GRIEVANCE REDRESS MECHANISM IN GOVERNMENT
Grievance Redress Mechanism is part and parcel of the machinery of any administration. No administration can claim to be accountable, responsive and user-friendly unless it has established an efficient and effective grievance redress mechanism. In fact, the grievance redress mechanism of an organization is the gauge to measure its efficiency and effectiveness as it provides important feedback on the working of the administration.
I. (A) STRUCTURE OF GRIEVANCE REDRESS MACHINERY AT APEX LEVEL
The grievances of public are received at various points in the Government of India .There are primarily two designated nodal agencies in the Central Government handling these grievances. These agencies are:-
Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions
Directorate of Public Grievances, Cabinet Secretariat
Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances
Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances is the nodal agency in respect of policy initiatives on public grievances redress mechanism and citizen centric initiatives. The role of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances consists primarily to undertake such citizen-centric initiatives in the fields of administration reforms and public grievances in the Government so as to enable the Government machinery to deliver quality public services to the citizen in a hassle-free manner and eliminate the cause of grievance.
The grievances received by the Department are forwarded to the concerned Ministries/Departments/State Governments/UTs, who are dealing with the substantive function linked with the grievance for redress under intimation to the complainant. The Department ‘takes up’ about 1000 grievances every year depending upon the seriousness of the grievance and follows them regularly till their final disposal. This enables the Department to evaluate the effectiveness of the grievance redress machinery of the concerned government agency.
On the basis of the grievances received, Department identifies the problem areas
in Government which are complaint-prone. These problem areas are then subjected
to studies and remedial measures are suggested to the Department/Organisation concerned.
Directorate of Public Grievances (DPG)
Based on the review of the public grievances redress machinery in Government of India carried out in 1987, the Directorate of Public Grievances was set up in the Cabinet Secretariat with effect from 01.04.88. This Directorate was set up initially to look into individual complaints pertaining to four Central Government Departments which were more prone to public complaints. Subsequently, more Departments having larger public interface were added to its purview and presently this Directorate is handling grievances pertaining to 16 Central Government Organisations.
The Directorate was envisaged as an appellate body investigating grievances selectively and particularly those where the complainant had failed to get redress at the hands of internal machinery and the hierarchical authorities. Unlike the Department of AR&PG, Directorate of Public Grievances has been empowered to call for the files and officers for discussion to see that grievance handling has been done in a fair, objective and just manner. Wherever the Directorate is satisfied that the grievance has not been dealt in such a manner, it makes suitable recommendations for consideration and adoption by the concerned Ministry/Department which are required to be implemented within a period of one month.
The empowered and enlightened citizens of today is far more demanding and the government, therefore, has to develop, evolve and enable itself to meet the evolving demands of the society that it has to serve. The society today is impatient with the old system of governance which is not coming up to its expectations. To them, a government employee is perceived as insensitive, aloof, corrupt and overall the administrative system as autocratic, opaque and with no work culture
This requires a paradigm shift in governance to a system where the citizen is in the center and he is consulted at various stages of formulation and implementation of public policy. To achieve this objective, India needs a public service which is capable, innovative and forward looking. The traditional role of civil service which was of administrator, service provider and controller of development activities has to make way for the new roles of facilitator and regulator so as to create best environment and conditions in the country for building a nation of excellence.
Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances is the nodal agency
in Government of India for formulation and implementation of such policies and strategic
initiatives so as to enable and equip the government machinery to meet the challenges
involved in achieving this objective.
Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances is the driving engine
of reforms in administration and governance. The Department proposes to introduce
and lead Change to establish a public service of quality, efficiency, integrity
and effectiveness and modernize the public service. It is the nodal agency in government
for facilitating administrative improvements and reengineering of processes across
the government. Citizen’s Charter initiative, Public Grievance Policy, Quality Management
in Government, e-Governance, Review of Administrative Laws etc. Documentation and
Dissemination of Best Practices, Organisation & Methods, Information & Facilitation
Counters, Civil Services Reforms are some of the areas under the ambit of Department
of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances.
Following are the necessary conditions for successful implementation of any
- Political mandate
- Committed and strong executive
- Willingness and capability to take on vested interests in the system
II. (A) PUBLIC GRIEVANCE REDRESS MECHANISM IN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT MINISTRIES/ DEPARTMENTS/
The Public Grievance Redress Mechanism functions in Government of India on a
decentralized basis. The Central Government Ministries/Departments, their attached
and subordinate offices and the autonomous bodies dealing with substantive functions
as per Allocations of Business Rules, 1961 have their respective grievance redress
machinery. An officer of the level of Joint Secretary is required to be designated
as Director of Grievances of the Ministry/Department/Organisation. The role and
functions of Directors of Grievances are given in Department of Administrative Reforms
and Public Grievances O.M.no.1/PLCY/PG-88(7) dated 01.03.1988. This inter alia empowers
the Directors of Grievances to call for files/reports and take decisions or review
decisions already taken, in consultation with Secretary/HOD even in those areas
which do not fall within his/her domain/charge.
The functioning of Public Grievance Redress Machineries in various Ministries/Departments/Organisations
is regularly reviewed by a Standing Committee of Secretaries under the Chairmanship
of Cabinet Secretary with Additional Secretary Department of Administrative Reforms
and Public Grievances as member-secretary.
With a view to ensure prompt and effective redress to the grievances, a number
of instructions have been issued by Department of AR&PG from time to time which,
inter alia include:-
Observe every Wednesday as a meetingless day in the Central Secretariat Offices
when all the officers above a specified level should be available their desks from
1000hrs.to 1300hrs. to receive and hear public grievances. Field level offices having
contact with the public have also to declare one day in the week as a meetingless
Designate a Joint Secretary level officer as Director of Grievances including
in autonomous bodies and public sector undertakings.
Deal with every grievance in a fair, objective and just manner and issue reasoned
speaking reply for every grievance rejected.
Analyse public grievances received to help identification of the problem areas
in which modifications of policies and procedures could be undertaken with a view
to making the delivery of services easier and more expeditious.
Issue booklets/pamphlets about the schemes/services available to the public
indicating the procedure and manner in which these can be availed and the right
authority to be contacted for service as also the grievance redress authority.
Pick up grievances appearing in newspaper columns which relate to them and take
remedial action on them in a time bound manner. Issue rejoinders to newspapers after
investigation in cases which are found to be baseless and/or damaging to the image
of the Organisation.
Strengthen the machinery for redress of public grievance through, strictly observing
meetingless day, displaying name designation, room number, telephone number etc.
of Director of Grievances at the reception and other convenient places, placing
locked complaint box at reception.
Set up Staff Grievance Redress Machinery and designate a Staff Grievance Officer.
Include the public grievances work and receipt/disposal statistics relating
to redress of public grievances in the Annual Action Plan and Annual Administrative
Report of the Ministries/Departments.
Fix time limits for disposal of work relating to public grievances and staff
grievances and strictly adhere to them.
Acknowledge each grievance petition within three days of receipt, indicating
the name, designation and telephone number of the official who is processing the
case. The time frame in which a reply will be sent should also be indicated.
Constitute Lok Adalats/Staff Adalats, if not already constituted, and hold them
every quarter for quicker disposal of public as well as staff grievances and pensioners’
Constitute a Social Audit Panel or such other machinery, if not already constituted,
for examining areas of public interface with a view to recommending essential changes
in procedures to make the organization more people-friendly.
Establish a single window system at points of public contact, wherever possible
to facilitate disposal of applications.
Indicating telephone/fax number of the officer whose signature over a communication
regarding the decision/reply is to issue to the petitioner.
Monitoring of grievances in organisations under Ministries/Departments on a
Publicising the grievance redress mechanism through the print and electronic
Review of receipt and disposal of grievances by Secretaries of Ministries/Departments
in the weekly meetings taken by them.
(B) TYPES OF PUBLIC GRIEVANCES
An analysis of grievances received in Department of Administrative Reforms &
Public Grievances and Directorate of Public Grievances has revealed that the majority
of grievances related to inordinate delay in taking decisions, extending from several
months to several years and refusal/inability to make speaking replies/disclose
basic information to the petitioners to enable them to examine whether their cases
have been correctly decided. It is observed that, had the concerned organizations
expeditiously and appropriately dealt with the grievances in the first instance,
the complainants would not have approached Department of Administrative Reforms
& Public Grievances/Directorate of Public Grievances.
(C) SYSTEMIC PROBLEM AREAS
There are rules, regulations, instructions which are archaic and aimed at shifting
the work towards citizens. Slackness in administration, low morale of the services,
inherent inertia, absence of incentives, lack of proper authority and accountability
are the delay-breeders and the delay is the major factor that generates the grievances.
These factors need to be tackled properly through systematic changes. Prevention
is better than cure. On these lines, the best method to redress a grievance is not
to allow the grievance to arise at the first instance. Even the redress of a grievance,
that arose on account of delay, is also delayed as is revealed by the analysis of
grievances according to which on a average six months are taken to redress a grievance.
Many a times Departments/Organisations are found to avoid taking appropriate
decisions by resorting to rejection without application of mind, not taking appropriate
interest in functioning of subsidiary offices/linked autonomous organizations, and
emphasize on disposal and not on the quality disposal. Decisions taken earlier are
reiterated without subjecting the cases of independent examination. There is an
inertia to review decisions taken by down-the-line functionaries. In many cases
Departments/Organisations justify the delay and continue with their inability to
take decisions by putting the onus on another agency or on the petitioner. Many
a times, the actual cause of grievance lay in internal inefficiency of the system
and failure to identify simple systemic solutions. It is also observed that the
time norms set by Departments for providing services were not being adhered to in
There is no doubt that grievances continue to arise because of a high systemic
tolerance for delay, poor work quality and non-accountability in every day performance
of functions. Failure to review archaic, redundant and incongruous rules, policies
and procedures and to initiate simple, workable systemic changes is another cause
for grievance generation. However, Departments and Organisations, which work with
policies and procedures on a day-to-day basis, do not appear to have developed the
ability to continually look ‘within’ and identify deficiencies. All these factors
have ensured that grievances, once arisen, many a time do not get resolved in ‘normal’
course and need intervention at the highest administrative level.
Slackness in efficient functioning of ‘Directors of Grievances’ is identified
as one of the prime cause for continuing delay in redress of grievances. Poor work
quality, non-accountability in everyday performance of functions and failure to
systemically review policies/procedures and suggest systemic changes are other important
causes. In most Ministries, Departments and Organisations, the mechanism of Director
of Grievances is not functioning as per the mandate prescribed.
(D) Focus Areas
In this context, it is the need of the time that the Government should review
its pledge of providing hassle-free public services to the citizens by focusing
on systemic changes to minimize the grievances in Government domain. In order to
achieve this objective in a focused manner, it is necessary to evolve a multi-pronged
strategy to be implemented in a time-bound and effective manner. Keeping in view
the various factors involved in grievance redress issue, following areas need focused
7.2 Performance Review – Foreseeing areas of dissatisfaction
To review processes, functions etc. in the organization and to cast them pro-actively
in a manner that would foresee areas of dissatisfaction, identify activities where
transparency, equity, prudence and propriety are compromised, interventions that
can help achieve better outcomes, improve satisfaction of internal and external
An annual review of laws, rules, regulations, instructions and procedures be
carried out with a view to simplify the procedure making the administration more
transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly. Information Technology should be
employed in re-engineering of governmental processes in order to improve efficiency
and effectiveness and ensuring transparency and accountability.
7.3 Identification of Grievance Prone Areas and Analysis
Identify areas susceptible to corruption and/or grievance generation and conduct
work audit of such areas. In addition, consider external/social audit in areas of
very high public interface, with the aim of identifying wrong doers and improving
processes and systems. Involve NGOs in the exercise.
Analyse the nature and cause of grievances with the aim of identifying systemic
deficiencies in laws, rules, regulations, policies, instructions, work practices
and procedures, and effecting systemic changes to remove/correct these deficiencies.
The Directors of Grievances be the nodal officers for such purpose. The analysis
should be conducted in the month of April every year and studies of identified grievance
prone areas be undertaken. Recommendations made in the studies should be implemented
by December of that year so as to bring systemic changes and remove the cause of
Fix responsibility in each and every case of delay, default or dereliction in
performance of every day duties on failure to deliver services, and take disciplinary
action to avoid recurrence. This will send a clear signal that in the event of failure
to perform duties or deal appropriately with grievances within the time frame norms
prescribed, a real possibility of having responsibility fixed on one’s shoulder
exists. Consider the feasibility of prescribing specific penalty clauses in such
7.4 Citizen’s Charter
Formulation and effective implementation of Citizen’s Charters, which should, inter-alia,
include disclosure of time norms for providing various services to the citizens/clients
and details of all levels of grievance redress machinery that may be approached.
7.5 Information & Facilitation Counters (IFC)
Setting up and effective operationalisation of IFC’s civic society may be involved
in the functioning of IFCs to make them citizen- friendly and effective.
7.6 On Line Registration of Grievances
Make ‘Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System’ (PGRAMS) software, operational
with every Director of Grievances. This shall enable the Director of Grievances
to immediately place the details of grievances received in a database (efficient
‘dak’ management) as well as record the fact whether he intends to monitor its progress,
identify the section/division where it is being sent, etc., generate the time taken
in dealing with the grievance, enable review of pending grievances in the organisation
or across the organisations, generate acknowledgements to complainants, conduct
analysis etc. The system should also have the facility of on-line registration of
grievances by the citizens and access to information on the status of his/her grievances.
7.7 Prompt and Effective Redress of Grievances
ll grievances should be necessarily acknowledged, with an interim reply within
3 days of receipt and redressed within 3 months of receipt in the Organisation.
The same time limit should apply even if co-ordination with subsidiary offices or
another Department/Organisation is involved. In such instances special efforts,
to be suo moto disclosed when reports are called, should be made.
No grievance is to be rejected without having been independently examined. At
a minimum, this means that an officer superior, to the one who delayed taking the
original decision or took the original decision that is cause for grievance, should
actually examine the case as well as the reply, intended to be sent to the grievance
Make the ‘Director of Grievances’ effective through the following inter-related
Secretaries/Organisational Heads ensuring that Directors of Grievances are fully
‘empowered’ in accordance with instructions to perform their role.
All grievance representations received in the Department/Organisation, either
by mail, fax, e-mail to be invariably routed through Director of Grievances before
they go to concerned sections/divisions. At this stage, Office of the Director of
Grievances shall go through the representations and come to a prima-facie view regarding
the gravity of the matter involved and decide whether it shall monitor the case
or allow down-the-line functionaries to independently deal with it. Directors of
Grievances should monitor and follow up at least 3 to 5 percent of grievances received
to enable them to assess the efficacy of grievance redress mechanism.
Fix responsibility in each case of delay, default and dereliction of duty,
identified by Director of Grievances, and take appropriate action against concerned
personnel. In addition, consider feasibility of prescribing specific penalty clauses
for such failures.
7.8 Review and Monitoring of Grievance Redress Mechanism
Ensure meaningful review of the performance of grievance redress machinery of the
Ministry/Organisation as well as that of attached/ subordinate organization by Secretary/
Head of the Department on a monthly basis. Review should also cover action against
III. ROLE OF REGULATORS, OMBUDSMAN AND LIKE BODIES
An explosive issue today in context of public grievance redress is the pace
and phasing of the movement towards open markets after the gradual abandonment of
centralized planning model. The Government is today withdrawing from various service
sectors traditionally monopolosized by it and private enterprise is moving in. This
may lead to a scenario where the Government monopolies are replaced by even more
vicious private monopolies or cartels in the absence of adequate regulation, enforcement
and recourse to grievance redress.
This has significant implications for the role of Government. The Government
can not just abandon the interests of citizens to be taken care of by the market
forces in areas of service delivery covered by the private sector. In the open market
scenario, it is often the major stakeholders and players which define the cost,
quality and mechanism etc. of service delivery.
The Government therefore needs to put in place appropriate mechanisms in the
regulatory authorities, ombudsmen and like bodies in such sectors so that the concerns
of individual citizens are also accorded equal importance and weightage and are
appropriately and effectively addressed. They should safeguard the interests of
the common citizens and ensure that the grievances of the citizens are attended
to promptly and effectively.