What is your government official's duty? Check the Net...

by Frederick Noronha

PANAJI (Goa) -- What options do citizens in interior Goa have, when it
comes to coping with mining pollution? Can corrupt 'public men' in the
state be brought to book?

If you need to understand the little-known secrets of how the Goa
government works, check out the Internet.

In an effort that could -- if well implemented -- have widespread
impacts in keeping the citizen informed, many state departments have put
up outlines of how they work at the site

In recent months, the Goa government had undertaken the exercise of
getting almost every of its departments to publish 'citizens charters'.
These charters are meant to explain how each department works, what are
the tasks it undertakes, and who are the officials involved.

Each 'charter' also gives the commonman an idea of how how he would
probably have to wait to get a certain service undertaken.

But, as in official functioning, there was a problem in getting aross
these publications to citizens they were meant for. Often, copies were
not available. Citizens would also face a problem in collecting these
'charters' from departments scattered across Panjim.

Now, IT and the Internet has come to the rescue. Government of India's
National Informatics Centre (NIC), which has been helping the state
government with its official computerisation plans, has taken these
documents and hosted them on the Net.

Citizens get information for a number of tasks that could make a
difference in their lives: how does one apply for a residence or 'caste'
certificate? Or an income certificate, driving license or even a
domicile certificate -- a document needed badly in this
migration-oriented state to claim seats in professional colleges and the

You can get all this information and more on the site.

Goa's Forest Department has put out some useful information: what are
the laws one has to watch for before felling a tree?

Sometimes, the information provided is only sketchy, the type of of
material that could be found in any advertisement for the department.
But, in other cases, these 'citizens charters' could also be used as a
tool to hold the authorities accountable, specially when they don't do
the work they claim to do.

Citizens are told how they can complain against mining pollution. Goa
produces over 16 million tonnes of iron ore annually, and millions of
tonnes of low-grade 'mining rejects', causing problems for villagers
living around such mining-belts in the interior areas of the state.

One other interesting link shows Goa's attempts to battle corruption. To
"eradicate corruption" the Goa government set up the Public Men's
Corruption (Investigations and Inquiries) Commission.

It investigates and inquires into allegations of corruption which the
Commission "may receive from the government". Public men are those who
hold, or have held, positions as chief minister, MLA, a range of other
political posts, and even trade union leaders, school managements, and
the like.

But citizens are warned via cyberspace: "The Commission may in case the
allegation made in the complaint is found to be false or vexatious to
the knowledge of the complainant, order the complainant to pay cost or
compensation of not more than Rs 25,000, to the public man against whom
the allegations had been made."

Do you want to know the history of lotteries in Goa which date back to
Portuguese colonial times? Or what's the background of the Sainik Board?
Today, the citizen or the student of civics can check out this and more
on the Net, thanks to the new initiative.

Frederick Noronha | Freelance Journalist | 784 Saligao 403511 Goa India
Ph [0091] 832.409490 or 832.409783 Cell 9822 12.24.36 fred@bytesforall.org