Citizen Charter

A Citizen’s Charter is an understanding between ordinary citizens and public service providers which outlines the quantity and quality of service citizens can expect to receive in exchange for taxes or fees.

After the liberalization of the Indian economy, a sea-change has occurred in how ordinary citizens conceptualize public service. Public services are no more considered mere grants by end-users. Instead, citizens now consider public service to be something that must be provided as a right – by the government in return for fees or taxes.

Citizen’s Charters not only empower end-users with critical information, but also force public service providers to live up to their obligations to ordinary citizens. Citizen’s Charter initiative aimed to produce citizen-centric public services that focused on improving quality of services, standard conformity, and the grievance redress process.

Related Article: Role of Civil Society and Voluntary Organisations (NGOs) in accountability and control

Citizen’s Charters were first formulated in the United Kingdom in 1991 by the Conservative Government under Prime Minister John Major as a measure to refocus public services towards the needs and expectations of end-users.  The Citizen’s Charter initiative was conceived in India at a conference of Chief Ministers held in May 1997 on the issue of responsive government

Components of Citizen’s Charters:
1. Basic information about the department
2. Standards of services
3. Grievance redress system
4. Citizen-friendly criteria

Yet, the question remains as to the efficacy of Citizen’s Charters in practice. Can ordinary citizens actually use Citizen’s Charters as a tool to demand service that is in accordance with established standards? The objective of increasing transparency in public service delivery had not been achieved due to major flaws in the design and implementation of charters.

1. A Citizen’s Charter must be drafted in simple, concise language to maximize its usefulness to an ordinary citizen.

2. Civil society organizations and end-users are generally not consulted when charters are being formulated.

3. Charters are rarely updated.

4. Many agencies do not publicize where copies of Citizen’s Charters can be obtained. Many offices do not display crucial components of Citizen’s Charters.

5. Most officials are unfamiliar with the concept of Citizen’s Charters. A majority are not trained in charter implementation. 

6. Users are not encouraged to provide feedback on charters. 

7. Citizen’s Charter calls for the institutionalization of new practices and increased transparency in the agency that adopts it. This is not a mere technical matter, but one that requires that agency leaders and their staff work together towards this goal. 

There is no doubt that the citizen charter’s strategy, if formulated and implemented in an objective and committed manner to give the citizens their due can lead us ‘towards good governance’.

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Some Appreciation Please!

  Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2015 at 3:19 AM under   Polity