[Solved] Explain the basic principles of citizens’ charter movement and bring out its importance. ( UPSC GS-4 Mains 2019)

[Solved] Explain the basic principles of citizens’ charter movement and bring out its importance. ( UPSC GS-4 Mains  2019)

It has been recognised the world over that good governance is essential for sustainable development, both economic and social. The three essential aspects emphasised in good governance are transparency, accountability and responsiveness of the administration. The “Citizen’s Charters initiative” is a response to the quest for solving the problems which a citizen encounters, day in and day out, while dealing with organisations providing public services. The concept of Citizen’s Charter enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users.

 The concept was first articulated and implemented in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government of John Major in 1991 as a national programme with a simple aim: to continuously improve the quality of public services for the people of the country so that these services respond to the needs and wishes of the users.

 Principles:

 The basic objective of the Citizen’s Charter is to empower the citizen in relation to public service delivery. The six principles of the Citizen’s Charter movement as originally framed were: 1. Quality: Improving the quality of services;

 2. Choice: Wherever possible;

 3. Standards: Specifying what to expect and how to act if standards are not met;

 4. Value: For the taxpayers’ money;

 5. Accountability: Individuals and Organisations; and

 6. Transparency: Rules/Procedures/Schemes/Grievances.

 Importance of Citizens’ charter and its principles:

 • A Citizen’s Charter is the expression of an understanding between citizens and the provider of a public service with respect to the quantity and quality of services the former receive in exchange for their taxes. It is essentially about the rights of the public and the obligations of the public servants. As public services are funded by citizens, either directly or indirectly through taxes, they have the right to expect a particular quality of service that is responsive to their needs and is provided efficiently at a reasonable cost.

 • The Citizen’s Charter is a written, voluntary declaration by service providers about service standards, choice, accessibility, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability. It should be in accordance with the expectations of citizens. Therefore, it is a useful way of defining for the customers the nature of service provision and explicit standards of service delivery.

 • A further rationale for the Charters is to help change the mindset of the public official from someone with power over the public to someone with the right sense of duty in spending the public money collected through taxes and in providing citizens with necessary services. However, the Citizen’s Charter should not simply be a document of assurances or a formula which imposes a uniform pattern on every service.

 • It is meant to be a tool kit of initiatives and ideas to raise the level of standards and service delivery and increase public participation, in the most appropriate way.

 • The Charter should be an effective tool to ensure transparency and accountability and should help deliver good governance if implemented vigorously by the government departments.

 Critical reflection on nature of sanction:

  • However, these promises are not enforceable in a court of law, thus its implementation depends on the moral reasoning of the individuals. Charters are both ethically and morally binding on public authorities but these are not legally binding decisions. The content of the charter is not justiciable. A citizen cannot sue an organization for not abiding by its self-proclaimed standards of service embodied in a citizen’s charter. The charter may thus be seen as only emphasizing the moral dimensions of civil service accountability.
  • Publication of citizen’s charter on the walls and website has a demonstration effect. It educates people.
  • The moment people get to know their entitlements, information hierarchy breaks down to some extent.
  • It brings in black and white the duty and rights of officers and people respectively. This parity in knowledge itself puts public officers in a discomfort. They come under scanner regarding the efficiency of work. Despite absence of legal sanction, the sheer presence of public eyes activates moral compass of the officer. Public shaming is a key source of motivation for people to do well. Nobody appreciates social boycott or downgrading in the eyes of people. The possibility of being asked questions and subsequent embarrassment by civil society makes officer’s work for the spirit of the service.
  • Basic principles of citizen’s charter movement
  • Accountability
  • The organisation is expected to be accountable for its act. It must work in such a manner that there will be no doubt on any misdeeds that can take place within its ambit.
  • Ex: The organisation must be able to own its mistake and rectify them.
  • Transparency
  • The actions taken by the organisation must be available in the public domain. The citizens must be  satisfied with its working and also trust its role in providing professional service.
  • Ex: The recruitment undertaken by the organisation must be transparent and its procedure has to be openly declared.
  • Efficiency
  • The organisation must complete its tasks within a specified time duration and citizens must be able to avail them as fast as it can. Faster task completion provides a sense of professional attitude among the employees.
  • Ex: The organisation must gives services to people with a minimum fee and as fast as possible.
  • Importance
  • The movement allowed citizens to claim their rights over timely and efficient service./citizens’ charter/
  • This made organisations to follow uniform mode of service.
  • Made people avail the provisions extended by the organisation.

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