Learner’s Submission: The Gujarat Initiative (India)*

State Wide Attention on Grievances by Application of Technology (SWAGAT)

The Gujarat Initiative
The State Wide Attention on Grievances by Application of Technology (SWAGAT) (http://swagat.gujarat.gov.in ) was launched in April, 2003. The Government of Gujarat became the first Indian State to launch a combination of digital and communication technology in the form of a grievance redressal program.

SWAGAT serves as an online public portal and video-conferencing set up connecting the Chief Minister and all District and Sub-District Level Officers to solve grievances of citizens.

About SWAGAT
SWAGAT offers the citizens of Gujarat a fair opportunity to personally present their grievances directly to the Chief Minster of the State. This system has all the stakeholders connected in real time leaving no chance for either the aggrieved citizen or the concerned officer to hide or manipulate the facts of the case. The crux of the success of the system lies in the fact that the complainant is given a justified hearing. Apart from providing satisfaction to citizens, SWAGAT ensures high levels of accountability and transparency in the administration process. The grievances are first presented at the Sub-District or District level so that they are resolved locally. If they remain unresolved after that too, they are referred to the Chief Minister.

In case there are repetitive grievances on same issues, certain policy decisions have been reviewed or changes in policies have been incorporated. This eliminated the occurrence of such grievances for good.
SWAGAT has served as an effective tool and feedback mechanism to bridge the gap between citizens and administration enhancing the level of understanding for smoother functions.

Advantages

  • Citizens can access the highest authority of the State to resolve the most challenging cases
  • Citizens have the facility to know the status of their case from their nearest internet access point at their location or at the local Government office
  • It saves time and cost of public as traveling to different offices and waiting for a long time before their grievances were settled is avoided
  • SWAGAT has had an powerful indirect impact in encouraging state officials to resolve grievances before they reach the SWAGAT stage

How it Works
The Chief Minister’s Office in Gujarat operates an SWAGAT center where video conferences are held once in every month since the past eight years.

On the 4th Thursday of every month applicants arrive at the Chief Minister’s Office in the morning.  Grievances are scrutinized, registered and instantly transmitted online to the concerned authorities at the Secretariat, District and Sub-District level. The authorities then register their replies by afternoon on the same day.  From 3.00pm, the Chief Minister personally listens to the applicants one-by-one.

The grievances as well as the replies of the concerned authorities are available through the system on a screen.  The concerned secretaries are present along with the Chief Minister, for direct interaction with the aggrieved citizen and district authorities are connected through video-conferencing.

After going through all the aspects of the case, necessary instructions are given for resolving the grievance. A record and separate log is maintained in the SWAGAT database for each case.  Monitoring cases is the prime focus of SWAGAT to ensure that solutions are implemented according to instructions given by the Chief Minister.  Citizens can view the status of their application online, using their allotted password and login at local Government Offices and at any internet access point.

Grievances are only eligible if they have already been presented to the appropriate authorities (such as the Sub-District Officer or the District Officer), and have not been resolved at this level.  Cases for attention of the Chief Minister are selected as those that are long-standing, acute humanitarian issues, difficult to resolve at other levels of Government and have policy implications.

Practical outcomes and implementations are given priority in SWAGAT.  Attempts for fair, acceptable and immediate solutions are made which has rarely left applicant without any firm reply to grievances. A specific time limit for the solutions is also given. The Chief Minister has given a focused commitment to this program and interacts personally increasing the chances of resolving cases successfully.

The Results and Recognition
The positive impacts realized by the State level SWAGAT gave drive to expand the system to 225 Sub-District offices in 2008, for greater accessibility to the public. Presently, the geographical scope of SWAGAT is 55 million citizens and 225 Sub-District of the State.  At the District level SWAGAT session, the district authorities hear the public grievances on the same day.  Sub-District level SWAGAT is held on every fourth Wednesday, i.e. one day prior to District and State SWAGAT.  The software application also enables an online review of Sub-District SWAGAT, District SWAGAT and State SWAGAT outcomes.

Path breaking success of the SWAGAT has given it nation-wide recognition and prestigious awards like United Nations Public Service Award 2010 for improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the public service category. Moreover, the Commonwealth Telecom Organization and University of Manchester have considered SWAGAT as an excellent model of e-transparency” – Hari Haran M – Gujarat, India
* SWAGAT was the 2nd place winner (category 1) in Asia and the Pacific region in the 2010 United Nations Public Service Awards (read more here).

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