Change is possible

Corruption is notoriously difficult to fight everywhere, and for decades it has permeated every aspect of our lives. Over time we develop a deadening fatalism, a belief that nothing can change and therefore we shoudn’t bother challenging the system. But what if there was a model which turned things on their head, where not only the citizen was able to report on how the bureaucracy had dealt with him or her, but a level of that bureaucracy also became critically self-monitoring? Not only does such a model exist, it was ‘invented’ here in Pakistan and now is being rolled out by the Punjab administration province-wide. It is known as the ‘Jhang model’, is the brainchild of a civil servant by the name of Zubair Bhatti, and is a paragon of simplicity.

It is based upon the idea of having officials approach the citizen to ask them about the nature and effectiveness of their interaction with various offices and agencies, to seek their views on any difficulties they may have faced, like demands for bribes or other favours. Mr Bhatti tried this approach when he was Jhang DCO and found it remarkably effective, particularly as he was able to challenge people like Patwaris by asking them for detailed daily records of their transactions complete with the phone numbers of buyers and sellers and the amount of tax that was to be paid. Within weeks complaints began to drop. He applied his methods of accountability to government hospitals and education institutions, with similar effect. The Punjab government was so impressed that it decided – 20 months ago – to implement a similar system across the province. Somewhat late this is now beginning to happen, the lateness no doubt connected to resistances to its implementation by assorted baboos that saw their profits threatened. Early reports from Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur suggest that the Jhang model is popular with citizens surprised to find senior members of the administration calling them up to ask their views and opinions as to the quality of services. The model offers a practical and realistic way of battling corruption as well as engaging with the citizenry in a positive manner. We can do things differently if we have both the will and the way – the Jhang model offers us a way, the will need careful nurturing.

Courtesy: The News

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