Thursday, July 27, 2006

PMO’s claims on RTI misleading: Aruna Roy

Aruna Roy, former NAC member and leading activist in the Right to Information crusade, has hit out at the government saying the PMO’s claims were ‘‘deliberately misleading’’. Roy argues that while the government is now saying that allowing access to file notings, even if restricted to those files which have social and developmental plans, is a landmark step, it is actually a curtailment of what the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of India had interpreted ‘‘information’’ to mean, as early as January 31 this year.

The ruling by the Commission had then said, ‘‘a combined reading of Section 2(f), (i) and (j) would indicate that a citizen has the right of access to a file of which file notings are an integral part. We are of the view that in terms of the existing provisions of the RTI Act, a citizen has the right to seek information contained in the ‘file notings’ unless the same relates to matters covered under Section 8 of the Act.’’ The section draws the line on areas where the RTI Act would not be operational.

Interestingly, the Department of Personnel and Training, said to be the nodal department for the RTI Act, has consistently maintained in the FAQs section of its website that file notings are exempt from the law. This is something that RTI activists are calling illegal.

Complete Article

Hazare meets Kalam; not to return Padma Bhushan

Maharashtra Hearld, Pune
Thursday, July 27, 2006 Page A6

Noted social activist Anna Hazare, who had threatened to return his Padma Bhushan awared protesting governmetn plants to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, yesterday decided not to go ahead with it after meeting President APJ Abdul Kalam.

Hazare had a 30-minute meeting with Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhawan during which he said the President asked him to reconsider the decision.

"If I do not heed to the President's request, it would be an insult to him," he said.

Karnataka State IC shifts office

The office of the Karnataka Information Commission situated at Room 302, 302A,303,&303A third floor Vidhana soudha Bangalore has been shifted to the new premises namely Third Floor third Stage Multi Storied Buildings , Dr Ambedkar Road, Bangalore 560001 from the Forenoon of thursday the 27th july 2006. Please note to enter MS Building from gate 1 ( Behind Lokayuktha offices)

The new telephone Numbers of Karnataka Information Commission are as follows
1. State Cheif Information Commission 22371191(Mr K K Mishra)
2 ----- do------ fax 22371192
3 State Information Commissioner 22371193(mr K A Thippeswamy)
4 Under secretary & PIO 22371194 (Mr sai Nath Prakash)

Constant Follow up with the INFO Comm by Members of KRIA Katte on the Security set up in Vidhana Soudha and easy assecibility to citizens has resulted in this shifting.

-Vikram
N Vikram Simha,
KRIA Katte

FAQ: Exempting File Notings From RTI

What is the proposed controversial 'amendment' to the Right to Information Act which has angered all the activists?
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, an Indian citizen can obtain 'information'- in any available format- relating to any government decision or policy or activity -except what has been kept outside the purview by the Act itself. Under it, every public authority has the obligation to provide information and maintain records about its operations. On July 20, 2006, the Union Cabinet approved an Amendments Bill to the Right to Information Act, 2005 that would exclude notings made by officials on files related to all areas except social and development sector projects.

What are 'file notings'?
Under the normal bureaucratic practice, the files/ records/ documents relating any government activity move from one individual government officer to another- both vertically and horizontally in the bureaucratic hierarchy- before a decision is reached or a policy is made. The government officers involved in any normal process can range from Lower Division Clerks to Secretary of a ministry to the Union Minister. Normally, each time a file or document changes hands within the bureaucratic system and hierarchy, the bureaucrat handling that file makes his written remarks/ observations / recommendations and gives his opinion. The final outcome of any government decision is based on and is decided by these observations/ recommendations /opinions or the 'file notings' by various government officer/s.

What is the status of the 'file notings' in the Right to Information Act?
Chapter 1 Section 2 para. (f) of the Right to Information Act defines 'information' as "any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force". Though the Act makes no express provision on 'file notings', the RTI regulator, the Central Information Commission, ruled in January 2006 that, "a citizen has the right to seek information contained in file notings and no file (or information) would be complete without note-sheets having file notings" In short, 'file notings' are considered integral part of 'information' and, as the CIC stated, "file notings are not, as a matter of law, exempt from disclosure".

What will be the impact on Right to Information Act if 'file notings' are exempted from disclosure?
If the 'file noting' are kept out of the reach of the citizens, then people will still be able to seek information about the government decisions, but will not be able to know how that decision was reached. It will mean that the information provided to the citizens by the government will be heavily 'censored' and will not contain the details of the various remarks/ opinions and logic or rationale or lack thereof employed by government officers and the process that was followed while taking a decision.

Complete Article

Babus take the punch out of RTI

The Central Information Commission, which had been in the limelight for the past few months with several crucial decisions, is likely to be cut to size. On Thursday, the Cabinet took away the right to disclose Government file notings to the applicants.
The information commissioners are finding it difficult to accept this drastic step.

“Who has done what? The names of officers indulging in corruption are all there in the file notings. So if they are gone, the basis and objectives of the Act falls down," says information commissioner, O P Kejriwal.

Complete Article

‘Excluding file notings from purview of RTI will weaken Act’

The Assam Tribune
Guwahati, Tuesday, July 25, 2006
From Our Correspondent

SHILLONG, July 24 – The State Information Commissioner DP Wahlang has said, the Congress-led UPA government ‘should not exclude file notings from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.’

The Centre has reportedly decided to amend the RTI Act. The amendment would exempt file notings of officials from the Act.

A former bureaucrat himself, Wahlang observed that exclusion of file notings would weaken the RTI Act. File notings fall within the definition of ‘information’ in the RTI Act.

File notings are views, advice and recommendations put out by officials, as per laws, rules, norms, and orders regarding project proposals, tenders, concept for a policy or any such matter.

File notings are pinned up on the right side of government files. The left side are the actual project proposals, tenders, concept for a policy etc. Based on the file notings the decision-making authorities takes a justified decision.

RTI activists here say file notings would help the public know why a particular decision was taken on a certain issue. It also reflects the mind of the government and officials concerned.

Wahlang agrees, he says the public ought to know why exactly a decision was taken. “The public will get a clear insight into the information sought based on file notings.”

However, many bureaucrats do not want file notings to be part of the RTI Act and the Centre, reportedly, buckling under their pressure is going to amend the Act.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

RTI Effect: Successful RTI use in rural Belgaum

Manoj Mitta
*[ 27 Jul, 2006 0022hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]*

Far from admitting that a proposed amendment would reduce access to information, the Prime Minister's Office claimed on Wednesday that the disclosure of file notings would actually "become possible for the first time."

In reality, file notings have already been accessible under the existing provisions of the Right to Information Act. And, despite their reservations, bureaucrats have in several cases granted access to file notings.

This is thanks to a decision of the RTI regulator, Central Information Commission, in January ruling that, subject to restrictions, "a citizen has the right to seek information contained in file notings."

Though there is no express provision on file notings, the CIC ordered their disclosure on the basis of a "combined reading" of the provisions of the RTI Act, which provided "access to a file of which the file notings are an integral part."

It was to undo this liberal interpretation of the RTI Act that the Cabinet recently decided to introduce an amendment stipulating that file notings could be disclosed only on "development and social issues."

The attempt to restrict access to notings is being opposed vehemently by activists. The PMO sought to allay apprehensions by issuing a clarification that took liberties with facts.

In an obvious bid to sugarcoat the proposed amendment to the RTI Act, the PMO suppressed the fact that file notings were already being disclosed to citizens on account of the CIC's ruling.

School trust fined for not replying under RTI

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
27.07.2006

Palanpur: A fine of Rs 25,000 was imposed on a school trust in Patan for its failure to reply to questions put up by a retired head clerk of the school under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Dharmabhai Patel, the retired head clerk of PM Patel Gurukul High School, had sought information from Gurjar Education Trust, which runs the school, about some appointments made in the school. He wanted to know how many appointments were made between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2004 and whether the required no objection certificates were taken from the district education office.

As per the RTI Act, the trust was supposed to reply within 30 days. However, when over 90 days transpired, Patel appealed to district education officer SM Taral, who is the appellate authority under RTI in Patan. "I had submitted the questions on January 27, 2006 and had even sent a couple of reminders," Patel told TOI.

The authority took notice of the failure of the trust in replying within the stipulated period and slapped the fine on it.

Meanwhile, trust secretary Purshottam Patel said that they will appeal against the decision before the state education commissioner. He refused to comment on the stand of the Trust.

Experiments with school children is just not on

The Right to Information unearthed how the officialdom used its ingenuity to legalise the stuffing up of school children in autorickshaws in 1996. However, all this stuffing, travelling in smoke spewing rickshaws, does it affect the kids at all, or are we just throwing up red herrings? In an unrelated, but incidental development, a year after officials in transport department conducted their experiment to fit 10 kids in an auto, experts from National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) started one of their own.

In 1997, NIOH began a project with the objective of investigating the effects of lead on the adolescence and puberty of school children exposed to auto exhaust pollution in Ahmedabad. Till about 2003, 1,206 school kids were made 'subjects' of the study. These 903 boys and 303 girls of 10 to 13+ years were selected as it was believed that maximum changes associated with puberty occur between 10 to 16 years of age.

NIOH aimed at studying whether the presence of lead in the blood of the kids is causing acceleration or is delaying the onset of puberty, and also it effects on their IQ (intelligence quotient).

Six years of study and Rs 38 lakh plus seem to have gone down the drain as NIOH is still inconclusive about the effect of lead on the sex maturity rate of adolescent children whom it "studied" for so long. One thing it has concluded though is that a high level of lead could have an adverse effect on the IQ of growing children.

The March 2006 circular of transport commissioner has allowed a maximum of six kids in an auto. Is it being implemented? More importantly, whose responsibility is it to ensure that kids ride safely to school and back home? It is that of the transport department, traffic police or education department. Who has benefited, at whose cost, due to this grey area? In the entire process, did anybody spare a thought for the kids? In 2005, a proposal was handed over to Anil Mukim, the then commissioner of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to ply CNG buses for school kids. A pilot project prepared by district education officer after consultations with 30-odd schools, was also submitted.

Unfortunately, unlike the other 'fantastic' projects taken up by him, this one remained "under consideration". Why has it not been considered as yet? The question put up under RTI still remains unanswered by AMC.

- Rahul Mangaonkar
jaago.gujarat @indiatimes.com

AMC officials attend RTI workshop

Ahmedabad: You can now expect officials of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to receive your requests for information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, with more consideration than before.

The AMC has arranged a workshop for 100 of its senior officials at Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA) to train them in dealing with RTI
queries.

One of the startling discoveries during the workshop was that before the training, just two per cent of the AMC officials had gone through the text of the Act, which is why many applications were turned down by them or are still pending in various departments. This prompted the AMC to arrange training for its officials.

The two-day training workshop is aimed at educating senior officials of all AMC departments about the provisions of RTI. AMC is footing the bill of about Rs 60,000 for the training."In the workshop, we gave an overview of the Act, took participants through RTI provisions, proactive disclosure clauses, the manner in which officials must tackle queries, among other issues," said RTI training co-ordinator at SPIPA, Kailash Patel.

So far, no other municipal corporation has approached SPIPA for training its
officials. "Till now, we have trained 1,000 officials in various government
departments. But more municipal corporations must get their officials trained,
as they will get a number of queries in future," Patel adds.

Amendment to Section 2(i)(a) of the Act

In the face of severe criticism over the decision to exempt some "file notings" from the purview of Right to Information (RTI) law, the Government today said it was not a "retrogression" and the implementation of amendments in the measure would make it a "more powerful tool".

Terming the criticism of last week's cabinet decision as "largely misplaced" based on "incomplete knowledge" of facts, the Government said the disclosure of file notings on the most important and vast bulk of government activities has now become possible for the first time.

Complete Article

PMO's statement on file notings

The recent decision of the Union Cabinet to bring about some changes in the Right to Information Act has evoked sharp criticism from some sections of the Press and civil society, particularly with respect to the issue of "file notings". This criticism is largely misplaced since it is based on an incomplete knowledge of facts.

Complete Statement

RTI fee reduced in Punjab

The RTI application fee has been reduced in Punjab. The application fee has gone down from Rs 50 to Rs 10. The certified photo copy charge From Rs 10 to Rs 2 per page.

(notified on July 17 as per a news report in Indian Express of 25th July)

Jaskirat

RTI Act amendment is to shield corrupt bureaucrats: Aruna Roy

Social activist Aruna Roy has termed the government's decision to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act excluding file notings from its purview as an attempt by corrupt bureaucrats to save their empire.

'The government has not furnished any reason on why they want to amend the RTI Act. It looks like a deliberate attempt to take away the teeth from its provisions,' Roy here said Wednesday.

Complete Article

Anna to return his Padma Bhushan in protest

It was a major embarrassment for the government on Wednesday as the renowned social activist -- Anna Hazare -- threatened to return his Padma Bhushan as a mark of protest against the government for making proposed changes in the right to Information Bill.

He wanted to make a point that he was willing to give up his national honour, if the government trampled upon the basic rights of the public. On Wednesday evening, Hazare rushed to meet the President to explain why he had decided to return his Padma Bhushan award.

Complete Article

Will Babudom rule?: The move to choke the RTI Act will prove to be a big setback

Editorial in Maharashtra Hearld, Pune
Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The Union government’s decision to amend the Right To Information (RTI) Act has been termed “dangerous” by activist Anna Hazare who has further threatened to initiate a countrywide movement to oppose this blow to democracy. He is right in every respect and should be supported by every citizen who wants this and future governments to work in an environment of transparency and accountability. The RTI Act, 2005, has been one of the most progressive laws of its kind in the world and was meant to be the UPA government’s finest legislative initiatives. Backed by civil society groups and pledge in the UPA’s common minimum programme, the RTI Act promised to usher in sweeping reforms in governance by providing citizens the right to question bureaucrats about decisions taken. Now, as if it has been threatened into submission by the champions of babudom, the government has announced that a proposed amendment to the Act will exclude noting made by senior government officials on files of every areas, except social and development sector projects, from the purview of the law.

This amounts to taking one step forward only to move tow behind. And more over, it is a clear indication of the fact that the bureaucrats have much to hide and are worried that all their calculations of corruption and mismanagement will go haywire.

One of the opinion tracks that had emerged from within this controversy is that the babus are afraid that there are certain secrets that must be withheld in the interest of the nation’s security and hence the need to keep the noting confidential. That’s akin to pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. The Indian Constitution provides for many clauses and the Act itself has many provisions that can enable RTI commissioners to hold back information if it is seen as compromising the security of the nation and its people. It even has clauses to protect trade secrets or intellectual property where disclosure may harm the nation’s competitive position. Then where lies the problem? Obviously, the babus have become so used to conducting their nefarious activities without having to be answerable to the citizens of this country that nay attempt to blow their cover must quickly be nipped in the bud. Hazare has, in this respect, dashed off a letter to the prime minister demanding immediate attention. But Hazare must not fight this battle alone as he has his earlier ones. This time around, to keep the flag of democracy flying high, we all must chip in. And the faster, the better.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

RTI Act: 348 complaints in Punjab

At least 348 complaints against government authorities have been received by the Punjab information commission ever since the Right to Information (RTI) Act was implemented in the state in December 2005.

Of these, 302 complaints are against public authorities that have failed to respond to information requests made before them, a spokesperson of the commission Tuesday said. Another 46 cases are appeals against orders of certain government authorities that disallowed information from being given.

The commission, comprising of Chief Information Commissioner Rajan Kashyap and four other information commissioners, has so far disposed off 67 complaints while the remaining were pending with it.

Complete Article

A big step backward

In a decidedly retrograde move that borders on the outrageous, the Union Cabinet has decided to bring in amendments to the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 that will curtail public scrutiny of file notings by restricting access to them. This will effectively remove from the citizen's purview information on how decisions are made in government offices and departments. This reneging on a right hard fought and won will detract substantially from transparency in government functioning and strike at the roots of a valuable law. Ever since it came into force last year, the effectiveness of a serious law on the right to information has been amply demonstrated by ordinary citizens using it to assert their basic rights and to bring corrupt officials to justice.

Complete Article

DD News beams RTI into living rooms

Doordarshan or DD News has launched a 30 minute weekly programme on the Right to Information or RTI Act, titled "Jaanne Ka Haq" (Right to Know" from July 22. The 30 minute show will be telecast every Saturday from 10.30 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. "The purpose of the programme is to bring some of the best examples of how the commonman has used the power of RTI. Our team will capture a success story from each State every week," said Pankaj Shankar, consulting editor

This news item that appeared in AsianAge under Media Watch on Jul 25, 2006.

Bending before Babus

The Right to Information Act, 2005, was one such promising start the UPA government made. One of the most progressive laws of its kind in the world, it was meant to be one of the UPA government's finest legislative interventions.

It sought to rescue governance from colonial laws like the Official Secrets Act, 1923, which gave unbridled powers to the bureaucracy. It raised hopes that the people will finally have access to the workings of the state.

The euphoria has been short-lived. The bureaucracy has intervened and convinced the government to accept its 'right' to stonewall queries about decision-making.

Complete Article

Sunday, July 23, 2006

RTI law mutilated

Let's put aside for now the fact that 'certain' file notings have been kept out of the purview of Right to Information Act, 2005. A look at the orders passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) would make one believe that the RTI law was amended, rather mutilated, quite sometime back.

A few examples serve to provide a disturbing insight into the workings of our new information law. Petrol pump allotments are mired in corruption. Manish Dyaneshwar applied for a petrol pump. He did not get it.

Under RTI Act, he asked for copies of all applications and marks given by interview board to each applicant. CIC ruled that such information could not be provided, as it would violate the applicants' privacy.

Tapas Dutta wanted a copy of the minutes of a meeting of a departmental promotion committee in a government department. CIC ruled that the minutes could not be made public, as that would violate the privacy of candidates.

Complete Article

Don’t take away this right

It was meant to be a great move towards open government. What successive governments had tarried over, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government was planning to go ahead with, amidst much self-congratulation about moving into the 21st century. But eventually, the bureaucratic mindset seems to have triumphed over the needs of the citizenry. Now a major caveat will be added to the Right to Information Act — file notations will removed from public view.

This defeats the entire purpose of the exercise. The act was ostensibly passed to make it easier for the people of the country to get access to information about government decisions. Expunging file notations takes a very important part of the decision-making process out of that equation.

Complete Article

Human Chain against RTI amendment in Jharkhand

The members of the Jharkhand RTI Forum met at Sandhya Tower, Purulia Road, Ranchi to condemn the government’s decision to amend the RTI Act. The forum took following decisions during the meeting:

1. To launch SAVE RTI CAMPAIGN continuously.
2. To organize massive Human Chain on 30th July 2006 at Governor House, Jharkhand.
3. To meet Governor of Jharkhand on 24th July to protest the amendment.
4. To launch State wide Signature Campaign.
5. 9th August, 2006 to be observed as ‘SAVE RTI DAY’

Meanwhile the convener of the Forum, Vishnu Rajgadia pointed out that “Today, Bhagat Singh would have certainly thrown a bomb in the Parliament as he did during British regime in the same situation.”

Participants in the forum felt that this is the time for the test of the common people’s participation and to know the actual response of the people about the RTI Act. If the people will not come forward against this amendment, then surely the entire RTI will be slowly curbed down. The Jharkhand RTI Forum have also decided to write letters to the representatives both at the State and Central level of Jharkhand and appeal them to condemn the government’s reactionary decision and bring the issue on the floor of the house regarding amendment and request them not to support the amendment. The Forum has also appealed the common people to come forward to show their disapproval on mass basis.

The meeting was presided by Balram and other participants were Sanjay Seth, Tirkey, Dr. Prasanjit Mukherjee, Krishna Munda, Roshanlal Munda, Nilu Tiwari, Anamika Sinha, Maumita Ganguly, Rajkumar Singh, S.U.Mallick, Abdul Gani, B.Lakra, Baldev Mahto, M.O.Dalel, P.K Sinha, Kanahai Kumar, Ranjit Rai, Gulab Rabbni, Joy Baxla, Neeraj Kumar, Atul Kumar Singh, Gopinath Ghosh, Nilima Yadav, Rakesh Kumar, Rashmi Rani, Raju Singh Yadav, Shakti Pandey and Mritunjay Sharma.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Anna Hazare's Press Conference

Today in the press conference by Sh. Anna Hazare to oppose the proposed changes in the RTI Act. Sh Hazare convened the youth force of the country to come foreword for the Next Independence Movement against the Babudom. He said that the proposed changes in the RTI Act will make this legislation without soul. The recent cabinet decision for amending the RTI Act to make the file notings out of the purview of the application of the RTI Act will make the legislation body without soul. The strength of this act is the opening of the file notings for the public inspection and this step to make RTI Act inapplicable on file notings will make this act a useless legislation. Sh Hazare also emphasised that this step to amend the RTI Act is because of the pressure of the Babus as the PM at a earlier stage said that the file notings is the soul of the act. This amendment is to protect the Babus from their deeds by not getting themselves exposed to public inspection, said Sh. Hazare.

Mr Hazare also said that on 9th August, 2006 on the anniversary of the Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi, he will return his Padma Vibhushan to the Hon'ble President of India from Raj Ghat. He convened the students and the youth of the country to come forward and join hands against the proposed amendment.

Anna Hazare protests RTI amendments

Social activist Anna Hazare has threatened to return his Padma Vibhushan if the government brings amendments to the Right to Information Act.

This week the government decided to weaken one of its biggest achievements by exempting bureaucratic notings from the act.

There has been widespread outrage at this proposed move with many saying this move will render the act lifeless.


Complete Article

Friday, July 21, 2006

An act disabling an Act

If the people of this country wanted to know what it would mean to have a right to information law amended as per the reported cabinet decision, questions about how this decision came about would provide enough of an answer. How did this come about? “Secret” Who suggested it? “Secret” When was it suggested? “Secret” Who opposed it? Who supported it? What were the reasons? Was any one consulted? What was their opinion? Secret! Secret! Secret! Secret! The term used might not be ‘secret’ but ‘‘the information you have sought is barred from disclosure’’ or some other better camouflaged euphemism. The people of this country will continue to be served with policies conceived secretly, implemented without warning, and with potentially far reaching consequences on their lives.

And because no one will ever know “who did it” - the guilty will get away.

Complete Article

Buddha’s Bengal gets negative on RTI execution

ON a two-day visit to the city, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) today criticised the state government’s role in implementing the Right to Information Act, 2005. The commission’s verdict: the Left Front government’s functioning is still opaque.

“When we met civil servants and key people from the district administration, we realised there is an absolute dearth of awareness on RTI,” ARC chairperson Veerappa Moily said here today.

Complete Article

Why are file notings so important?!?!

As resistance gathers, the bureaucracy seem determined to destroy the heart of the Act and are now asking that file notings be kept out of its ambit. Of course they will want this because here lies the key to government power: unchallenged discretion to make decisions without accountability.

That sacred creature, the government file, usually has two halves: on the right side is the correspondence and materials. This could be someone’s grievance, a project proposal, a tender, a concept for a policy, anything the government needs to consider. On the left is the closely held note sheet, which records how the proposition was examined. The advice given in the notings has to be strictly in accordance with laws, rules, norms, and orders. The concerned officer puts down views, advice and recommendations. The file then goes up the line to the decision-making authority. On the way the hierarchy adds more notes, putting their signatures against their views. With all advice in hand a justifiable decision must be made.

Cumulatively, the note sheet reflects the mind of government, bares the intention of an individual officer and whether his advice and consent were grounded on established rules. File notings, then, are X-rays of government functioning. They are proof of fair play and reason , or dishonesty, bias, and negligence. They are the shield that most honest bureaucrats wish they had and the sword that dishonest ones fear. It is only by allowing thorough public scrutiny of the evidence of how the government works at every level that corruption can be fought. File notings fall squarely within the definition of ‘information’ in the Act. The nature of file notings is inevitably that of advice/opinion, and these are explicitly covered. To twist the definition to exclude file notings would be to destroy the Act’s legislative intent. Yet that is what is being sought. Despite clear enunciation that file notings fall within the Act, the Department of Personal and Training’s website, says that "information means any material in any form including records, documents...but does not include file notings".

No doubt, as some public servants seek to wriggle out of the inconvenience of explaining their actions to the public, there will be self-servicing internal opinion given to the government which urge the withholding of file notings. If they succeed, people will once again be shut out from their own governance as has been the culture for the last 58 years. This must be resisted. Of course the government has the power to amend the law. But the Act also clarifies that amendments can only be made to remove any difficulties that may arise in giving effect to its provisions and to further the objectives of openness and transparency. Amendments cannot be used to defeat the very purpose of the law. During parliamentary debates the government promised to amend only in the light of experience. But even without waiting to garner experience, it is now eager to pacify powerful bureaucrat lobbies with retrograde amendments.

[From the article "Information law: dead on arrival?" by Maja Daruwala, that first appeared in from the Indian Express, October 1, 2005. Maja Daruwala is Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative]

Complete Article

RTI amendment will lead to denial of information: PHDCCI

Stating that the proposed amendment will be used as a shield by the bureaucracy, the chamber said: "Right to Information should not come with any riders as it will amount to the denial of information itself".

"There can be no justification for excluding file notings from the purview of Rights to Information Act, 2005. This censorship will render Right to Information meaningless," PHDCCI secretary general Bibek Debroy said in the release.

Complete Article

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Activists protest government move to tame RTI

The UPA government has decided to introduce crucial amendments to the RTI act, which critics say will weaken the impact of the Act. In response to the decision, activist Aruna Roy, the woman who set off the Right to Information movement, has said that it is simply not acceptable and that the campaigners doubt the intent of the government.

She added that she would carry the fight forward to implement the Act in the right sense with the support of common man. "We got the Act, and we will make sure that the government implements this," she said, while adding that the amendments effectively destroy the Act.

Complete Article

Government gives in to babus, takes life out of RTI law

The Cabinet on Thursday gave its nod to an amendment to restrict access to file notings under the Right to Information law, a move that RTI activists say has the potential to practically kill the infant law.

"It'll take the entire life out of the law; it's unfortunate," said OP Kejriwal, member, Central Information Commission (CIC). Corruption can only be detected in file notings - records of the government's decision-making process. Without them, it will never be revealed who took the decision and on what grounds.

The bureaucracy had been quietly pushing the amendment since last year, determined to pull back the iron curtain lifted by the RTI Act when it came into force in October.

Complete Article

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How RTI empowers a student

Imagine going to your college office and asking to see your lecturer’s salary. Or demanding an answer to why you got such a poor score in that test. Laughable and scary at the same time? But this might be a reality soon when the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, which aims to empower the common people, is applied to schools and colleges

Complete Article

File notings may be out of RTI purview

Access to information through the Right to Information Act might have just got a little tougher. After being rebuffed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on its claims that "file notings" were outside the ambit of the Act, the government is thinking of exempting "file notings" from information that can be sought for disclosure.

It may, however, keep "file notings" on social and development issues well within the right of an individual to seek details on.

Also to be put beyond the reach of information-seekers are cabinet notes, on which the government deliberates for policy decisions. The move comes days after the CIC ruled that a cabinet note was not a confidential document once a decision on it has been taken.

Complete Article

Masses unaware of RTI Act, says Haryana CIC

The Haryana Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Mr G. Madhavan, today said awareness about the Right to Information (RTI) Act was yet to percolate down to the masses.

“Nearly 80 per cent of the complaints and appeals that we are getting come from retired and serving government officers. The ‘janta-janardhan’ is yet to wake up to the RTI Act,” Mr Madhavan told media persons here.

Mr Madhavan said so far 60 cases had been decided by the State Information Commission since his appointment as the first CIC of Haryana in November last year. He said while 15 were cases of appeal, the remaining 45 were related to complaints.

Complete Article

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Tamil Nadu

The Thiruvallur camp was organized by Women Workers Union, a trade union that is a member of the Tamilnadu Right to Information Campaign. Sujata Mody, who called in with the update, was buoyed by the success of the camp. All important local functionaries, including the Municipal Commissioner Mr. T. Raj Kumar, local DMK officials, the SC/ST District Secretary and local councilors attended the camp. More than 130 applications were filed, mostly by Below Poverty Line people. Most of the applications had to do with pending ration card applications, land disputes, and the shoddy treatment at Government Hospitals. The positive fallouts of engaging in the Right to Information campaign go beyond what the law prescribes, says Mody. According to her, “The law has allowed trade unions to wake up to new responsibilities that they would not have earlier dealt with. In learning to apply the law, our union has emerged with its own leadership and is addressing issues very relevant to our membership that we wouldn’t have been able to address in the past.” The Right to Information Act fits in very well with the mandate of the union, it appears.

The Saidapet camp was organized by Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, another key member of the Tamilnadu Right to Information Campaign. The camp was held outside the Panagal Buildings in Saidapet, a key location where a number of State Government directorates are housed. Like the Thiruvallur camp, public response to the camp at Saidapet was overwhelming. Six volunteers seated behind a table were literally mobbed by people with grievances. Ration card applications again topped the charts. It appears that the Civil Supplies Department is the most unpopular and unresponsive department in the State. According to Johny, one of the volunteers, the six volunteers behind the desk did not have a moment’s rest during the four hours they spent assisting people file Right to Information requests.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Shillong

Almost 2000 visitors, More than 150 Applications, Visitors from Pynursla, Khlierahat, Jowai, Mairang, Lyngam Area, Tura, Sohrynkham, Mawkyrwat, Mawnsynram. Three day help desk at Jowai. One Day Help Desk at Smit. Extension Programmes at Mawlai, Demseneiong, Barapathar, Stephen Hall hostel. 10000 Khasi and English pamphlets distributed.. More than 5000 detailed Fact sheets about RTI in Khasi and around 3000 Fact sheets in English given out. 28 organisations, 40 volunteers.

At the closing of the campaign, volunteers shared their experiences of the campaign. They expressed the learning they had in these fifteen days, where they discovered the myriad ways in which politicians and bureaucrats have fleeced the public . They also learnt the daily humiliations which citizens face at the altar of government departments. And these lessons have strengthened the resolve of volunteers to sharpen their RTI skills. Many Volunteers have expressed their desire to set up permanent help desks in their locality.

During the course of the campaign RTI activists have been invited from Nongstoin, Mawkyrwat, Tura, Mairang and other such places, to not only do volunteers trainings but also help local activists to set up their own help desks. This means that this 15 day campaign has inaugurated a people's movement centred around RTI!

Power of RTI - Special Audit of Jalgaon Municipal Corporation (JMC)

Due to several ongoing protests, PILs in court & finally the below RTI app (final nail in the coffin !), govt. has agreed to conduct a special audit of the JMC for the Gharkul scam. You may recall that this scam was blown by whistleblower, Shri Praveen Gedam (IAS officer) who registered an FIR against more than 90 corporators who are accused in this scam. Not surprisingly, he was transferred within 9 months from the post of Commissioner, JMC and posted as CEO, ZP, Latur.

The reply to this RTI app dated 11th July, 2006 is awaited, but action has been taken !

Kudos to RTI !

Relevant extract of RTI :

(iii) Description of information required :

Certified copies of information required, as stated below, including file notings, if any.


1) Whether the government has received any letter from the Municipal Commissioner, Jalgaon, requesting it to conduct "special audit" of JMC, as per the BLFA Act and section 108 of the BPMC Act?

2) If yes, what action has been taken by the government with respect to the above mentioned letter?

3) With respect to the above, kindly furnish copies of the file notings alongwith the dates, and the names and designations of the persons who have made these notings.

4) With whom (name and designation) is the file pending right now and since when?

5) If the file has been pending with any authority for more than seven days, what disciplinary action has been taken against them according to the government circular No Sankirna/1005/34/Pra. Kra. 38/2005/18 (Ra & Ka), Dated 17-04-2005

6) Kindly furnish the copies of audit paras from the audit report of JMC conducted by the AG, Mumbai between November, 2005 and January, 2006.
--
Rajesh Darak

UP CIC summons Varanasi Commissioner, principal secy

The Chief Information Commissioner Justice MA Khan has again summoned Varanasi Commissioner CN Dubey and principal secretary (Religious Endowment) on August 2 in connection with the alleged misappropriation of funds of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust (KVTT). The CIC issued the order on a fresh application moved by Samajwadi Party leader Shatrudh Prakash alleging that the KVTT paid an advance of Rs 50 lakh to Jaunpur division of the Rajkiye Nirman Nigam towards civil work without inviting tenders.

Complete Article

Monday, July 17, 2006

CIC goes paper-free; all documents online

Soon, appellants will be able to track the status of their Right To Information appeals right from registration to the final ruling. The Central Information Commission, the apex appellate authority under the RTI Act, is going paper-free and all its documents can now be accessed online.

However, appeals will still have to be filed on paper. At present, only CIC rulings are available online.

Complete Article

Sunday, July 16, 2006

CIC pulls up Rashtrapati Bhawan for unbecoming behaviour

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the Rashtrapati Bhawan’s Secretariat for its “careless” disposal of a citizen’s application under the Right to Information Act. In a strong indictment of the country’s First Citizen’s Secretariat, the Commission felt that such action was unbecoming in an office as august as the highest in the land and needed to be remedied. The applicant, Mahendra Gaur, had submitted an application to the Rashtrapati Bhawan’s Secretariat on March 1 this year seeking to know the status of the complaint he had made to the President against the then chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation.

Complete Article

MCD has fared worst in providing info, says CIC

The most number of complaints received so far by the Central Information Commission (CIC) pertaining to the Right to Information Act is against the MCD, according to Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. DDA is second on the list. The number of appeals against the MCD has gone up sharply in the last few months, he told Newsline. The main reason, according to him, is the frequent change of officials in the civic body.

Complete Article

You can now get info under RTI in 48 hrs

In another possible first for the Right to Information (RTI) movement in Mumbai, activist Shailesh Gandhi has successfully used section 7(1) of the RTI Act which states that relevant information has to be provided within 48 hours if the life and liberty of the individual is at stake. Gandhi had filed an application about uncovered and unmarked drains.

After the assistant commissioner did not reply to Gandhi and Jalan, they forwarded their complaint directly to the information commission on July 10. On July 13, information commissioner Suresh Joshi called both parties for a hearing.

Joshi accepted that the 48-hour rule applied in this case, a possible first for the use of this section. His order notes that “possibly, public information officers and their superior officers are still not clear as to which information calls for action within 48 hours, which has bearing on the life and death of the applicants.”

Complete Article

The beginning of a revolution

The Drive Against Bribe has achieved the ends it had envisaged. Undertaken in various cities of the State with the help of trained volunteers and self-help groups, the drive was fuelled much by enthusiastic public participation.

And nothing proves it better than the staggering number of registrations for information received at these camps. The heartening outcome of the drive was manifest in the happy faces of many individuals, who benefited from the mere use of their Right To Information (RTI). It has set in motion the clogged machinery and cut to shreds the red tape.

Complete Article

Saturday, July 15, 2006

1400 RTI applications in 14 days in Gujarat

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
15.07.2005

Ahmedabad: The people of Gujarat have found new arsenal in the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In the last fourteen days, over 1,400 people filed applications, as part of the anti-bribe campaign through the RTI campaign held at Kochrab Ashram.

“Forty per cent of people who had filed applications to get information about pending works, were asked to pay a bribe to get their work done. Using the RTI, these people can now get to the bottom of the issue, without being forced to feed corruption,” said Harinesh Pandya, a member of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), an umbrella organisation of 72 NGOs that have joined hands to use the RTI to fight corruption.

Giving details of the types of applications filed, Pandya, on Friday, said that maximum applications were filed to the revenue department, relating to land disputes.

“Around 380 applications were addressed to the revenue department, while 297 applications were filed with the municipal corporation. A big number of applications were also addressed to the social defense, education, pension-provident fund and police departments,” he said.

Meanwhile, MAGP officials said that citizens from Jamnagar, Dwarka, Godhra, Kutch, Valsad, Vapi and other parts of Gujarat came to Ahmedabad to file applications under the RTI Act.

“To keep helping the citizens of the state to use RTI, we have now decided to hold training camps all over the state. We also plan to hold an RTI camp once a month,” said Pandya.

Meanwhile, MAGP officials said that the state government should put in more efforts to enable more people to use the RTI.

“All government departments should put up boards. There were cases, where people who asked for information, were threatened. We reported these cases to the chief information commissioner,” said Rahul Mangaonkar, an RTI activist.

RTI Effect: Khetramani finally gets her land records through RTI

Khetramani Samantrai bought a small piece of land near Dhauli, Bhubaneswar from Subha Behera. Karunakar Swain a notary prepared the land deed documents, which was submitted at the District Sub-Register Office (DSO) in Bhubaneswar after completion of the legal formalities. But Khetramani did not receive the original documents in spite of producing the receipt of the deed.

Khetramani Samantrai and Karunakar Swain have been constantly visiting the DSO since the last one and a half years but the clerk concerned did not hand over the documents to them.

On 13th July 2006 she came to the RTI camp held in CYSD Bhubaneswar, seeking guidance as to how she could redress her grievances using RTI.

At the camp, Khetramani was assisted by volunteers in filling up the application for information under section 6 (1). A few volunteers accompanied her to the DSO and approached the head clerk to know the cause of the delay in providing the original documents. The response from the clerk was not very convincing.

The case was discussed with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the DSO. When the volunteers insisted in registering the complain through RTI, the PIO intervened and asked the officials to look into the case and produce the land deed papers immediately. The head clerk then produced the document in 15 minutes and officially handed it over to Khetramani who finally got justice after resorting to the RTI tool.

Court directs to implement RTI in Bihar

The Patna High Court today directed the Bihar government to implement the right to Information Act immediately in the interest of the people of the state.

While hearing a PIL filed by the Bihar Pradesh Congress Comittee Chief Spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra, a division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice J.N.Bhatt and Justice Shivkriti Singh asked the state government to implement the Act in Bihar at the earliest as it had already been enforced in other states.

Complete Article

Friday, July 14, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Mumbai

Tomorrow evening our campaign pauses as a beginning to a bigger campaign of a large number of one-day campaigns across Mumbai. We are hoping to have over 500 camps organised by various groups and individuals. Various diverse groups are making their commitments after some deliberations.

Our pausing ceremony will be from 6.30pm to 7.00pm and we are requesting Citizens to come in large numbers and support this Antibribery campaign using RTI. Apart from a street play on RTI and a few songs, all present will light a candle and we shall make a R T I with candles. Should be a pretty and inspiring sight for everyone to spur us to the longer campaign ahead of putting RTI into the bloodstream
of Mumbai.

We did 212 RTI applications today taking the campaign total for Mumbai to 1906. We are sure to cross 2000 tomorrow.

The volunteers were thrilled to have Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey visiting the campaign. Both of them interacted with the volunteers, and told them about the early history of the RTI struggle. For the first time, they made us Mumbaikars sing songs and raise slogans. This was certainly the high point for everyone. Shri Nana Chudasama, former sherrif of Mumbai and head of Giant’s international also visited and supported the campaign. Shri Suresh Kumar - Maharashtra Upalokayukta came to show solidarity with the Citizens. Shri Dara Gandhy and Shri Kekoo Gandhy of PCGT had come and so also the vetaran Gandhian and mover of the Sarvodaya movement in Mumbai Shri Somaiyaji.

-Shailesh Gandhi

Gujarat post-campaign plans

The 15 day campaign finishes tomorrow on July 15, 2006, but the RTI Act and attempts at getting it effectively implemented will continue. Groups from several parts of the states have requested Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, during the preceding 15 days, that similar camps be organized in various locations across the state so that people in those areas also become familiar with RTI Act and some volunteers can also gain experience in the usage of the Act. Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel is very happy to receive and accept such requests. A plan for conducting such camps across the state will be drawn up in the next few days and activity will continue to be spread across the state.

In addition, the telephone helpline of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (Mobile Number: 99240 85000) will continue to be functional for providing assistance regarding the use of the RTI Act anyone who calls up this phone number.

Active volunteers of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, who are knowledgeable about the provisions and use of the RTI Act, will be available for personal discussions from 2-4 pm every Saturday at the office of the Janpath, B-3, Sahajanand Tower, Jeevaraj Park, Ahmedabad.

- Harinesh Pandya

Anti-bribe campaign in Orissa is in full swing

A group of NGOs under the banner of “Orissa Soochna Adhikar Abhijan” launched the campaign here. The NGOs are : CYSD, Orissa Jagaran Abhiyan (OJA) , ODAF, Sahavagi Vikas Abhiyan, RCDC, Utkal Sewak Samaj, Task Force on Women and Violence, AGRAGAMEE, Abhiyan, The Humanity, SODA, NYK, NSS, OLS-Awareness, ADHIKAR, NIPIDIT, BGVS, Indian Red Cross, Natya Chetana, Prajna Sathi Abhiyan, CHETABANI, DAGAR, Yusuf Meheraulli Centre, ISD etc. The campaign is in full swing in Bhubaneswar.

A rally was organized on 10th of July 2006. As many as 320 volunteers took part in the rally from Vani Vihar to PMG chowk. Jagadananda, Secretary of CYSD and D.N.Padhi, Chief Information Commissioner of Orissa addressed the rally at the end point.

Complete Article

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Mumbai

We did 260 RTI applications today taking the total for the campaign to 1694.
Yesterday, we had Shri S.Dodd Principal Secretary, GAD who came and met the volunteers, and gave them copies of the RTI Act and Maharashtra rules. Today we had some interesting visitors. First Jamal Mecklai and his wife came to the camp and made RTI applications. Justice Suresh Hosbet, came and spent time talking to the volunteers.

After that we had a surprise visitor-Helen Deas- from the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai. She is the Deputy Head of the Mission and her enthusiasm and commitment to RTI was really infectious. She chatted up with volunteers and Citizens. A street play on RTI was enacted by Students of Khalsa college for 10 minutes.

Commitments by Organisations to hold one-day camps like this one in different locations continue and I am hopeful we will be able to have 500 camps in one year.

An interesting development was a reasonable success from the campaign. Some of us had filed RTI applications on the 4th of July asking for names of officials who were responsible for the life-threatening open trenches and pits on various places at Santacruz. We had insisted that the information had to be provided within 48 hours, since it concerned a matter threatening the life of many Citizens. Since we did not get the reply by 7th, we filed a complaint with the CIC on Monday, 10th July. The CIC appreciating the urgency called for a hearing today and gave the Asst. Commissioner 24 hours to take action in the matters to ensure fencing the open pits and trenches. Action has already been taken in less than 12 hours in some places.

-Shailesh Gandhi

Jharkhand RTI forum formed

The organizations and individuals working on RTI in Jharkhand are very much enthusiastic with the campaign and they have decided to join on a common forum. Today they assembled at the Camp of Ranchi and formed Jharkhand RTI forum. Vishnu Rajgadia has been nominated as the convener of the Forum. Forum’s main object is to spread awareness about RTI in Jharkhand and to tackle the obstacles in the implementation of the Act.

Executive Members of Jharkhand RTI Forum-Vishnu Rajgadia, Dr. Ramesh Sharan, Vinod Poddar, Arjun Jalan, Chandan Dutta, Sudhir Pal, Balram, AK Singh, Dr. Neeru Johri, Sanjay Seth, Jayshankar Choudhary, Prabhakar Agrawal, Nikhilesh, Ratan Tirky, Bashir Ahamad, Ranjeet Tibrewal, Joy Bakhala, Ganesh Reddy, Shailesh Majumdar, Shantanu Tiwari, Anamika, Momita Ganguli, Shakti Pandey, Jayprakash Agrawal, Basant Hetamsaria, Anupama, Prasannjit Banarjee, Rajesh Das, Neelu Tiwari, RK Nirad, Sunil Mahto, Satyendra Singh, Krishna Munda, Roshan Lal Munda, Mritunjay Sharma, Neha Gupta, Omprakash, Pramod Kumar, Anil Bhagat.

Two students each from the dept. of Journalism of Ranchi University, St. Xaviers College (Journalism) and PKIMS will also be included in the committee.

-Vishnu Rajgadia

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Jharkhand

Dr. Swapan Kumar Dutta was trying to get his pension for 18 months. He had been visiting Jharkhand Provident Fund Office at Ranchi again and again. But all in vain. He heard about the Anti bribe camp at Ranchi. He visited our camp on 12th july 2006.
He got his application prepared. He went with the pplication on next day, 13th july 2006 to the PF Office. The Pension Commissioner Mr. S.Bhattacharya assured him that his case would be sorted out within a week. Dr. Swapan informed at the Camp that this
response was only due to the new RTI Act and also thanked the Anti Bribe Campaign.

Pawan Kumar a computer professional of Ranchi was looking for the telephone connection for the last six months.He was anxiously waiting for it and kept on running to the office all the time, but always invain. When he heard about the Anti Drive Campaign and aproached for the RTI application at our center and got his application drafted on 12th July. The very next moring, 13th July, he saw the telephone workers digging the cable lines to connect his phone. By afternoon, he got his telephone connection. He thanked for the new RTI Act and also thanked the Anti
Drive Campaign.

-Vishnu Rajgadia

People came on Road to protest bribe for transformer

From last three months the electric transformer was not working at Brijbihari Lane in Deoghar town. Even after giving applications repeatedly, it was not repaired. The Junior Engineer Mr. K.B. N. Singh demanded a bribe of Rs.40,000. During the same period, some people came to know aboutthe Anti Drive Campaign Camp at Deoghar. On the very next day, 2nd July they turned up at the camp. All thepeople gathered at the Tower Chowk and jammed the road near the Relax Hall shouting the anti bribe slogan. The administration soon arrived and removed the jamassuring the people that they would get the transformer work done. On 3rd July the transformer was repaired. Thanks to the Anti Bribe Campaign.

-Vishnu Rajgadia

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Goa SIC cracks the whip!

Refusing to bow down to unfavourable rulings of the public information officers of some government bodies, several citizens have appealed to the Goa State Information Commission and the Commission has upheld their interests by chastising the errant departments.

The GSIC has passed several orders since its recent inception but probably the most significant order is against the state of Goa itself. The order was passed by the state information chief commissioner, Mr A Venkataratnam and the state information commissioner, Mr G G Kambli on July 7, 2006.

Complete Article

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Uttar Pradesh

Dear friends,

the campaign in UP is doing relatively well. here are some highlights:

* police dept. accepts first application in sitapur yesterday.
* DG police office sends an employee to collect applications from lucknow centre today after 3 applications were torn by them 3-4 days back.
* 175 applications filed in hardoi and 110 in sitapur. cash fees being accepted in all departments in these two districts now. however, in most other districts people have to pay by chalan, bank draft or postal order. progress in sultanpur, chandauli is slow with about 15-20 applications filed so far. less than 10 applications filed in unnao, deoria, moradabad. bigger cities like lucknow, gorakhpur and varanasi doing relatively better.
* first applications under RTI were filed in hardoi, chandauli and deoria during this campaign.
* one man in lucknow gets his pension after waiting for 11 years.
* one disabled man invited to join in nagar nigam, varanasi, after being offered a job 1.5 years back. he was being made to run.
* new camp starts in mau district today. contact person arvind kumar, mobile: 09839835032
* first tehsil level camp organized in chandauli district at sakaldiha today, contact jayashankar, mobile: 09839716248.
* demand for camps in azamgarh, mirzapur, ballia, jaunpur, rae bareli, barabanki, gonda, kushinagar, bijnore, kanpur districts. a one day camp going to be organized in azamgarh on 21st july. activists from varanasi will help organize this, contact vallabhacharya, 09415256848.

an evaluation meeting on the campaign in UP has been invited at dr. ambedkar mahasabha, opposite vidhan bhawan, lucknow, on 17th july. activists from about a dozen centres being organized throughout UP during this campaign likely to attend this.

love,
sandeep

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes: Ahmedabad

In Ahmedabad today around 80 applications in a day. Our call cnter received more than 85 calls. Interestigly, number of Public information Officer, calling up RTI helpline and asking for guidence.

Number of people having BPL have been asked to pay RTI application fee. In all such cases, citizens have filed complaint to CIC. People visiting the camp call up helpline and share their experiences and difficulties, if any while submitting their applications.

Jesangbhai Parmar from Bavla, Taluka, Ahmedabad district, yesterda he went to collectors office, ahmedabad to file an application. initiatlly, he went the inward section where his application was not taken. He called up helpline, and was given guidence. He then went straight to PIO (Residnetial deputy collector), and gave an application, paid 20 Rs and asked for receipt of aplication and fee.

Today, he went to Mamletdar Office, and alos to Police statin to file his application. In his works, " Though Police inspector was having pistol and four other policeman around him, i straightly went and asked who is public information officer? i was not afraid, as earlier, i looked into the eyes of PIO (police) and told this is my RTI application and fee in cash and i want receipt.He refused to give me receipt so i didn't submit the application."

Jesing has small piece of land which has been encroached by someone. and he is struggling to get it back. Empowered with RTI Jesing has now determined to colelct all the necessary information and documents before going to the court.

Today Jesing, drafted his complaint to CIC himself.

With regards,
Harinesh
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel

Goa board secretary issued show cause for giving false information

The Goa State Information Commission (GSIC) has issued a show cause notice to the secretary of the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (GBSHSE) why penalty of Rs 10000 should not be imposed on him for giving false information to a complainant. “We are convinced that this is a fit case and inclined to take up the penalty proceedings under Section 20 of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005” observed GSIC in response to a complaint by one Suhas Belekar

Complete Article

CIC to hear RTI application on Gujarat riots

The commission will be hearing an application filed by Ramesh Chidambaram from Vellore asking for a copy of the correspondence between former President KR Narayanan and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the Gujarat riots.

Ramesh filed the RTI because he read in media reports that the former President had requested in writing that Vajpayee order the army into Gujarat to contain the riots.

Complete Article

Sir RTI works: Passports ready immediately in Pune

Dear all,

Yesterday mr bhojavani from pune went to passport office pune to file requisition under RTI,when he asked whom to give application under RTI,the concerned officer said, you need not have to file requision your passport is ready ,pls take it.
mr bhojavani was requesting for the same since last year or so

Mr savarkar who had visited the campaign center on 5 th july had sent his requisition under RTI to PIO ,passport office pune on 6th july, called me and and said "Sir RTI works !",I have recieved my passport by courrier just now,thanks to RTI.

Regards
vijay kumbhar

Punjab and Haryana HC to form own rules under RTI Act

The Punjab and Haryana High Court will frame its own rules under the Right to Information (RTI) Act which could finally be a reality by the end of this month, High Court officials told Newsline today.

A meeting of a committee is scheduled to be held next week to finalise the rules under the Act. The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Full Court for its approval before it is implemented.

Complete Article

Thakaval Arium Urimai - Een? Edarku? Eppadi? - RTI book in Tamil

I have published a book on RTI in Tamil during April 2006. Name of the Book is ” Thakaval Arium Urimai - Een ? Edarku ? Eppadi ? “. The book deals with all details of RTI and PIO’s of Andaman Islands, where I am working in a Govt Dept as Dy Chief Engineer in harbour. The book is published through Manimekalai Prasuram, Chennai who claims first in Publishing Book on RTI in Tamil. If possible kindly use the book in RTI campaign.

Krishnamoorthi
E-mail : tnkdcealhw@gmail.com

Monday, July 10, 2006

Couple uses RTI for self-empowerment

The self-empowerment story of Arif and Zamila Banu who used RTI to expose the banker-builder nexus and got this papers from the bankers.

"I bought a flat two and a half years back in my wife's name. After I bought the flat, the builder gave me a copy of the registry. But I found out later that I needed to get a transfer copy and a blueprint for the flat. I went back to the bank officials, but they said that all the papers had been given.

"I had prior knowledge of RTI and that is how I filed one in my wife's name. I sent this RTI to an officer in the RBI. I received a call within five days from the bank. They asked me about the harassment I had faced. I told them everything. After which they told me that I would have all my paper work done by the next day.

"Sure enough, by morning, all my papers were with me. With the help of RTI, I broke the nexus of the bankers and builders who were making me run around. I appeal to all my fellow citizens to understand the power of RTI. We must remember that all these government officers are answerable to us," said Arif

Complete Article

Volunteers educate villagers on using RTI

"In my village there is a government scheme under which poor people get grains at very low cost," said one participant. "I noticed that this scheme was being misused by some influential people in the village," added another. Yet another person who took part in the anti-bribe campaign filed an RTI against these people at the BDO and he got all the related information within eight days.

Complete Article

Anti-quota protestors seek help of RTI

The anti-quota protestors on Monday filed an application with the Human Resources Development Ministry seeking to know the status of reservations at various universities across the country under the Right to Information Act.

The Youth For Equality, which led a campaign against the Centre's controversial Other Backward Classes quota proposals, sought information on the total number of seats in various educational institutes and the number reserved for people belonging to SC/ST/OBCs.

Complete Article

No sign of promised AMC money, 177 families seek information

Last November, some 177 families were evacuated from Khodiyarnagar to enable the construction of the Vasna-Behrampura bridge and shifted to Ganeshnagar at Piplaj. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had then promised them Rs 10,000 each as compensation. Today, there is no sign of the money yet, not to speak of lack of basic amenities like water and sewage line at the relocated place. This has prompted the displaced families to file an RTI.

Complete Article

Sunday, July 09, 2006

RTI Act: CIC allows appellant access to Cabinet papers

Breaching the confidentiality of the Union Cabinet for the first time, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed an appellant access to Cabinet papers and communication between the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and CBI. The appellant, Anil Kumar, had asked for information under the Right to Information Act from the department of personnel and training (DoPT) regarding the appointment of MTNLs CMD.

Complete Article

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Commission clamps down on erring authorities

Government authorities often hide behind exemption clauses in the RTI Act to refuse information without explaining the basis for invoking the exemption.

On Friday, the Central Information Commission tried to block this escape route, threatening to penalise bureaucrats who spontaneously invoke the exemption list to bar access to information

Complete Article

Don't block information

One would think that a report on the right to information by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), coming out about a year after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed, would make recommendations to streng-then the Act.

However, a close look at the report recently submitted to the government reveals that at least three of the recommendations threaten to fundamentally undermine the RTI Act.

Complete Article

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rajasthan villagers use RTI to end woes

Residents of a village in Rajasthan's Bikaner district have joined hands to put an end to the practice of selling grains from ration shops in the black market by using the Right to Information.

Revat Ram and his friends used the Act to get all records of their ration shop in Himmatsar village and exposed how grains meant for the poor were being black-marketed at a ration shop in Bikaner. After the move, the villagers got the dealer removed.

Complete Article

Can I ask how my son died?

Urmilaben Darji, 67, wanted to know the status of her Vidhwa Sahay pension application. On learning about RTI and her rights, she raised an innocuous question in her feeble voice, “Can I ask how my babo died?”

On a fateful night in March 1990, her 32-year-old able bodied son, working at Mansingh Lari at Panchkuva, did not return home. Upon inquiry, she was told that her son was dead and had been taken to Civil Hospital. She could not find her son’s body at the hospital’s morgue. This brought her to Kalupur police station to lodge a missing person’s report. There she was asked to look into the register, which has details on unclaimed corpses. The description of the clothes on one such body bore resemblance to what her son had been wearing when he had stepped out of the house that day. To add to the loss, she was told that the body had been cremated. The mother could not even get a glimpse of her son’s mortal remains.

For over a decade now, Urmilaben has been trying to etch out a life, for herself and her other son, who is mentally challenged. But there are questions nagging her. How did her son die? Why did the police hurriedly dispose off his body, without informing her? Now, with RTI, she has come forward with these questions to the cops. It’s as if the ghost of Urmilaben’s son is set to haunt the police, as she demands accountability. She has sought copies of the crime register number, the first information report, panchnama, body recovery report, statements recorded, the inquest and post mortem report, apart from answers to her questions.

Another case is that of Mahendrabhai Maniar. Gujarat Slum Clearance Board had offered a house at Rs 12,000. They allotted one to him for Rs 17,265. Through 52 instalments, beginning from 1978 up to 2006, he has paid them Rs 23,285. However, the board claimed Rs 70,110 from him through a show cause on December 18, 2005, asking why he should not be evicted! This is despite the fact that this old man has given photocopies of all the receipts of the payments made by him. With the fear of being deprived of a roof looming large, he has mustered up courage to ask the board — why?

— Rahul Mangaonkar
Times of India - 07.07.2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Jaipur

A sea-change in the district administration's interest in the Right to Information was visible within 5 days of the Anti Bribery Campaign in Jaipur, with the Public Information Officer of the Jaipur Collectorate (ADM-Ist) taking on his own, a step towards dialoguing with representatives of the campaign to discuss problems coming to light in the implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005.

Volunteers at the campaign recieved a message from the ADM (1st) Mr. Badri Narain Chowdhry's office this morning at the kiosk that wanted to meet us. On meeting him, he put forth some suggestions regarding how the campaign could guide the public (a) on writing more relevant and specific type of questions, (b) by informing them who are the specific PIOs appointed in different offices, as there seemed to be a misconception amongst people that the ADM is the PIO for all offices in the district and (c) by informing people of the relevant sections of the Act with respect to third party information.

On the issue of file notings, which is yet to be settled in Rajasthan, he informed that he had received a letter from the state government saying that he could "use his discretion" in whether or not to give notesheets under the Act.

He also provided the campaign a manual of all offices and officers in the Collectorate that had been compiled for widespread dissemination and assured to take our suggestion to display a large board at the Collectorate on who the PIO is etc., including what sort of information could be put on view. Importantly, he has offered to help the Campaign in finding out who the PIOs are in different offices in the district, in cases we run into any difficulties.

Regarding the RTI application put in by Rita Devi, a rape victim, on Monday he told us that the information she had sought had been sent to her the very next day.

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Ahmedabad

In Ahmedabad, following departments were not accepting information: Ahmedabad Municipal corporation, Regional PF commissioner Office, Gujarat Khadi Gram Udyog Board, District Education Officers Office Ahmedabad, New India Insurance Company's Ahmedabad Office.

In first two days we got several complaints, of not accpeting applications. But after making follow-up, and in some of the cases volunteers of the campaign accompanied the applicant, the resistance has been reduced from the authoritites side. Yeserday we got feedback that these offices are now accpting the inforamtion, giving the receipts smoothly.

We have received hundreds of phone calls on helpline 9924085000 from outside Ahmedabad, from remote interior places. People cannot come to campaign place due to heavy rains, so seeking guidence on phone. Many among them are actually sending their documents to the campaign address to seek guidence.

The frist batch of volunteer yesterday went back to field, with high hope and inspiration of spreading RTI at grass roots. The second batch has joined for next five days.

Harinesh Pandya
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel

RTI ... the hope of a flood affected villager in Meghalaya

For us here, Drive against Bribe Campaign expectedly has been a wider RTI campaign. We had expected this although even if we hadn't, the logic of the events would have forced us beyond drive against bribe. Because a rudimentary knowledge about RTI had existed in some parts of Meghalaya because of the Movement and its public meetings and trainings, any attempt at a help desk would have brought forth other themes and concerns. And this has happened.
a) Perversion of Rural Development Schemes by MLAs, Bureaucracy and Contractors has meant that people have emerged from their frustrations to travel miles to conferr with us about the way RTI can help to open up the closed shop of these schemes.
Today at five, after the 200+ rush, tired volunteers are packing up to go. A man from beyond arrives with an ubiquitous crumpled polythene bag holding the secrets of his anger. We are tired, slightly dismissive, ask him to come in the morning. He informs us of his five hours long journey and of his mynsiem(soul) which has been battered by corruption. One of our volunteers, a girl from Mawnsynram, who was supposed to have voluteered for two days, but for her skills and rural sharpness, has become a help desk fixture- first to arrive, last to leave - sits with him and his poetry tumbles out. All the pains of exploitation can only be poetic.
There is a flood where we live. we have been immersed...nothing works...and now "they" dont even come to meet us anymore...i think they no longer have boats...why do they despise us? is it because we are poor? or because we are ignorant...
It is not that villagers are ignorant of the ways of corruption, but they never had the means to challenge the mysteries of the paper work. He, like the person who was our first inquiry, has the list of non-existent works, schemes with fraudulent beneficiaries that both of them had collected through hearsay, gossip and hanging around the BDO office. They know of the files where their exploitations are locked. Only thing they need from us is assurance about a new law they have heard of called RTI which they can use to actually access the file

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Ahmedabad

Jagannathbhai Tanurao Kharalikar from Mehamadabad taluka, Jarawat village, visited the campaign on the first day. He was for past many years asking for necessary documents regarding his property like copy of from 8-A, form 7, form 12 showing the entries. But he was not getting any response from the Mamletday office. After visting the campaign, he filed an application asking why his pending for so many years and who was responsible, for not doing his work? When we went with an application, Mamletdar aske him not file an application, instead he gave the necessary documents." Jagannathbhai expresses his views as," I didn't get so much respect in mamletdar office before. For so many years i was asking for these documents. Today i got my information. I have experienced the power of RTI.

The similar was the expereince of Urmilaben Solanki, Prerak of Adult Education, Research and training cetner, Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Her auntie had applied for Ration card four to five months back and had not got it. Urmilaben attended the training programme organised for volunteers and helped her auntie to file an appliation to ask why her ration card is not ready. Urmilaben is the only daughter, and her parents expressed, " Today we dont regret for not having son, instead feeling proud about our daughter."

Our helpline for RTI 9924085000 recevied over 400 calls in last five days. People from interior villages of Amreli, bhavnagar, junagadh, Surendranagar distrcit are calling up to seek guidence on phone. Most of the callers are daily wagers and cannot spend 100-150 rs for travelling to ahmedabad. Instead they have now starting letter at Campaign address.

we will keep you updated with more news and stories.

yours,
Harinesh Pandya

RTI effect in Ranchi

Sokol Marandi, a 50 years old schedule tribe was trying to get ration card for more than 6 months. His original ration card was destroyed and hewas very much needful for the same, like Nannu of Delhi. Incidently, Nannu was in the capital of Jharkhand on 1st July as guest of the inaugural function of Anti Drive Campaign. When Sokol Marandi came to know about the success of Nannu, he visited our Dumka camp. He got his application drafted and submitted the same to the Food Supply Office. In the evening around 4.55. p.m. on 03.07.2006. On the next morning at 7.00. a.m., the Marketing Officer visited his village and assured to provide him his ration card. On the very afternoon he was handed over his ration card in our camp at Dumka.

Ranjita devi was humiliated by some persons on 23.02.2005. She lodged a named FIR in Kotwali police Station of Ranchi on the same day.But the police did not submit the chargesheet till now. Denied from justice, she visited our camp on 2nd July,2006. After getting a RTI application, her husband Neeraj Kumar met the City S.P. Mr. Akhilesh Kumanr Jha. The Officer gave him a welcome response and assured to do the
needful at the earliest. The couple is thankful to Prabhat Khabar team for drafting the application.

-Vishnu Rajgadia

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Shillong

It was overwhelmingly busy today at the RTI help desk...before we could even open the doors, two persons were waiting with questions.There were a total of 73 visitors. Volunteers helped visitors with filing questions ranging from Ration cards , passs port, PF, IAY, job applications and job regularisation in state and central depts, status and records from the District Council regarding a Private Coal Mining company. Questions to deficit colleges were also filed. There was much confusion as there were not enough volunteers, but people waited and seemed happy to just be around, mingle, fiddle with the information kiosk and read the RTI literasture on the charts.The swamping meant that none of us though about taking any pictures, so day five at the help desk has no photographic evidence! Oops!

Many visitors were from other district towns and villages as far away as from Mawsynram, Lyngam - an area with abysmal infrastructure and almost non existent road connectivity, Nartiang, Khatarshnong and many also came with requests of holding similar programmes in their village and district towns. So we have invitations from Nartiang and Mawnsynram

We learnt from a visitor that North Eastern Hill University, a central University, that the University is charging Rs. 500 as application fees. Planning to complain to Central Information Commission about it.

A road show was organised at Barapathar at 6 pm after closure of the help desk. A film was screened, leaflets distributed and people explained and informed about RTI and invited to the help desk. Many who attended the road show will be visiting the help desk with their questions regarding voters identity cards, ration cards etc. We used the facility of Department of Field Publicity.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Banglore

Dear friends,

At About 11.30 am one Mr Hari Hara Krishan From Coonoor, Nilgiris Tamilnadu dropped in at our Assistance Centre . He had come to meet his son and had already seen the NDTV programme and had noted our Centres Addresss by telephoning to the Toll free Number. He is an Social Worker Running the National Fedretation of Blind , He had applied for his Passport almost a year Back at Passport Office Chennai. Unfortunatly he just had forgotten to mention a Police Case falsely booked on him long long back . The Pass Port Office had written to him about this and asked him to pay a penalty of Rs 5000/- Mr Hariharan had paid this on 24.10.2005 and he has definite information that his Police Verification Report was sent to the Passport office on 18/05/2006, but the PP office at Chennai was sitting on this, enquires getting reply that the Police verification Report is not received. A RTI asking all question on the status of his PP appln was made and Mr Hariharan dispached this on same day by Regd Post Ack Due.

I received a call from Mr Rajinder Singh of Ambattur, surprised also to known that he had driven his car all the way from Chennai since Morning 9.30 with a sprained leg , just to file his RTI appln as there is no centre in Chennai. He had got my mobile no from NDTV assistance. He has an Decree oF the Madras High Court dated 18.06.2004 directing the Commissioner Ambattur Minicipality Ambattur Chennai 600063 .
which states as "Hence The Respondent ie the commissioner Ambattur Municipality Ambattur is hereby directed to furnish the basis of determination of the property tax to the peteinoer and procced to recover the same " The demand made on Rajinder singh is a staggering amount of Rs 775617/-, half yearly property tax demand of Rs 59663/- . Even after court directions the Ambattur municipality is still demanding this Amount as tax and his neighbouring industrial unit is asesed Rs 2228/-.for Half year . This Unit is nearly 6 grounds (14400sqft) where as Mr Rajinder singhs Unit is 2.5 grounds(6000sqft). Mr Rajinder Singh has also Deposited Rs 1.00 Lakh as directed By Madras High Court. Now We have Prepared an RTI asking for the Status And ATR of the High Court Decree from the Ambattur Municipality. I have received confirmation from Mr Rajinder Singh that he will submit his RTI appln Tomorrow ie 5/7/06 as he has purchase Rs 50 /- DD to file his application. We hope that this adamant Ambattur Municipality will get from its slumber and Mr Rajinder Singh get his Property Tax assesed lawfully. The demand Made to Mr Singh for Proper Assesement of Tax is also a staggering 3 Lakhs.

-Vikram

RTI Effect: Critically-ill Mehra owes his hospital bed to RTI drive

Owing to the Hindustan Times-supported Drive Against Bribe campaign that started only a couple of days ago, the Mehra family of Ghaziabad will not have to run from pillar to post and grease the palms of officials at the government-owned Govind Ballav Pant hospital. This multi-specialty hospital had denied admission to a critically-ill Santosh Mehra, 62, citing a supposed unavailability of beds just a week back.

But merely two days after the Mehras filed an RTI requisition through the Drive Against Bribe camp, the doctor concerned promised the patient a bed on Tuesday. “And this is even before the hospital issued a reply to the requisition,” said a jubilant Manav, the 28-year-old son.

Complete Article

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Rajasthan

Kannaiyalal, a resident of Beawar, had been trying to get the patta for his land for many months without any success. He had done the usual rounds around government offices and been harassed to no end before he reached the campaign's kiosk in Beawar yesterday. He filed an application under the RTI Act asking why he had not received the patta for so long and who was the responsible officer for this? Today, we received the news that the Nagar Parishad had sent a person to measure his plot of land and had inititated the process to furnish him the patta!

Rita Devi, a rape victim, demands to know why she hasn't recieved full justice
In the capital Jaipur today, Rita Devi, a resident of Viswakarma Industrial Area (and originally from Motihari, Bihar) who was raped in S.M.S Hospital by a ward boy last May demanded to know why the compensation of Rs 1 lakh that was awarded to her by the special court in September had still not reached her. Her husband Lalbabu Paswan said that he had been to the Chief Minister's office, who had directed them to the District Collector, who had further sent him to the ADM (North). He had been coming to the Collectorate daily for the last 20 days and spent around Rs 1500 in these days on travel. This is by no means a small amount for him; he is a daily wage earner, the breadwinner of his family recieving Rs 65 for his day's work.

Today, our volunteers went along with Rita and Lalbabu to meet the ADM (North) with the RTI application. He met us immediately, and sent us to the ADM (Ist), who is the PIO for the Collectorate. The application was successfully put and in addition, the ADM (1st) also assured that Rita Devi's file would be sent to the Home Commissioner today itself for processing. However, he also commented that the questions asked (such as "why has the compensation not been given till date and when will it be given") cannot be provided under the Act, as it is not in any written form. To this, we replied that whatever he wanted to provide or not, he should do it in writing.

In all, 93 applications have been filed under RTI Act today from Jaipur, Bhim, Beawar, Ajmer, Udaipur, Abu Road, Nokha and Nimbaheda (Chittorgarh).

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Uttar Pradesh

dear friends,

(1) after speaking to the DM, hardoi, sh. k. ram mohan rao, yesterday evening, from today, 4th july, RTI applications with a cash fees of Rs. 10 were started to be accepted at the city magistrate's office. so far, no RTI application had been accepted at the district HQ since the Act came into existence. we had obtained income-expenditure details of about 30 village panchayats before the Act came into existence using the UP Panchayati Raj Act, an Amendment of 1999, and income-expenditure details of bharawan and sandila block panchayats after the RTI Act came into existence mainly because of the pressure of the people's movement. today is the first time when the Act has started getting implemented in its spirit. we thank the DM sh. rao (katru8812@yahoo.co.in).

(2) in sitapur, people were facing the same problem. except for the DDO (district development officer), no officer was willing to accept an RTI application on a plain paper with cash fees. some departments (like police) wanted the application on 'prescribed form' which was available only on their computers and some others did not know who their PIO was. DM's office provided the volunteers with a list of PIOs. RES, DIOS, RTO, Hydel, Banks, LIC did not have any PIO mentioned. today evening the CDO, sh. tahir iqbal, also the DM in charge, has issued a letter to all district officials to accept the RTI applications on plain paper or prescribed form readily with a Rs. 10 fees. a copy of the receipt being used by the DDO's office has been sent to all deprtments as an example of receipt that they could print too. officials have been instructed to identify themselves as PIOs by mentioning it either on their nameplates outside their rooms or on their desk. PIOs have been instructed to be present in their offices to receive the RTI applications and in the event of their going out they should authorize the APIO to receive the applications. the depts. which do not have PIOs have been instructed to appoint their PIOs soon. hopefully, things would start working in a day or two at sitapur too. the camp at sitapur is being run by asha parivar, sangatin and cpi(ml) party volunteers.

(3) in lucknow, in a major development, the main coordinator of the camp and vice president of ambedkar mahasabha, sh. s.r. darapuri has obtained the details of expenditure of 3 MP and 8 MLA LAD funds against his RTI application submitted on 13th june.

love,
sandeep

Monday, July 03, 2006

RTI whip cracked on MCD top gun

Coming down heavily on the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for failing to carry out its functions under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, where an appellant was denied information, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered MCD's engineer-in-chief Ravi Dass to show-cause why disciplinary action should not be recommended against him.

Complete Article

Right to Information Act in Braille

The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has got the Right to Information Act 2005 printed in Braille. The Braille versions of the Right to Information Act have been printed and published by the National Institute for Visually Handicapped working under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The copies of the Act in Braille version can be obtained from the National Institute for Visually Handicapped, 116, Rajpur Road, Dehradun.

Complete Article

Denied information? Camp will make many clean up their Act

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.

Complete Article

RTI Effect: PMC uses RTI to get info from Sales tax dept

Dear all,

This is translation of news appeared in daily "pudhari" dt. 4/7/2006

Pune Municipal corporation "PMC"has used Right to Information act to obtain information from sales tax dept.PMC's all efforts to obtain information about turnover of some merchants failed.Octroi dept of PMC knew that many merchants smuggle their goods without paying octroi.So dept wanted to ask about the sales tax paid by these merchants ,but all their efforts failed ,sales tax dept was not cooperating ,so finally they used RTI to obtain such information.Initially they filed a requisition asking information of sales tax paid by cloth merchants ,and they got the information within 30 days and then they filed requisitions about plywood,hardware ,electrical merchants etc.And due to this information income of octroi dept has increased.

I hope all the municipal corporation in India will learn lesson from this example.

Regards
vijay kumbhar

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - Mumbai

On the first two days Mumbai had lots of rain, a lot of enthusiastic volunteers across ages and classes who turned up at the Campaign. Our total figure of applications made is 103. Most of the time, we have volunteers sitting in groups, and my major job is to keep up their spirits- and promise a better turnout of applicants soon. Yesterday we had over 50 volunteers at one time and alot of others who offered help. Today at most times we had more than 20 volunteers.

Yesterday the CIC and the DGP of ACB Maharashtra came and today,- former Chief Secretary , Mr. B.G. Deshmukh had come. There is likely to be a pickup in the applications since Churchgate,-where are running the Campaign,-is in the business district.

I must however share with you the feeling that we are missing something. It is great feeling to have such an upsurge of volunteers who are willing to work even without a cup of tea being given. In Mumbai, where we feel most Citizens are selfish and apathetic, we are seeing a great dedication, fervour and commitment in a diverse age group-well spread from 15 to 70. On the other hand we have not been able to get enough people to approach us to keep us busy. We cannot deny that there is adequate media exposure.

We in Mumbai worked focused only on the organising of volunteers and workshops, and I think we can feel we did a fair job, considering we totally trained over 250 volunteers, and got a lot of them to come even under adverse weather conditions. I am worried that if we soon enough cannot get larger nubers of applicants turning up, our volunteer morale would be difficult to sustain. Tomorrow onwards we are sending one group of volunteers to colleges; another, alongwith the NDTV is going to the Dharavi areaa big Slum;- to try and get the needy to use the service we are offering. We are also trying to get permissions to put up posters at Railway stations
tomorrow. This truly is a historic opportunity and if we do not cross 3000
applications in Mumbai, I would be unhappy.

Love
shailesh

Anti Bribery Campaign Notes - jaipur

The "Drive Against Bribe" Campaign in Jaipur received an overwhelming response on the third day of the campaign, with around 100 visitors swarming the kiosk outside the Collectorate to know how the Right to Information Act 2005 could help solve their government-related problems, and 18 concrete applications being filed under the RTI Act 2005. With this, 26 applications have now been filed under the Act in the city since Day One of the campaign.

The applications filed today concerned various departments of the state government, ranging from the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA), Health, Education, Police, Collectorate, Jaipur Nagar Nigam, Environment, Groundwater, Home, Electricity and Revenue. Besides, this, one person filed an appeal under the RTI Act in the Jaipur Nagar Nigam.

As many as five applications today related to land. One related to the land of a dalit, Vijaylakshmi, who demanded to know why the JDA had not given her the patta (title), why her boundary wall had been demolished in February and she was been asked to move out of her plot when all her ownership papers were clearly in order and her plot had been approved by the JDA. She had been asked to pay a bribe of Rs.15000 by an official in JDA and could not muster up this amount.

One Anup Jaipuria who had visited the kiosk on Saturday went in to put his application today in the Collectorate (tehsildar's office) concerning his land records. He returned to the kiosk in the afternoon disillusioned - he had had no luck in filing his application and had been asked to go from one office to the other for over two hours. He was then accompanied by one of our volunteers (a journalist with a leading Hindi daily) who again went through the process of going to the tehsildar's office, the SDO's office, the ADM-I (who is the designated PIO for the Collectorate) with Anup. None of them were "in their seat" and finally, his application by accepted by the ADM-III. In all, it had taken Anup five full hours to file the RTI application.

Taking his case as an extremely revealing example of how the RTI Act is still out of reach for the common man, a group of mediapersons and volunteers from the Abhiyan went along with Anup to meet the Collector. The delegation demanded that the procedure for applying under the RTI Act be made clear to the public through display of boards at the Collectorate, stating all vital information relating to the Act, information on PIOs, what one should do if the PIO is not available, prescribed fees and so on. The Collector assured that this would be done shortly. He also committed to publishing a booklet with all details of the offices and officers within the Collectorate and suo-moto disclosures under Section (4) of the Act. Responding to a question by a correspondent from a Hindi channel, he said that "the district administration is willing to co-operate fully with the Abhiyan. We can think of organising some workshops with social activists and organisations who are part of the campaign." He has also designated the PIO (ADM - Ist), B.N.Chowdhry as the officer who will deal with any problems or queries cropping up during the campaign.

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