The Maharashtra Right to Public Services Act (RTS) 2015 was a shot in the arm of citizen empowerment. Its objective is to ensure a transparent, efficient, and time-bound delivery of public services to citizens. This includes the services of every department of the Maharashtra government, the accountability and information of which, can be sought online, through the web portal Aaple Sarkar
or its RTS mobile application as well as offline through its 30,000-odd centres across the state. The Maharashtra government’s website says that it is a revolutionary Act because it empowers citizens and makes the administration responsible, answerable, and accountable. However, the state commission’s recommendations expose its weakness in many areas.
Going by the annual report of 2019-2020 just released by the Maharashtra State Commission of RTS, there has been rapid progress in its implementation. As per the report, “the number of services notified was 486 out of which 403 services are available online through the Aaple Sarkar Portal as well as RTS mobile application. In addition, there are over 32,075 Aaple Sarkar Seva Kendra where online facilities are provided to citizens. Since the inception of the act in 2015, a total of 8.26 crore applications have been received using these online facilities, and the disposal rate is 97%. During 2019-20, a total of 1.82 crore applications for services received and disposal rate is 95%.”
However, figures of the total number of offline applications received and their disposal are not available.
While Maharashtra claims to have made rapid progress in the implementation of RTS, and notified 486 services, the Karnataka government has already notified 1,033 services. As for other states, Punjab has notified 568 services, and Assam has notified 506 services.
To perform better, the Maharashtra State Commission of RTS, headed by chief commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya has recommended: “a master list of all services provided by the state government and a timetable for notifying all services under the Act must be prepared.”
Other recommendations include declaring the district collector as the ‘controlling officer’ to implement the Right to Public Services Act and the decision to provide all notified services at all Aaple Sarkar Seva Kendra. However, more significant efforts are required to create broader public awareness.
The Commission has expressed concern regarding the number of notified services not increasing, non-integration of services with Aaple Sarkar platform, and deviations from single platform policy.
It also finds several services receiving a very poor response and 83 notified services not yet available online on Aaple Sarkar portal besides non-availability of complete information regarding receipt and disposal of offline applications, the pendency of first and second appeals.
“These concerns have been addressed to concerned departments repeatedly. The RTS commissioner for the Konkan division was appointed on 13 September 2019. However, the RTS commissioners for five other divisions have not yet been appointed. This needs to be done at the earliest,” the chief commissioner points out in his report.
The report observes that “the revolutionary ‘The Maharashtra Right to Public Services Act, 2015’ has several unique features which make it different from Acts of other states in the country. The state act stressed the need to create a work culture, promote digital platforms, and improve the quality of public delivery systems. The act stresses the need to provide public services to the eligible person and assures governance transparency, accountability, and timeliness. The act’s objective is to empower citizens by improving the public grievances redressal system and enhancing the capacity of the public delivery system.”
“It marks a paradigm shift because it gives citizens the right to demand services and casts a statutory obligation on the government to provide the public services within prescribed time frames efficiently and transparently.
“Section 3 of the RTS Act makes it mandatory for all departments to notify their public services, designated officers, and first and second appellate authority, the specific time limit for each notified service within three months from the enactment of the act and nine months after that from time to time.
“Accordingly, out of 31 departments, 26 departments have notified 486 services under this Act until March 2020.”
Presently, Maharashtra is the first state to provide maximum services in online mode. This platform is helpful for availing services and gives real-time data regarding online services provided by the departments, the number of services made available for public by the concerned department, applications received and applications disposed of, and the number of pending applications.
So far, 82.6 million applications have been received online and the concerned designated officers have disposed of 79.9 million by Mach 2020. Considering the huge response to the online services, a special mobile application for Right to Service is made available. The main purpose is to provide an easy search for department-wise services and tracking of the application. The mobile application is available for download on Android or iPhone free of cost. The citizen can apply online using this mobile application.
As per this Act, services that the respective department provides to the public are put up publicly on the board outside the offices. However, in Maharashtra, we have seen boards put up to threaten citizens. So how effective will the RTS Act be, without public awareness about it and the government’s animosity towards the taxpaying citizens?
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)