New Delhi: For six months, Surender Kumar Chandna, a trader from Kamla Naga r, has been trying to get his general trade licence renewed by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Though the system is online, the experience hasn’t been easy. The online application proved unsuccessful, forcing him to send mails and even visit MCD’s Keshavpuram zonal office and the headquarters, all in vain.
Like Kumar, many traders and citizens believe the MCD portal requires reforms to make services user-friendly. Beginning with the digitalisation of birth and death certificates and payment of health and trade licence fees, MCD now has 54 services online. These include booking of community halls, parking, property tax and online sanctioning of building plans, etc. The purpose is apparently to bring transparency, minimise manual intervention and speed up the process for issuing approvals.
Chandna’s efforts showed the system isn’t as foolproof as an MCD official made it out to be, saying, “Citizens can easily access facilities digitally from form filling to scrutiny or licence generation.” The Kamla Nagar business owner recalled, “After my licence lapsed on March 31, I applied online 4-5 times for its renewal. When this didn’t work, I visited the office where I was told to acquire a new licence, which I refused.”
He explained, “My shop licence is 30 years old. It will be foolish to apply for a new licence because I might face problems in the future. I already faced this problem. My shop is 60 years old and the receipts that I received for paying licence fees prior to the system going online in 2007-08 are faded. I was left with no proper evidence of commercial activity before 1962 and was forced to pay conversion charges.”
A Sarita Vihar resident faced problems too when she applied for the death certificate of her maternal grandmother online in September. She received the certificate only after a month. “I applied online for the death certificate. The form I filled repeatedly got rejected despite submitting all details,” she said. “After contacting officials, I learnt that the slip number issued to me at the crematorium was also being used by some other applicant resulting in the system not accepting my application.” To prevent such problems, each crematorium should have a unique code in the slip, she said.
But this was not the end of the woman’s problems. The online system required her to fill in the name of the deceased’s blood relations. “My grandmother died very old and had no blood relations left. So, we got stuck again,” she said. “After a lot of persuasion and explanation at various levels, we managed to get a certificate. The forms clearly need clarity. I don’t think that those who designed the system thought of these unique circumstances. In critical cases, provisions for a personal hearing can be provided.”
Atul Goyal of United Residents for Joint Action, a grouping of RWAs, had a grouse. He pointed out, “While the information about taxpayers has been added in the new portal, there are instances of past payment records not integrated or visible. The process of compiling the data too is pending in many cases.”
Apparently many traders personally visited the MCD offices to furnish details about tax payment but were served notices for non-payment in 2021, according to Nitin Gupta, president, Kamla Nagar Traders Association. “The situation occurred because of an error in the system. It is important to make rectification in records to avoid inconvenience to people,” he said. Deep Chand Mathur, former director of PR, MCD, admitted receiving such complaints.
Municipal officials, meanwhile, claimed that the present system caters to all concerns raised in the past. “The notices are now served for every financial year unlike in the past, so people should first cross check the tax period,” said one official. “And while there are gaps in making all services online, residents are also making errors. For example, we came across a person looking for a copy of his father’s death certificate but later realized no one had created the certificate after his death some years ago.”
Many users also revealed that people before 2003 are provided their birth certificate by MCD despite the civic body holding all records of births and deaths in the city. “People going abroad require the birth certificates and it is surprising the municipal corporation of India’s capital hasn’t developed a system to provide the document yet,” said Goyal. A civic official responded that the process of digitising the data was under way and had been completed in north Delhi.