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PIL is powerful tool in India to correct service delivery: WB

Written by: Staff
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Mumbai, May 18 (UNI) Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has emerged as a powerful tool for civil society advocates to activate judicial remedies, especially when services fail to work properly in India, the latest World Bank Report says.

It pointed out that India has an independent judiciary that has intervened aggressively to correct failures in service delivery by the executive branch of the government.

''This intervention has clearly helped to put pressure on the executive to improve the quality of service delivery in many sectors,'' the report said.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has intervened in matters as diverse as solid waste management, cleaning up air in India's cities and compelling candidates for elective office to disclose information about their backgrounds to the electorate.

However, the perception in India is that the court is providing only temporary relief -- rather than addressing the underlying problems that characterise the delivery of public services -- and stiffling administrative initiative.

In this context, the report points out that India presents a sharp contrast to almost all Latin American countries where an entrenched tradition of centralised government has resulted in weak judicial oversight of the working of the executive branch.

Both Latin America and India have functioning democratic systems in place -- India for almost all of the post-War period, and Latin America since the democratisation wave swept the region, during the 1980s and 1990s.

Yet, the report said, in both regions the electoral route to accountability has not always translated into better service delivery outcomes on the ground.

Undemocratic political party structures, the role of patronage and clientalism and social heterogeneity are all reasons why electoral democracy has not meant more efficient provision of public goods, particularly for the poor, the report added.

While there are cases of successful efforts to enhance client power by promoting competition among providers in India such as in telecommunications, Latin America has gone further in doing so in the social sectors.

Both Colombia and Chile, for example, have introduced school voucher programmes that effectively oblige schools to compete on the basis of quality to attract students vested with the power of choice.

Report cards, first used to benchmark public services in Bangalore in 1994, have now spread to Latin America as well. Peru was the first country to used report cards to assess its national health, education, nutrition and employment programmes.

UNI SN MAZ AK RS1204

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