UN Public Service Day with Mr. Swadheen S. Kshatriya, IAS (Retd.) Chief Commissioner – Right to Service Maharashtra

June 22, 2017 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Royal Bombay Yacht Club
Apollo Bandar
Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

To mark United Nations Public Service Day, V Citizens Action Network (VCAN) held a very special Social Sanchar on the 22nd of June, 2017, with Shri. Swadheen Kshatriya, Maharashtra’s first ever Chief Commissioner under the Right to Service Act, at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Colaba. The occasion enabled the audience to understand more about their rights under this Act, one of the first of its kind in the country.

An officer of the 1980 batch of the Indian Administrative Service, Shri Swadheen S. Kshatriya, IAS, is currently the Chief Commissioner – Right to Service, Maharashtra, having been appointed to the post after retiring as the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra. He has also held various important assignments such as General Manager, BEST, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai.

Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Managing Trustee, V Citizens Actions Network kicked off the programme by first speaking about the significance of the UN Public Service Day, quoting from the resolution passed in the United Nations General Assembly. She then introduced V Citizens Actions Network, and explained how the Social Sanchar was to be conducted, before thanking the various partners and supporters of the Trust, especially its Networking Partner – Citizens Association for Child Rights (CACR), whose volunteers actively participated in the programme.

Shri V. Ranganathan, a Trustee of VCANwho, like Shri Kshatriya, was also a former Municipal Commissioner and a former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, then introduced Shri Kshatriya, and also outlined the importance of the topic. He spoke about how several authorities, especially Municipalities, had complex systems that needlessly inconvenienced the public.

Before Mr. Kshatriyabegan his address, hethanked Shri Ranganathan, and went on to describe the Right to Services Act as a paradigm shift.

He had prepared a presentation and began by outlining the evolution of the Act, from initial efforts such as Citizen Charters, to an initial Private Member’sBill moved by the current Chief Minister when he was still a member of the opposition.

The important features of the Act accordingly to Shri Kshatriya were that it created a Right, and fixed accountability on the officials, who could be fined or disciplined on the advice of the commission. He stated that every service provided by the Government had a timeline, and requested the audience to inform him if any service did not.

Unlike the Right to Information Act, the Right to Service Act covered only the services provided by the State Government, and required the applicant to have a locus standi in the matter. He reiterated that the State Government had to compulsorily notify all its services, and 383 services had been notified as of the moment.

Every service has a designated officer who is duty-bound to provide the service, unless he has justifiable reasons to deny the service, which can be appealed against. Applications could also be filed online, which enables an applicant to track the status of his compliant.

He also spoke about how unlike his other roles, being the first commissioner and having the responsibility of setting up the department from scratch, was a very different and challenging experience.

He stressed how unlike the courts, the entire process, including the appeal process, was time bound; if the appellate authority exceeded the time period, action could be taken against them as well.

The Commissioner also has suo moto powers to take up important issues, or simplify procedures. As an example, he pointed out the important move of self-certification, rather than having to provide affidavits, of having to chase gazetted officers for certification of documents. Though some officials still insisted on these procedures, he said that he was taking action against them.

Another initiative he informed the audience about was the ‘AapleSarkaar’ web portal for Citizens“https://aaplesarkar.maharashtra.gov.in/en/”. He outlined the various services it provided, and also mentioned the RTS Mobile App, which though it had some modules not complete, was available for download free of cost. He also highlighted the thousands of Maha e-sevaKenrdas and Common Service Centres (CSCs), and encouraged Citizens to use them, mentioning the various certificates that they provided including land records, senior citizen certificates, property cards, marriage certificates, and others.

When explaining the structure and workings of the Commission, he mentioned on a lighter note that while the Act provided for six Commissioners to assist him, as it was still in the formative stages, the Commission was still a one man show!

The floor was then opened for questions from the audience, both those present at the venue, as well as those joining in online.

To the first question about a delayed Driver’s Licence, received via SMS, Shri Kshatriya advised the gentleman to approach the appellate authority as laid down in the act. He also responded to a follow up question on the same matter by mentioning how they were working on an alert system to facilitate a better enforcement of the Act, and informed the audience that the time limits mentioned in the act were a maximum limit, and that the service could be provided faster than that as well. However, there was no way that he could punish an officer, unless he exceeded the limit.

In response to another question about a property redevelopment matter, Mrs Malkani requested the gentleman to give a submission in writing to Shri Kshatriya’s office.

To another question on a misplaced Death Certificate, he briefly mentioned the procedure and pointed out the agency responsible. He then outlined the various penalties under the act in response to another question.

When asked about the lack of cleanliness in some parts of the city despite the Swacchh Bharat Programme, Shri Kshatriya said that while sanitation and waste management is a serious issue, it did not fall under the jurisdiction of his office.

Upon being asked if the Act covered Central Government agencies, and agencies outside Maharashtra, Shri Kshatriya replied that as it was an Act passed by the Government of Maharashtra, it was only applicable to agencies under the State Government and Local Bodies in Maharashtra.

He also said that while there were only a few specific subjects related to disabilities in the list of notified services, the Act would make services easily accessible to everyone, including the disabled. He also said he would try to ensure the process of applying for a disability service became simpler.

While replying to a Video Call about a Death Certificate, he requested for more specifics, and requested the caller to apply online through either through the RTS App or the AapleSarkaar Web Portal.

When asked about he was going to scale up the operations of the Commission to handle the lakhs of complaints coming in, he mentioned that while lakhs of complaints were indeed coming in, the mechanisms of the Commission ensured that a large number of them were being disposed of promptly as well.

On seeing numerous students present at the event, he said that he would look at how to work with colleges to enable students to do internships with the Commission.

After requesting Mrs Malkani to explain the significance of the United Nations Public Service Day Logo, he requested the audience to help design a Logo for the State Commission, and threw it open for everyone to send in their submissions.

The Trustees then presented a memento to Shri Kshatriya, amidst applause from the audience, following which Capt. Kapadia presented a book to Shri Kshatriya documenting the journey around the world of Commander Abhilash Tomy, that fist Asian to sail solo around the globe, and presented another copy to Shri Shailesh Gandhi, a former Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act.

Those whose questions were unable to be answered during the event were assured that their questions would to be forwarded to Shri Kshatriya, for his office to address. The guests present at the venue were then invited to continue their interactions over tea and refreshments provided courtesy of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.

To view the photos of the event click here.

To view the video of the event click here.

To view Shri Kshatriya’s presentation click here.

Please be advised, the information in the slideshow was prepared by Shri. Swadheen Kshatriya, IAS (Retd.) Chief Commissioner – Right To Service Maharashtra, and was presented at the TogetherVCAN’s Social Sanchar held on 22nd June 2017.

All Rights are reserved with the Author and due acknowledgement is to be given to the Author should this presentation in part or in full be used by anyone anywhere. The contents of the slideshow presentation are by the Author and not by VCAN.