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E-Governance? We Still Have To Rely On Snail Mail For Complaints  

e-Governance remains inadequate if the online complaint redressal system doesn’t get fixed

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With an exception of the financial sector, most government services are still analog or paper-based, thus limiting the use of e-Governance. The solely owned government institutions like RBI, IRDA, SEBI or NSDL have developed a helpline based e-Governance system for looking into the investor complaints. However, common investors are rarely found to utilise such services. Another issue worth debating is the limited use of service, particularly with respect to the issue of complaints lodged by the investors.

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Toil of Toll-Free Numbers

Problem lies mostly in the toll-free numbers for lodging complaints. These numbers remain mostly under the supervision of little-trained professionals of the private call centres. These professionals do not have the skill to address non-routine issue raised by an investor.

The toll free number given by SEBI is our first case. SEBI has an on-line grievance redressal system called SCORES, which has a designated website forming a part of the necessary e-Governance service. For logging in the said system, you need a valid e-mail id. You have to register that with your PAN. But, for a single PAN, one may use a single e-mail id for lodging such complaint. Due to very limited and need-based use, such e-mail id may consequently be forgotten as most of the users have multiple e-mail ids. The recovery system for this forgotten id is what creates a lot of confusion.

Normally, in such case, an investor will prefer to e-mail at the designated e-mail id of SEBI stating the problem. But, a routine automated reply comes letting the investor know that the recipient e-mail id being a general one, further intimation could be given at some contact addresses and toll free numbers instead.

When the toll free number will be contacted, the oft-received reply is that the investor should write a letter physically to the SEBI’s address due to the case being ‘non-routine’ in nature.

This exposes the limitations of the existing system of addressing complaints and also the intrinsic limitations of the e-Governance system principally based upon call centres. After all, the investor goes back to a system of lodging complaint physically.

The Burden of Proof

Similar problem could be identified with the call-centre based e-Governance system of National Securities Deposit Limited e-Gov which acts as the Central Record-keeping Agency (CRA) of the National Pension Scheme (NPS). This has been experienced recently by an investor at the time of interaction with the CRA. The helpline (call centre) addressed the issue most casually just informing a few telephone numbers to contact for a non-routine query.

The issue in this case was correction of the investor’s address. The telephone numbers given by the call centre are actually those of the CRA of NSDL e-Gov which are found not to be working most of the times. The initial suggestion on-line grievance redressal system of CRA was to send by post the address proof document.

Ironically, the investor’s complaint was as to why the same should not be corrected online. The investor has rightly tried to skip furnishing of document physically which is a pre-requisite for the successful implementation of e-Governance. The same person could open a NPS account online with e-verification of Aadhaar, and the address change sought was the same as printed in his Aadhaar card.

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Loopholes in Complaint Redressal

This indicates that in both the cases as cited above the basic objective of making financial transactions electronic is getting lost within the lacuna existing in the complaint redressal system till now. The same is the story if an investor attempts to contact the call centres of the nationalized banks for a minor non-routine query like an ATM counter remaining inactive for a long time. This is the real-life experience gathered while interacting with banks like UCo Bank, United Bank of India, among others. SBI is an exception in this respect. While these call centres are ready to help you in the event of the loss of your ATM card, should a person not be able to record the general complaint regarding an ATM counter remaining non-functional for a long-time?

The government wants more and more citizens to participate in its e-Governance initiatives to justify the huge cost of installation and maintenance of any such system.

But the government should also look into maintaining a prompt and hassle-free system to redress the grievances whenever lodged.

Although the e-Governance system finds natural users in case of payment of self assessment income tax through an on-line system or opening a NPS account on-line, feedback of such citizens who have used the platform are rarely obtained until some of them lodge their grievance in form of complaint.

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The few persons who have some complaints are shown a backdoor process of lodging complaints physically. Thus, the common investors would refrain from participating in such a system and never recommend it to others who have been non-users till now.

The government should consider the simple fact that behind success of any such initiative people’s participation in such a system is a necessity and that such participation will depend upon the fellow citizen’s feedback. The money being spent by the government towards the private call centres for maintaining the e-Governance services should also come under scanner to justify a contract to be continued for any particular service provider if such deficiency in service is found.

(Dr. Arindam Gupta is a Professor of Commerce, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, West Bengal and accessible at his e-mail id arindamgupta69@gmail.com. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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