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Issue No.: 561 | March 2014
 

A Mantra for Better Governance

Gogineni Sambasivarao
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Did you ever wish we had a magic wand that could make our government and leaders work better? It so happens that there is something similar, and it is not impossible to get. Still, do you think it is impossible? Then, go on with this.

The magic wand is providing an opportunity to people to express their liking or disliking of any government service provider from the postman to the President of India, ward member to Prime Minister, from grass-root level government employees, key officials to all people’s representatives, political parties and dealers of government services, like ration dealer, cooking gas agency etc. This can be made possible with the enactment of an Act, namely the People’s Opinion Act. The Election Commission (EC) could be the implementing agency.

According to the Act, the opinion-seekers [the service provider who are designated to draw people’s opinion] are allotted a permanent three digit number valid across the country. The numbering code will be like this: Village Sarpanch 100, ward member 101, Village panchayat secretary 102, postman 120, sanitary inspector 121, ration dealer 110, cooking gas dealer 111, Chief Minister 200, Prime Minister 300, Union home minister 302. This number will remain the same regardless of who is on that post. 

Voters will SMS a figure comprising three sets of digits to a permanent phone number allotted by the EC to register their opinion. The first set in the figure represents the permanent number of the opinion-seeker / service provider. The second set is a single digit from 0 to 3. 1 stands for like, 2 for dislike, 3 for neutral and 0 means the voter wants to know the score of the service provider. The third set will have two or three digits which are the last digits of the voter’s Aadhaar. Suppose 15 are the last two digits of my Aadhaar. If I want to register my disliking on my ration dealer, I will SMS 110 2 15. To register my liking on Union home minister I will SMS 302 1 15. 

 The EC keeps the score of every service provider on its website. It updates them once every 24 hours. Four figures appear in every service provider’s / opinion-seeker’s score. They are likes, dislikes, neutral and enrolled voter’s number. The opinion of the voter is retained until he changes his opinion or the person in the post is replaced. The likes, dislikes and neutral start with zero when the person in the post is replaced. Voters may change their opinions whenever they wish. The SMSs will be free of cost. However, as the voters are about 80 crores and opinion-seekers are in hundreds, a limit can be imposed on the number of SMSs a voter can send in a day, for example 5, to avoid traffic rush on the EC’s server.

Since Aadhaar is a foolproof identification, only those who have Aadhaar and cell phone, are eligible for utilising this opportunity. To begin with, voters should enrol their Aadhaar, cell phone number, address, ward number and the details of government services used by him, i.e. gas agency’s name and consumer number, ration card number and dealer number, and the school name in which his children are studying at enrolment centres like E-seva centres and get it authenticated through Aadhaar. 
 
Aadhaar authentication, a service yet to be commenced by the UIDAI, is confirmation that the details provided by the voter are correct by comparing his biometric data with the existing information on their database. All government service delivery agencies collect their consumers’ Aadhaar and make them available to the EC online. The EC will have software that automatically identifies those who will come under the purview of a particular voter once he gets his details enrolled. The EC officials accept the details of a voter received online by checking the data of the service provider. The latter will have to give their reasons online if they want to reject any enrolment. If they make any mistake, it can be brought to the EC’s notice. 

The voter should use the cell phone number enrolled otherwise the SMSs sent by him will be rejected. If s/he wants to change the phone number or even the address s/he can do so with Aadhaar authentication. The EC’s server automatically identifies voter’s Aadhaar through his phone number though it receives only two digits. If a family of five get themselves enrolled with the same phone number, the last two digits of Aadhar of any two members are unlikely to be the same. If this happens the third set in their SMSs should have three digits instead of two.

 When a voter sends an SMS consisting of ‘0’ in the second set he will receive the score of the service provider / opinion-seeker. All details are confidential. It will not be possible for anybody to know who the opinion-seeker was and what opinion a voter has registered after he sends an SMS. If any opinion-seeker forces a voter to send an SMS in his favour by threat or enticement, the voter can rectify it later with another SMS. Some more details about this idea:

  • This idea is limited to eliciting people’s opinion. Even if all the voters dislike an opinion-seeker s/he will not lose his post according to the Act. But people’s opinion will put moral pressure on service providers / opinion-seekers to improve their score and they in turn will put pressure on their subordinates for a better score.

  • If the system is implemented all over the country for five years, people will have a great deal of awareness and experience. Then relevant Acts can be made to sack the service provider / opinion-seekers from their posts if they have more than 75 per cent dislikes for more than three months in a row.

  • People’s opinion can be collected on all bills approved by our legislatures through this system. 

  • There are many who may not know how to use a cell phone. That is why only numbers are used in this system which can me learnt with a little practice

  • Until now, only about 40 crore people have Aadhaar and many rural areas do not have signal coverage. However, this should not be considered a hurdle or reason to provide this opportunity to those who already have Aadhaar and cell phone coverage. As this will improve governance, there will be demand from the remaining areas for Aadhaar and cell signal coverage which the government will be forced to provide. 

  • The government may provide cell phone free of cost to the poor who cannot afford it. The Act prohibits sending SMSs on behalf of others beyond their family members, and it will be treated as a culpable offence.

  • Honest politicians are gradually disappearing from politics as they cannot compete with the corrupt politicians. This system will help them, as a good score will fetch them victory.

  • In theory, people are lords in democracy. But in our country people are relegated to beggars while government employees and people’s representatives have gradually emerged as lords. 

  • Politicians organize large rallies by mobilizing people in hoards luring them with money and liquor to show-off their people’s support. This system will put an end to that trend.

  • At present people do not have a method to register their opinion peacefully after the elections. As a result it prompts them to resort to violence when they get a raw deal. This system will change such a situation.

GOGINENI SAMBASIVARAO 
gs520010@gmail.com

The author is a Vijayawada-based journalist.
 First published in The Hans India, an English newspaper published in Andhra Pradesh
 
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