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Thursday, 3 November 2011

UPA woos voters with 'bigger than Lokpal' law

Minister for parliamentary affairs V Narayanasamy asserted the idea for the proposed Citizens’ Right to Grievance Redressal Bill does not owe its inspiration to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement.

Responding to a DNA query, he said the issue was first discussed at the Group of Ministers against corruption that prime minister Manmohan Singh had set up in its meeting January 2011.

This predates Hazare’s first fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in thenational capital demanding the anti-corruption legislation based on Jan Lokpal Bill in April.

Minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh said while the Lokpal was just against corruption in high places, the grievance redressal bill concerns the delivery of services of the government which includes a wider spectrum of accountability.

He said the bill is fifth in a series, including the Right To Information (RTI), the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Right To Education (RE), and the food security bill which will soon become a law as well. He said this was the result of the UPA’s innovative philosophy of “rights-based governance”, and described these five bills as the “Panchsheel” of governance.

Narayanasamy and Ramesh were briefing the media on Wednesday afternoon about the new bill in a bid to boost the image of the beleaguered UPA government weighed down by scandals, scams and serious charges of corruption.

Narayanasamy said the basic principle behind the grievance redressal bill was to fix time-frames for delivery of government services. He said there were complaints at the state and central government levels about the failure of officials to respond. “Sometimes this leads to corruption,” he said.

The “architecture” of the redressal grievance bill will follow that of the RTI set-up in the states and in the centre. There will be designated grievance redressal officers at the panchayat, municipality, district and departmental levels. There will be a grievance redressal commissioner at the state level and a chief commissioner.

Asked whether a pan-Indian grievance redressal bill would encroach on the state powers, Narayanasamy clarified the law ministry was consulted in the matter and it was found grievance redressal falls in the Concurrent List of the Constitution and that the centre can make laws which can cover states’ administrative jurisdiction.

He also said the proposed bill was at the drafting stage and that it was being placed in the public domain. It will be available on the website of the Department of Public Grievances and Training, and public opinion will be elicited. There will be consultations with various civil society groups.

Team Anna and the other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are equal for us,” he said in reply to the question whether Team Anna will be consulted in the issue.


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