How Indian government departments ignore citizens

Policy making in India involves significant contributions from the Legislature and Executive. This is primarily a top-down approach where citizens are given very less importance in overall policies that are framed and ever lesser importance is given to citizens feedback and grievance redressal mechanisms. Below process steps shows what typically happens in policy making. Citizen, who is supposed to be the central force, is left out of all key stages.

Policy citizens

Government departments in India do very little to listen to citizens and address their grievances. Places where there is a grievance redressal mechanism, the process is so archaic that it takes months before even minor issues are closed.

We have ended up in this situation primarily for three reasons:

  1. Weberian bureaucracy is diligently practiced by most Government departments. This methodology is very inward looking as it stress more on means than on ends. It recommends bureaucrats to be focusing more on documentations, procedures, hierarchy, career etc while keeping out the most critical aspect of bureaucracy – citizens. You can find more details here –
  2. There are very little incentives for these departments to listen to citizen grievances and address them on priority. Also, given the shortage in staff and number of citizens to be served, these departments ignore the most easy part of their mission – citizens.
  3. Right To Information (RTI) Act is another reason these departments are negligent on their duties. As they are mandated by RTI to provide any information a citizen asks for, the departments do not do anything proactively. RTI is not an easy tool for citizens as it is time consuming (takes 30 to 45 days). This Act had made these departments more confident of ignoring their missions – citizens.

In this blog post, I will cover some examples from Central and State Government (Telangana) departments to insist on how citizen unfriendly they are. There are no political overtures here.

I chose Telangana as I live in this state. You can replace it with any other state and result is the same.

Central Government

Departments under focus

  • is the core portal through which we can file grievances on ANY department managed by the central governments. It is very simple to use and you will usually get response from concerned departments in 2 weeks time.
  • Employee Provident Fund Office runs its own grievance site that is different from This EPF website can be used to lodge any grievances related to PF account.

Why these departments are extremely citizen unfriendly

  • There is no 2-way communication between the citizen and the government department. Once a response is provided by respective department, the grievance gets closed. Citizen has to file a new grievance if the response is not clear or some additional questions need to be asked.
  • Response takes about 2 weeks. Citizen does not know the status of a grievance and only thing they can do is to pray and wait for at least 2 weeks.
  • Response from departments is mostly short on details. All we get back is a one or 2 line response for our grievances. Many time, like with the PF office, you get a one liner as response with words used that are not understood by citizens.

State Government (Telangana – same applies to any other state in India)

Departments under focus

  • Hyderabad Municipal Corporation runs multiple websites that address citizen grievances or provide online services. Examples include for registering new properties, for general complaints and for other types of complaints.
  • Telangana Roads and Buildings department runs its own grievance website for handling grievances

Why these departments are extremely citizen unfriendly

  • GHMC is perhaps one of the more citizen friendly organizations. They respond within 2 days to complaints in general. What they suffer from is the speed at which a problem gets resolved. They keep communicating with the citizen over phone but takes time to resolve issues.
  • Non functional websites for services and grievance redressal is another problem with Telangana departments. R&B department does not allow you to enter grievance description more than 200 characters! Strange, but true.
  • Most of the government officers copied in emails do not have official email ids. They have accounts. In this age of digital governance, why are Government departments not having their own email id domains! It is unfair to expect citizens to interact with Government officers using accounts.

What is the way out?

Government departments have to focus on below areas on priority and address them. Without this, all they do in the name of “citizen centric” policies is merely lip service.

  • Make grievance redressal process a 2-way conversation with the citizen and Government department. Maintain a trail of all such communications.
  • Only a citizen can close a complaint, not the department. Citizens should also be able to escalate complaints to senior officials.
  • All complaints lodged by citizens should be publicly displayed in department’s website, unless the citizen chooses to keep it confidential.
  • All Government departments should maintain dashboards giving details of the complaints, status, trends and impact
  • All Government departments should publish quarterly report with details of Citizen Satisfaction Surveys for that quarter.

Unless we bring this rigor into way our Government departments work, it is difficult to expect much change in ground reality.

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