Patna, Sept. 18: A fine of Rs 1 lakh slapped on a block development officer for denying benefits under Right to Public Service Act left an exemplary impression of the Bihar government that introduced the scheme to the country a year ago.
Sharda Kumari, the block development officer (BDO) of Paliganj in Patna district, was slapped with the fine after she allegedly denied services last week to 20 residents of Ranipur Akbarpur panchayat under the 2011 act.
The fine is the highest amount slapped on a public servant for denial of service under the act that came into force on August 15, 2011. The first appellant-cum-sub-divisional officer of Paliganj, Santosh Kumar, imposed the fine on Sharda Kumari.
The Paliganj sub-divisional officer said he received complaints about the BDO for not providing relevant documents to 20 people, including women from the minority community, within the stipulated period. This led to denial of pension to those who were seeking the services under the social security scheme of the state government.
Subsequently, the BDO was served a showcause notice but she did not reply.
“Prime facie the allegations were found to be true. This invited punitive action against the BDO for her failure to deliver services to the people,” Santosh Kumar told The Telegraph over the phone from Paliganj, around 45km west of Patna.
“I have not heard of such a huge fine imposed on any public servant in the state for denial of service under RTPS Act ever since it was introduced,” said a senior officer of the general administration department (GAD).
The officer, however, appreciated the bold step taken by the appellant officer against the BDO for taking least interest in delivering services to the people.
A senior officer posted with the Bihar Administrative Reforms Mission Society said a few public servants posted in Patna, East Champaran and Buxar districts, have been punished earlier for inordinate delay in delivering services to the applicants under RTPS. “But the amount of fine slapped on them was meagre and not more than Rs 15,000,” the officer added.
The officer said the then deputy collector land reforms of Danapur, Alok Kumar, had slapped a fine of Rs 15,000 on the circle officer and his employees for failing to deliver services to applicants under the RTPS in 2011.
Under the provisions in the RTPS Act that was aimed at making the government transparent and responsive, an erring public servant would have to pay a fine of Rs 5,000.
The amount of fine may increase if the service is not delivered within the stipulated time. “It is the discretion of the appellant officer to impose fine on the public servant on day-to-day basis,” he added.
When approached for comments, the principal secretary of GAD, Dipak Kumar, said: “I am in Delhi for official work. I won’t be able to make any comment right now.”
The action initiated against the BDO assumes significance in the wake of a recent GAD directive that asked district magistrates to send reports with regard to services delivered under the RTPS Act in their respective jurisdiction from August 15, 2011, to August 31, 2012.
The district magistrates were asked to send the reports in a specific format that was distributed to them. The copy of the format was also provided to the superintendents of police (SPs) and head of different departments in the districts.
The officials have been asked to provide detailed information about the number of applications received by the department concerned, applications disposed of within the stipulated period and also the applications pending for disposal.
The officials were also instructed to give information about the number of applications rejected.
The district magistrates were directed to send their reports to the Bihar Administrative Reforms Mission Society, GAD and the chief minister’s secretariat at the earliest. “The chief minister is likely to review the services that were delivered to the people in the past one year,” a GAD official said.
Sources in the Bihar Administrative Reforms Mission Society said over 2 lakh people have been provided services under RTPS in the past one year.
“Now our focus is on quality delivery of service,” an officer with the society said, adding: “Since the act was new and people were not aware, the priority of the government was to make the system functional.”
“The system is functioning and corrective measures are being taken to make the act more people-friendly,” he said.