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Bureaucrats in Delhi told to work fast or pay fines

Authorities in India's capital have set up a website to allow people to check the status of their applications for driving licences, birth certificates and the like, and a fine will be levied automatically on the responsible officer if cases are not processed in time.

NEW DELHI // Bureaucrats in New Delhi will have to pay money out of their own pockets if applications for driving licences, birth certificates and other paperwork are delayed.

City authorities have set up a website to allow people to check the status of their applications, and if any cases are not processed in time a fine will be levied automatically on the responsible officer.

Each day of delay will cost the officer from 10 rupees up to a maximum of 200 rupees (75 fils to Dh15), the Delhi state government said on the website.

Corruption among officials has become a hot topic in India with huge nationwide protests last month in support of Anna Hazare, a popular anti-corruption activist who went on a 13-day hunger strike.

The Congress Party-led government was seen as badly damaged by the protests after Mr Hazare was briefly arrested and denounced in parliament by the prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

In theory, Delhiites can now expect to renew a driving licence within 24 hours, get a birth certificate in a week, and have an electricity connection installed in five weeks.

However, many Delhi residents are likely to take a sceptical view of the promise to impose financial penalties on the city's many government officials.

Much of Mr Hazare's support was based on widespread public anger at having to make several rounds of local government departments to pay backhanders for everything from passports to death certificates.

The new law also states that any official with no delays against his or her name for a year will be given a cash bonus of 5,000 rupees.

The Times of India newspaper reported yesterday that the Delhi government had dragged its feet for months over enacting the new law until "the Anna Hazare agitation made corruption a hot social issue".

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