Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Archive for the ‘Gujarat RTI’ Category

RTI missive gets missile money

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 12, 2006

RTI missive gets missile money


AHMEDABAD: You expect mutual respect when the family of the first speaker of Parliament of independent India deals with the defence ministry on sensitive projects like the Agni, Prithvi and Akash missile development programmes.

But as it happened, Narhari Mavalankar, the youngest son of GV Mavalankar, the first speaker of the Lok Sabha, had to use the Right to Information Act to make the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Hyderabad fork out around Rs 10 lakh after a 15-month delay. And that too after the RTI application was addressed to the office of President Abdul Kalam.

Mavalankar’s engineering firm Genest manufactured the carbon composite impregnator plant for the defence laboratory, a technology used in high temperature chambers of missiles. The project was assigned to the firm in February 2002 and was to be completed by January 2003.

However, due to the inordinate delays in payments and design approvals by the ministry, the trials were carried out in March 2005.

But the RTI application hastened matters in the ministry. Payments were cleared within four weeks and the money reached Mavalankar in September this year. Mavalankar has now approached the defence ministry again under RTI to know the reasons for the delay so that he can claim damages.

“It was an embarrassment for the defence ministry as we posed the questions two months back to President Kalam since all the bank guarantees pertaining to the project were in the name of the President. The ministry promptly cleared my payments but never answered my queries. I have now demanded an explanation for the delays at each stage,” says Mavalankar.

In his application,Mavalankar has also mentioned that the building to house the plant was not erected even two years after the project was approved.

“I had a feeling that the ministry was trying to blame me for the delays. Right from the design approval which saw a two-month delay to delays in payments, which took anywhere between three to 10 months, the officials found some odd reason to delay our payments at each stage. How could the ministry be so careless towards such a confidential programme?” he asks.

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‘Govt to set up medical tourism council soon’

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 12, 2006

‘Govt to set up medical tourism council soon’http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=204849

Vadodara, October 11: A MEDICAL tourism council as well as a comprehensive medical tourism policy is in the offing, according to RM Patel, state principal secretary for tourism. Meanwhile, state information commissioner R N Das expressed satisfaction with the manner in which the Right to Information (RTI) Act was used in its one year of existence in the state. They were speaking at an international workshop organised by the All India Association of Urban Local Bodies which began on Wednesday. The two-day workshop has representatives from the Asia Pacific region deliberating on good governance as a tourism asset and right to information.

Patel said Gujarat was focussing on developing its tourism potential at par with other tourist-friendly states like Kerala, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. While underlining the importance of improving governance of local bodies, Patel said it was necessary to promote tourism. Also, Patel said that Gujarat was keen to exploit its medical tourism potential to the fullest, with a medical tourism council also to be formed shortly.

Later in the day, state information commissioner R N Das explained how the Indian version of the Right to Information (RTI) Act was more expansive than the freedom of speech and expression, as it made it possible for an ordinary man to seek information from government and public bodies at large. With the RTI Act, completing one year, Das expressed satisfaction with the way in which the act was being exercised in Gujarat.

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RTI amendments will not be tabled this session: Karat

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 6, 2006

RTI amendments will not be tabled this session: Karat
Times of India, 6.8.2006

Ahmedabad: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has come out against the Centre’s controversial decision to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to place file notings in the exempt category of the Act.

Speaking with a delegation of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) on Saturday, following his public meetings in the city, Karat said the government had not consulted UPA partners and other stakeholders before taking the decision to amend the Act.

He also assured MAGP that his party will not let the amendments be tabled in the current session of the parliament without a proper consultative process.

The UPA government has decided to amend the Act by dropping file notings, appointment details among other information from Act. The votaries of the Act feel the amendments go against the very spirit of the Act which demands transparency and accountability of the government and impinges on the citizen’s right to know.

Karat said in Kerala and West Bengal where his party was in power, they only withheld file notings where absolutely necessary. Gujarat state CPM secretary Arun Mehta said Karat indeed made his party’s displeasure on the issue known.

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Insiders add to AMC’s RTI woes

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 5, 2006

Insiders add to AMC’s RTI woes
By Tina Parekh/TNN
Times of India, 5.8.2006

Ahmedabad: Guess which applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act are giving Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) bosses sleepless nights? The information sought by disgruntled elements within AMC!

Even as AMC officials struggle to adopt the virtues of transparency and accountability forced on them by the Act, they are anxious about suspended or victimised officials who might want to get back at them by asking uncomfortable questions.

AMC sources that almost 50 per cent of all applications are of these nature. Under the RTI Act, AMC cannot even refuse information to these applicants.

“Some troublemakers within AMC might seek information through others, to needle us. There are also officials against whom we took legal action who might demand confidential documents from us which could weaken our case against them,” says deputy municipal commissioner (DyMC) UC Padia.

So anxious are AMC officials about insiders using the RTI instrument to embarrass them that they even raised the concern at a recent RTI workshop held at the Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (Spipa).

“It has been noticed that some civic and government officers who have been suspended have been using RTI to harass public authorities. It should be brought to the notice of the State Information Commission (SIC), as well as the nodal RTI departmental officers,” says RTI campaigner, Rahul Mangaonkar.

Applications which seek copies of all vouchers made since inception fall in this category. “In such cases, we officials respond to the queries instead of stonewalling them,” he says.

Secretary of Gantar, Harinesh Pandya, who co-ordinated an RTI awareness camp recently says, that everyone is entitled to seek information under the Act.

“Only 20 per cent cases at the camp involved government servants who wanted information from their departments. But even their queries were genuine. Even if they weren’t, civic officials have to give information under the RTI Act,” says Pandya. The state information commissioner (SIC) has received a number of such applications where government or civic officials against whom an inquiry is on, have gone into appeal after they were denied information.

“In such cases, applicants demand certain confidential documents and file notings from their departments. We suggest that this kind of information be passed on,” says SIC RN Das.

In fact, if government departments make proactive disclosures under RTI Act, many such complaints would lapse, he says. “The Act is bound to be used by some such officials who have an axe to grind. Public authorities must not get bogged down by these queries,” Das says.

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No CNG buses for school kids

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 5, 2006

No CNG buses for school kids
– Rahul Mangaonkar
Times of India, Ahmedabad 5.8.2006

After a training session on Right to Information (RTI) at Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration last week, Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) is finally learning to respond to queries.

The public information officer (PIO), who is also the AMTS director of traffic, deigned to reply to a question on the status of deploying CNG buses for school transport, on August 1, 2006, but the response wasn’t too encouraging.

“The number of buses required for routes charted out by the AMTS are not available. Therefore, on the instructions of the SC-appointed Bhurelal Committee and that of the state government, buses were procured from private operators. This has been done on a per kilometre basis, and buses have been taken on rent. These are now plying on the routes of AMTS. A total of 208 mini CNG buses have been obtained on rent. The AMTS does not own any mini CNG bus.” But that’s as far as passenger traffic goes. When it comes to school transport, AMTS is at a loss.

“At least 354 buses would be required on the 96 routes on which different schools are located, which under the present condition, is not possible,” the PIO said. “Of the CNG buses taken by AMTS on rent, in the past, there have been incidents of short circuit in at least two. Therefore, one has to look at the safety aspect when kids are involved. .”

Now the moot questions arises. Are children of the city not citizens? With the mandate of providing public transport lying squarely on the shoulders of AMTS, why does it not increase the fleet in a manner which would have taken care of the growing demand of the city. The PIO mentions the pressure from Bhurelal Committee, but what he does not mention are the promises made by the AMTS in the past about the number of buses they will deploy. In a meeting of Bhurelal Committee held on May 14, 2005, at the Circuit House, the then municipal commissioner made tall promises. By June 30, 2005, 270 CNG buses were to ply in the city and all 390 buses would be converted to CNG by July 31, 2005. Bhurelal suggested that as per the original commitment, 455 buses in CNG mode should be introduced in the first phase – a promise was made to achieve this target. So by now, there should have been enough buses to take care of normal commuters as well as school kids.

The Right to Education Bill also puts the onus of school transport on the State. With commissioner, transport, having passed an order restricting the number of children in an auto, it’s time other commissioners start implementing it.

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Outrage against attempts at crippling the Right to Know – GUJARAT

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 5, 2006

Outrage against attempts at crippling the Right to Know
On 13th August Gujarat to publicly cast protest votes

At a meeting called for by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel at Kochrab Ashram, Paldi, on 5th August 2006 members, NGO’s, and eminent personalities attended.

Earlier in the day a delegation of the Pahel, called on the visiting CPI (M) Politburo Chief, Mr. Prakash Karat. During the meeting it demanded that as a constituent of the UPA, they oppose the proposed changes in the Act. Mr. Karat informed the delegation that their party is opposed to these changes. He further informed that their party is committed to ensure that the amendments are not tabled in on going session of parliament, and any decision to make any changes would be only after taking all members of the UPA in confidence and consultations with all stakeholders.

In the meeting of the Pahel, the recent UPA Cabinets decision to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 was condemned and opposed in one voice. Moreover the plans and programs to be carried out in days to come were discussed.

With the right to know, citizens have been truly empowered for the first time since independence. The recently concluded at campaign conducted from Kochrab Ashram; ‘Drive again Bribe – with RTI’ saw thousands of citizens make the government accountable and attempted at reducing corruption. Following this nationwide campaign, the Union Cabinet has taken the decision to make changes, to keep file notings, examinations of public offices, and details of appointments etc. in the exempt category of the Act. This severely curtails the citizen’s democratic rights.

On 13th of August, 2006 from 4 pm to 8pm at Law Garden, Ahmedabad a public protest has been planned by organizing “Vote to Oppose”. Where it is envisaged that citizens in large numbers would turn up to vote their protest against the blatant attempt with tampering their right to know. These votes would be sent to the Speaker of Lok Sabha. On the same day, in Surendranagar, Jamnagar, along with other districts would conduct similar programmes. Simultaneously petitions would be sent in large numbers to the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha Speaker, Chairperson of the UPA and other MP’s. These would be appeals asking them, as our elected representatives to protest, and block any changes to the Act.

To join in this campaign and or to know more, one can call on the RTI helpline –9924085000.

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My Ex”RTI”perience

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 1, 2006

My Ex”RTI”perience

-Punit B. Juneja, Advocate.

On 29th of June 2006, from my college notice board I got to know of the RTI campaign to be organized in Ahmedabad from 1st July 2006 to 15th July 2006. On 1st of July, Saturday, as I was not having any work in the court, I reached at the Kochrab Ashram, Paldi Ahmedabad at 11:15 AM sharp and there I was introduced to the volunteers and members of Janpath who along with 73 plus, other organizations took this initiative of RTI campaign under the banner of “Mahiti Adhikaar Gujarat Pahel”. I had a fair knowledge of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and therefore, for first one hour, I observed, what the campaign actually aims at? I got to know that this is not another “Talk” on the Rights, but was a practical solution to the problems that citizens face. The citizens who visited the camp were actually given counseling, their problems were heard, and they were actually helped to draft the application.

Later after getting fair idea, I started by giving my assistance to the volunteers and as the problems, that people came with were not related to the Right to Information Act, 2005 only, but were having other intricacies also. This is where I thought that my skills as an advocate will be able to serve the society. I therefore decided that I will, whenever possible come to the camp so as to see that I can do my bit for this noble cause.

The volunteers whom I met on the day one were actually nodal-preraks; I asked them what it actually meant? I was then told that they are actually working in night schools, for adult educations. This was something new for me. I never knew that in reality there are any night schools, which impart education to the illiterate adult citizens of our state.

Then I started coming across people of all groups and walks of life. Many wanted “solutions” and some wanted “just answers”. The RTI that I read in book of law was actually being implemented.

“RTIzens” who came there, all wanted to know about Right to Information Act, 2005 first, and then they would ask if they can use the same in their problem to get results, they were almost surprised when they got to know that, they can actually get the work done without paying bribe!!! “GHOOS KO GHOOSA” being our motto, we tried educating more and more people about their Rights in Right to Information Act, 2005 and also that how to make application and ask questions and for information.

Some of the cases that I went through during these 15 days, if to be written about will take a whole book to write, but if summarized the same would be able to throw some light on how the campaign was a success.

One Lady came to the camp asking about the women’s pension scheme, and on getting some able assistance from the volunteer she asked, if she can know how her son died? All the volunteers, present there, were shocked to know that her son died in the year 1990 and till date she has no papers to show, how that incident occurred. She was advised to make an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 to the Commissioner of Police and ask about the actual facts that came out in investigations of the unnatural death of her son.

One fine day a Gentleman came to me, and started asking the questions relating to Act. I was surprised to know that he was asking questions as to how a Public Information officer can defend himself, if he is not able to give information on time? I asked him if he is a PIO, he answered in the affirmative. I guided him that he should not delay the information and should ask for all the able assistance from his office people so as to give information on time. He then asked me that, can he ask for the information from his department. Now, this was some what tricky, I said that why not? Are you not the citizen of the country?

There were varied experiences like the person who wanted to ask the Traffic Police Department, that under which law he should give the license in the hand of the Police officer? Is it not enough to show the license without physically giving it in the hands of the officer?

One gentleman came and informed us that he had asked the collector that why his P.A. is not transferred for over 17 years and who is responsible for that? He informed us that he has not received any reply and therefore we asked him to file first appeal. He filed the first appeal and though he was belonging to the BPL family he was charged Rs. 50 for the Appeal, which even otherwise cannot be charged. Then he came to us after few days with the news paper cutting that the Collectors P.A. has been transferred.

There were some Sweet and some Bitter experiences, we felt proud of our FREEDOM one moment and on the other moment felt disgusted of our BABUDOM. There were incidents where we worked like a team of counselors at one moment and the other moment we had some minor disputes because of difference in the viewpoint.

We discussed that how can we make the BABUS understand their duties and also that how the People can be made to understand that this is not a weak law.

Yes, most of people came there with “IS DESH KAA KUCH NAHI HONE WALA” attitude. It was sometimes tough to explain them that they should not loose hope and as this is a new law they should make all efforts to develop this.

On 13th of the July 2006, Smt. Anita Karwal, Secretary ARTD and also Shri R.N Das (IAS), Chief Information Commissioner for the Sate Of Gujarat, had a visit to the Camp. They also handled some of the queries and tried to understand that what people actually face. Shri Das also received some complaints there only and the same were promised to be resolved.

Overall it was a nice experience and there we are.. “IS DESH KAA SAB KUCH HOGA” was the last statement of the person who previously said otherwise.

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New CIC plans to usher in changes at commission

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 15, 2006

New CIC plans to usher in changes at commission

Express News Service


Ahmedabad, July 15: THE State Information Commission is all set for a revamp by the newly-appointed Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) R N Das. Shortage of staff, lack of infrastructural facilities ail the commission since it was constituted in July 2005.

Only nine staff members, including the CIC, were sanctioned by the state government when it was set up after the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) law. Regarding infrastructural facilities, the commission is yet to develop its own website where judgments and orders can be uploaded in the public domain.

Das took over as the CIC on July 7, after his predecessor P K Das retired on June 10.

Speaking to Express Newsline, R N Das said, “I know the commission is understaffed and we have taken up the matter with the state government and things will improve very soon.”

To strengthen its headquarter in Gandhinagar will be the commission’s first assignment, he said.

On infrastructure, Das said that the commission will have its own website within a month so that orders and call lists can be put on it for public use.

“We have hired a consultant to help us develop our own website,” he said.

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No pension, these widows read the RTI Act

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 15, 2006

No pension, these widows read the RTI Act

Vivek Vijaypalan


Ahmedabad, July 15: IN Juhapura, two women who are victims of different circumstances have one story to tell—they are not being paid widow compensation, thanks to government apathy. But now both believe that the Right to Information Act will help them. While one woman has filed an RTI application seeking compensation, the other is yet to do so.

Masuma Sheikh, who works as a domestic help to raise her family, filed an RTI application in the collectorate but her application has been rejected. She says, “The Public Information Officer did not take my application and asked me to file the application in the Samaj Suraksha Kendra in Astodia.”

Mausuma’s husband deserted her 15 years ago without divorcing her. In 2001, she applied for widow pension as she was eligible under law and began to receive a monthly sum of Rs 660 which was withdrawn the following year. She says, “My pension stopped in July 2002 and I received a letter from the government saying that I will be offered a stipend instead of a pension on condition that I attend a self-employment course in Gandhinagar.”

Mausuma says she made a plea that she could not attend the programme as Gandhinagar was too far away. She says, “I submitted my request to the collector saying that the training centre was too far away but my pension was put on hold. I filed an RTI application on Thursday to know why it had been rejected.” However, she has not lost hope and says that she will file the RTI application again as it is in order.

Haseenabanu Sheikh too has not been receiving her pension after her husband’s death.

Haseenabanu’s husband died of AIDS in May 2005, following which she applied for the widow pension in February 2006 but she says that she has not received a single penny till now. She says, “I submitted an application to the collector before but it was of no use.” Haseenabanu adds that she will file an RTI application to know why she has not been receiving her pension next week. Both women have put their faith in the RTI and hope it will help solve their problems.

When asked about why these widows have to run from pillar to post while there is a Widow Pension Scheme in place, the response was as bureaucratically evasive as it could be. District Collector D. Tara said, “Earlier the responsibility was with the Social Welfare and Implementation Department but now the Sub-Divisional officer handles the scheme.”

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1,366 in Gujarat seek information under RTI Act

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 15, 2006

1,366 in Gujarat seek information under RTI Act

Friday, July 14th, 2006



Ahmedabad – As many as 1,366 people in Gujarat have in the last fortnight sought information from various government departments under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, activists said here Friday.

As part of a campaign to promote the use of the RTI Act to fight bribery in government offices, rights activists had put up a camp at the Kochrab Ashram here to help victims of corruption.

‘Of the 1,366 applications forwarded from the camp, about 40 percent were from those who had been asked to pay bribes to get their work done,’ Harinesh Pandya, the coordinator of the campaign, told reporters here.

The organisers said even government employees were using the law extensively.

‘About 60 percent of the applications were by government servants, mostly retired employees awaiting pension,’ said activist Rahul Mangaonkar.

Satisfied with the response of the campaign, the organisers are now planning to take the campaign to other cities.

‘We are ready to hold such camps in other cities too. Demands from Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and Surendranagar are already pouring in,’ said Pandya.

‘We want local cadre to grow in these cities, therefore, only if some volunteers from these cities call us will we go and help them,’ he said.

A crucial law for the promotion of transparency and accountability from the government, the RTI Act of 2005 allows citizens to demand information (in the form of records, documents, samples, orders etc) from the government regarding any department or office.

The provision of a penalty clause also reduces the chances of denial of granting information or giving incomplete information on part of government officials.

However, central intelligence and security agencies are exempted from the purview of this law.

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