TN RTI Update 3: July 17, 06
Posted by rtiact2005 on July 18, 2006
TN RTI Update 3: July 17, 06
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TN RTI Update 3: 17 July, 2006
Electricity Board Official Responds
By T. Venkata Naga Narsimham and Nityanand Jayaraman
For the Tamilnadu Right to Information Campaign
Today, the camp operated with a skeleton staff of volunteers. Most other core volunteers were away in other locations – Mahabalipuram and other outstation venues – in training sessions. Tomorrow, on 18 July, some of the volunteers are organising an outdoor awareness camp at Saidapet, near the Railway Station and other crowded venues.
Everyday is a learning experience, as new cases throw up new questions. Is the National Stock Exchange covered under the RTI Act? It is a company set up under the Companies Act with public sector companies and banks as key shareholders. The Government is directly and indirectly financing the company. According to our reading of the Act, the NSE should be within the ambit of the Act. However, NSE has written to one of our walk-ins that it is not covered under the Act. We have advised the concerned person to appeal this with the Central Information Commission. In the meantime, much of the information that one wishes to get regarding NSE can be obtained by filing a request with the Securities Exchange Board of India.
In another case, a person wanted to know if Courts and Court-appointed committees are covered under the Act. The answer is Yes. Both are covered, and the Chief Justice of each Court is responsible for framing the rule for implementing the Act. One would need to apply to the Public Information Officer, Office of the Registrar of the High/Supreme Court etc . Like other days, about 30 people walked in to the camp specifically to consult on issues relating to Right to Information.
Although, there were no trainings for pre-scheduled groups, the newspaper article containing the camp schedule by Dinakaran drove more than 40 people to the camp seeking training in the use of the Act. Many of those that undertook training also said they would extend training and assistance to others in their communities.
Between 4 and 6 p.m., a session with the Chief Public Information Officer of Tamilnadu Electricity Board Mr. N.S. Rajan was held. Mr. Rajan who is of Superintending Engineer rank also holds the additional portfolio of Public Relations Officer. He explained how the Board had implemented the RTI Act. Section Engineers at each district are empowered to act as PIO; the Chief Engineer is the Appellate Authority to look into discrepancies in providing information. He said details of paying by DD were not clear, and that cash payments would be accepted and were the simplest route. He urged people to go personally to the office to meet the PIO and pay the amount.
The guidebook detailing various information that need to be proactively disclosed by public authorities and mandated by the Act is allegedly in the final stages of completion. He assured the audience that the guidebook would be out soon.
In typical fashion, he blamed the public for not paying attention to efforts by EB to increase transparency. The EB claims to have published numbers of the Central Control Room for complaints. Mr. Rajan complained that the public pay no attention to this and whine about their inability to place complaints. In response to a suggestion that such information be placed on prominent Notice Boards at the EB offices, Mr. Rajan said that the engineers at the offices often deface such boards and that such efforts were futile.
Most of the queries from the public were very specific in nature and pertained to individual problems. In a perversion of the RTI Act, Mr. Rajan insisted that citizens should apply for information in the specific division or office where the information is held. In other words, an applicant in Chennai seeking information from Madurai would have to go to Madurai or have someone in Madurai apply on their behalf. This is not required. Applicants that are unable to travel can give the application at any office. Information from the relevant office will need to be collected and handed over or mailed to the individual.