In a novel initiative, the Andhra Pradesh government has implemented the ‘People First’ grievance redressal system in the state to ensure that citizens who have had to pay bribes for government services get their money back.
The Chandrababu Naidu government has recently launched a toll-free number 1100 for registering complaints from people who have been fleeced by government officials and have had to pay unnecessary, illegal bribes to receive services provided by the state. The move comes in light of a recent national survey claiming AP to be the second most corrupt state in the country and is intended to weed out corrupt officials and government servants if any.
In fact, some government officials claim that the new measure has caused ‘chills to run down the spines’ of corrupt officials.
“So far 12 persons had returned the bribe amounts to the citizens in the past few days. In one instance in Kurnool district, a panchayat secretary had returned (bribe) money to 10 citizens (in separate cases),” Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu told media persons.
According to him, a broker in Krishna who took Rs 1000 as bribe for arranging a ration card for a citizen was made to return the amount. Another broker in AP’s Kadapa was made to return Rs 1000 he took from a beneficiary of the scam ‘Chandranna Bima’ insurance scheme.
In fact, the 1100 call center staff, which includes 7500 employees, made personal calls to 52,00 citizens regarding the dubious insurance scheme. An additional 6.2 lakh persons were called regarding details on social welfare pensions and 9.5 lakh on public distribution system delivery.
“About 3,000 citizens complained about corruption in implementation of these schemes. As soon as we receive a complaint, we are cross-verifying the details. We are making the corrupt officials to cough up the illegal gratification they received,” P Prabhakar, advisor (communications) to the government, claimed.
He also said that the effort was a wonderful initiative on part of the Andhra government to create a “happy, healthy and sustainable society”.
The People First helpline recently received a complaint against a revenue official who allegedly took Rs 50,000 as a bribe for issuing a pattadar passbook (land deed) to the complainant.
However, some senior bureaucrats claim that move is just meant as a message and may not have any real effect on corruption. In most cases, the bribe amount returned to individual complainants has been anywhere from Rs 500-Rs 1000. Additionally, no legal or procedural action has as yet been taken against any of the government servants who has so far been made to return the bribes.