The use of social media by government offices to address the problems of the common man isn’t new, however, the execution differs. In a recent move, the Food, Supplies & Consumer Affairs department has become the first in the Delhi government to make use of Facebook to address consumer grievances with ration offices and fair price shops.
According to Secretary-cum-Commissioner Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs, S S Yadav, the page received over 4,000 queries and complaints since its launch a month ago.
The Facebook page which has more than 4K likes has become a hub where people can give suggestions, file complaints, upload photos and videos of any irregularity in fair price shops and ration offices. Besides the department provides information on its Facebook page regarding the rates and entitlement of specified food articles supplied by the department under the Public Distribution System. It also provides information about the activities, new policies and initiatives of the department to the people.
The department has also formed a social media group headed by an Assistant Commissioner to monitor the complaints, comments and queries received and provide prompt information to the people and resolve their grievances.
Not only Facebook, the department is making use of WhatsApp too. According to the department people can record and send videos to 8800950480 via WhatsApp if they are being harassed by ration shop owners, if they see diversion of food grains or misbehavior, if quality of food grains is poor or any other irregularity.
The social media group is also looking at all the complaints sent through WhatsApp and they are forwarding it to the respective officers. Giving more details a senior officer shared that the moment anyone posts a compliant either in the form of photo and video, the team would be sent an acknowledgement and once the process of investigation is over the person gets the details of the outcome. “The move is aimed at greater transparency; no complaint can be ignored as everything will be open for everyone to see.”
A quick glance at the page shows that the officers in charge are taking the required measures for complaints:
Corruption in PDS
Public distribution system (PDS) is an Indian Food Security system established by the Indian Government to distribute subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of public distribution shops (also known as ration shops). While it is considered to be the most important food security network, it has been often criticized for its urban bias and its failure to serve the poorer sections of the population effectively.
Corruption in ration shops has been the main barrier for the poor from gaining the benefits of the government scheme. According to research in 2005, total value of corruption in PDS was Rs 358 crore/year.
Empowering the common man with technology and social media to bring transparency in the system is a commendable effort from the Department Of Food, Supplies & Consumer Affairs. The challenge is to sustain for the long run, find culprits and have them suitably punished.
Image credit: The Hindu