Aim of timely delivery of services, accountability of officials, falls flat on the ground
SRINAGAR: On paper, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has given more power to citizens to seek services in a time-bound manner, and officials can be held accountable in case they fail to do so. But has it changed anything for people, given how little has changed in the functioning of the existing officials who are in charge of delivering these services.
Eighteen public services under seven government departments have been brought under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Guarantees Act, for which action against the designated officers can be initiated for their failure to provide services within the stipulated time-frame, or for rejecting an application on unjustifiable grounds.
The services include those under the School Education Department, Health and Medical Education Department, Public Works Department, Revenue Department, Cooperatives Department, and Housing and Urban Development Department.
As per the notification issued by the General Administration Department (GAD), the School Education Department shall provide approval for setting up and operating a play school within 45 days. Deputy Secretary of the department will be the Ist Appellate Authority and Additional Secretary will be the 2nd Appellate Authority.
For registration of provisional/permanent certificate for clinical establishment and its renewal, the District Registering Authority headed by District Magistrate will provide a permanent certificate within 105 days of the receipt of application. The Chief Medical Officers concerned will ensure registration within 90 days.
In seven days, road cutting permission by the Superintending Engineer has been fixed. Tehsildars will ensure issuance of encumbrance certificate within 45 days and measurement/demarcation of land within 30 days.
For registration of cooperative societies, 30 days time-frame has been fixed for the Registrar Cooperative Societies and the Administrative Secretary of the department has been designated as Ist Appellate Authority.
But how actionable are these powers on the ground? Take for instance the example of Ghulam Muhammad, a resident of Rainawari, who had to get his land registered with the revenue department. The work, mandated to be done within 30 days, took more than four months, and an amount of nearly Rs 5,000 as bribe, Muhammad told Kashmir Reader.
Instead of taking action to ensure that the work is finished in one month, Muhammad chose silence, because then the process could have taken even more time, he feared.
“I wanted my documents. I got it done. What was the point of taking action when the appellate was the same person in whose office it was getting delayed?” he explained.
Another example is the Town Planning Department, which gives NOC for land use in Kashmir. As per the law, they are supposed to give the NOC within 15 days, but it takes no less than 45 days – and often more – to get the work done.
When an official of the Town Planning Department was asked about it, he said, “It gets delayed due to excessive workload as well as due to some incompetence of lower-rung employees.”