Shalini Rajneesh, IAS
Yatha raja, Tatha praja…
Our Bureaucrat of the month for February 2013, Dr Shalini Rajneesh (IAS:1989), stands out in her dedication towards charting a new chapter for guaranteeing instant delivery of Government services in Karnataka. Such path-breaking models which benefit the common man can be introduced in all other States to ensure accuracy in the delivery of services. Bureaucracy Today meets this energetic and dynamic bureaucrat who tells us about the extensive work done in Karnataka in the field of administrative reforms and how she hopes her efforts will translate into smooth governance for the people of the State.
Shalini Rajneesh, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Karnataka, had made up her mind as a child to dedicate her life to the service of people. “My father was an IAS officer and he was my role model. I wanted to follow in his footsteps”, says Shalini.
As Mission Director of Sakala, an initiative by the Government to bring about reforms in the administration and drive the Karnataka Guarantee of Services Act 2011, Shalini has been instrumental in bringing about an enormous change in the manner of things happening across various Government departments in the State.
“Our Chief Minister at the time, Sadanand Gowda, was very concerned about the reputation of the Karnataka Government and its services. He directed Chief Secretary S V Ranganath to look into these aspects and come up with a legislation that would guarantee and provide citizens with basic services within a stipulated time. The CS then entrusted this job to me. It was clear that most people did not have confidence in us. In fact, most had a very low opinion due to the inefficiency and bad experience with the delivery of Government services”, recalls Shalini. “It was high time there was a change in the manner things were run in Government offices and a need to restore the confidence of people in civil servants. Sakala was a step in this direction”, she says.
According to Rajneesh, the biggest challenge in launching such an initiative was the fact that people within the bureaucracy were resistant to reforms. “I realized that nobody really wanted reforms because it suited them to work in an inefficient manner. There was a need for a complete change in the attitude of Government officers. The problem was that most people wanted the perks of a Government job minus its responsibilities. Reforms were an entity that people would just talk about”, according to her. “In fact”, she laughingly tells us, “ the Department of Administrative Reforms was considered a department where people who wanted to do nothing were posted ! "
Shalini thought that it was essential that Government departments should assume the responsibility of what they were meant to do i.e provide service to the citizens of this country. Sakala, which means ‘in time’ or ‘good time’ in Kannada, was launched keeping this in mind. Its slogan, No more delay, we deliver on time, was aimed at highlighting the commitment of the Government towards delivering service on time.
The logo, with a clock and ‘the hammer of justice’, promised retribution for those who caused delay in the services. “We embarked upon a mission of responsiveness on the part of people as well as the Government.
The objective for us was very clear from the beginning. We wanted people to trust us and one of the first steps in order to do this was to sensitize our own officers”, says Rajneesh. She recalls asking officers of various departments as how they felt about their image in public. “The answer to this question varied from ‘bad’ to ‘my children feel ashamed to tell their peers that I am a Government servant’. I would often ask them if they would put their children in a government school or go to a government hospital themselves. The answer was a resounding ‘no’.
This in itself was a great way to make officers self-realize their mistakes. They realized how important the delivery of service was and how it was their job to ensure that”, she says.
The Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act covers 265 services of 30 departments/institutions that are required on a daily basis in the lives of citizens such as caste, income and residence certificates (all the three to be issued by the Revenue Department), driving licences (Transport Department), copies of FIRs (Police Department) and many others. It was important that in order to make it a success conventional bureaucratic procedures be done away with. “Rather than sending files for signatures to various departments we bypassed secretarial levels. All that was required was directly reported to the Chief Secretary who immediately got clearance from the Chief Minister. Our job was done”, she smiles.
Measures such as a transparent on-line monitoring for the services requested by a citizen were introduced. Rajneesh calls this “a real-time scoreboard of officers”. “In case applications are rejected or if the services are not provided within the stipulated time, citizens can file appeals before the competent officer (CO) to redress their grievances. The CO will hear the appeals and redress the grievances within the specified time. Citizens can also get a compensatory cost of Rs. 20 per day for the delayed period subject to a maximum of Rs. 500 and the same shall be deducted from the salary of the designated Officer”, she articulates. “ We set up call centres to address grievances.
We also moved from the Internet-based service delivery to mobile-based applications since about 70-80% of the population uses mobile phones”, adds Shalini.
“In a span of eight months more than 1.5 crore applications were received while more than 97.62% of them were disposed of in time. On an average officials are delivering 476 times faster vis-a-vis the outer time limit! In fact, there were cases where employees were working of their own free will on January 25 which was a Government holiday. Slowly we are finding that a good sense of civic duty is emerging among officers. Initiatives like the Sakala are very important since they empower citizens. Neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh have also evinced interest in the scheme”, says a proud Shalini.
The mother of an eight-year-old daughter Shalini says she hardly finds time to pursue hobbies. “At the end of a long working day, it is a treat to come home and get immersed in household activities. I guess my daughter’s hobbies are my hobbies now”, she laughs. The Secretary, Administrative Reforms, says everyday is a challenge for her. She is looking forward to now ensuring that all services of the Government should be accessible online by March 2013. “It is my belief that everyone should have access to all services at anytime and at any place”, she says.
“In all my years of Government service I have understood one thing, that commitment towards people must come from the top leadership. One cannot blame the bureaucracy alone for the state of affairs today. At the end of the day we just follow orders that are issued from top. If the leadership and politicians of our country are firm in their commitment to people, then nothing can stop us from making this country the best in the world. “Yatha raja, tatha praja”, concludes Shalini Rajneesh.
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