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Bengal at bottom of crib list

New Delhi, Nov. 18: Bengal residents have very few complaints about the state and Central governments if the Parliament Committee on Petitions is anything to go by. The panel, set up in December 1999 to receive complaints from citizens against governments and redress them, found that it had only one from West Bengal.

The House panel received only three complaints from Tripura, another Marxist-ruled state, and only eight from the 100 per cent literate state of Kerala. The biggest grumblers were people from Tamil Nadu, who sent in as many as 17,000 grievances.

An official of the parliamentary panel attributes the dearth of complaints from the Marxist-ruled states to lack of awareness about the committee and not to any “Ram rajya” ushered in by the Left. Not many people are aware of the petitions committee, which is supposed to act as a “bridge” between the people and Parliament, the official said.

To popularise the working of the committee, the panel today announced that people with long-pending problems could now approach them through e-mail or through a post card for quick redressal of their grievances.

Similar committees are attached to state legislatures and they have been directed to go to people and register complaints, especially in pockets dominated by illiterate people. “They are not aware of the facility and cannot make use of it unless the committee goes to them,” said CPM MP Basudev Acharya, chairman of the committee in the Lok Sabha.

Grievances received by the panel usually relate to pension, service matters, the apathy of the railways, Bills introduced in Parliament and development work. The complaints are processed and forwarded to the authorities concerned for action.

The decision to publicise the Parliament Committee on Petitions to enable a large number of people to make use of it was taken at a two-day conference of chairmen of committee on petitions of Parliament and state legislatures which concluded yesterday, said Acharya.

The chairman of the House committee from the Rajya Sabha is P.G. Narayanan of the ADMK.

Acharya said there was a need to strengthen the institution so that it could ensure just and timely redressal of public grievances.

Though the panel’s recommendations are not binding on the government, if the committee — which includes members of all major political parties — pursues them vigorously, they are acted upon by the departments concerned.

The CPM leader said the committee recommendation on doing away with discrimination on the retirement of air hostess was upheld by the Supreme Court. In another case, the Centre had formulated a policy on small investors as a result of a committee recommendation, he pointed out. “The petitions committee can do a lot on the resolution of long-standing problems of the people,” he said.

One of the resolutions adopted at the conference was that the government should intimate the action taken by it on the recommendations of the committee within three month of the presentation of the committee’s report, Narayanan said.

Between 30 and 35 per cent of the panel’s recommendations were implemented by the ministries concerned. He said the committee has decided to give only 15 days to the ministries to give their comments against a particular complaint, failing which it will go ahead with its action plan.

“Earlier, we had received 1.30 crore petitions against privatisation of insurance, to block the bill in Parliament, unfortunately the committee was not in existence then,” rued Acharya.

The panel is planning to take up complaints against disinvestment of Nalco soon.

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