Delhi tells bureaucrats to work fast or pay up

AFP , Thursday 15 Sep 2011

Bureaucrats in the Indian capital New Delhi will have to pay money out of their own pockets from Thursday if applications for driving licences, birth certificates and other paperwork are delayed

City authorities have set up a website to allow people to check the status of their applications, and if any cases are not processed in time a fine will be levied automatically on the responsible officer.

Each day of delay will cost the officer 10 rupees (two cents) up to a maximum of 200 rupees, the Delhi state government said on the website.

Corruption among officials has become a hot topic in India with huge nationwide protests last month in support of Anna Hazare, a popular anti-graft activist who went on a 13-day hunger strike.

The Congress party-led government was seen as badly damaged by the protests after Hazare was briefly arrested and denounced in parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In theory, Delhiites can now expect to renew a driving licence within 24 hours, get a birth certificate in a week, and have an electricity connection installed in five weeks.

However, many Delhi residents are likely to take a sceptical view of the promise to impose financial penalties on the city's many government officials.

Much of Hazare's support was based on public anger at having to make several rounds of local government departments to pay backhanders for everything from passports to death certificates.

The new law also states that any official with no delays against their name for a year will be given a cash bonus of 5,000 rupees ($105).

The Times of India reported Thursday that the Delhi government had dragged its feet for months over enacting the new law until "the Anna Hazare agitation made corruption a hot social issue".

Earlier this year, the states of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand implemented similar legislation to cut down on bureaucratic delays and improve accountability.

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