Addressing Complaints Of Citizens
Hira Bahadur Thapa
The government of Nepal has been attempting to redress people’s grievances through the establishment of a unit under the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) for some years. They call it Hello Sarkar the reason being that any citizen of Nepal can give a call (a certain phone number has been assigned for calling) to register his or her complaints on whatever issue he or she feels aggrieved of. Of late, they have started operating Call Centers for this purpose. Apparently it sounds well but very of us know about how indeed this system of grievances handling functions in order to serve the people.
Anyone entering into the OPMCM building gets confused to locate the unit known as Hello Sarkar because no sign is displayed under this name. This scribe too got perplexed to find it out a few weeks earlier when he was looking for some one in the unit to brief his agonising experience related to the submission of Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship forms on behalf of class eleven students of a school in Parbat district.
Having enquired with the police personnel standing at the entrance I found out the concerned unit and entered into it where I found some employee of the office answering the phone call. Probably, he was attending a call through which some one with grievances was trying to get his or her complaints registered. When I started to tell him about my problem he handed over me a printed form for writing down my points clearly. Having faced hurdles at the District Administration Office, Baglung I was trying to provide the details so that who looked into my paper would understand the background properly. As I returned the form to the employee, he just expressed his displeasure and started lecturing me about how one should fill up the form he had given to me. In fact, he never explained to me about the way I should have filled up the form. This is an example how our bureaucrats behave with the clients visiting their offices purposefully.
At the time of my registering the complaints that I had in mind the employee handling my papers assured me that their office would inform me of the outcome of the action taken in response to my grievances. It was nice to receive such assurances but the fact is that I did not get any call from them until December 19 though I had submitted my documents on December 8. Recalling my previous experience of how we are served by the government offices where the employees try their best to assure that our problems would be taken care of but forget about the same once the client leaves the office, I decided to visit OPMCM. The first impression I got as soon as I entered into the room was that the officer-charge just stood up and left his seat telling his colleagues that he had to go to the bank. Possibly, he wanted to avoid any conversation with me as he assumed that I was going to enquire with them about the progress in handling the issue which I had raised in my petition about two weeks ago.
The lady responding to the phone calls then was the only one in the room whom I could ask about my problem and she answered that the person (unit in-charge) has already gone out and he should have given me the response. What a natural reply! I waited till others came into the office and recognising the employee I approached him. He looked at the computer screen and tried to find out the outcome of my petition but of no avail. He was complaining against his computer system which he said that it was changed recently and so he had difficulty in accessing to the right place. After a while he showed me in the screen some details, which had nothing but the names of some government personnel in the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs, who were responsible in dealing with the issues forwarded from Hello Sarkar unit.
Upon my request he called some one in the Home Ministry and found that all officers attending that particular section were missing and there was one lady, junior personnel. Having talked to her he asked me to go to her office and find out myself about the outcome for which I have been running from pillar to post for several weeks since the Indian embassy issued a notice related to Mahatma Gandhi scholarship in the third week of November.
By then the unit in-charge of Hello Sarkar came back and he also asked me to visit the Home Ministry. He was explaining to me that I should ask the lady to submit my petition to her boss. What an illogical argument from my perspectives because the issue that all CDOs should certify the annual family income of the scholarship applicants once they produce recommendation from their concerned ward offices was already raised by me personally to the Home Secretary. When he declined to circulate to all district administration offices as per my request in clear language, then I had to knock at the gate of Hello Sarkar. But where lies the remedy I am still confused.
The above elaborates how the so-called Gunaso Byawasthapan Sakha aka Hello Sarkar working right under the Prime Minister’s office, has been responding to people’s grievances. It seems that their duty is just to forward the papers to the concerned ministries. This is no proper way of handling grievances. The government should assign this important job to a secretary level officer so that he can deal with the concerned counterparts effectively to redress people’s complaints. Otherwise, Hello Sarkar will be a publicity stunt only. Fortunately, the issue of certification will be resolved as the Indian government has adopted more flexible approach by accepting the income certificates signed by the chiefs of municipalities, who would be more accessible than our CDOs. Since December 15 the Mahatma Gandhi scholarship forms can be submitted on line as well and this facilitates the application procedure.