17th April 2012
What can a citizens’ government do? – some further thoughts
I'm posting a few thoughts from the open google group https://groups.google.com/group/citizensgovernment?hl=en – for those who haven't joined the conversation yet.
I'd welcome your views on these thoughts:
Some initial thoughts
What I have in mind is something like this: As DC Barpeta I had at least 400 visitors to my office each day. Most wanted simple things like caste certificates, ration cards, etc. These I could divert into various streams through a well-organised triage system at the reception and extensive signage.
Then there remained at least 50 visitors each day who wanted to personally meet me to explain one or another problem. Most complaints were either about officials or breakdown in delivery systems on the ground (villages).
In due course I simplified the process of receiving these complaints with receipts provided in triplicate, with a GUARANTEE that if they did not hear back (through a letter) within (say) 1 month, they could directly approach me and I would personally investigate.
That led to a significant improvement in satisfaction levels, since people (a) got a token and (b) guarantee of response. Else they were assured of my personal involvement in their case.
The point of saying this was that we need a system that does the following:
a) accepts ALL types of complaints/issues
b) classifies these and issues tokens (receipts)
c) chases up these cases with the relevant people/ classifies data and puts pressure on the system
d) responds back to these people (token holders) with a summary report/ phone call about action taken/ next steps.
E.g. if I am a farmer in an interior village and the local school teacher is absent repeatedly, I should be able to send an SMS to a central number which will automatically post the information on internet where volunteers are ready to sort/classify/act upon the message.
The volunteers can be located anywhere in the world. The idea is to value-add to the messages and allow local actors (e.g. FTI members) to filter the information systematically.
Thus, a local FTI member/ freedom partner could consolidate the list of ALL schools where teachers are absent, send this list out to the inspector of schools, and demand a report PUBLICLY.
The onus would be on the government to ensure that the data is validated and acted upon. If the government says that the data is false, we can block the mobile phone that lodged the complaint (of course, after due diligence). And so on.
I trust that such a thing will be doable. This is of course only an example. Once an SMS/apps based system is developed, it could do many other things.
Out of 4 phases you listed I think we shall be able to complete 3 i.e. a, b & d from our end.
However I'm not entirely clear how and what actions to be taken for c i.e. "chases up these cases with the relevant people/ classifies data and puts pressure on the system"
How are our volunteers (who may not belong to same village/talluka/tehsil and may actually be based hundreds of kilometers away at least initially) going to put pressure on local authorities/system?
My response to comment 1
(c) I illustrated with the teacher's case. " a local FTI member/ freedom partner could consolidate the list of ALL schools where teachers are absent, send this list out to the inspector of schools, and demand a report PUBLICLY."
The sending of these lists of cases (e.g. broken sewers/ teachers not attending/ school building missing although paid for – yes, this happens a lot!) in a consolidated manner (that's why the software) to the relevant authorities AND media AND NGOs who are associated with this effort.
In other words, all that is needed is the address of these entities (email IDs) and automatic reports can be sent out to these "affiliates" who have the power to act.
If the system send out 10 teachers' names to the inspector of schools, it will have a separate page on "Inspector of Schools, Barpeta" (or whatever), with the detailed information published, and should the Inspector of Schools not respond, there will be a reminder automatically sent. Should that still not work, then local groups like NGOs/ freedom partners could undertake various actions (including – in the extreme case – holding dharnas outside the office of the Inspector of Schools, etc. etc.).
Once the inspector of schools responds, his/her response can be posted on the same page and a link sent out to all those who complained.
In my opinion first we should try to popularize the platform and its authenticity (just as a thought) i think
(1) First of all we should try to address the general problem which is related to the country or region or state etc. rather than individual problems .
(2) This may ensure mass audience and also resources required may be very less in comparison to that required for pursuing individual cases and also these things can be taken care by a group of people not present at the concerned location.
(3) We should keep a update on the site about all cases (e.g. we have written to concerned authority and waiting for reply OR the case is under consideration in xyz court)
(4) To start with we can gather information about past cases
- e.g. What is the status of manjunath case (the guy was killed by local mafia somewhere in uttrakhand as far as i remember related to Indian Oil corporation)
- What government assured to KARGIL WAR HERO's family and how much it is fullfilled till date.
- Why maosist are born and government spending in those affected areas for development (this thing can be linked to mafia(coal) vis a vis local rural population )
- What is the status of vikas yadav (son of bahubali DP YADAV) case which is related to murder.
- and so on ……….
i.e. the issue which media covered a lot but now they are not talked about.
(these may not be appropriate examples to be considered )
(5) If it creates good traffic on the platform then that also gives us the opportunity to find volunteers area wise to coordinate and to form a regional team (required for addressing individual issues) (also because these are general issues the visitors would be having general concern about the country so good probability exist that they might be interested in contributing)
(6) I think many things can be found on net but if at our platform it is consolidated then it may be useful for mass audience (it may save time for visitor).
(7) When it generates sufficient number then we can launch 2nd step i.e. individual complains.
My response to comment 2
You CAN consider establishing a separate system (on the same website) of citizens' government (yet to be established) for such individual cases.
It will require creating a system where a team of interested persons (volunteers) joins that particular "case", and keeps working on it by scouring the web/ chasing up with the Ministry of Defence (in this case), etc. and reporting publicly. In other words, that will not be a crowd sourced system but a system that allows volunteers who are interested in a particular case to keep up the pressure.