Toll-free helpline needed to resolve civic issues of Karachi

Karachi: A toll-free helpline is urgently needed to get resolved the immense civic problems facing the citizens in Karachi and also restore confidence of citizens in administrative officers of the city.

Citizens face a lot of problems in every civic sector. They face shortage of potable water. There are heaps of garbage in every area. Choked gutters result in overflow of sewerage in streets. Public transport is pathetically insufficient and very dangerous. Snapped electricity wires hang in many streets. Bus stops are not marked properly. Traffic signals go faulty and roads lack Zebra crossing and other traffic marks. Street crime is rife in slum and congested areas. Beggary has become an organized profession. Government employees do not regularly attend office and listen to the problems of people. Corruption and bribery is deep-rooted in every sector. Trains and flights are late. Hospital emergency services are slow and haphazard. However, there is no proper mechanism for citizens to complaint about these issues. Though CM House, KMC, Commissioner Office and some other department claim they have complaint receiving departments, but practically, saving CPLC, the other such complaint receiving departments are just a formality and eye wash.

It is urgently needed that there is a central mechanism of complaint receiving through a comprehensive round-o-clock toll-free helpline that receives complaints about every civic issue and get it resolved urgently through the concerned departments, organizations and agencies. It should be equipped with modern technology and assessable via phone, fax, SMS, email, personal visits or any other form of communication suitable to the complainers. This service if augmented with a FM radio service, local cable TV or SMS alert system could be further augmented. Such multi-purpose civic complaints resolving mechanism are found in all developed cities of the world and any cost-effective system could be replicated in Karachi.

In this era of e-governance many developed countries also offer online advice to their citizens about how to get their issues resolved. Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk) of the UK can be quoted as an example in this regard. In New York city, the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board (http://www.nyc.gov/html/ccrb/html/home/home.shtml) is another example of how to file complaints against police officials. Our city administrators could also learn a lot about how to run urban cities if they can spare a few minutes to open the website of Tokyo metropolitan government (http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/)

KMC, KWSB, KE, SSGC, Police, state-run-hospitals, educational institutes and government departments also need to upgrade and update their online complaint receiving mechanism. On KMC website there is a tab labeled Citizen Complaint but laughingly it is ‘non-functional’. These shamefully poor performances are not the hallmark only of KMC but the performance of many other departments is no simply different. There is hardly any government department whose website is updated daily.

Government of Sindh could immensely benefit from the concept of e-governance and it could easily improve its failing image if it can give Karachi a reliable, comprehensive, integrated toll-free helpline for resolving different civic issues pestering the citizens of this mega city.

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