Thursday, December 31, 2009

Activist's fight brings aided schools under RTI's ambit

A Right to Information activist's campaign has exposed the reluctance of the school education department to disclose information pertaining to the functioning of government-funded schools. General secretary of the Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams India T Retna Pandian had to file a series of RTI applications before four different agencies and pursue them with appeals before the State Information Commission to achieve the task of bringing state-aided schools under RTI ambit.

Lourdhu High School at Pattabiram in Tiruvallur, which refused to accept two RTI petitions from Pandian has now been slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 by the commission. The school had dismissed RTI petitions on the grounds that aided schools need not have a public information officer (PIO), thereby defying the authority of the commission.

The commission's order said, "Since the school is aided, as per the RTI Act and judgement of the high court, it is a public authority. It is directed to appoint a PIO and supply information within 2 weeks. If they fail, the district educational officer is directed to take necessary action under Section 20 (2) against the school."The PIO at the Directorate of School Education, who had claimed in an RTI reply sent to Pandian that all schools in the state were following mandatory requirements in terms of infrastructure, has been asked by the commission to explain why a penalty should not be imposed.

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