When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his Namo mobile application and PMO website, inviting the citizens of India to communicate to him their views, issues, problems etc, it was hugely appreciated. Here was a prime minister who not only spoke but also asked for the views and feedback of ordinary citizens. There was a rush for registrations on the app and, lo and behold, a barrage of emails rained into the inbox of the premier.

Individuals, organisations, corporate houses, groups etc sent content on subjects ranging from infrastructure, finance, foreign affairs, income tax, GST, coal, telecom, jobs related, pensions, wishes, suggestions, etc.

While the prime minister promotes public participation online more than the old system of sending representations via post or hand delivery to the PMO, even today there is a large section of the population that still likes to personally hand deliver their letters or representations to South Block. These get received at a window and an acknowledgement is handed over to the sender. Online representations receive a registration number for future reference, too, with a message that the same will be forwarded to the concerned ministry and a response from them will be sought.

The PMO set up a system for this department for redress where a large number of people segregate the emails or letters as per the subject or department they are related to. These letters or issues are then forwarded to the related ministry or department.

What happens to my complaint?

The segregated letters are sent to the relevant ministries with a covering note from the PMO, asking the official concerned for a reply that is to be sent back to the sender with a copy of the response to the PMO. As soon as you, as the sender, receive a response, you get an automated response from the PMO saying that your query has been disposed of.

So, has your grievance been disposed of appropriately? Did you receive the answers to the queries you had put up? Were they adequate and truthful? Were you satisfied with the response from the department concerned?

One is left largely unsatisfied and angry at the end of this exercise. Why? The crux of the issue is that the grievance or complaint that you have sent is actually sent for a response or explanation to the person who is being alleged of a certain wrongdoing! Is this not the most ridiculous act? Will the person who is the wrongdoer accept his mistake? Most of the times, the person feigns total ignorance.

Centralised Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) is an online web-enabled system over NICNET developed by NIC, in association with Directorate of Public Grievances (DPG) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). CPGRAMS is the platform based on web technology, which primarily aims to enable submission of grievances by the aggrieved citizens from anywhere and anytime (24×7) basis to Ministries/Departments/Organisations who scrutinise and take action for speedy and favourable redress of these grievances. Tracking grievances is also facilitated on this portal through the system generated unique registration number.

Issues that are not taken up for redress

  • Matters that are sub judice or those that concern judgments of courts
  • Personal and family disputes
  • RTI matters
  • Anything that impacts upon the territorial integrity of the country or friendly relations with other countries
  • Suggestions

On paper, the system looks fabulous and comprehensive, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

It is desired that an independent cell must investigate the matter and give a report on the grievance post which responsibility must be fixed on those who did not deliver and relevant punitive action be taken on them. One can offer numerous examples of junior level bureaucrats who commit an administrative irregularity, damage the career/future of a person and go scot-free. They either get transferred to another department and the entire episode is forgotten. An example from a ministry that deals with the sensitive subject of arts follows.

An under-secretary (name withheld for reasons of secrecy) notes on a file of extension that an official occupying quite a senior post cannot be extended due to a “technical reason”. The so-called technical reason is the age of the officer (57 years) as on date. But he ignored the ministry notification, stating that the age limit for a consultant could go up to the age of 62 as on the date of application. How did the under-secretary not take into cognisance the ministry notification? Due to his inefficiency, the service of a senior official was not extended although his merits were established. Did the senior bureaucracy know about this inappropriate act of the under-secretary? If yes, was any action taken against him? No, none at all. So, what happened to the under-secretary? He was conveniently transferred to another department and the matter was put to rest.

You may bring this to the notice of the immediate boss, the director, his immediate boss, the joint secretary, his immediate boss, the secretary, his immediate boss, the minister, and his boss, the prime minister. Eventually, the grievance goes to the “concerned under-secretary” who refutes and denies his mala fides, comes up with some totally incongruous explanation and, betraying circumlocution typical of bureaucrats, gives a response that makes no sense whatsoever!

If the prime minister is serious about the redress mechanism, an independent cell must be set up for the purpose with no connection to any ministry. Just disposing the grievance of to the related ministry and finally to the accused is of no consequence.

Hope the PMO is listening!