Our Correspondent / New Delhi
Overall civic complaints in Delhi have increased by 9%, from 3,54,788 in 2015 to 3,88,484 in 2017. Complaints relating to ‘No Water’/’Shortage of water’ and have increased from 37,220 in 2015 to 56,382 in 2017, which is an increase of 51%.
Water Supply registered the most number of complaints (1,65,735) in 2017. Among other major civic issues under the Corporations, Nuisance due to stray dogs, monkeys, etc. registered the most number of complaints (22,574) in 2017.
Complaints relating to sewerage, removal of dead animals and contamination of water have also showed a continuous rise, and the problems faced by citizens are showing no sign of going away, for years on end.
These are finding of Praja Foundation white paper on civic issues and deliberations done by councillors and MLAs in Delhi, on Wednesday.
A response to a regular Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Praja Foundation to procure number of civic complaints registered, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) stated that, “Due to technical problem in CRM (Complaint Redressal Mechanism) of call centre application, no information is available from 1.10.2017 to 31.12.2017.” The DJB has lost citizen complaint data of three months.
“This is not the kind of response one would expect to an official Right to Information (RTI) application seeking basic information such as the number of complaints registered in an official complaint mechanism of a State-run body in India. The carelessness in handling citizens’ issues is disheartening”, Nitai Mehta, Founder and Managing Trustee of Praja Foundation, said.
The report also stated that 716 issues (9% of all issues) raised by councillors in ward committee meetings from Apr-Dec ’17 were an expression of frustration towards the working of the administration.
The data procured by Praja reveals that Civil Lines Zone under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) saw the highest number (51,553) of civic complaints in 2017. Overall complaints in Delhi city also rose by 9% over three years from 3,54,788 in 2015 to 3,88,484 in 2017, the white paper stated.
On the deliberation front, data found that one in every four newly elected councillors did not attend ward committee meetings from Apr-Dec 2017. Even where issue is being raised, the report said, they seem to be poorly prioritised. For instance, in 2017, civic complaints relating to Water such as No water, contamination of water, etc., consisting of 43% (1,65,735) of all civic complaints in Delhi. And yet, a dismal number of all issues i.e. 0.4% (29 issues) raised by Councillors and 10% (59 issues) raised by MLAs were on the water related issues, in 2017.
“Data such as this indicates why elected representatives must constantly pay heed to citizens’ voices. On several points, our data suggests consistent apathy on the part of elected representatives in the face of clearly increasing public concern,” Milind Mhaske, Director at Praja Foundation said.
While the Indian National Congress (INC) has mentioned fire safety in its manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have not mentioned the topic at all. Additionally, over the past three years (2015, 2016, and 2017), only 3 issues have been raised by MLAs on Fires in buildings/houses. Similarly, just 1 issue has been raised by Councillors in 2015, 2016 and April-December of 2017. This, is in spite of a total of 3,060 complaints filed in 2015, 2016, and 2017 on fires in houses/buildings.
The white paper placed into focus the multiplicity of authorities and recommended the creation of a centralised grievance redressal mechanism, which also has a complaint audit to gauge citizen satisfaction, as well as for various modes of lodging a complaint. It pushed for greater communication and coordination between Municipal, State and Central Governments operating in Delhi and a greater policy structure while addressing citizens’ issues.
“Complaints relating to major issues like sewerage, removal of dead animals, contamination of water are also major potential public health hazards. They have showed a continuous rise, and the problems faced by citizens are showing no sign of going away, for years on end. The Government must show initiative to eradicate these problems for good and bring about policy changes.”, said Nitai Mehta.
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About PRAJA Foundation:
PRAJA was founded in 1997 by a group of eight Mumbaiites with a vision to re-establish accountability and transparency in governance. These individuals were fuelled by a concern about a general lack of interest among the Citizens’ in the local government. Praja aims to create awareness among the citizens, and therefore empower them though the knowledge.