By BRIG SD DANGWAL (RETD)
In pursuance of the Prime Minister’s clarion call for providing of Good Governance by the Central and State Governments, the mechanism of the Mukhyamantri Helpline Portal and its follow up on Telephone No 1905 is finding resonance with the people and the Government in the State of Uttarakhand. Earlier, during the rule of the previous Congress State Government under its Chief Minister Harish Rawat, a somewhat similar service of reaching out to the CM on telephone on matters of public grievances was introduced but it did not realistically take off in the manner it was intended to. A populist measure was soon aborted, owing to the lack of any written/documented follow up on the complaints made to the first Executive of the State and want of transparency in the resolution of the complaint. It became an unfortunate casualty in the process. As was wont to happen, this Harish Rawat Grievance Redressal mechanism was shortlived and was soon interred in the bureaucratic cesspool of files, files and more files, owing to its lack of credibility in the people’s perception. It was nothing more than a sham and a failed attempt in the management/exercise of Public Perception of good governance. When, the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government introduced the Samadhan Portal for the redressal of public grievances, I as an informed citizen of the State dismissed it as another ruse on the lines of what existed at the time of the previous government and nothing more. But, fortunately, my apprehension in this matter was proved wrong, because the mechanism put in place was digitally enabled and captured the public complaints online for purposes of record, call back and follow up. That the department concerned within the gamut of the State Government’s ambit is directly factored into the mechanism, made it credible in the people’s perception. The State’s bureaucracy is now co- opted in the mechanism upfront and is made accountable to act in public interest. Not only this, there also exists a telephonic feedback, as a corollary to the online mechanism by dialing 1905 and which provides a status update on the complaint by providing its Registration Number. But, then, it was not until I had personally put the mechanism to a fact check and tested its credibility to deliver on its intended purpose that I could vouch for its efficacy and worthiness. There were certain public interest issues which had been rankling me for long and there was no light at the end of the tunnel for me to see these being justly resolved in favour of truth and good governance. The first of these issues is concerning the blatantly illegal and rapacious plunder of a critical State Resource – Ground Water by Developers/ Builders and those who trade in the supply of drinking water through tankers/ containers. With the ongoing spurt and the boom in the construction market, to provide housing for the masses who are in need of housing in the plains of Uttarakhand, there is an unending demand of water for construction initially and then for consumption by those who occupy the constructed Dwelling Units. As most of these residential/commercial complexes are coming up in the outskirts of the cities where water supply by the Jal Sansthan/Jal Nigam is not forthcoming, Ground Water is a readily available resource, which can be regularly tapped to meet the demand of the Builders. I was seeing this happening in Dehradun and surmised that it must be the same in Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Rudrapur, too. Aware as I am of the adverse effects of rampant and illegal abstraction of Ground Water on the Green Forest Cover and the Environment as also its impact on the Water Cycle of the region, I decided to take up the matter on a war footing with the authorities. Now, to my knowledge, the Government agency which should be mandated to conserve Ground Water should logically be the Central Ground Water Board, Uttarakhand Region, which has its office in Balliwala Chowk, Dehradun. Accordingly, I wrote to them and requested intervention in the matter of illegal abstraction of ground water by builders in Dehradun. To my surprise, I learnt from them that they were not in the loop on approving any abstraction of ground water and could only write to the MDDA/ DM and request appropriate action. Period. To me it seemed exceedingly strange that a Central Government Department, which is specifically to deal with Ground Water, is not mandated by any authority in the matter but is subordinate to a Development and Revenue Authority and can only write to them about a subject which, is logically speaking, its bread and butter. An attempt to get a response from these two departments was not forthcoming and I resigned myself to frustration and disappointment for about four years until the Samadhan Portal/ Mukhyamantri Helpline was launched in 2017/2018. Seeing a window of opportunity through this platform of getting a public grievance redressed, I lodged a complaint with Registration No 14029 in the portal. Within a month’s time, the matter was taken up with the Authority concerned, and which is the Sub Judicial Magistrate (Sadar) by the Jal Sansthan Anurakshan Khand, Uttarakhand, and a Notice under section 10(1) has been served upon a Defaulting Residential Society on the Mussoorie-Sahastradha bypass Road. The matter is now sub judice in the designated court. The bureaucracy has moved and taken a step forward. The second issue on which the Helpline was put to test was in the matter of a completely indifferent, lackadaisical and inefficient bureaucracy regarding mutation of a government lease property in Tehri District under the Government Grants Act. It is for over six years now that the DM and the District Horticulture Officer, Tehri, have kept my file pending in their offices. The litany of excuses and piece meal requirements put forth by these two officers from time to time is a very sorry tale of bureaucratic apathy and callousness towards people’s issues and causes. Disgusted with this harassment of the designated government machinery in the matter I yet again lodged a complaint with the Mukhyamantri Helpline portal vide registration No 14032 and was not disappointed with the timely response of the government department concerned. The Nideshalaya, Udhyan Evam Khadya Prasanskaran, Uttarakhand, Udhyan Bhawan, Chaubatiya, Ranikhet–Almora has directed the DHO, Tehri, to take appropriate action under intimation to it. I am sanguine and assured that, the bureaucracy which once was adept at stonewalling people issues and keeping these pending under one excuse or the other, will act and do the needful. Like the RTI Act of 2005, the Mukhyamantri Helpline must be extensively used by the people to obtain redressal of their woes from the State Government and its agencies. It is for the people of Uttarakhand to empower themselves through this mechanism of Good Governance and help the state’s political leadership to deliver on its promise of Less Government and More Governance. Only when the people of Uttarakhand exercise their prerogative to get value for their vote and money from the Government of the day will the Mukhyamantri Helpline truly and surely become a panacea for its people’s woes.