Social Accountability Law

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    In News

    • A State-wide campaign has been launched in Rajasthan for demanding passage of the social accountability law.
    • Rajasthan Congress had promised the legislation in its 2018 Assembly election manifesto.
    • The Chief Minister had also reiterated his resolve to enact the law in his budget speech in 2019.

    What is Social Accountability?

    • Social accountability has been defined as an approach towards ensuring accountability that relies on civic engagement, 
      • i.e., in which ordinary citizens and citizen groups participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability.
    • In a public sector context, social accountability refers to a wide range of actions and mechanisms that can be use to hold public officials accountable to
      • citizens, communities, independent media and civil society organizations.

    Need for Social Accountability

    • Rousseau social contract theory:
      • Rousseau’s central argument in The Social Contract is that government attains its right to exist and to govern by “the consent of the governed.
    • To enable the citizens to access their rights:
      • Activists pointed out that countless citizens were suffering from an inability to access their rights.
    • To revamp the the government departments:
      • Many government departments have huge pendency of grievances.
      • Such law will empower citizens to get their complaints redressed in a time-bound manner.
    • Rights based Approach of Governance:
      • The State government should adopt a rights based approach and ensure timely delivery of services.

    How can Social Accountability be ensured?

    • In 2019, a committee under the chairmanship of the former state election commission, Ram Lubhaya was constituted.
      • Its mandate was to advise the government on the drafting of the Social Accountability Bill.
      • It submitted its draft bill in 2020.
    • The Draft Bill has following provisions:
      • Mechanism for redressing grievances must start from village panchayats and involve public hearings at the block level.
      • It incorporates the suggested provisions for 
        • transparency in governance, 
        • citizens’ participation, 
        • public hearing, 
        • social audit, 
        • information and facilitation centres, 
        • decentralisation of the process and 
        • establishment of an independent grievance redressal structure.
    • World Bank too in its 2004 report has emphasised on 2 routes to accountability:
      • Long Route: It is recommended for Public Accountability
        • The state needs to have a clear understanding of what its citizens want. 
        • For this to occur, citizens must be able to draw on the political process to hold the state (policy makers and politicians) to account.
        • This relationship is referred to as ‘voice’. 
        • The state, in turn, acting as the representative of the people, must be able to transmit these demands to the actual provider of services and ensure that providers perform their functions effectively. This relationship is the ‘compact’. 
      • Short Route: It is the model more suitable to private firms but still extendable to public institutes for day to day accountability.

     

    Source: DARPG

    • The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances has also started a study on “Social Accountability”.
      • It intends to explore the ways and means of enhancing the ability of citizens (especially the poor and the marginalized) to engage with public servants and politicians in a more empowered way.
      • It emphasised on 
        • Strong Voice: an informed and mobilised citizenry that can draw upon platforms for engagement to make accountability demands on the system
        • Strong Compact: A system of institutions designed in a manner that makes accountability possible.

    Source: DARPG

    • Major Principles of Social Accountability:
      • Jankari (Information)
      • Bhagidari (Involvement and participation of citizens)
      • Karyawahi (Time bound action)
      • Suraksha (Protection of Citizens)
      • Sunwai (Citizen’s right to be heard)
      • Janta Ka Manch (Collective Platform)
      • Prasar (Report Dissemination)

    Few Examples of Social Accountability

    • Participatory Planning and Policy Formulation (Kerala)
    • Participatory Budget Analysis (Gujarat)
    • Participatory Expenditure Tracking System (Delhi, Rajasthan)
    • Citizens’ Surveys/Citizen Report Cards (Bangalore, Maharashtra)
    • Citizen Charters (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka)
    • Community Scorecards (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh)

    Conclusion

    • The Rajasthan Guaranteed Delivery of Public Service Act, 2011 and The Rajasthan Right to Hearing Act (2012) have already been around 
      • But they were repealed due to some major issues.
    • Today, there is emphasis on social accountability worldwide in order to ensure participatory democracy.
    • India too must attempt to make such steps mandatory for the minimum government with maximum governance.

    Source: TH TOI