-necked bureaucracy, attributes of responsive administration is a must.

Thus permeate all levels and sectors of public administration but the need for citizen-friendly administration is most pressing at the cutting edge of administration: the countless points where administration and citizen daily meet.

At present, in most parts of the country, the contact points between citizen and administration are virtually a hacking point: a point of apparently endless harassment for the people, especially those who are on the fringe of development.

This, among others, calls for attitudinal change in the country’s bureaucracy, and nowhere perhaps it is more necessary than in those constituting field of administration.

The field level professionals are called upon to cultivate citizen-oriented attitudes. In addition, they must also possess and continually cultivate higher measures of administrative skills and subject matter capabilities.

This calls for larger- scale changes in the public personnel practices and strengthening of the present tenure system. District administration must need to be rejuvenated and activated to enlist the good will of the local people.

Responsive administration is ensured in what has come to be known as the Batho Pele Principles. These principles put the citizens first in a search for efficient public service delivery. These principles were proclaimed by South Africa in 1997. These are:

1. Service Standard: Citizens should be told what level and quality of public services, they will receive so that they are aware of what to expect.

2. Access: All citizens should have equal access to the services, which they are entitled, for example, increasing access to public services for those who have not previously received them. Many people who like in remote areas can be reached by setting up mobile units and redeploying facilities and resources closer to those in greatest need.

3. Ensuring Courtesy: Citizens should be treated with courtesy and consideration.

4. Providing More and Better Information : Citizens should be given full, accurate information about the public services they are entitled to receive, especially those who have previously been excluded from the provision of public services.

5. Increasing Openness and Transparency: Citizens should be told how national and provincial departments are run, how much they cost and who is in charge.

6. Remedying Mistake and Failures (Redress): If the promised standard of service is not deliv­ered, citizens should be offered an apology, a full explanation and a speedy and effective rem­edy and when complaints are made, citizens should receive a sympathetic, positive response.

7. Getting the Best Possible Value for Money: Public services should be provided economically and efficiently in order to give citizens the best possible value for money.

8. Consolation: Citizens should be consulted about the level and quality of the public services they receive and wherever possible, should be given a chance about the services that are offered. It is important that consolations not only cover aspects about services currently pro­vided but also about the services of new basic services to those who lack them. In that way, consultation can help to foster a more participative and cooperative relationship between the providers and receivers of public services

Policymaking should show sensitiveness to citizen’s problems and must not be influenced by extra national interests. Here, a mention must be made of the new economic policy underway since 1990 requiring cultivation of new skills, knowledge and orientations and new equilibrium between administra­tion and the people.

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