'Right to Hearing' gets an ear to ground

For 75-year-old Hanja Devi, the wait was long but finally worthwhile. As she jostled through a crowd to reach the complaint registration counter at a public hearing camp in Togi village Monday, her long-standing grievances were heard and resolved on the spot.

Official representatives from 15 government departments, the district collector, sub-divisional magistrate and key officials gathered for the hearing decided that Hanja Devi would be given priority in allotment under the Indira Awas Yojana, while records were corrected to ensure she gets her entitled pension of Rs 750 with immediate effect.

She had so far been getting only Rs 500, despite the entitlement, while her number in the Indira Awas Yojana's wait list was 474, almost at the fag end.

The camp at Togi village, in Bhim sub-division, was being held under the state government's Prashasan Gaon Ke Sang Abhiyan. While it is a grievance redressal exercise held periodically, it was its first outing under the umbrella of Rajasthan's unique 'Right to Hearing' Act.

The legislation, the first of its kind in the country, provides the people of the state the right to be heard on any grievance within 15 days.

Rajsamand district is the first in Rajasthan to have institutionalised the Act. The public hearing at Togi was the 136th in the district, which has 205 such gram panchayats. Residents can lodge their complaints at the gram panchayat office on all working days between 10 am and 12 pm. A receipt is issued to them promising a hearing within 15 days and a written reply to their complaint within 21 days.

The Prashasan Gaon ke Sang is held from January 10 to February 21. While hearings under it are a one-day affair and sometimes some complaints go unresolved, registering the complaints under the Right to Hearing Act, as is happening in Rajasamand, binds the administration to a time frame.

On Monday, out of the 535 applications received, 490 were disposed of while the 45 pending cases that were disputed will be addressed in the public hearings to follow in the district. While over 100 complaints dealt with irregularities in pension, another 100 had to do with plot allocation and others with pending job payments, power connections, health schemes, agricultural support etc.

District Collector, Rajsamand, Pritam B Yashvant told The Indian Express, "Over the past one month, we have received 8,966 complaints, out of which 6,544 have been solved and 2,422 are pending. Since they have been registered under the Right to Hearing Act, the complaints will be heard within the stipulated time frame of 15 days."

He hopes that once the chinks have been ironed out, the system can be replicated elsewhere in the state.

Welcoming the initiative, Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan said: "The Right to Hearing Act has provided a single-window system to address all grievances, where every complainant gets a receipt. A receipt means that the complaint is on official government record, which makes the administration immediately accountable... While the 'Prashasan Gaon ke Sang' is held to dispose of backlog cases in the state and is held periodically at the whim of the state government, the Right to Hearing Act provides for regular hearing of grievances within a stipulated time frame. If this time frame is flouted, the concerned official is personally accountable and can be fined."

Banna Lal, Director, Public Services Department, said that while they had linked the Right to Hearing Act with the Prashasan Gaon ke Sang exercise even in Sikar, they had met some functional difficulties there.

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