Governance Award Winner Dr S Lakshmanan

(Deputy Commissioner, Cachar)

AWARD CATEGORY:Border districts

How a district in Assam is tackling corruption with just a phone call

Honouring the finest district magistrates in India

S Lakshmanan

From ordering a magisterial enquiry following a complaint regarding alleged financial irregularities in the implementation of amid day meal scheme in a public high school to conducting reassessment of weights in a weigh bridge and penalising overloaded coal trucks actions were taken immediately after complaints were filed against corrupt practices in Assam's Cachar district

Both officials as well as residents of the district agree that the administration's umbrella anticorruption initiatives, 'Debo Na, Nebo Na' (Won't give, won't take ), launched in May 2017 and a brain child of former Cachar Deputy Commissioner Dr. S Lakshmanan, has simplified the procedure through which people can file their grievances with the administration. All it takes now is a phone call to register a complaint.

Until September last year, authorities said, as many as 13,075 complaints were received through phone calls, 30,000 through drop-boxes and 472 through the mobile application.

"In accordance with the chief minister's vision, we implemented the initiative at the grass roots. The initiative also helped us identify bad procedures and rectify them," said Lakshmanan after receiving The Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards that were given away on August 21. He is currently serving as the DC of Sivasagar district

Cachar Deputy Commissioner Dr S Lakshmanan receives the award from Union Minister of State for Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh.

The complaints have now increased manifold," said senior district administration official Ruli Daulagupu, adding that on an average, at least 15 complaints are registered everyday and necessary actions are initiated. The actions taken depend on a variety of factors from confirming the authenticity of the complaint to facilitating the resolution of the issue by coordinating with heads of departments concerned. In many cases, even magisterial enquiries are ordered.

"The initiative has been currently taken over by the district's Grievance and Complaint Redressal Cell. This has given the project abroader prospect. Now, actions are taken more swiftly than when it began. While about five or six officials posted at the district administration office look after the off line section, another group of officials operate the on line section out of the National Institute of Technology in Silchar," says Daulagupu

Documents accessed by The Indian Express showed, among others, complaints related to corruption, demand for a bribe, irregularity in attendance of teachers in government schools, corruption by forest department officials etc.

While posters promoting the campaign adorn the entrance of most public buildings, drop boxes have been placed outside government offices in the districts. In its initial days, the campaign was promoted through SMS and video advertisement on local television channels and YouTube. Officials were also imparted training to enable them to access the mobile app.

"The motive is to ensure that there is no absence of facilities to communicate about a corrupt practice or its possibility immediately from the point of occurrence," said Lakshmanan

The legislator of Katigora constituency in Cachar district, A C Jain, said, "The positive effects of the campaign are showing on the ground. For the first time, a systematic process has been put in place in the district to report corruption. Prior to this, the people did not have any easy way to register their complaint against corruption."

Sailesh Singh, a junior engineer with the District Rural Development Agency in Cachar, said, "A fear has developed among government employees in the district that if they try to indulge in corruption, anyone can report it to the senior officials".

Governance Award

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Inclusive Innovation-C R Kharsan, Gujarat.

Education-Dr. A Sharath, Telangana.

Child Development-Dr. Madhavi Khode Chaware,Maharashtra.

Agriculture-Dr. Prashant Bholanath Narnaware, Maharashtra.

Border DistrictsDr. S Lakshmanan, Assam.

Jammu & Kashmir Districts-Dr.Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Udhampur.

Left Wing Extremism District-Kartikeya Misra, Andhra Pradesh.

North East Districts-Raj Kumar Yadav, Sikkim.

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Technology Implementation-Tukaram Mundhe, Maharashtra.

Energy-Vivek Yadav, Andhra Pradesh.