Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Denied information? Camp will make many clean up their Act

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 4, 2006

Denied information? Camp will make many clean up their Act

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=191151

 

RTI camp has been organised by NGO at Kochrab Ashram, will help residents to cut through official red tape and

Ahmedabad, July 3: A CHARTERED accountant wanting to know why he was overcharged by the BSNL, a textile worker trying to find out why he was fired without being given a reason and a resident wanting to know why a builder built more houses than permitted in the plan. In an era of information explosion, all these and many more have been denied their basic right to know. But a Right to Information camp being organised by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, an initiative started by the NGO Janpat, at the Kochrab Ashram will soon help them cut through the official red tape to get the required information. Sunil Thadani, a chartered accountant who says he was overcharged by BSNL last June, has been asking for a bill statement of his landline phone since then. But authorities at BSNL have turned a deaf ear to his requests even after the RTI Act came into existence, and have denied him the statement on grounds that he did not mention that he wanted the statement under the RTI 2005 Act. “The only reason why BSNL has not given the statement is because Thadani didn’t mention that he was asking it ‘under the RTI Act’,’’ says Pankti Mittal Patel, a volunteer at the camp.

‘‘I have wasted 13 months trying to get the statement,’’ says Thadani, who is now sure that BSNL will produce the bill statement since it is obliged under the Act.

For Hasmukhbhai Ladani, the wait to find out why he was fired from his post of a machine operator in Reliance Textiles in 1991 has been too long. According to him, after he was discharged without being given a reason, the company agreed to pay his due salary but refused to take him back. He filed a petition in the High Court in 2002 which is still pending. He wants to know why his petition has not come up for hearing even even after four years.

‘‘It’s not about money or salary. It’s about my rights. I want to know why the court hasn’t held any hearing till date,’’ says Ladani.

Motibhai Patel, a resident of Ghatlodiya, has similar complaints. The builder of Yashsagar Society, where Patel resides, built 58 houses even though the original plan allowed only 47. The builder, Bhagwanbhai Patel, also built another house on a common plot adjoining Patel’s house and declared his house illegal. Since then, Patel has been running around trying to know why his house was declared illegal even though it featured in the original plan.

‘‘I want to know why the builder got away after constructing illegally. I still carry the original plan with me as a proof,’’ says Motibhai Patel.

Even political leaders are using the act to extract answers. NCP councillor at Umreth Nagarpalika in Anand, Devendra Patel, wants the Nagarpalika to show him the details of its leased plots and ponds. Under the Act, any government official is under obligation to give the information within 30 days. But even after 90 days of application, Patel is waiting for an answer.

‘‘It’s only after I came here that I found out that if there is a delay of more than 30 days, an amount of Rs 250 will be deducted from the respective information officer’s salary until he gives the information,’’ says Patel.

As per an ordinance passed in 2003 by the Gujarat Government, no Nagarpalika can lease more than one plot of land and no ponds can be leased without its permission. Patel claims that he has evidence that officials have leased more than one plot and ponds.

‘‘We have advised him to appeal once again and also told him to remind the officer of his obligation to do the same within 30 days,’’ says Mittal.

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