A panchayat’s quest for perfection through quality management

April 28th, 2008 - 10:27 am ICT by admin  

By Jeevan Mathew Kurian
Kozhikode, April 28 (IANS) A wall-sized citizen’s charter put up outside a panchayat office is not a common sight. But the Nallalam-Cheruvannur panchayat office in Kerala’s Kozhikode district also has a board with details of the sections in the office, the work they do and whether the officer in charge is on duty. This panchayat, around 10 km from Kozhikode city, is in the process of implementing total quality management (TQM) in administration.

The TQM drive has a positive effect on the office ambience as well. It serves over 60,000 people residing in an area of around 10 sq km and, as per the citizen’s charter, provides 55 different services.

But the office, manned by a staff of around 20 people, has no queues or even the usual hustle-bustle. It looks neat with clean tablecloths and no files in disarray. It also has information officers prominently listed at the office.

Asked about the citizen’s charter, panchayat president P.C. Rajan said: “The Panchayat Act provides for a citizen’s charter to be published.”

The charter contains different categories of services the panchayat offers citizens, the conditions for such services to be rendered and also the time frame within which they would be rendered.

“This charter was published in 2006. We are now trying to implement them wholly,” Rajan told IANS.

The panchayat has an innovative system to receive applications from the public.

“There is a counter to accept applications. The applicants will be issued a receipt that also has the date on which they have to come and collect the certificate or documents,” the panchayat president explained.

The charter clearly specifies the time required to process different types of applications.

“We try to stick to the time given in the charter; not that it is not beset with problems. For instance, to approve building plans, the overseer has to go to the site. We have only one overseer and now it will take 30 days for the approval,” Rajan pointed out.

He proudly said that there was no scope for corruption in the panchayat after the TQM implementation. Complaints have dropped drastically, he added.

“Even if there is some delay, people don’t complain because they know and appreciate our limitations,” Rajan said.

The Nallalam-Cheruvannur panchayat’s initiative has now been taken note of at the inter-state level. Officials from the Centre for Good Governance (CGG) in Hyderabad have visited the panchayat to assess the TQM initiative as a model programme in governance.

CGG is an institution established by the Andhra Pradesh government to coordinate and design governance reform programmes.

“The CGG has been collecting information on best practices in governance from various places in the country. The Cheruvannur-Nallalam panchayat has its citizen’s charter linked to the right to information of people,” said Satyajit Rao Vagvala, knowledge manager with CGG.

The CGG, which has been entrusted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to prepare a report on good governance at the grass root level, has already cited the Kerala panchayat’s TQM as one of the success stories.

The Nallalam panchayat also has a well-kept record room. “Now we can give people any information for the last 20 years in a few minutes should someone want information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It took a lot of effort to ready the record room,” Rajan said.

The panchayat is currently ruled by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), but political parties across the board have no differences when it comes to the TQM programme.

“We are all supporting the project. There is no politics in it,” said panchayat member K. Kunhamutty, who belongs to the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF).

Rajan now plans to computerise the panchayat office, agriculture and veterinary offices and the primary health centre this year.

“It is also time to revise the citizen’s charter to include fresh services we are offering,” he added.

(Jeevan Mathew Kurian can be contacted at jeevan.m@ians.in)

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