Shailesh Gandhi, the former central information commissioner, pointed out to an eager audience the tools at our disposal to compel an unresponsive government to act
That our government does not function is a common refrain; it is a topic of discussion at every dinner table. But ‘why the government does not work’ was the question raised by Shailesh Gandhi, a former central information commissioner, in a session titled “Make your Government work for you”, organised by Moneylife Foundation on the 23rd of May in Mumbai.
Addressing an audience of around 70, Mr Gandhi broke the ice with “India belongs to each individual citizen. Thus, we ourselves are responsible to make our government work for us.” To do this, Mr Gandhi spoke about an important tool designed for the common man, namely, The Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005. This tongue twister of a statute is commonly known as the ‘Transfers and Delays Act of 2005’.
The above-mentioned Act governs the transfers of government officials in Maharashtra. The Act specifies that the tenure of government servants will be three years and transfers will normally be made only in April and May of each year. It provides for reasons to be recorded if transfers happen otherwise. Mr Gandhi pointed out that under the Act, in case of any discrepancy, anyone can file an application against the action with the information commission.
Often, we find ourselves disappointed, not only by inaction but also the apathy of government agencies when our complaints fall on deaf ears. This Act, however, shows us a way. It mandates that no action can be kept pending for more than three months, and if left unattended beyond that, a simple application with the complaint can be sent to the secretary of the concerned department; or when the relevant authority is a municipality, the municipal commissioner.
In the discussion, Mr Gandhi explained how the government is simply not structured to act and that the present government’s resources are insufficient to govern a gigantic country like India. He emphasised that simple tools like the ‘Transfer and Delays Act’, if utilised, have a potential to change the system. An important first step is to exert pressure. He concluded by saying, “You can make this Act work. If you want your government to work, you will have to act.”