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Campaign launched for social accountability law

Context:

A State-wide campaign has been launched in Rajasthan for demanding passage of the social accountability law in the next Assembly session.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Transparency and Accountability)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Social Accountability?
  2. About the draft Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019
  3. Significance of the demand for social accountability law in Rajasthan

What is Social Accountability?

  • “Social accountability” refers to actions initiated by citizen groups to hold public officials, politicians, and service providers to account for their conduct and performance in terms of delivering services, improving people’s welfare and protecting people’s rights.
  • Social accountability is an obligation and responsibility on the part of the government to be answerable to the citizens for its actions. Accountability of government officials is a cornerstone and a must for ensuring good governance.
  • In a public sector context, social accountability refers to a wide range of actions and mechanisms that citizens, communities, independent media and civil society organizations can use to hold public officials accountable.
  • The four pillars of social accountability are: 
    1. Organized and capable citizens groups;
    2. An enabling environment, with government champions who are willing to engage; 
    3. Cultural appropriateness; and, 
    4. Access to information.
  • The seven main principles of social accountability can be summarised as follows:
    1. Jankari (Information)
    2. Bhagidari (Involvement and participation of citizens)
    3. Karyawahi (Time bound action)
    4. Suraksha (Protection of Citizens)
    5. Sunwai (Citizen’s right to be heard)
    6. Janta Ka Manch (Collective Platform)
    7. Prasar (Report Dissemination)
  • The effectiveness and sustainability of social accountability mechanisms is improved when they are institutionalized. This involves two things: 
  • The state as a ‘willing accomplice’ in the broader accountability project, needs to render its own “internal” mechanisms in a way that makes it structurally amenable to accountability.
  • The state needs to identify and adopt mechanisms to facilitate and strengthen civic engagement and citizen voice.

About the draft Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019

The draft Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill, 2019 will compliment RTI which is becoming far more challenging. The citizen centric law will enable citizens to initiate enquiries rather than relying on the departmental enquires in the existing system

Objectives of the Bill:

  • To seek the accountability of public functionaries and authorities for timely delivery of goods and services.
  • To create democratic, decentralized and participative approach to enable wider public participation.
  • To Initiate monitoring of programmes and policies through community score cards, citizens report card and social audits.

Key provisions:

  • The purview of bill includes any entity or body, which is under the control of the government, governor and the high court of Rajasthan. Entity or the body set up by Central Government to function within the State of Rajasthan and partially or wholly providing public goods and services provided there is consent of the Central Government.
  • It seeks to impose penalties and compensation and initiate departmental action against the Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) of the service delivery department for non-compliance. For example: If the local police have failed to deliver it duties, the onus is on the GRO.
  • The Bill will also set up a grievance redressal mechanism starting from village panchayats. The Bill included provisions for citizens’ charter, public hearing, social audit and information and facilitation centres.

Significance of the demand for social accountability law in Rajasthan

  • It empowers every person to hold the government institutions and officials accountable to them to deliver their rights as citizens.
  • It raises awareness about the law and takes up a sustained advocacy for passage of the Bill in the next Assembly session. The mechanism for redressing grievances will start from village panchayats and involve public hearings at the block level.
  • It can contribute to improved governance, increased development effectiveness through better service delivery, and citizen empowerment.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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