May 19, 2018

How one of India’s youngest states has been running the country’s biggest social audit system for more than a decade

It’s believed to be the biggest social audit system in the country. The Lok Suraj Abhiyan (LSA) or ‘people’s governance’ system, which has been in operation since 2005, is an annual exercise through which the government of Chhattisgarh interacts with its citizens from the four corners of the state. By hearing directly from the people, and understanding their grievances and expectations, the government is able to create more effective schemes for their development and welfare.

A well-chartered plan

The LSA is a unique programme that was created by Dr Raman Singh, who is the longest-serving Chief Minister in the state of Chhattisgarh. This outreach programme was envisaged as a government initiative to get direct feedback from even the most needy beneficiaries, so that the decision makers could create schemes that were tailor-made to their requirements. Following its inception in 2005, the initiative was named the ‘Gram Suraj Abhiyan,’ which was a village-centric campaign; it then evolved into the Nagar Suraj Abhiyan to focus on urban pockets. It finally developed into the LSA that covers both demographics.

In the 13 years since it started, the programme has ensured that the government has its ears firmly to the ground to formulate more people-centric schemes. This is a dynamic programme and refuses to stay static, but evolves with the times and citizens’ changing needs. More importantly, it brings governance directly to the doorstep of every citizen of Chhattisgarh, especially those who do not have access to modern infrastructure and the state capital, Raipur.

At the core of the initiative, lie the principles of spontaneity, transparency and real-time redressal of issues or complaints via Samadhan Shivirs. The citizens send in their grievances; this is followed by a redressal process where the Chief Minister meets the people personally and instructs the concerned officials to resolve their issues. These one-on-one meetings are the culmination of the three-phase programme that typically spans three months.

According to Dr Singh, “Our schemes are not formulated in AC rooms of the Secretariat but in villages amidst our people.”

Power to the people

During the LSA, for two months, everyone from the Chief Minister down to the Sarpanch, and the Chief Secretary to the Panchayat Secretary, interact directly with the people to enquire and redress their problems. Subsequently, they take feedback on schemes and policies to analyse their effective implementation. This offers a complete insight into the needs and aspirations of the people. As a young state, the government of Chhattisgarh wants to inculcate the principles of good governance in all its institutions from their inception.

This campaign has contributed largely to giving the citizens what they need. It has also made them more aware of their rights and the multiple benefits that they are entitled to.

From pension to anganwadi, and vaccination to PDS (Public Distribution System), the LSA is spearheading good governance. Some of the most successful programmes include Saraswati Cycle Yojana where girls from the SC/ST/BPL segments are given cycles free of cost, if they enrol in Class 9. The scheme, which is meant to ensure that girls study beyond primary school has been a huge success. Another successful scheme is the Chirayu Yojana that provides free health screening for children under the age of 18 in the state.

Chhattisgarh has also witnessed the highly successful implementation of national schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala scheme that gives LPG connections to women in rural areas who were dependent on collecting firewood; smart health cards for ailing pensioners in rural areas, who were worried about rising medical costs; and the construction of toilets to combat open-air defecation.

Fast-track to progress

This year, the campaign commenced in January. The first phase saw the compilation of applications in village panchayats and urban bodies from January 12 to January 14. Over 3 million applications were received. In the second phase, these applications were resolved by the concerned departments by March 11.  In the third phase, by 31 March, over a 1,000 solution camps were setup across the state and applicants were informed about the resolution of their applications. During the solution camps, the government also distributed grants and materials etc. under various schemes.

During the third phase, the Chief Minister made surprise visits and met villagers in the chowpals.  Dr. Singh personally held a joint review meeting of all the 27 development districts of 12 district headquarters. The campaign saw Dr Singh travel more than 7,000 km using a helicopter between the March 11 to March 31 in the state in 20 days, vising each district twice to ensure that 99 percent of the applications received were resolved in that short time. In all, the campaign impacted an estimated 2.97 million people whose applications were resolved.

The LSA is an example of how an initiative that comes from the top can reach all the way to the grassroot. It shows that real change happens when you listen to the people and put the power where it belongs – in the hands of the common man.  And Chhattisgarh is leading the charge in bringing about this much-needed change.

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