Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju watch a demo on the eve of the second ‘Khelo India Winter Games’, in Gulmarg on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)
On Thursday, Ghulam Nabi Kar, 65, sat in front of a web camera for the first time in his life. On the screen was Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and nearly all of the UT’s top bureaucracy. Without a political government, and even with the District Development Councils now in place, residents are turning to the administration’s grievance portal for everyday concerns as well as policy issues.
Kar was one of 23 citizens selected for an interaction with the administration over video conferencing as part of Sinha’s public outreach and grievance redress efforts. Of the thousands of complaints received by the L-G’s grievance portal, a few – at least one from each district – are selected depending on the nature of the complaint for a direct interaction with Sinha in the last week of the month.
“My house was damaged in the 2014 flood. I have been awaiting compensation since then,” Kar said, in the fifth session of the ‘L-G Mulaqat’ on Thursday. The monthly event began after Sinha took office in August.
Kar said his son found the portal online and suggested placing a complaint on it.
A case had been processed and a cheque issued. But with the family failing to deposit it, the cheque lapsed. “Since then, I have been running around, seeking re-issue of the cheque. But no one has been able to help,” he said.
After listening to the query, Sinha asked Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary to respond. “The relief files had been closed in 2016 and this issue could not be resolved. However, taking note of this as a special case, we will issue a fresh cheque,” he said.
Secretary, Public Grievances, J&K, Simrandeep Singh told The Indian Express: “Grievance redress systems generally work only when top leadership directly monitors or takes interest. L-G Mulaqaat is one such monitoring and interactive platform wherein the L-G and the chief secretary directly review the performance with all administrative secretaries, DCs, SPs and senior officials from various departments,”
He said that with each session, the number of complaints disposed of has also gone up gradually: from a disposal percentage of 52 in the first edition, the figure has gone up to 86 per cent in the last. “There is scrutiny of each complaint in front of the entire administrative machinery, therefore a lot of times, action is taken even before the complaint is brought before the L-G,” Singh said.
However, the effort also is to separate grievances from demands. Concerns regarding macadamisation of roads, requirements of bridges or institutions and sometimes, even policy requirements also come through the portal.
In the second edition of the mulaqat, a resident of Sidher, in RS Pura area of Jammu, stated that his village was left out of reservation for people living along the International Border. On February 22, the administration issued orders to include not just Sidher, but 42 other villages within the ambit of reservation.
An attendee at Srinagar raised a query about a private trust taken up by the then government in 2018 and all 19 staff members at the institution remaining unpaid since then. Chief Secretary B V R Subramanian in attendance, the L-G directed that the salary of the official be withheld until the staff at the institution are paid.
“L-G sahab directed the officials to resolve this matter. He also said that since we have been unpaid for the last 36 months, the official concerned will not get his salary until this is resolved,” Manzoor Ahmad said. Another attendee from Jammu raised the issue of commercial vehicles passing through a village in Samba district to avoid the toll plaza on the national highway. Similarly, a complainant apprised the L-G of low voltage in his locality.
The departments with the highest load of grievances include Revenue, General Administration, Home, Public Works and School Education.
Listing the number of officials he had contacted about electricity woes in his area, Arshid Ayoub said, “If the matter had been resolved at any level until now, no one would need to contact the L-G’s office. It is a last resort of people like me, who have tried and failed to get a hearing in any office.”