Monday, September 29, 2008

RTI implementation audit by students unveiled

In a bid to involve youth in civic participation, Public Affairs Centre (PAC) brought together college students here to bring out the success level of Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Act envisages to bring about good governance and transparency in public administration. The study comes a fortnight ahead of the third anniversary of the realisation of the RTI Act and presents the Information Officers' perspective and their unique organisational experiences. These findings were presented by the students who conducted the study at an event held in the city yesterday. Mr K K Mishra, Chief Information Commissioner, Karnataka State Information Commission, presided over the event in which Mr Ralph Frammolino, Faculty, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Prof Samuel Paul, Founder-Chairperson, PAC and Dr Gopakumar Thampi, Director, PAC participated.

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350-km walkathon team to reach city on Oct 2

They have been walking since September 4 across several villages to spread awareness on the Right to Information Act (RTI), and they have covered around 350 km by foot. The walkathon by a team of 25 people from Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), BR Hills, led by R Balasubramaniam will come full circle in Bangalore on October 2. SVYW has been using the RTI Act effectively since 2005 and has had first-hand experience on the power and potential of this information tool for community development.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

How to file RTI plea? Few know...

Despite three years of enactment of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, "most visitors who visited RTI on wheels, a mobile van for giving information about the act, did not know the basics of filing an RTI application," said Major General S C N Jatar, advisory council member of Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT). According to Jatar, about 750 persons visited the mobile van stationed at Salunke Vihar Community Hall on Saturday and at Pune Vidyarthi Griha and S P College on Sunday. "Many defence personnel and students visited the van. Although not many students questioned us, they keenly watched our presentations and sought information on fine details of the act," Jatar said. While in Pune, the volunteers not only gave presentations, but also helped many in filing RTI applications.

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Maharashtra RTI officers spend 2 hrs a day in hearings

A reason for pendency of RTI appeals in Maharashtra. Information commissioners are spending barely two hours a day on the job they have been tasked with. In an age where 'time is money' is a scared mantra, Maharashtra state information commissioners have been found spending barely 120 minutes a day in hearings. To put this in perspective, High Court judges hold continuous hearings for at least five hours a day. A study conducted by RTI activist and now information commissioner
with the Central Information Commission — Shailesh Gandhi — revealed that 96 hearings were conducted by the SIC over a period of 10 days. With 16,500 cases pending, the situation appears more dismal if one realises that the commission has disposed of only 10,000 cases in the past two-and-a-half years.

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Info official to pay for delay in answering query

This will bring cheer to numerous citizens who are still struggling to get details of the status of investigation of pending cases filed at various police stations across the city. State information commissioner Suresh Joshi has penalised the public information officer (PIO), who was attached to crime branch's economic offences wing, for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act within the stipulated period to an applicant. In his order, Joshi directed that Rs 2,750 should be deducted from PIO S B Mohite's salary, as he had provided the required information after a delay of 11 days. RTI activist Chetan Kothari had in February last year filed an RTI query asking what action the crime branch had taken against the managing director of Suman Motels Ltd, Surendra Khandar, after summons and arrest warrants were served on him in the multi-crore Suman Motel investment scam.

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Parliamentary Committee Committee mulls scrapping of fee

Government departments have been asked to host on the websites all the information relating to schemes and procedures for the people to get benefits under them and to ensure transparent governance, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, said on Saturday. Pointing to the complaints that many applications had been rejected just because the initial fee had not been paid, Dr. Natchiappan said it was unfortunate that in some cases "government departments had spent up to Rs. 10,000 on lawyer fees to contest cases relating to the petitioners' failure to pay Rs. 10 in fee. We have advised the heads of Union Government departments and the public sector undertakings not to insist on the fee while receiving the applications, but only while giving the replies, depending on the number of photocopies to be taken." The committee was considering scrapping of the initial fee, he said.

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High Court stays fine imposed on varsity official

The High Court has stayed the fine imposed on an official of Calicut University by the State Information Commission for the delay in furnishing information under the Right to Information Act. State Information Commissioner P.N. Vijayakumar had in August found Public Information Officer K.P. Sasikumar, Deputy Registrar of the Planning and Development Wing, guilty under Section 20 (1) (delay in furnishing information) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. According to the order issued by the Commissioner, he had to remit a penalty of Rs.21,250 within 30 days of the receipt of the order, failing which the amount should be recovered from his salary of the ensuing month or should be recovered by attachment and sale of his movable or immovable properties.

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78% RTI officers have 'average awareness'

An audit on the implementation of RTI Act, 2005 by a group of six college students, revealed how much the Public Information Officers (PIO) understood the Act, and highlighted the challenges they face. An initiative of the Public Affairs Centre, the audit covered 41 agencies in Bangalore. These include those under central , state and local governments among other organizations . The survey focussed on
evaluation of PIOs - their understanding and experiences - and organizations' compliance of suo motu provisions. Only 10% of PIOs scored 'above average' on parameters associated with awareness about the Act. While 78% scored 'average' , 12% got 'below average' scores. Only 10% of the PIOs receive more than three applications a day and the local government agencies receive 108 per month - probably the highest among all.

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Lawyer seeks 'free' information from varsity for violating RTI deadline

A Chandigarh-based lawyer has moved the Punjab State Information Commission demanding that he be provided 'free of cost' information by the Punjabi University, Patiala, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Advocate H C Arora's demand for
'free of cost information' was made after the University allegedly failed to provide him information within the stipulated period of 30 days. "I was supplied the information after 45 days, which is not within the stipulated period laid down under the RTI Act," said Arora.

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Students of Jamia take RTI route to dig facts on encounter

The students of Jamia Milia Islamia are now taking the Right to Information (RTI) route to lay bare the facts about the encounter that took place in Batla House last Friday. One of the students of Mass Communication Research Centre (MCRC), Jamia, has filed four individual RTI applications in various institutions to get a clear picture of the blast and the encounter. Sahil, a 20-year-old has filed four RTI's in the Supreme Court, National Human Resource Commission (NHRC), Delhi Police and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

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Delhi government biggest violater of RTI Act: CIC

The government of the national capital has earned the "dubious distinction" of being the biggest violator of the Right to Information Act, with the maximum number of employees fined for the offence in the country coming from its ranks. The highest number of complaints and appeals received by the Central Information Commission are against the Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) under the Delhi Government, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said today.

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RTI Effect: Corrupt Taluk officer faces suspension

The local taluk panchayat executive officer C Nagesh is facing suspension for claiming inflated bills with regard to the food supplied to the trainees who participated in the SGSY scheme, held at Koila. The food to the trainees was supplied from a hotel in Uppinangady and the actual bill amounted to Rs 6,248. However, the official drew a sum of Rs 1, 17,026 by inflating the same. The zilla panchayat conducted the investigation and recommended for his suspension. Being a Class-I officer, decision on his suspension need to be taken by the government. In the past, the said executive officer had filed defamation case against Badila Hussain, who had obtained details of the said bills under the Right to Information Act. Besides, he had also complained to the Press Council of India against the newspapers which carried thestory of the inflated bill claim.

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Penalties under RTI Act failing to yield fine

While the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission is quick to penalise institutions for failure to comply with the stipulations of the Right to Information Act, the process of collecting fine is proving to be arduous. The University of Madras was imposed the maximum leviable penalty by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (SIC) for not complying with the stipulations of the RTI Act. But, over a year and a half after the imposition of the penalty, it is yet to be realised. An RTI petition was filed with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the university in 2006 about the original circular prescribing an age limit of 50 years for teaching positions.

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Pvt medical, engg colleges under purview of RTI Act

Private medical and engineering non-aided colleges can no longer choose to hide information sought under the right to information act, 2005. In a landmark order, information commissioner for Nagpur and Amravati Vilas Patil has made it compulsory for all private engineering and medical colleges to reveal information under RTI to every applicant. These colleges had earlier refused to provide information on the
pretext that they were beyond the purview of the Act. The order was delivered in response to an appeal filed by Rajkumar Bhoyar against first appellate officer, principal of Yashwantrao Chavan College of engineering (YCCE), Wanadongri and YCCE public information officer.

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Stop this wasteful expenditure at once

With revelations under the Right to Information Act highlighting the fact that more than 130 people work at the Punjab Raj Bhavan to take care of UT Administrator and Punjab Governor General S F Rodrigues (Retd), various sections of the society feel it is time for the "laat sahib" regime to go. They are all unanimous in terming the expenditure "extravagant and wasteful" and demand an immediate check on this. A local NGO, Society for Prevention of Crime and Corruption, has even moved an appeal to the Prime Minister, Public Accounts Committee, Lok Sabha and the local MP, apprising them of such "extravagant and wasteful" expenditure being incurred by the Chandigarh Administration for taking care of the comforts of one man.

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Govt decides to modify RTI rules

The state Government has decided to modify the Right to Information (RTI) rules by making postal orders, bank drafts, non-judicial stamp papers and banker cheques acceptable in government offices along with applications for seeking information under the act. Sandip Srimani, additional government pleader of the state government,
informed a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Sanjib Banerjee that the state Cabinet had taken the decision on Thursday. Sudip Mukherjee of Human Rights Law Network, an NGO, had filed a petition in the High Court that the court fee stamps were not available in all the places which are required to be attached with the RTI applications.

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Reveal-deal order set aside

The high court today set aside the state information commissioner's order asking the government to make its agreement with Tata Motors public. In his order today, Justice Dipankar Dutta also directed the commissioner, Arun Bhattacharya, to hear the Tatas within eight weeks before passing a fresh order. The state government or any of its agencies will not be allowed to make the deal public before that. The order followed a petition by Tata Motors challenging the legality of the commissioner's September 9 order. The company's counsel told the court that the Right to Information Act, 2005, did not allow a document involving a third party to be made public.

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RTI on Wheels is out to spread awareness

It has been more than three years since the Right to Information Act (RTI) was passed by the Parliament. However, there are many who still aren't aware of the Sunshine Act. In an effort to empower the citizens and to encourage them to avail
the benefits of RTI, Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) and Gujarat Mahiti Adhikar Pehel, an NGO, have launched a unique initiatives in the city — an RTI helpline (9322882288) and the RTI on Wheels. "RTI is an important tool which the people can use to fight corruption and ensure transparency. Our aim is to make the common man realise that he too has a right to question the government," said Julio Ribeiro, executive chairman of PCGT.

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130 people look after Governor at Raj Bhavan

The days of royalty may have come to an end in an independent India, but the institution of state governors seems to carry on with the same regalia. One such glaring example is Punjab Governor S F Rodrigues (Retd), the Administrator of Union Territory of Chandigarh. Documents procured under the Right to Information Act shows that Rodrigues enjoys the services of six masalchis (masseurs), two bhishtis (watermen), eight khidmatgars (servants) and dozens of peons and sweepers. His dhobi (washerman) even boasts of an associate. Then there are others responsible for sundry jobs. In all, 130 employees are responsible for the welfare of the Governor and his family at the Raj Bhavan. And how much does it cost the state exchequer — Rs 175 lakh per year.

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Hearing by Dr. O.P. Kejariwal, I C , at Andaman at a glance

During a first visit of its kind of hearing after implementation of RTI Act in Andaman Nicobar Islands, Dr. O.P. Kejariwal, I C conducted 14 hearings on 24 September 2008 in Port Blair, Capital Town of Andaman.

The salient features of decisions are as Under:

« Show Cause Notice to the PIO in three cases (1.For penalty of Rs.10,000/-, 2. For not providing information, 3. For delay in providing information)

« Directed to supply the information with specific date in seven decisions (By 14 October 2008.(five decisions), By 28 October 2008 and 29 September 2008 (one each decision)

« The Commission directed inspection of records in one case.

[posted by Krishnamoorthi, Andaman]

The case of missing dustbins: 473 installed, only 12 remain

One thing that seems to be disappearing faster than the mounds of garbage that pile up everyday in the city is the ubiquitous dustbin. The civic authorities had installed 473 dustbins in two wards (F south and north) in the last three years but today only 12 remain.

The dustbins were installed near pavements, police chowkies, schools, railway stations, ward offices, hospitals and gardens situated at Dadar, Parel, Matunga, Sion, Sewri and Wadala. "The dustbins vanished weeks after they were installed. When someone informed the authorities about the missing dustbins, they were re-installed again, but went missing again," said Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikaar Manch, which
had filed a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the status of the missing dustbins in F south ward.

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RTI effect: GTB to treat woman for free

A pointed query under the RTI Act has forced Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in the capital to fall in line and provide free treatment to a 73 year old poor woman who couldn't afford her hip replacement surgery. The hospital, which had earlier allegedly sought medicines worth Rs 30,000 from one Muddasar Ali for his mother's operation, has now informed Delhi High Court that it will operate her for free in the
first week of October. HC was hearing a petition filed under the Right to Information Act, seeking directions to the hospital to provide immediate treatment to his mother and furnish the information asked for under the "life and liberty" clause of RTI Act. The clause makes it mandatory for an authority to provide information within a period of 48 hours, but is rarely complied with.

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RTI activist arrested in UP

A senior Congress functionary in Uttar Pradesh who has been filing Right To Information (RTI) applications on projects initiated by the Mayawati government was arrested here early Friday. Shailendra Singh, chairperson of the party's Uttar Pradesh Right To Information Task Force, was taken into custody at 1.30 a.m. Friday. Singh was arrested from his house for allegedly misbehaving with the senior
officials of the State Information Commission and damaging government property
together with his supporters. He was a provincial police service officer before he resigned as deputy superintendent of police in 2004 to join the Congress party.

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Delhi HC`s rules not in conformity with RTI Act: CIC

The Central Information Commission has held that the Delhi High Court's internal rules on sharing of information are not in conformity with the provisions of the RTI Act. Overruling the denial of information to Kamini Jaiswal by the Delhi High Court, the transparency watchdog held that the rules cited while denying the information do not 'conform expressly' with the RTI Act and the information sought by the petitioner should be provided within 10 days. "The provisions of this (RTI) Act shall have effect notwithstanding the content of the inconsistent rules," the order said.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

TASMAC shop downs shutters, thanks to RTI

After a nine-month-long battle, under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, a Stateowned TASMAC outlet in the city has been forced to pull down its shutters. The TASMAC outlet on Turn Bulls Road-Chamiers Road junction was considered a traffic hazard by locals. R Natarajan, a resident and research scholar, filed an RTI application seeking details about the outlet from the Home Prohibition and Excise
Department Secretary, who is the chairperson of TASMAC, and Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB), which had "rented" out its premises to the outlet against rules.

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Activists cry foul as UP Information Commission drafts regulations

The UP State Information Commission has formulated some regulations for the implementation of the Right to Information Act, which, activists allege, are contrary to the spirit of the law enacted to facilitate availability of information.
"The regulations of the state commission are the copy of the Central Information Commission (CIC) rules and regulations, which reject 60 per cent cases on technical grounds," said Arvind Kejriwal, who was actively involved in the formation of the RTI Act. The commission has not sought public opinion while formulating the
regulations. But since the matter was posted on the commission website, it has attracted suggestions from various quarters. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah clarified that the states have the authority to form regulations for the implementation of the Act in its true spirit. But it is better to seek public opinion
while drafting the regulations, he added.

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Activists want 25 RTI cases to be heard a day

RTI activists have got together and formulated a five-point strategy for information commissioners to bring down the incredibly high pendency of cases in appeal. At last count, 16,500 cases were waiting to be heard. A team of six RTI activists, including Shailesh Gandhi (now appointed as the central information commissioner), which was allowed to remain present and observe 100 hearings conducted by the two city-based
information commissioners, Dr Suresh Joshi and Ramanand Tiwari, submitted its findings and recommendations to the state information commission on Monday.

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License to drive citizens crazy

Sathish Sundaram discovered that he could transfer his US driving permit to
India through a simple test. When he approached the Indiranagar RTO, they would
have none of it. The RTO website states that international transfer of Driving
Permits requires only a test on rules and signs and no driving proficiency test
but the Indiranagar RTO seemed to have a rulebook of their own. He was asked to
take a driving test since the US followed a right hand driving system as against
left hand driving in India. He admits that the confusing logic was to an extent
convincing.

Sathish, a volunteer at Association for India's Development (AID) an NGO that regularly works with RTI, then filed an RTI application, asking for information on the rules and fee for licensing. Like the pattern goes, the inspectors did a volte face on encountering the RTI application. Gone was the air of superiority and high-handedness. "His tone was entirely different thereafter" recounts Sathish. They didn't want to take the application and he was, through a circuitous route, sent to the Assistant RTO. The ARTO offered to help him, checked all the documents and asked Sathish to take the driving test anyway. When Sathish persisted with the RTI application, the RTO cautioned that he would either help him get a DL or accept the
application and not both. Sathish settled for the DL, and the ARTO later admitted that it was indeed the RTI application that had gotten them working.

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Filing of property list: no info on action taken

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik always appears to be ever ready to claim his government a transparent one. But when it comes to taking actions against senior bureaucrats, who do not submit their annual property statement, it has exhibited diffidence. Supplying a reply to a query under Right To Information (RTI) Act, Revenue and Disaster Management (RDM) Department said it had no information on punitive actions initiated against officers who violated the State Government Servant
Conduct Rule 1959 by not submitting compulsory property list. City-based Human Rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo had sought the list of officers of the rank Orissa Administrative Services (OAS) who had not disclosed annual property list. To this query, the RDM Department said it had no such record.

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BMC men give duties a miss

If Citispace activist Aftab Siddique is to be believed, then the Bandra residents' ire against the civic body is not unfounded. According to an RTI application filed by the Khar resident, the deputy municipal commissioner (hawker removal) S Kudalkar, has not officially visited H-west ward even once since January this year. The Supreme Court had declared H-west ward as the 'contempt ward' in 2007 for unauthorised activity of hawkers. Following a surprise raid, a senior official and three subordinates from the licence department of the ward were also suspended. "After this incident I was keen to see how interested the senior civic body officials were in the welfare of the ward," said Siddique. On August 1, Siddique filed an RTI application demanding to know the number of visits BS Gholap, superintendent of licence and S Kudalkar, deputy municipal commissioner (hawker removal), had made to the ward.

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RTI applicant in Bihar told to foot bill of Rs 78 lakh

When Gupteshwar Singh, a social activist from Agiyaw in Bihar's Bhojpur district, filed a Right To Information (RTI) plea, he did not bargain for the price he would be told to pay — Rs 78,21,252. On June 5, Singh filed an application (No. 4,461) seeking date-wise details of the distribution of foodgrains and kerosene under the
Public Distribution System in Udvantnagar, Agiyaw, Tarai, Garhani, Sandesh and Sahar — all in Bhojpur district — between 2000 and 2008. He also sought photocopies of dealers' payment receipts.

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Police officers move court against RTI Act provision

Two highly decorated Assistant Commissioners of Police have moved the Karnataka High Court seeking to restrain the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner (DG and IG) of Police, Bangalore, from releasing or divulging under
the Right to Information Act any information to the public about their list of personal wealth. The petitioners, B.B. Ashok Kumar, ACP of Devanahalli, and D. Narayanaswamy, ACP of Jayanagar, petitioned the court after the Commissioner of Police furnished information about their service register to a resident of Bangalore. They said V. Gopalappa had filed an application before the Commissioner of Police under the RTI Act seeking information about their service register and list of assets

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CIC hauls DU for not implementing section 4 of RTI

Delhi University (DU) and its affiliated colleges have been hauled by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for not implementing section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI). Section 4 of the RTI requires all public authorities to publish manuals, which voluntarily disclose information (under 17 listed points) of general interest and facilitate the process of accessing information. The affiliated colleges and the varsity itself have not yet been able to accomplish what should have been done within 120 days of enactment of the RTI Act.

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Who is to be credited for the job?

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) are locked in a bitter fight over Sheetal Talao, a popular immersion and tourist site in Kurla. Both government agencies claim credit for beautifying the talao and readying it for the immersions. The BMC, which owns the talao, claims that it has spent Rs1.8 crore so far for its beautification. Interestingly, Mhada too claims credit for its beautification, stating work was carried out by one of its units, the Mumbai Slum Improvement Board (MSIB). And it even claims to have incurred the same expenditure, Rs1.8 crore, for the work so far.

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How qualified is Goa education minister?

On the verge of announcing its new 'holistic' state education policy, the Goa government has come in for a major embarrassment. Its lawmakers were caught faking educational details in their affidavits filed before the Election Commission. A vigilante group in the state brought to light Education Minister Atanasio Monseratte's misinformation while taking oath, Dilip Parulekar, the BJP MLA from
Saligao has allegedly furnished fake details on oath. Nationalist Congress Party state president Wilfred De Souza has demanded Parulekar's resignation for furnishing the fake details. De Souza claimed that documents sourced by him under the Right to Information (RTI) Act prove that Parulekar could not have secured a B.Com degree from Goa University (GU) in 1988, as stated in his affidavit. De Souza told the media
that GU "did not conduct Third Year B.Com examinations in 1988. In fact, GU's first batch passed out in 1989."

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Gujarat University(GU) Rregistrar penalised again

Gujarat University registrar has drawn yet another penalty of Rs 25,000 from Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) for failing to provide information sought under Right To Information (RTI). This is the third penalty slapped on the registrar in a month. The registrar, who is the public information officer (PIO) of GU, will now have to cough up a total of Rs 60,000 as penalties. Chairman of Sanskar Education Trust in Waghodia Pradeep Jaiswal had sought information under RTI regarding money deposited with GU by different colleges run by the trust. Jaiswal sought information on the principal amount of deposits, the interest accrued on it and the total amount of deposit till now. Jaiswal also gave details of deposits of Rs 14 lakh made by the trust-run arts and Commerce College, Rs 8 lakh by science college, Rs 18 lakh by pharmacy college and Rs 12 lakh by BCA college. In his complaint before GIC, Jaiswal submitted that after making the RTI application, he had met the registrar twice, asking him to expedite the process of providing information. But, till date it has not been provided.

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Executive engineer, director fined Rs 25K each

An executive engineer of Bhagalpur will have to cough up a fine of Rs 25,000 for violation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The fine amount would be deducted from his salary in four equal instalments. Issuing an order to this effect on Monday, the State Information Commission (SIC) found the engineer guilty of not responding to the application of one Dr Amit Kumar who had sought certain information under RTI. SIC fixed December 15 as the next date of hearing and directed the erring official to be present with an explanation. In yet another order, SIC slapped a fine of the same amount on an assistant director of Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa. In this case, the applicant was one Ranju Kumari.

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Activists Empower Disabled Voters

Despite existing laws on the right to accessible polling locations, people with disabilities are unable to exercise their franchise during elections. However, with the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, activists for disability rights from across the country — 40 non-governmental organisations along with 15 Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) lawyers —congregated in Mumbai for the launch of a nationwide campaign. A two-day seminar to provide information to people with disabilities
about their voting rights as well as facilities that exist to enable them to vote with ease kick-started the campaign.

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CIC rejects info plea on Nehru fund

Chief information officer Wajahat Habibullah dismissed an appeal filed for obtaining information from the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, which is being seen to have political ramifications. Mr Habibullah asked the applicant to filed a writ petition in the high court in the case when the applicant expressed his distrust for the commissioner. The applicant had said that he did not trust Mr Habibullah, who is known for his close proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family. RTI activists feel that Mr Habibullah could have excused himself from the case and instead asked another information commissioner to hear the plea. RTI activist Siddharth Misra of Cuttack said that Mr Habibullah could have appointed another commissioner to hear the case instead of forcing the applicant to approach the courts for this.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marching for empowerment of illiterate villagers about Right To Information

Unknown to most of us and far from media glare a small built man clad in a grey khadi kurta and white pyjamas is on a month-long march across a string of villages with his band of about thirty volunteers on a mission to enlighten unread villagers about what the Right to Information Act can do to improve their lives and how they can effectively fight corruption with its help.

Dr. R. Balasubramanyam, founder and director of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement that is best known for its remarkably successful rural medical mission and hospital at Sargur in H.D.Kote, is right now on a padayatra which began from Sargur on the 4th of this month and which will end with a public meeting at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial near Cubbon Park in Bangalore on 2nd October.

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Goa Education department releases mafia on RTI applicant Durgadas Gaonkar

RTI applicant Durgandas Gaonkar is faced with mafia threats released by Goa's education department. Durgadas Gaonkar is a president of Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) and this is his first letter under Right to Information Act that was devised to bring about transparency in the governance process and to checkmate rising corruption in the Government functioning. Durgadas first filed application under RTI as the president of GAKUVED but the education department rejected the application on the ground that President of any Organisation is not legally entitled to file the application. Then he filed again as individual but was rejected on the ground that it is not caring Court stamp fees.

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Missing files: law sought to punish officials

The Karnataka State Information Commission has sent a proposal to the State Government to enact legislation on the lines of the Public Records Act to firmly deal with cases of files going missing from government offices. State Chief Information Commissioner K.K. Misra and State Information Commissioner K.A. Thippeswamy told presspersons here on Friday that the Central Act provided for a maximum imprisonment of five years and a fine of Rs. 10,000 for officials indicted in cases of missing government files, and a similar legislation was required in Karnataka.

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CIC rejects info plea on Nehru fund

Chief information officer Wajahat Habibullah dismissed an appeal filed for obtaining information from the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, which is being seen to have political ramifications. Mr Habibullah asked the applicant to filed a writ petition in the high court in the case when the applicant expressed his distrust for the commissioner. The applicant had said that he did not trust Mr Habibullah, who is known for his close proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family. RTI activists feel that Mr Habibullah could have excused himself from the case and instead asked another information commissioner to hear the plea. RTI activist Siddharth Misra of Cuttack said that Mr Habibullah could have appointed another commissioner to hear the case instead of forcing the applicant to approach the courts for this.

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Give answer copy to students: Information Commission

Bihar's transparency watchdog has directed universities to provide photocopies of the examined papers to examinees, if they so desired. The State Information Commission recently passed an order on a petition filed by a student of B Com first year of L N Mithila University (LNMU), Murari Kumar Jha, who wanted to inspect his answer copy. The university, taking refuge under Section 8 (1) (e) of the Right to
Information (RTI) Act, had rejected the student's plea on the ground of fiduciary relationship between the authority conducting the examination and the examiner

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RTI Act comes to rescue of girl student

Timely intervention of the State Information Commission helped a girl student in getting her degree successfully from a university, according to its Commissioner G. Ramakrishnan. Explaining to reporters how the State Information Commission came to
the rescue of the student, Mr. Ramakrishnan said here on Friday that though the student had appeared in an examination along with other students a few years ago, she did not get her results. As the reply from the university was not satisfactory, the student petitioned the commission. Taking the application on record, the Commission wrote to the university directing it to pay a few lakhs as compensation for the loss and mental agony. The university authorities immediately conducted an examination for the student and awarded her degree after valuation of her answer paper.

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4000 RTI plaints pending before Commissioner

Chief Information Commissioner K K Misra of the Karnataka State Information Commission has cautioned that the purpose of the Right To Information Act would be defeated if the public authorities go on denying information leading to piling up of complaints both at the national level or at the state level.

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Executive engineer, director fined Rs 25K each

An executive engineer of Bhagalpur will have to cough up a fine of Rs 25,000 for
violation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The fine amount would be
deducted from his salary in four equal instalments.Issuing an order to this effect on Monday, the State Information Commission (SIC) found the engineer guilty of not responding to the application of one Dr Amit Kumar who had sought certain information under RTI. SIC fixed December 15 as the next date of hearing and directed the erring official to be present with an explanation. In yet another order, SIC slapped a fine of the same amount on an assistant director of Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa. In this case, the applicant was one Ranju Kumari. While the case would again be taken up for hearing on December 15, the fine would be deducted from the university official's salary in four equal instalments.

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Godman a fake farmer? Asaram Trust denies rumours

In Pedhmala, Gujarat an RTI application has revealed how the Asaram Bapu Ashram forged documents to take over fertile land. Asaram Bapu's son Narayan Sai owns 108 hectares of fertile land at Pedhmala in Gujarat. However, a local social worker Ramesh Choksi says the land was bought illegally. "The collector asked us for evidence, which we provided him with last year," says Choksi. Using the Right to Information Act, Choksi had enough evidence for the collector to order an enquiry. The documents reveal that Asaram, his wife, son and mother were issued farmer certificates by a revenue officer in Abdasa in Kutch district in April 2004 to allow them to buy land at Pedhmala. But Choksi says the farmer certificates are fake.

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Two youths carry out last rites of 'corruption'

Two young men have carried out the last rites for the dead in Bihar, not for their ancestors but for corruption, hoping to bury the practice once and for all.The activity was aimed at sending a message of no corruption. Shiv Shankar, aged 20, offered pindadan, the last rite according to Hindu religious rituals, seeking salvation for the dead from the cycle of rebirth. 'We have decided to send messages to corrupt people by offering pindadan. We were supported by all the activists of Jawab,' he said Friday after the ritual. He is associated with Gaya-based NGO Jawab,
working to create awareness about the use of Right to Information for fighting corruption.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Vigilance bodies out of RTI Act purview

Following a flood of applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking information regarding the progress of corruption cases handled by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) and the Tamil Nadu State Vigilance Commission
(TSVC), the State Government has exempted both organisations from the purview of the RTI Act. A Government Order issued in this regard recently said revealing any
information to any agency, including the aggrieved person, would be detrimental to the progress of the case. Of late, there has been a tendency on the part of some citizens to ask for a lot of information under the RTI Act, the GO observed.

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Irregularities alleged in lecturers selection

Fazilka, Irregularities have been alleged in the appointment of lecturers at Government M R College, Fazilka, as guest faculty. A resident, M L Baghla, in his complaint to the DPI (Colleges), alleged that in gross violation of the Punjab Civil Service Rules, 1994, some less qualified candidates were appointed on August 12. "In case of physical education and Punjabi lecturers, candidates who had passed UGC National Eligibility Test were ignored, while others were selected," alleged Baghla. The lecturer appointed for English has not even qualified Punjabi test in class X, which is a pre-requisite, Baghla said, adding that for a history lecturer's post, a candidate with UGC-NET and 12 years of experience was overlooked.

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Right to inaction: GPCB ignores obligation to provide information under RTI Act

An RTI application filed in the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) seeking details about all the RTI applications filed in GPCB till August 31, 2008 and the responses given to them, has thrown light on how the Act has been dishonoured Mahesh Pandya of Paryavaran Mitra, the organisation which filed the RTI, said: "We had filed more than 50 RTI applications with GPCB, but their response was shocking. Neither was the stipulated 30 day time limit followed nor the information supplied was correct. It was inadequate, false and misleading. In some cases, GPCB took 2 years to reply to our RTI pleas. So, to trace a pattern, we asked them to tell us about all the RTIs filed and their responses to them. The facts are now out in the public domain."

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RTI shows illegal colony land acquired

What was meant as a sop for the residents of unauthorised colonies in Rohini, just ahead of the Assembly polls, has left them seething with rage. Delhi government's decision to issue provisional certificates to these residents is being viewed with skepticism as DDA has already acquired huge tracts of land on which these colonies have mushroomed over the years. The Authority plans to develop new sectors on the acquired land. This was revealed in an RTI query filed by Inder Chander Rajvar, a resident of Vijay Vihar in Rohini. In his reply dated April 9, 2008, PM Parate, director (planning), Rohini states said that the land for development of new phase — IV & V — of Rohini under the Rohini Residential Scheme of 1980 had already been acquired and the process for taking over the rest of the earmarked land for expansion was on. Interestingly, many unauthorised colonies are located on the same land.

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RTI applicant denied information under the plea the applicant is a Tenant

The office of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) under the Delhi government has refused to provide information to an Right To Information (RTI) applicant taking a plea that the information seeker is a Tenant. RTI Applicant Varinder Arora had filed an application under the RTI Act 2005 seeking particular information from the RCS office on August 12, 2008.

"A reply received from the RCS office signed by the Public Information Officer (PIO) Assistant Registrar (EAST) said that the particular information cannot be provided as the applicant is a tenant ". Said shocked Mr Varinde Arora, the applicant

"The RTI Act 2005 does not permit discrimination against an information seeker on the basis o profession o status . A Public Information Officer (PIO) appointed the RCS is not supposed to know the status of the person seeking information or discriminate against on the basis that the applicant is a tenant or a house owner" said M Vikas Kunango, editor, e-govworld.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

More power to the people

What could a labourer running from pillar to post for his ration card, a student waiting eagerly for his passport, a housewife struggling without water supply or a senior citizen suffering due to pollution caused by an unauthorised factory near his residence have in common? The Right to Information (RTI) Act — the salvation for these diverse problems.

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Before a constable catches you

What is the authoritative answer on what documents are needed if your vehicle is stopped for checking? An RTI application was filed with Bangalore's police department to find this out. The rules say that you should have a copy of the driving licence, copy of registration certificate, fitness certificate, insurance
certificate, tax card and emmission test certificate.

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Two Bihar officials fined for RTI Act violation

The State Information Commission on Thursday slapped hefty fines on two government officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those fined are the child development project officer (CDPO) of Alauli block in Khagaria district and additional collector of Lakhisarai district. Both the officials will have to cough up fines to the tune of Rs 25,000 each. The commission in its order has directed that the fine be realised from the salary of the said officials.

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RTI 'grads' at your service

Democracy, as embodied in the average citizen's Right to Information, is striding ahead confidently. A group of Mumbaikars from various fields, armed with a certificate course in RTI, is ready to cut the masters of red tape to size, to jolt the sultans of sloth and bring the rajas of babudom down to earth. The 24 men and women who comprise this group have completed a certificate course from a south Mumbai college on how to use RTI professionally—they include businessmen, college professors, retired bankers and chartered accountants. All of them have now mastered the art of framing queries under the RTI Act to goad the civic authorities into action. With time, they hope to become advisors and consultants to the wider citizenry.

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BIAL's public status stayed

The high court on Tuesday stayed for two weeks operation of the August 18 order by a full Bench of the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), which had declared BIAL as a public authority covered by the RTI Act, 2005. Justice N K Patil passed this interim order on a petition filed by BIAL. He also issued notices to the KIC and KSSIDC in connection with this order. BIAL maintained that it is a private entity and not an instrument of the government.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dharna to save RTI was held at lucknow opposite vidhan Sabha on 16-09-2009 as informed to u all . It was organized by Action Group for Right To Information and attended by Magsesey award winner and renowned Social Activist Dr. Sandeep Pandey ,
Noted Social activists Sri S. R. Darapuri, Sri Jagat Narayan, Dr. Neeraj Kumar, Dr. Devdutt Sharma, Dr. Jitendra Agnihotri, Sri D. S. Rawal, Sri Parmanend, Sri Rajesh Gupta, Sri Sandeep sonkar, Sri Gynendra Shukla, Sri Sanjay dwivedi along with hundreds of RTI lovers from across the state. The Program was coordinated by sri Izhar Ansari. Later the chief coordinator of AGRI sri Afjal Ansari alongwith a six member delegation consisting of Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Sri S. R. Darapuri, Dr. Devdutt Sharma, Dr. Jitendra agnihotri & Smt. Urvashi Sharma handed over a nine point memorandum to the government of uttar pradesh thru Sri N. N. Upadhyaya, the Principal secretary of department of administrative reforms who has assured full suuport from government's end

with the hope that something positive shall come out of it

for u all
--
urvashi sharma
(social worker & rti activist)

Power makes political parties grow richer, faster

That political parties in power at the Centre can make more money than those out of power is understandable. Now here's proof. The Congress party's assets grew at a rate of 28.5 per cent annually since 2004 — the year it replaced the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the principal ruling party at the Centre. This is revealed in the Income Tax documents submitted by the parties, which were made available to NGO Association for Democratic Reforms against a right to information application.

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Hearing on request for IIT names

The Central Information Commission has ordered a hearing with the IITs to decide if contact details of students, denied seats because of discrepancies in the 2006 admissions, can be disclosed. The apex umpire on the under the Right to Information (RTI) panel has called the registrar and a former director of IIT Kharagpur — the
organising institute for the 2006 joint entrance examination — to appear for the hearing on September 19 at 3pm, sources said. The RTI Act prohibits the disclosure of personal details, especially of those who are not direct parties to a case — as the appellant or the respondent — without their consent. But the father of an aggrieved student approached the commission to identify others who, too, may have suffered in 2006 because the IITs did not use the cut-off determination procedure they claimed to have implemented.

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Top law college official penalized by SIC

When Kashinath Shetye sought information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 from V M Salgaocar College of Law, Miramar, he was asked by the vice-principal to prove that he was a 'genuine citizen of India'. Shetye had sought information on the full-time and part-time faculty of the college and the marks allotted to second and third year students of the institute. However, a delay of 58 days on behalf of
the college in providing him the information attracted a penalty from the State Information Commission (SIC). The vice-principal, M R K Prasad, who is also the public information officer (PIO) of the college, has been directed to pay a penalty of Rs 2,000 for the 58-day delay.

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AMU Admits Candidate Who Failed in Class XI Admission Test!

RTI query filed by Mr Mushtaq Ahmed has brought to light a case where a candidate has been admitted to Class XI (PCB) during the current Session i.e. Session 2008-09 without being selected in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Admission Test.

More information

Telugu Daily launches RTI help line

Telugu Daily launches RTI help line Eenadu the No1 Telugu daily in Andhra Pradesh launches Fight against Corruption by Promoting Right To Information act in the name of 'EENADU MUNDADUGU'. It guides the applicants regarding filing RTI applications to solve their grievences. It also launched help line in every district of Andhra Pradesh, where citizens can resolve their queries on RTI at a cost of one phone call.
Eenadu publishes One page on Right To Information Act on every tuesday. for more info log on to rti.eenadu.net

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Are MPs, MLAs subject to RTI?

Central Information Commission (CIC) is seeking a legal opinion whether MPs and MLAs are bound to respond to queries sent to them under the Right to Information Act. The CIC decided to seek the opinion after some RTI applicants approached the Commission over the issue alleging that they had not got replies from UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and several others elected representatives. The hearings in the matter started on Monday before the Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah where lawyer Prashant Bhushan presented his arguments.

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Late Latifs ruining RTI in State: Activists

It seems like a simple solution, but who will act first is the question. Four
Mumbai-based activists, one of them being Right to Information (RTI) champion
Shailesh Gandhi, have identified one problem that can get the State's pendency
rate for filed cses reduced. The four - Gandhi, Bhaskar Prabhu, Krishnaraj Rao and Sundeep Jalan - camped out at the State Information Commission offices from August 27 to September 10 to observe the officials' working, and they discovered a significant fact - individual information commissioners are hearing cases for not over two hours a day.


Translated by Shri Shahid Burney.
Original Article: Sakal Times, Pune, Tuesday, September 16, 2008, Page 8

Andhra Pradesh RTI commission to establish a call centre in Hyderabad

Andhra Pradesh Right to Information (RTI) Commission was contemplating to establish a call centre by providing centralised phone number in the state capital soon to make filing of application easy to get required information under Right to Information Act, Information Commissioner R Dileep Reddy said today.

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RTI Effect: BBMP to modify road humps

Did you know that of the innumerable road humps (or speed breakers) in the city, only 282 are authorised by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP)? All the others, according to the BBMP, are unauthorised and do not have any mention in their records. This fact was revealed when BBMP responded to a RTI application regarding the same recently. "The continuous poking has changed the mindset of the BBMP and the Police. The BBMP has already called tenders for modifying 400 humps in Bangalore, divided into 10 packages," says Kumar.

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CM orders probe into Vidarbha scam

Embarrassed by the facts revealed by the RTI query, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Saturday ordered a high-level inquiry into the multi-crore scam in the PM's and CM's relief package meant to help poor and bereaved families of farmers who committed suicide in the Vidarbha region. Gopal Reddy, the director of the V P Naik Mission for Farmers, will be in charge of the probe. "Deshmukh has asked for a comprehensive information on the beneficiaries of the special package for the entire Vidarbha region. Once we get the details, we will decide on the course of action to be taken against those who have wrongfully helped themselves to the relief measures," a top official told TOI.

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If I Fail, Please Abuse Me So says Shailesh Gandhi

Shailesh Gandhi—IIT-Bombay alumnus, first-generation entrepreneur, well-known Right to Information (RTI) activist—dons another hat on September 18. When sworn in as a Central Information Commissioner in Delhi, he will become the first and only non-bureaucrat to hold the constitutional post. "I have no idea who selected me and why," says Gandhi with characteristic candour. "But now that I am there (till 2012), my priorities are to bring down pending appeals because pendency can kill the RTI Act."

Few have seen the RTI law in action from as close quarters as Gandhi. Single-handedly for four years, without fuss, from his modest Mumbai home he has asked hard-hitting and embarrassing questions to those in high offices. Gandhi's goal: to make the government accountable to its citizens. A veteran of more than 800 RTI applications, Gandhi lectures widely to show citizens how simple the RTI process is. "We have to become a participatory democracy, it's not enough to vote. We must
monitor those whom we vote," he says.

Complete Article

R.I.P. For The R.T.I.?

Unless the new men on the job manage to get those files moving It was to be India's version of glasnost, and the fanfare that accompanied its arrival was worthy of the occasion. When the upa government set up the Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2005, as a statutory body mandated to translate the Right to Information (RTI) legislation into action, it was considered a landmark move to bring transparency and accountability in the functioning of government. Everytime a citizen demanded information on issues of governance, it was meant to dig it out from the various arms of the state. But three years down the line, that promise stands belied by sheer
logistics.

"If things continue as they are, then the RTI Act, I am afraid, will collapse very soon." Wajahat Habibullah CIC. The commission presently has a mountain of 8,541 appeals pending before it. These, it says, will take a long time to process because of poor infrastructure, inadequate staff and the lack of a compatible system to answer queries. Wajahat Habibullah, a former bureaucrat and the country's first chief information commissioner, is a frustrated man today.

Complete Article

Haj subsidy has Air India fuming

The Cabinet's decision to increase the number of pilgrims availing the Haj subsidy and flying by the national carrier this year has had Air India fuming. For a carrier already reeling under Rs 2,000-crore loss and burdened with severe employee-related issues, a welfare measure like this puts undue duress on it.

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MLAs Milk Farmers Aid

In a bitter twist to the Vidarbha farmers' tragedy, a simple RTI query has revealed a huge scam in cash and kind in the CM and PM's special relief packages. A six-time former MP and relatives of a sitting MLA and several former MLAs are among the 'well-off ' people who have helped themselves to the relief measures meant for poor, bereaved families in Yavatmal district, the epicentre of the farmers' suicides.

Complete Article

BJP-JDS govt had spent Rs 7 crore on ministers' quarters

The previous JD(S)-led coalition government has spent Rs 7.13 crore to furnish and maintain residential quarters of ministers, including that of the chief minister, according to information furnished by PWD under the Right to Information Act. PWD, which has provided this information to RTA activist Bheemappa Gundappa Gadada on money spent on ministers' quarters during 20 months, said of Rs 7.13 crore, Rs 4.85 crore was spent on furnishing, Rs 1.98 crore on painting and renovation and Rs 30 lakh on electrical works.

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Tata Motors files legal salvo in Singur battle

Tata Motors has filed a writ petition against the West Bengal government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, or WBIDC, alleging that the government violated provisions of the Right to Information Act of 2005. WBIDC had made the agreement between Tata Motors and the West Bengal government public by posting it on their website on September 9. The Calcutta High Court has put a stay on publishing this agreement. Earlier, the State Information Commissioner had ordered a disclosure of certain documents.

Complete Article

Mystery of the missing file

All's not well with the way the Sunshine Act is working in Mumbai; the Right To
Information Act, supposed to be the magic wand that can get things working in an
inefficient and apathetic bureaucracy, has needed help from the Maharashtra
State Human Rights Commission to be effective in a neighbourhood battle between
an Andheri housing society and some tenants.

Complete Article

Illegal buildings will get no licence

When three illegal commercial complexes in Bangalore's Banashankari II Stage were found to have had shops and businesses functioning in the premises, Ravindranath Guru did not ignore the issue like other residents but chased it till the end. A Right to Information Act (RTI) activist, Ravindranath first brought it to the notice of the BBMP. But as usual, the authorities couldn't care less. He filed applications under the RTI and the matter went up to the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC). Guru's perseverance and an order by the KIC has not only forced the BBMP to close down the three buildings, but also take a firm decision and convert it into a rule.
The BBMP has ordered that henceforth, a trade licence will have to be issued
only to buildings with occupancy certificates. This means illegal buildings cannot have commercial activities functioning from their premises as the health department will not issue a trade licence.

Complete Article

CIC fines BSNL Rs 5,000 for RTI mix-up

Joshi, a resident of Nagpur, was unhappy over the inflated bills sent to him. He sought details of the SMS and calls made from his BSNL phone under the RTI Act. BSNL officials failed to provide him the information The Central Information Commission has slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited for its failure to provide phone call details to a customer who allegedly received an inflated bill.


Complete Article

Maharashtra Info panel needs to have more hearings

That it has taken Mohammad Afzal over two years to get a simple Right To Information answer can only partly be blamed on bureaucratic stonewalling. What also made Afzal's wait so painfully long was the huge gap between the time he filed an RTI query and the date of hearing that he got. What has happened to Afzal plays itself out every day at the State Information Commission headquarters at Mantralaya. Over 16,500 cases are pending with the SIC right now, say officials, and only about 10,000 pleas have been disposed of in the last two-and-a-half years. The situation is such that RTI activists have been left praying that the delays do not turn people away from the Act.

Complete Article

Activist moves court on top bureaucrats' selection process

RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal Thursday approached the Delhi High Court against the central government for not giving details on the procedure for selection of bureaucrats for top posts. The Central Information Commission June 12 directed the department of personnel and training (DoPT) and the Cabinet Secretariat to disclose details pertaining to selection of officers for the post of secretaries and additional secretaries at the central government.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Explain state govt stand on ACRs: HC

Justice N V Ramana of the AP High Court on Thursday gave time to the state government till Monday (September 15) to explain its stand on the issue of furnishing copies of annual confidential reports (ACRs) to individual bureaucrats in the state. The judge told this to the government pleader for general administration department (GAD) in the Secretariat while dealing with a petition filed by a state-level Civil Service officer - K V Ramana who is fighting a legal battle against the authorities on their methods of conferring IAS status to bureaucrats like him.

Complete Article

PMO has no idea about 'President House'

If there are frivolous RTI applications, here is an example of a frivolous reply, that too by the information officer of the Prime Minister's Office, no less. On a query that referred to Rashtrapati Bhavan as "President House", PMO's information officer Amit Agrawal said in all solemnity that he was unable to respond since he was "not aware of any public authority named President House." This is despite the fact that, on a similar application from the same person, Radhika Arora, Rashtrapati Bhavan had no problem in responding after being addressed as President House.

Complete Article

RTI Effect: 3 MCD engineers held for substandard road

It took four years, but the Old Rajinder Nagar RWA finally succeeded in its quest for action against MCD engineers who gave rubble in the name of a road. It started with an RTI query in 2004 and needed a wake-up call from TOI on August 20 to get the Delhi government moving. Finally, acting on an FIR registered in 2004, the anti-corruption
branch has arrested the three who allegedly engineered the scam: executive engineer A K Gupta and assistant engineers Rajesh Sharma and V Sharma of Karol Bagh Zone. In a major crackdown, 10 other engineers were also held for allegedly being involved in construction of substandard roads and other corruption cases, inviting a threat of strike from their worried colleagues who feel they are now under siege.

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Bombay HC stays CIC order on UTI MFs

The Bombay High Court today granted stay to UTI Mutual Fund on an order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on the applicability of the Right To Information (RTI) Act on UTI entities. On a petition from an RTI activist, CIC had held last month that UTI MF is a public entity as it is promoted by four state-run companies. The body had also asked UTI MF to appoint a public information officer and an appellate authority.

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Major fire reduces part of Assam Information Commission to ashes

A devastating fire that broke out in Dispur has reduced to ashes a part of the Janata Bhawan on Wednesday evening. According to information, the fire broke out at around 6 in the evening from a room and later it was dispersing rapidly to other rooms before taking a ravaging turn. As many as fifty fire tenders have been called to extinguish the fire but by then the the situation was going out of control. According to RTI commissioner Dr B K Gohain, the Right to Information cell has been completely ravged n not even as file has been spared.

Complete Article

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Colleges fail to respond to RTI application filed by students union leader

RA Poddar College of Commerce and Economics at Matunga, Elphinstone College at Fort and Maharshi Dayanand (MD) college at Parel have been summoned for a hearing on September 10 by the Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner Dr Suresh Joshi after these colleges failed to respond to the queries filed under the Right To Information Act (RTI), 2005. Gajanan Kale, president, Samtawadi Chhatrabharti, a students' union, had forwarded RTI applications to 20-25 colleges in Mumbai to find out the number of students belonging to backward categories admitted in the first year junior and senior sections of the Arts, Science and Commerce departments, the amount of money collected by the colleges as library deposit, laboratory deposit and caution money. He also sought information about the amount of money reimbursed to the students, the balance amount, if any, with the colleges, the fees collected from
girl students in junior sections, the donation collected from students, the number of students admitted in the management quota, the fees collected from students belonging to Other Backward Class (OBC), Scheduled Caste(SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST), and the number of filled and vacant posts allotted for professors belonging to backward class category between 2000-2006. The college authorities have been asked to submit their replies to the queries filed by Kale on September 10 during the hearing.

Complete Article

RTI: NGO's efforts pay, officers asked to pay up

The Suprabhat Seva Samiti had asked for information which the PIO failed to provide, resulting in a fine of Rs 40,000 for 3 BDO-cum-PIOs. One man's tireless efforts have resulted in getting justice for an entire community in a Sonepat village recently under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. As a result, three Block Development Officers (BDOs)-cum-Public Information Officers (PIOs) have been fined Rs 40,000 each by the RTI Commissioner, Haryana, for not providing proper information asked for
under the RTI, in a clear violation of the provisions of the act. Refusing to bow down to the tremendous pressure from the government officials "who tried many tricks in the book to browbeat and dissuade me not to pursue the case," Ved Prakash, a social activist from Sonepat, has set an example for others to follow. Ved Prakash, head of the NGO Suprabhat Seva Samiti of Fazilpur, Sonepat, had to struggle for one and a half years to make the BDOs see reason. "They even put false and baseless charges against me," said Ved Prakash.

Complete Article

Mhada official arrested for fraud

Two Vikhroli residents invoked RTI to unearth a fraud where a group of people with the help of Mhada officials, tried to usurp their properties. Irfan Khan, a construction worker and Ashok Pawar, an employee with an oil company, residents of Tagore Nagar in Vikhroli east lodged a complaint with the Vikhroli police in July. On September 4, the police arrested former estate manager of Mhada, A M Udeshi (68) for allegedly forging ownership documents of Mhada tenements.

Complete Article

RTI champion is now a 'victim'

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has received an unusual complaint from a 'victim' of the file-noting disclosure regime ushered in by the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The complainant is none other than A N Tewari, former DoPT secretary who was responsible for drafting the RTI Act and, shortly after its enactment, was appointed Central Information Commissioner. In his three years in the Central Information Commission (CIC) Tewari was known to be walking a tightrope since he advocated a practical disclosure of file notings as against what he described as an idealistic disclosure. Tewari, last month, informed Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah as well as the DoPT about the legal notice he received, thanks to disclosure of notings of a sensitive appointment file he signed in 2004. The controversy comes at a time when the DoPT continues to maintain on its website that file notings were exempt from disclosure via the RTI Act, which has been challenged by the CIC, resulting in disclosure of notings in hundreds of cases.

Complete Article

RTI seeker held, released

Mahendra Jalthuria of Alwar, arrested for seeking information under Right to Information (RTI) Act, was released on bail on Tuesday. But, terming his arrest as a mala fide intention of the Jaipur Central Jail administration and the police to stop people from seeking information under RTI, rights activists and lawyers have decided to take the matter to court and with the human rights commission.

Complete Article

Uttar Pradesh's stand on CBI probe into judiciary-graft sought

The Supreme Court Tuesday rebuked the Uttar Pradesh government for hiding from it the Ghaziabad police's suggestion to transfer a corruption case against judges, including those of higher judiciary, to the Central Bureau of Investigation for further probe. Revealing the information, acquired by the GBA from the district police under the Right to Information Act, Divan said the Ghaziabad SSP has suggested to the state's DGP to transfer investigations to the CBI as the probe by it has reached a dead end 'in some aspects.' At this the bench got furious as the whole purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a CBI probe into the matter, while the state government concealed from the court the Ghaziabad police's suggestion.

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Govt to go beyond RTI to share information: PM

The UPA government is considering a proposal to go beyond the Right to Information Act (RTI) by posting all but strategic information in the public domain. While the RTI is a tool for citizens to extract information from the government, the new system would give information without the public asking for it. "The central government is also examining our data sharing policy to bring all non-strategic information in the public domain," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said inaugurating a national conference on statistics here. Singh said a proactive policy of disclosure would be in keeping with the spirit of the Right to Information Act.

Complete Article

Denied info about his son's alleged encounter, Sarfaraz approaches CIC

After being denied information regarding the investigation of the alleged fake encounter of his son, Sameer Khan Pathan, Sarfaraz Khan has approached the Central Information Commission (CIC). Sameer was killed in an alleged fake encounter by the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) on October 22, 2002. Through his
advocate Anand Yagnik, Sarfaraz has approached the CIC to seek a particular report related to the encounter investigation. An appeal against it is pending with the appellate authority of the State Information Commission (SIC) since November 2007. "The appeal was supposed to be settled within 60 days, but the appellate authority has not cleared it yet. Appeals subsequent to ours have been redressed. This shows a clear bias on the part of the SIC. We had no other way but to move the CIC," said Yagnik. Gujarat State Information Commissioner R N Das said, "An appeal is
still pending, but I won't not be able to tell you its exact status."

Complete Article

State information commissions a hurdle in implementing RTI: survey

The main bottleneck in the implementation of the RTI Act in the country are the State Information Commissions (SIC), which are meant to facilitate the dissemination of the information sought, according to a study by an NGO released here Monday. The study was conducted by the Society of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) across 10 states in early 2008. A total of 420 citizens who have used Right to Information Act were interviewed. It highlights that even though three years have passed since enactment of the RTI Act, citizens continue to face innumerable difficulties in accessing information.

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CIC turning into 'parking slot' for retired babus

CIC now has three former IAS officers on board, including chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, and among the remaining are one each from IPS, Indian Information Service and Indian Postal Service. The two non-bureaucrats are former national security adviser J N Dixit's wife Annapurna Dixit and educationist M M Ansari. The commission, set up under the Right to Information Act, can have a maximum of 10 commissioners, besides the CIC. As per rules, they should be "persons of eminence in public life" from fields as varied as law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. The situation in the states is no different since state information commissions (SICs) have turned out to be a major rehabilitation avenue for serving or retired bureaucrats.

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RTI Effect: Village women in Orissa win battle

When the women of Baharana village came to know that Pallisabha is the meeting of all the electorates of a revenue village & they have the right to participate in it, which should be held in their village at least once in a year and more on demand. But till yet no Pallisabha has been organized in their village since some decades. The team of village women demanded at Block office for a Pallisabha in this village. As per their demand BDO of Gop Block directed concerned official & GP to organise Pallisabha of that village on dt.07.07.08. The Pallisabha was organized on that day & strangely only hundreds women of that village joined in this pallisabha & taken part in different discussion.

On that day they came to know that the only village road of their village is going to be constructed very soon by the Gram Panchayat itself. They formed a village Inspection team to supervise the road work & demanded for the estimate copy of the road work. But the Sarpanch played double standard with them. They start demanding for the estimate copy each day & stopped the road construction work which was started by the GP within this period. The Sarapanch and the GP Secretary told that the road work has not been pre-estimated but started in advance for the benefit of villagers. They threatened that if the village women will disturb, the road construction work will be cancelled. Then the local touts & contractors started to scold and intimidate to stop their movement. Even they threaten to give false police cases against the women leaders. Also the Sarapanch & local touts used the male villagers to threaten their wives not to take part in this movement.

But the women are never bent. They deposited 5 RTI applications at Gop Block to get the estimate copy of this road work & demanded BDO to postpone the road construction till supply of the estimate copy. After all, the Sarpanch handed over the estimate copy today (08.09.08). The village women have decided to ensure qualitative construction of their village road. Bhabeni Malika, 72, is an old lady of the village told, “at last we won the battle”.

[Posted by Mr Ansari on the HumJanenge yahoogroup]

CBI Spl Director Sharma among four RTI Commissioners

The government has cleared names of four new Central Information Commissioners which include Special CBI Director M L Sharma and noted RTI activist Sailesh Gandhi. The President signed the appointment of four new Central Information Commissioners recently and a formal order is expected tomorrow. The other two new Central Information Commissioners are Satyendra Mishra, presently Secretary with Department of Personnel and Training and Anuradha Dixit, wife of veteran diplomat and former National Security Adviser J N Dixit.

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Information delayed is information denied

RR Mishra, a resident of Andheri, had filed an RTI application, seeking information about the roadwork in his area to get to know the budget and check for malpractices. He received a reply within a month, as required under the law, but the information was incomplete. He then filed an appeal. It's been three months now and the roadwork is complete, while Mishra still awaits concrete information. Mishra's is just one of the 15,000 RTI cases pending with the State Information Commission, some of them dating all the way back to 2005 when the RTI Act came into force in Maharashtra.

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Babus flights of fancy

Following an investigation on frequent fliers in the UPA Government in February this year, India Today filed separate Right to Information (RTI) applications to every Union ministry except the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on February 28 this year, seeking details of foreign visits made by officials of the rank of director and above. India Today has received the information in 1,297 pages. The details of trips related to trainings of over one month have been excluded. The information gathered is a result of over 80 applications, clarifications, appeals and reminders. Despite these efforts, the ministries of Railways, Earth Sciences and the Department of Personnel and Training are yet to give a final reply. Also, the designations and postings of a few officials may not be the latest as they may have been transferred or would have retired by now. The information throws light on the fact that 1,576 officials of the rank of director and above have travelled more than 5.65 crore km and stayed 24,458 days abroad over the past 40 months (from January 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008). While details about the total expenses incurred were not made available, information received from 45 of the 50 Central ministries (including two departments: atomic energy and space) shows that officials from these ministries spent more than Rs 56.38 crore on globetrotting. In a few cases, costs include expenses incurred on delegates or companions but disaggregated figures were not provided.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

RTI activist will be Central Info chief

In what could prove to be a boost for the common man, Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi was recently appointed as one of the four Central Information Commissioners (CIC). Known to be the face of RTI activism in the city, Gandhi consistently fought for the act while trying to create awareness about it by organising lectures and classes. He also unearthed various bureaucratic lacunas in the system.

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Persons of Indian origin have right to information under Act: SC

Persons of Indian origin with the status of Pravasi Bharatiya under the Overseas Citizens Act will now enjoy the same rights as citizens of India do, as far as the Right to Information Act is concerned. The Supreme Court today gave liberty to all overseas Indians to seek information from any public authority/organisation or institution under the Right to Information, Act, 2005, saying the right is available to all persons of Indian origin (PIOs) who have obtained the status of Pravasi Bharatiya. The ruling, given by a bench of Justices Mr SB Sinha and Mr Cyriac Joseph, came about on an appeal petition by an NRI scientist based in the United States, Dr Kunal Saha, who was denied information by West Bengal Medical Council on details of the medical treatment given to his late wife, Dr Anuradha Saha, at a Kolkata hospital, on the ground that he was not entitled to the same because he was not a citizen of India.

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Muslims make only 3.3 percent of Maharashtra police

In Maharashtra the number of Muslims in the police department is not according to their population in the state. At the level of police constable the number of Muslims is 3.35 percent. At the level of Superintendent of Police and additional superintendent of police there is only one Muslim out of 115. Only those Muslim made it to the police department who got education through Marathi medium. In 2005 only 23, in 2006 only 46 and in 2007 only 25 Muslims were recruited in police department.

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Annual entries:Govt employees can seek info

Government employees can seek information regarding the annual entries assigned to them, and the departments can not deny information to them under section 8(1)( J) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is not 'personal' information . 'Personal' information, as defined in the Act, is the one which is about a third party and not the person who is seeking it.

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Shrine boards, dargahs should provide employee details: CIC

All public authorities including dargah committees should "pro-actively" disclose details of employees and remuneration paid to them, the Central Information Commission has said. The ruling came on a petition filed by an individual against refusal by Dargah Committee Khwaja Saheb in Ajmer for details on employees recruited by it. Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari ordered the Committee to provide the information within 15 days to the complainant.

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Court tells UPSC to show marks

Delhi High Court today dismissed a plea by the Union Public Service Commission seeking immunity from an order to disclose key details of civil service examinations that have so far been kept under wraps. The 2006 Central Information Commission (CIC) decision upheld by the high court today ordered the UPSC to disclose students' marks and cut-offs for the preliminary stages of its examinations. The Right to Information Act watchdog had also ordered the UPSC to reveal the scaling procedure used to normalise scores between different subjects chosen by students — some subjects are more scoring than others.

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Padma awards list confidential, can't be disclosed: CIC

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that names of those considered for Padma awards should not be disclosed as it would be a social embarrassment and may amount to invasion of privacy. While issuing the order, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said that while the Right to Information Act aimed at
bringing in transparency and accountability, it also recognised preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. An appeal filed by Subhash Chandra Agarwal raised questions about the selection process and insinuated that the committee might be only going through the motions.

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Big companies run chemical tanks without green nod for 18 years

Over 100 chemical storage tanks built at the Pirpav jetty near Chembur have been operating without approvals from the ministry of environment and forests for over 18 years. Each of these tanks has an average capacity of 200,000 kilolitres of oil.

Companies owning these tanks storing and discharging hazardous chemicals in dense residential areas on Mumbai Port Trust land include government-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), Aegis Logistics, Chemical Terminal of Trombay and Sealoard Containers.

Replying to queries raised by a Mumbai resident under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the ministry said it had never given any approval to these companies, which is mandatory before such oil storage tanks could be set up.

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CIC says it is too early to amend the RTI Act

The Central Information Commission(CIC) has put off consideration of changes in the Right to Information Act, saying the new law should be given sometime to work. Ever since the Act came in October 2005, it has been criticised by right to information activists for ''lacking teeth.'' ''The Act having been in force for a little of over two years, it would be premature to recommend amendments to the RTI Act,'' said a sub-committee constituted by CIC for coordinating the suggestions received from the State Information Commissions and to review the suggested amendments in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

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Rise in RTI applicants worries commission

The Information Commission is unable to cope with the large number of applications under the Right to Information Act with people increasingly seeking answers on a variety of issues. The commission received 1,051 applications between January and December last year against 313 in the 15 months between October 2005 and December 2006. "There is a huge increase in the number of applications with regard to the functioning of particular offices. Given the presence of a large number of public information officers in the department, they should have been easily disposed," said Mr C.D. Arha, the Chief Information Commissioner at the AP Information Commission.

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RTI Effect: AMC blacklists contractors not collecting garbage

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) contractors who have failed to start door-to-door garbage collection work after repeated notices by AMC were blacklisted on Saturday. This was decided during the health committee meeting of AMC, chairman, health committee, Praful Raval said, "These contractors have not started work, causing inconvenience to citizens. This move will ensure that contractors don't take
things for granted and will also act as deterrent for other contractors with AMC." The blacklisted contractors are from Kali, Ranip, Ghatlodiya, Thaltej, Jodhpur, Bodakdev and Sarkhej. Raval added, "This door-todoor and gate-to-gate garbage collection is important for keeping the city clean." Recently under Right To Information Act (RTI), Nadeem Saiyad, from Juhapura Hitrakshak Society also highlighted the ongoing negligence in garbage collection in Sarkhej.

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Campaign against ex-babus as CIC

Former bureaucrats and academicians have joined the campaign to lobby against bureaucrats holding positions as 'information commissioners' in the CIC. The appointment of information commissioners in the CIC has been under controversy after activists demanded that the posts not be restricted to public servants.

In a letter to the PM, former diplomats and academicians have expressed "dissatisfaction" in the process of selection of information commissioners and demanded that the selection committee look for people from various fields instead of only public servants. The selection committee is mandated to appoint four more information commissioners to hear cases of appeals under the RTI Act. Amongst those who have supported this view include Padma Bhushan winner and former Knowledge Commission vice-chairman Pushpa Bhargav, Padma Bhushan awardee and former director of National Institute of Immunology G P Talwar, ex-diplomats like A N Ram, I P Khosla, Vinod Khanna, Arun Bannerji, K P Fabian, Madhu Bhaduri, Bal Anand and K N Bakshi. Academicians like historian Romila Thapar, JNU emeritus professor Amit Bhaduri, advocates Susheel Bajaj, Prashant Bhushan, Rebecca John and Vishal Gosain have also written to the PM on the issue.

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Absenteeism hits Delhi Police force

An alarming rise in the number of absentees among Delhi Police personnel has led to inadequate strength for law and order duty in the national capital. Between January 1 and July 31, 2008, more than 5,000 personnel of the capital's police force have gone on leave -- most of them unscheduled and without getting sanction from the authorities. A total of 5,509 such cases were detected during the said period in which 4,121 men and 1,388 women personnel absented themselves from their duties, according to data provided by Delhi Police in response to an RTI application.

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40% of SC/ST faculty posts in Central universities vacant

Even after four decades of reservation, over 40 per cent of SC/ST lecturer posts are still lying vacant in 19 Central universities. Out of the total number of 4,887 posts sanctioned by the University Grants Commission, there are only 629 SC/ST lecturers belonging to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes. This leaves a backlog of 471 as per the 2007-08 data sourced from the UGC under the Right to Information Act.

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Seeking info under RTI can land you in jailAds

Salim Begh, resident of Morababad, had never thought that his simple Right to Information application seeking information regarding recruitment of constables in Uttar Pradesh would land him in jail. He had only dared to move an appeal with the UP Information Commission when public information officer (PIO) Kushhar Saurabh asked Rs 52,000 from him for providing information. The commission upheld his plea and asked the police to provide information, while imposing a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Kushhar and giving Beg compensation of Rs 6,000. However, Beg's action was enough to anger the police department, which lodged a case against him for ransacking a police station. He was arrested and remained in jail for about 20 days.

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No list of Jallianwala victims with MHA

According to information received through the RTI Act, RC Nayak, deputy secretary, ministry of home affairs, FFR division stated vide his letter number 5/35/2008 FF(P) dated August 14 that "FFR division of the ministry does not maintain any list of martyrs of the Jallianwala massacre". He stated that the freedom fighters and the martyrs of India's freedom struggle were covered under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980, and their eligible dependents, including widows, widowers, unmarried and unemployeed daughters, etc., were eligible for pension and some other facilities.

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Inspector visits RTI applicant's home to give reply

Questioning seems to be the only thing the Chennai Police seems to know and have a very bizarre way of giving replies. This is what R Natarajan of Raja Annamalaipuram has learnt the hard way, after he sought some information, on a complaint, from the Police Department, under the RTI Act. A police inspector from Mylapore police station landed at his house at 10.30 pm in uniform to give a 'reply' to Natarajan's RTI application. "It was one of the most harrowing experiences I have had," Natarajan
told Express.

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