At a Panchayat office in Rajasthan, the Lok Sunwai Sahayata Kendra (public hearing facilitation centre) will be functional at the Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendra and will remain open between 10.oo am and 12.00 pm. Slogans in the local language have been freshly painted to the walls alongside a list of beneficiaries of the government housing schemes for BPL families. A parallel list of those on the waiting list is also painted on the wall to allow transparency. This is the office where people can get their grievances registered. Apart from this, there are camps organized where people go to get their grievances registered for which they are handed a pink receipt. The Togi district administration has been greatly involved in making people aware of this law by organizing such camps. A government official is heard on a loud speaker â€œDonâ€™t leave without taking the pink receipt.â€ The receipt, members of the NGO explain, binds the government machinery into a 21-day cycle of accountability, assuring that recipientâ€™s grievance has been taken into account and will be addressed.
After the registration, an NGO brings together people from nearby villages experiencing common problems with government services been pending to them for a long time to meet at the public hearing. This hearing takes place every Friday at the Jawaja Panchayat Samiti. Â This system is dependent on NGOs as people are not aware of this act and as a result the attendance at the hearing is low. A puppet pops up in the corner to explain to those gathered the Right to Hearing Act. This marks the start of the public hearing, after which the villagers stand up to talk about their unmet problems with the delivery of government schemes.
The kind of gathering described above is known as a sunwai meaning hearing, and is an integral part of the Right to Hearing Act, 2012. As of today, Rajasthan is the only state to ensure the Right to Hearing, allowing for grievances related to government services are addressed in a time bound manner. The sunwai tries to resolve most of the problems on the spot that do not require further investigation. The decision regarding the problem is then given in writing.
Since the implementation of this act, 57 lakh grievances have been registered out of which 56.33 lakhs have been disposed. The Right to Hearing Act, also has the provision of first and second appellate authority along with the revision authority. This means that if people are not satisfied with the decision at the sunwai, they can appeal to the first appellate authority. If they are still not satisfied, they can appeal to the second appellate authority. The act also has the provision of penalties ranging from Rs. 500 – 5000 for the lax officer if there is any non-compliance including delays in response.
This act gives people a sense of security that their pleas will be heard. This is a step towards good governance taken in 2012 which needs to be implemented in every state. However, there are problems being faced at the delivery end which includes lack of awareness about the act, lack of rigorous training to the gram panchayat about the working of this act, the Lok Sunwai Sahayata Kendra not open for the designated time period on a daily basis, lack of IT platform which results in tremendous paper work. What can be done to make this act stronger? How can above requirements be implemented?