Parishkaram - an ICT enabled Grievance Redressal System in Guntur District connects citizens to the administrative services through a phone call

Efficiency in addressing public grievances is one of the important indicators of governance at all levels. District being a significant administrative unit in terms of devolution of powers, reaching out to public with basic services is pivotal to responsive governance. The standard practice of grievance redressal at the district level lacks efficiency as it works on a ` first come first served ‘basis on every Monday at district headquarters. This system is inherently exclusionary as poor, socially, politically and geographically marginalized may not get through the labyrinth of bureaucracy at the district headquarters.

Parishkaram – meaning “Solutions” is first developed in Medak District, Andhra Pradesh to improve the efficiency of the grievance redressal cell. By its efficiency in addressing the public grievances, now is made available to the citizens of Guntur District also. As an ICT tool, it uses a combination of mobile, blue tooth, web space and SMS technology to create a responsive and efficient district administration in solving people’s grievances. By design, it is inclusionary and allows for paper less trail of the progress of each complaint that is lodged as a voice complaint with the grievance cell. It also facilitates the District Collector/Magistrate to track the progress using real time analysis across various departments and at sub- district level. Supportive software being available as open source, Parishkaram can be easily replicated in other districts across the state.

Why Parishkaram?

Reaching the district headquarters from far flung areas of the district is time taking and also expensive.

With saturation of mobile connectivity covering remote areas, it offers a viable and effective tool.

Citizens can access the district administration through a phone call.

Use of mobile allows department heads to address the grievances and remotely monitor the disposal of the complaints by their departments.

How Parishkaram works?

1. Context

New media technologies have shown remarkable potential in brining citizens and government closer together. Within the larger framework of pro- poor governance, there is increasing evidence that ICT can improve the access to public services and increase the efficiency and accountability. It also offers opportunities for strengthening the ongoing process of improving services by focusing on demand orientation and targeting of the poor.

Experiments and experiences over the past decade have put India as one of the world leaders in enabling what is popularly known as ICT4D. Lessons from such experiences provide opportunities for further improvisation on the reach and coverage of such initiatives. One of the significant lessons is that organizational and infrastructure architecture is important in delivering the services to citizens through technological initiatives. Equally significant is to ensure that the initiative is built on the existing system but efficiency is brought in to the extent that any relapse to the older system is deterred. This also addresses the sustainability factor crucial to the initiatives

2. Parishkaram: ICT interface for the grievance redressal cell at the district headquarters

2.1: The previous system of grievance redressal of citizenry in Guntur

Every district has a grievance cell where in citizens can personally meet the district magistrate and lodge complaints. Every Monday is dedicated for grievances to be addressed by the district collector/magistrate and the cell functions as a response system of the district magistrate to reach out to the service delivery gaps. The efficiency of the system is limited to the number of people that can be met during the day and also by the nature of complaints. Though the cell tends to function with a self-targeting of the poor, distance to the headquarters and accompanying cost as well as the code of conduct and lack of other information seems to limit its coverage of the poorest.

Another significant point is that even when the District Collector (DC) favorably disposes the complaint, there is limited mechanism by which the DC can monitor the follow up actions by the concerned officers. This seriously impairs the efficacy of the system as well as the confidence and trust of the citizen.

2.2. Parishkaram (Solution)

Parishkaram is an ICT (voice files/Blue tooth technology and SMS) enabled response system of the district administration than an individually addressed mechanism. The goal of Parishkaram has been to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the district redressal mechanism by increasing the coverage to include all basic services along with gaps in the implementation of major programmes and improving the reach by enabling ` easy to use- low cost ‘ access to the district administration to the marginalized communities.

Main objectives of Parishkaram are as follows:

Enable the district administration to register maximum number of complaints across different line departments through an interface with ICT

Facilitate access to the poorest groups to access the response system of the district administration through easy to use and low cost option such as voice complaint through a toll free number

Establish a systematic response system at the district level that tracks the response system at the mandal level covering the key departments

Institutionalize a response system with stipulated time limit, priority list and reasons for delay

Establish a weekly monitoring system at the district level to track the response rate, with special attention to priority list

Establish functional and dynamic linkages with the monitoring systems at the district level such as that of ICDS, NRHM and NREGS

Improve the transparency of transactions related to basic services through ICT enabled tracking system of responses