Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rs 26 cr paid for Games projects, says NDMC

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has paid Rs 26 crore to consultants and non-government organisations engaged in construction and streetscaping projects for the Games during the last five years. This was revealed after Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi asked the Delhi government, NDMC and the MCD to put up information relating to tenders, nature of work and details of appointment of consultants or NGOs for implementation of Games projects on their websites. The Commission asked the Delhi government to comply under Section 4 of the RTI Act, which provides for voluntary disclosure of information by a public authority.

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Shifting of Dharma Reddy to information commission opposed

Taking strong objection to the shifting of TTD special officer A V Dharma Reddy to the information commission, RTI activists demanded that the government cancel the transfer and post him to some other department. The activists threatened to launch an agitation before district collectorates from next week if the government failed to remove him from RTI.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

CIC moves SC on right to form benches

The Central Information Commission (CIC), which had tormented the apex court by directing disclosure of information about judges' appointment and declaration of assets, on Monday made a distress request to the Supreme Court to rescue it from administrative chaos resulting from a Delhi High Court order. At a time when Right to Information Act is being increasingly used by aware citizens, the HC by its May 21 judgment had sent the CIC into a tizzy by ruling that the chief information commissioner had no power to constitute Benches and divide work. Challenging this judgment, the CIC in its special leave petition (SLP) drafted by counsel Devadatta Kamat and settled by attorney general G E Vahanvati said, "The effect of the HC order has been to entirely disrupt the smooth working of the commission and performance of its statutory duties mandated to it by Parliament under the Act."

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17 yrs after Mandal, 7% OBCs in govt jobs

Nearly 17 years after the implementation of 27% reservation for OBCs in central government jobs on the basis of the Mandal Commission recommendations, a mere 6.87% of those employed in various union departments in Groups A, B, C and D services belong to the group. Thus a significant 20% posts across categories and departments reserved for OBCs remain unfilled raising doubts on the effective implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations. Documents obtained under the Right To Information Act (RTI Act) by Chennai-based biomedical engineering and activist, E Muralidharan, reveal that just 1,93,228 OBC employees including 2,430 sweepers were employed in different central government departments as on January 1, 2008.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Khar hotel faces closure following residents’ RTI

After 10 non-cognisable complaints and four FIRs, tenants now found that the hotel did not have necessary permits; owners, however, say that the MTDC licence is enough
A hotel in Khar will have to shut shop after residents of the building in which it is located, and the local mohalla committee, with the help of an RTI, brought it to the notice of the authorities that it did not have the necessary permissions to operate. Accordingly, on August 14, the police slapped a notice of closure on Hotel Red Palm Residency, under Section 81 of the Police Act. Supported by Mohalla Committee Movement Trust (MCMT), the tenants of the society where the hotel is situated at Guru Gobind Singh Road in Khar (W), allege that it has been creating a nuisance ever since it came up in 2003.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Workshop on RTI Act on Sept 4

State Information Commissioner V V Giri will inaugurate a state workshop on Right To Information Act to be organised by RTI Kerala Federation on September 4 at 10 a.m. at the Chavara Cultural Centre. RTI Kerala Federation Ernakulam district committee president advocate Reena Abraham will preside over the workshop. Chavara Cultural Centre director Fr Robi Kannanchira and RTI Federation Ernakulam district secretary Moothakunnam G Aparesh will attend it. RTI Kerala Federation president K N K Namboothiri will speak on the ‘Challenges faced by the RTI Act.’ Federation general secretary D B Binu will speak on ‘RTI Act: A golden line in democracy'.

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RTI application in Urdu a legal right

Right to Information (RTI) application can be filed in Urdu in Utter Pradesh, said Deepak Sindh, the Central Information Commissioner. In an order against the chief general manager of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Lucknow, he said that Urdu is the second language of the state and according to section 5(5) of RTI, it is a legal right of very citizen of the state to submit RTI applications in the language. He also ordered to constitute a panel of experts of the language to deal with applications which are filed in Urdu. The order came in the context where a check signed in Urdu by Perwaz Ulum Azmi was returned by BSNL.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Cop fined '25K under RTI Act

A sub-inspector with Howrah Police has been slapped a fine of `25,000 under the Right to Information (RTI) Act for furnishing misleading information. The West Bengal Information Commission found A K Maity guilty of "falsehood" in his reply to an RTI application that sought details of a robbery case the officer had investigated.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Politician may be behind Jethava murder: Cops

The city crime branch has found definite leads to a political motive behind the murder of whistleblower and RTIactivist Amit Jethava. A top political leader from Saurashtra is being suspected of have paid to kill Jethava through his nephew identified as ‘Pratap' who is close to police constable Bahadur Wadher from Kodinar in Junagadh. The police are believed to have brought four more persons for questioning in this case, from Porbandar. Pratap is currently president of the local municipality, against whom Jethava had also lodged a complaint. The allegations on him were that all the property that he built in the name of the community, were transferred to his own name and Jethava had filed an RTI on this. The revelations in this RTI led to the municipality being superseded.

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Corrupt policemen guarding President

Here's a shocker. Corrupt policemen guard even the first citizen of the country — the President. Seventy policemen facing corruption charges are posted at Rashtrapati Bhavan and attached to various VIPs. In the past four years alone, 4,603 policemen have been booked on various corruption charges in Delhi. A Right To Information (RTI) query has revealed that 38 policemen at the President's House and 32 in the security unit of Delhi Police are facing various corruption charges. Almost 90 per cent of these policemen were posted in the of Delhi Police's traffic wing when they faced bribery charges. After complaints against them, they were moved to the President's House, which has a separate security unit. Th police said the President's House security is considered as a "non-sensitive posting" and so chances of them indulging in corruption are low.

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Regularization of colonies deferred

Replies by Delhi government to RTI queries show how it used the issue related to regularization of unauthorized colonies just ahead of the last assembly elections to return to power for the third time. Though the government had promised to complete the regularization process within a year — end of 2009 — it has now stated that the deadline has been extended till October this year. The RTI was filed by Ved Pal, RWApresident of Aya Nagar, one such unauthorized colony, which got a provisional regularization certificate from the Delhi government. Delhi government had kicked off the process of handing over of provisional regularization certificates in October 2008 with a lot of fanfare and had even got UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to distribute the first few certificates. Government completed the process of issuing these certificates to 1,639 such societies in the next few months.

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Cops refuse to reveal criteria for police awards

It seems that the state police department does not want to reveal the criteria for selection or recommendation of officers for the presidential gallantry awards and police medals. This is perhaps apparent from the department's recent reply to an RTI query. "The information relates to government public servants and parting with the information would not serve any public interest... (it) has no relation to any public activity,'' was the reply from director general Suresh Kakkar, to Kamlakar Shenoy's RTI application. Shenoy had, in April, sought information on the grounds on which the police had recommended inspectorDattatraya Shripad Datar for the Police Medal for Meritorious Service. The medal was conferred on Datar and several other IPS and police officials on January 26.

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Headmen under RTI Act

Traditional institutions in Meghalaya, including village headmen, were brought under the purview of the Right To Information Act, 2005, by the Shillong bench of Gauhati High Court today. The court ruling was the result of a petition filed by the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People, a non-governmental organisation, after a Khasi chief refused to provide information on revenue collection.

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Babu booked for Rs 1 crore job fraud

A block development officer in South Dinajpur was arrested in adjoining Malda district this afternoon on charges of embezzling more than Rs 1 crore meant for a central rural job scheme. The BDO of Harirampur, Suman Majhi, a West Bengal Civil Service officer of the 2004 batch and a resident of Garia in South 24-Parganas, was later handed over to South Dinajpur police. He had taken charge as Harirampur BDO about one-and-a-half years ago. According to Malda superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal, cops from Harirampur had contacted their counterparts in Malda alleging that the BDO had misappropriated public money and was fleeing to Calcutta in a white car. The Malda police were also provided with the registration number of the car. In Harirampur, nearly 22 complaints on projects under the NREGS had been filed with the district administration in the past few months. What nailed the BDO was an RTI application filed by the karmadhakshya of the Harirampur panchayat samiti, Rafiqul Islam of the CPM. Islam wanted to know about the projects, their implementation and their expenditure in the RTI application submitted before July to the SDO.

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Corporators skip meetings, fail to vote on vital issues

Information obtained after an RTI query has revealed that several elected representatives of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) have not been attending important proceedings of general body meetings, despite maintenance of attendance register at the office. Activist Vivek Velankar obtained this information under the RTI Act. He said the attendance of corporators for general body meetings is hardly 60 per cent of the total strength of 149. “The strength further comes down to 15-20 per cent by the end of every meeting.” However, the shocking thing has been the failure of elected representatives to cast their vote on important issues related to development of the city. It was found that 107 members had signed the register for attendance, but only 66 participated in the voting on hawkers policy proposal.

Express News Service : Fri Aug 13 2010 ; Pune:

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State info panel tells Vigilance to provide Januja case details

A double bench of Punjab State Information Commission, comprising Lt Gen (retd) P K Grover and Jaspal Kaur, on Thursday directed the Vigilance department to provide IAS officer Vijay Kumar Janjua documents related to the case registered against him.
Janjua was booked by the Vigilance Bureau last November on charges of graft and was later suspended. On May 17 this year, he had filed an RTI application in the office of the additional secretary, Department of Vigilance, seeking certified copies of all information related to the FIR registered against him under Section 7, 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, at the Vigilance Bureau Flying Squad-1, Mohali, police station.

Indian Express, Jasneet Bindra
Fri Aug 13 2010, Chandigarh

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Cops can’t hide behind RTI exemption: SIC

In a pathbreaking order, the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has said that the Central Crime Branch of the City Police cannot refuse to part with information by taking cover under section 24 of the RTI act in cases related to human rights violations. N Swaminathan, 58, claims he was arrested in July 2008 without investigation on the basis of a false complaint made by his business associate Sembiam Kesvan, against whom he had in fact made a complaint for cheating him of Rs 14 lakh. On his release on bail, Swaminathan filed an RTI application in May 2010, asking for the documents pertaining to the case. The CCB, however, denied him the information on the grounds that it would impede the investigation process.

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Official in Manipur fined under RTI Act

Imphal West block development officer Leimapokpam Shyamacharan had to fork out Rs 15,000 to three job cardholders of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for not providing information about the implementation of the scheme on time, thereby causing suffering to the applicants. Manipur’s chief information commissioner, R.K. Angousana Singh, ordered the official to pay the sum as compensation. The state information commissioner had ordered payment of the compensation to the three job cardholders in December last year but Shyamacharan did not oblige until R. K. Angousana Singh intervened. The applicants got the sum only on August 9. Macha Leima, a women’s group campaigning for the RTI, helped the applicants in seeking information and getting the fine.

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Rs 1 lakh needed, Rs 27 lakh spent to tar half km

Daily revelations of financial impropriety in contracts connected with the Commonwealth Games have blown the lid off expenses overstatements and consequent siphoning of money. RTI revelations accessed by TOI show that road works in Bangalore are being done at costs that seem totally disproportionate to the actual work executed. Did you know that for asphalting a 500-metre stretch on Gangamma Gudi Road, the BBMP spent a whopping Rs 27 lakh? This, when urban planners say that laying a kilometre of asphalted road should cost just Rs 2 lakh! ‘Asphalting to 4th cross, Shivaram Karanth Road from Maruthi Circle to 3rd main’ — a stretch of ‘6.5 metres’ — cost the BBMP a whopping Rs 49 lakh. Figures revealed in response to an RTI application filed by SCB Patil, a resident of Bannerghatta Road seeking information on road works carried out from March 2008 to December 2009, are mind-boggling. Asphalting a 1.3-km stretch from Narayanaswamy Circle to Weavers’ Colony dead end via Lakshimpura, Brindhavannagara and Weavers Colony cost Rs 28 lakh. For asphalting to Ramanjaneya Road from Pipeline Road to 13th main Srinagara — a stretch of 400 metres — Rs 25 lakh was paid. MN Sreehari, adviser to the Karnataka government on traffic, transportation and infrastructure, told TOI it should cost only Rs 2 lakh to asphalt 1 km of road in normal circumstances. The figures mentioned above all are in multiples of that.

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BMC health panel barely met in two years

While cases of diarrhoea, malaria and hypertension are rising at an alarming rate in the city, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed that the civic body’s public health committee has hardly met in two years. The committee, formed under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), has met only 28 times in the last two years. As few as 16 meetings were held between March 2008 and March 2009. The number plunged further to just 12 between March 2009 and the same month this year.The RTI query filed by the Praja Foundation showed that the attendance of the committee’s 36 members was low. Information procured revealed that 12 municipal councillors attended less than eight meetings. The query also revealed that only 30 issues were raised in the course of the meetings. Most of the questions posed by the members concentrated on staff behaviour in hospitals and infrastructural glitches. However, the members rubbished the claims. Geeta Yadav, a corporator and a member of the committee, said, “Our efficiency cannot be doubted. Although we work relentlessly, the proposals put forth by us aren’t implemented.”

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Discrepancy in allocation robs students of scholarships

As manny as 204 students from Class I to the post-graduate level have been cheated of their scholarships, due to them as part of a welfare scheme meant for wards of construction labourers. According to a reply to an RTI query filed by Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan, the students from Anand, Vadodara, Kheda and Panchmahals have either been given no scholarship money or given less than the promised amount. In a few instances, students have been given more than they are entitled to.

Indian Express, Adam Halliday, Wed Aug 11 2010, Ahmedabad

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RTI helps poor diamond polishers get back cancelled BPL cards

While several inspiring stories about the Right To Information Act helping Indians get back their rights have been told, here's another inspiring tale of Pravin Dholakia, a 30-year-old diamond polisher in an Amreli village, who brought back food to his hungry family with the help of the Act. Not only that, his success inspired many others like him to fight for their rights as well. Said Pravin, the only breadwinner of his seven-member family who got his Below Poverty Line (BPL) card reinstated, "The local district administration department had carried out a drive to put a check on bogus ration cards in the district in July 2008. During that drive, the officials cancelled my family's legal ration card. It was a crucial time for us as the entire diamond polishing industry was going through recession. The ration card had become a very important for us to survive us as the government had provided basic essentials, especially if a family held a BPL ration card."

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GSIC serves notice on GCA over refusal to furnish info under RTI Read more: GSIC serves notice on GCA over refusal to furnish info under RTI

The Goa State Information Commission has issued a notice to Goa Cricket Association (GCA) to appear before it in connection with a case of its refusal to furnish information sought under the Right to Information Act. The GCA secretary has been asked to appear before the commission on September 3 at 10.30am. As reported earlier, following an application filed by social activist Aires Rodrigues for information under RTI act on fees paid to their former lawyer Subhodh Kantak, the present advocate general, GCA took the stand that it doesn't come under the purview of RTI Act on the grounds that GCA has not received any financial or other assistance from the Goa government or sports Authority of Goa (SAG).

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'Tharoor flouted norms to enter voters' list'

Shashi Tharoor, who lost his ministerial berth as a result of the IPL controversy, is courting yet another controversy after information gathered through the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that his name was included in the voters list flouting norms. An RTI application submitted by Kochi-based RTI activist Khalid Mundappilly, seeking details of inclusion of Tharoor's name in the voters list, proved that Tharoor was included in the list even though he could not establish that he had been a resident for six months at the address furnished in the application for including his name in the voters list. According to the information, Tharoor entered into an agreement with K Padmakumar on behalf of Preetha Sivakumar, the owner of house, TC9/227(2)), on October 27, 2008, for taking the house on rent.

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Transparency law to be amended to curb frivolous pleas

The government is considering amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act to discourage frivolous representations, the Rajya Sabha was told Thursday. In a written reply to P. Rajeev of Communist Party of India-Marxist, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan said the amendments to the law will be made after consultation with all the stake holders. There were proposals to modify the provisions about the disclosure of cabinet papers, he added. Amendments to safeguard the sensitivity of the office of the chief justice of India have also been proposed, the minister said. The minister said another proposal pertained to the constitution of benches of the commission (Central Information Commission) and to incorporate a new section empowering the commission to make regulations.

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Property statements are not 'confidential' info: CIC

Property statements filed by civil servants are not confidential information and can be disclosed after taking the views of concerned officials as per the provisions of the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah rejected the plea of Department of Personnel and Training that these records were held "in confidence" by the government and are hence exempted from disclosure.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Allahabad HC RTI rules not in conformity with the Act: CIC

The Central Information Commission has taken strong exception to the Allahabad High Court's rejection of RTI applications which sought details of action on complaints against judges of subordinate courts on grounds that the disclosure of such information was not a rule or practice. The Right to Information Act allows a public authority to frame RTI rules for the processing of information sought by applications. These rules may include fee, process adopted for the facilitation of information, the officials who need to be contacted among others.

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CIC asks LIC to pay Rs 1 lakh to widow

In one of the far-reaching verdicts that will bring smiles on the faces of those who are not getting answers to their queries under Right To Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi has asked Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India to pay Rs 1 lakh compensation to a widow for its failure to provide information sought by her under the Act.

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'Appointing RTI chief without consulting opposition is illegal'

Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu and AIADMK General Secretary J. Jayalalithaa said here Wednesday that the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) without consulting her was illegal. Charging the government with not providing her the requisite information on the appointment of the new CIC, Jayalalithaa said Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi cannot take her for granted and expect her to sign on the dotted line. Responding to Karunanidhi's charge that she did not cooperate on the issue of selecting the new CIC, Jayalalithaa said: 'As the Leader of Opposition is one of the members of the CIC selection committee, I was given the invitation to attend the meeting. And I decided to attend the same.'

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Tribals use RTI Act to fight land sharks

Reeling under an attack on their houses, a group of 13 displaced tribal families from remote Bhadrachalam used the RTI Act to find out the status of the land on which they had constructed their huts a year ago. Armed with this information, they have now knocked the doors of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking heavy compensation from people who rendered them homeless earlier this month.

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Take the ring route for filing RTI queries

Do you fret and fume before filing an application under the Right to Information? Help is on the way. Starting October 1, you might just be able to pick up the phone to demand information. The department of egovernance is planning to start a 40seater call center which will take calls from RTI applicants and forward the application on their behalf. The service, a first of its kind initiative by the state government, will be available throughout Karnataka. Bihar is the only state in the country that allows RTI applications via telephone. The egovernance department has floated a request for proposal (RFP) seeking interest from companies that provide such services. According to MN Vidyashankar, Principal Secretary, department of egovernance, the department has plans to take the project live on October 1. "The October 1 deadline is achievable because call center infrastructure is plenty in Bangalore and does not take long to set up. Only the process needs to be finalized," he added. Calls to RTI line will be charged. The rates, however, have not been fixed. "Rates will be finalized in consultation with the RTI commission," he said.

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All's not well in Amona panchayat

The sarpanch of the Amona village panchayat, Narayan Naik, and his ruling group have filed a complaint with the block development officer (BDO) alleging that the minutes of gram sabha meetings have been altered. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Naik said the matter came to light when panch member Santosh Sinari sought some information under the Right to Information Act. The ruling panchas have criticized the panchayat secretary stating that it is a serious matter which needs to be probed by the directorate of panchayats. Copies of their complaint have been sent to the director of panchayats. The sarpanch said that in one case a resolution pertaining to a jetty of a mining company was incorporated later when no such resolution was passed at the meeting.

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NREGA work being done by fictitious persons

Information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) has revealed misappropriation in disbursement of funds under NREGA. Though information sought related to a specific panchayat area, it hints at wider irregularities in the implementation of the scheme.
Sumanlata of Madota village in Jogindernagar sub-division of Mandi district had filed an RTI application to seek information on developmental works being carried in her village. It was subsequently revealed that attendance records of workers under NREGA were fudged and money misappropriated.

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Railways files flown to Didi in Kolkata at cost of 11 lakh a year

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee's prolonged absence from her ministry has cost the exchequer more than Rs 11 lakh over a one-year period. Expenses for the travel of five officials between New Delhi and Kolkata to meet Mamata for clearing files have cost the railways Rs 11,23,550. The officials in question are officer on special duty to the railway minister, Gautam Sanyal, private secretary Santanu Basu, executive director (public grievance) J K Saha, additional personal secretary S Ashok and APS Ratan Mukherjee.

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RTI activists ask Jaya to stop chief secy taking over as CIC

Appointment of a new chief information commissioner for Tamil Nadu is likely to be a complex task for the State government as right to information (RTI) activists have stepped up their campaign to prevent the appointment of KS Sripathi to the post. With the meeting of the selection committee for the appointment of the new CIC scheduled on Monday, a group of activists on Sunday met AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa who, as a opposition leader, is part of the three-member selection committee headed by chief minister M Karunanidhi. The other member of the committee is a minister deputed by the chief minister.

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RTI reveals housing board lapse in repair procedure

An alert citizen has used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to highlight a major procedural lapse by the housing board when it comes to repairing dilapidated buildings.
Milind Mulay is also testing the RTI Act, which prescribes a punishment for officials failing to provide information because they have simply not bothered to maintain the records. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) is duty-bound under the law to give the owner of a repaired building an opportunity to claim a compensation if the value of the debris (mostly Burma teak) turns out to be more than the cost of repairs. Mulay learnt, through an RTI query, that the relevant rule (No 80(2) of the Mhada Act, 1976) is not observed.

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Class I job on compassionate grounds – yes, it’s possible!

Information availed under the Right to Information Act has revealed how set ruled and regulations can be overlooked by those in power to benefit their supporters. The matter pertains to appointment of an additional district attorney (ADA), a class I officer, on compassionate grounds, whereas the rules clearly state that only class III and class IV appointments can be made on such grounds. The story dates back to February 2007 when district attorney (vigilance department) Shimla, Ravinder Dhaulta, died on 09.02.2007 and then his son Vikas Dhaulta was finally given appointment as an additional district attorney vide a cabinet decision dated 13.07.2007. The family is said to be in good books of the then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who is believed to have taken special pains to make the out-of-the-way appointment.

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Delhi slammed for delayed information, fined Rs.50,0000

The Central Information Commission has slammed the Delhi government and asked it to pay a patient a compensation of Rs.50,000 for delay in providing him information on free treatment in private hospitals. Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that in cases where information sought by a right to information (RTI) applicant pertains to 'life or liberty' of the individual, the public information officer (PIO) should ensure it is provided within 48 hours. 'The instant case is reflective of the incompetence and callousness of the public authority,' Gandhi said.

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Mizo CM’s RTI statement flayed

Aizawl-based anti-corruption watchdog People’s Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram (PRISM) has criticised Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla for stating that there was no need to appoint a State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC). Lal Thanhawla recently had said that there was no urgent need to appoint an SCIC as the people of Mizoram did not fully utilise the Right to Information Act and appointing an SCIC would be a waste of public money. Reacting to the Chief Minister’s statement, PRISM president Vanlalruata said that the RTI Act had been well utilised in Mizoram and a number of corruption cases unearthed by the people. “PRISM alone organised social audits in nine villages and has filed a number of public interest litigations in the Gauhati High Court, all based on information acquired invoking the RTI Act,” Vanlalruata said.

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Slain Gujarat activist's kin join illegal mining case

The Gujarat High Court Monday allowed the brother and maternal uncle of slain right to information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa to plead in a petition challenging illegal mining around Gujarat's Sasangir lion sanctuary. Jethwa was shot dead near the high court July 20. It was due to Jethwa's efforts that the high court ordered a survey of all the illegal mines in the region. Three people, including a police constable, have been arrested for his murder.

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RTI activists’, Third Front deputations meet Governor

A deputation led by Dr Muzaffar Bhat, a Right to Information activist, called on the Governor, N. N. Vohra, at Raj Bhavan, here this evening. The deputation comprising B. A. Malla, Tanveer Hussain Khan and Syed Basharat, journalist, discussed with the Governor the measures required for strengthening the RTI movement in Jammu and Kashmir.
The visitors also stressed the most urgent need for early constitution of the State Accountability Commission and the State Information Commission, by appointing reputed persons of high integrity. The deputation was informed that the Governor had addressed the Chief Minister for the appointment of both the Commissions, to promote transparency and thus weaken the foundation of corruption.

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RTI Activist To Challenge Order Before Appropriate Authority

The Goa Cricket Association (GCA), in a letter to the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) Panaji, has said that it does not come under the purview of the Right to Information Act. GCA secretary Prasad Phaterpekar in a letter to the public information officer (PIO) of SAG wrote on August 12 that, "Government is not a member of Goa Cricket Association. No financial assistance is given by the government of Goa or the Sports Authority of Goa to meet any expenditure of the association. Cricket activities of the association are not controlled by the Sports Authority of Goa. Goa Cricket Association is not controlled financially, functionally or administratively by the Sports Authority of Goa or the government of Goa".

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anti-poor RTI rules to be made election issue

Over 100 civil society organizations, working for the promotion of people’s Right To Information, have decided to make what they call the anti-poor Bihar RTI Rules, 2009, a public issue during the forthcoming assembly elections. These organizations are working in 20 districts of Bihar. The decision was taken at a state level meet held here at Scada Business Centre on Sunday. To oppose the state government’s move, an action plan was also drawn up. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad, Patna and Janadesh, Madhubani had organized the conference.

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Murdered RTI activist’s legacy to be kept alive

For Bhikhubhai Jethwa, father of slain Right to Information (RTI) activist and
environmentalist Amit Jethwa, the government's move to provide protection to
whistle-blowers has come too late. "I have already lost my son who was so passionate about RTI," he says. Bhikhubhai was referring to the draft Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, that was cleared by the cabinet on Monday. "The government should have thought about protecting whistle-blowers in 2005 itself when the Right to Information Act was brought in. If such a provision was there, many whistle-blowers wouldn't have lost their lives," Bhikhubhai says. The proposed Bill empowers the Central Vigilance Commission to penalize peoplerevealing the identity of whistle-blowers. Amit Jethwa was shot dead on 20 July near the Gujarat high court in Ahmedabad by two unidentified men. "Political forces are behind his murder," alleges Bhikhubhai.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

House tells PMO to decide on declaring assets

The Lok Sabha secretariat has refused to entertain a request from the prime minister's office (PMO) seeking permission to disclose the assets of those ministers who are members of the House. The secretariat says the Right to Information (RTI) Act does not have provisions for giving such "clearances". PMO referred the application to Lok Sabha under the orders of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which was deciding on an RTI application filed by activist SC Agrawal to the office seeking details of assets and liabilities of ministers.

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Drug labs closed for 2 yrs cost govt Rs 116cr

The government of India incurred a loss of more than Rs 116 crore by keeping three public sector vaccine labs closed for two years, government audits and RTI applications have revealed. While the government had to spend an additional Rs 40 crore to purchase BCG, DPT and TT vaccines from private labs, other expenses, including payment of salaries without income, amounted to more than Rs 76 crore. The Drug Controller General of India had cancelled the manufacturing licences of BCG Lab, Chennai; Pasteur Institute (PI), Coonoor; and Central Research Institute (CRI), Kasauli, on January 15, 2008, citing non-adherence of good manufacturing practices. The suspensions were revoked on February 22, 2010, but none of the labs has supplied a single dose of vaccine to the government's universal immunisation programme yet.

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GSDMA can’t find its chemical crisis plans

In an RTI reply, dept of industrial safety says it could not locate any such measures in place in districts A chemical emergency plan is not among the priorities in Gujarat, a state with one of the country's highest concentration of chemical industries, as a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application indicates. Three years after the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) replied to an RTI query that a chemical disaster emergency plan was being drafted, Department of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) could not locate even chemical emergency plans even in districts when another RTI query sought information on it recently.

Express News Service
Tue Aug 10 2010 ; Vadodara:

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State edu dept plans online answersheets for SSC students

A month after massive success in the online admission system for junior colleges, the school education department has now drafted an ambitious proposal to provide online answersheets to all the 16 lakh odd SSC students, with a move to ensure a complete transparency in the entire evaluation process. "We are in the process of developing a software in consultation with the information technology department. It has been proposed to make answersheets available to the students on payment basis." "Entire transaction will be online. Our aim is to make the evaluation process accountable as well as transparent," a senior official told TOI on Tuesday.

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HC admits PIL against CIC appointment

The Patna high court on Tuesday admitted a PIL challenging the appointment of Ashok Kumar Chaudhary as the state's chief information commissioner (CIC) and issued a notice to him. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Rekha Manharlal Doshit and Justice
Jyoti Saran admitted the Patna Nagrik Parishad's PIL for hearing. Filed through Parishad secretary Arvind Kumar Sinha, the PIL has alleged that Chaudhary's appointment was a violation of the Constitutional provisions. Petitioner's counsel Ravindra Giriyaghey submitted that under the provisions of Article 319(B) of the Constitution, a person having once held the post of the chairman of a public service commission cannot be appointed by the government in any organisation functioning under the government. Chaudhary is a former chairman of the Bihar Public Service Commission, he added.

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RTI applicant attacked in UP

An RTI applicant based in Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh, has alleged that he has been attacked by the goons of the chairman of district’s Nagar Panchayat. Kumar, 50, had filed application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to seek information on the construction material used in the shops which were constructed by the Sidhauli Nagar Panchayat. The public information officer of the office of the District Magistrate
asked Kumar to collect the information from the Panchayat office. But the information was not given. “When I went to collect the documents, they said that lot of people come
asking for such information. I should stay out of this,” said Kumar. Kumar then approached the state information commission which was also unable to provide the information.

GN Bureau
August 10 2010

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Jeweller turns RTI crusader

For 19 years after he bought two houses in 1988 in Lonavla, jeweller Kishore Jain used to drive down to the getaway for his weekly dose of quiet and peace. All that changed in 2007. Now, Jain is busy fighting to save Lonavla from land sharks. In 2007, Jain noticed that two row houses, right opposite his, had been bought by a hotel. Jain filed an RTI query in February 2007, which revealed that the hotel didn't have the requisite permission to function as it was in a residential zone. He lodged a complaint with the Lonavla Municipal Council (LMC) but no action was taken. A legal battle followed. The local Vadgaon court in July 2007 passed an order directing the Lonavla Municipal Council to demolish the hotel. Nothing happened. Next was Pune's District Court, which upheld the demolition in July 2008. Despite the orders, the hotel continued to function.

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'Place open ads for info commissioners'

Opposing the current practice of appointing retired bureaucrats as information commissioners, RTI activists have demanded that future appointments take place through open advertisement with applicants giving a detailed application form and a presentation to be screened by a high level committee. Advocating an open and transparent process for appointment of information commissioners, RTI activists said persons of eminence in public life should be selected. MKSS leader and social activist Aruna Roy is likely to take up the issue in the National Advisory Council (NAC).

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Amit Jethava murder trail going dry

It was murder most foul when Amit Jethava, an RTI and wildlife activist, was shot dead by two unidentified assailants right opposite Gujarat High Court on July 20 night. However, after initial uproar, the police teams from city crime branch and zone I are going slow due to lack of clues. According to Sola police, Jethava was shot dead with a country-made revolver found from the spot. The assailants' bike was also recovered from the spot. Jethava was shot dead when he was coming out of Satyamev Complex, housing
Gujarat Bar Association office. The murder took place around 8-8.30 pm, generally a busy time for the advocates. Jethava was there to consult his lawyers regarding a public interest litigation (PIL) he had filed. When contacted, crime branch officials said that identification of the assailants had already been done. However, it was feared that they had already left the state and could not be traced at the moment. However, efforts were on to get their footprints, they claimed. Refusing to divulge details, they only said that it was a contract killing.

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'30 yrs on, info on Emergency cannot be official secret'

So where are the records of India's "darkest days", the political period that seemed to spell curtains for democracy, the Emergency of 1975-1977? If replies to an RTI query are to be believed, no one knows where to find the communications between then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the government before and after the Emergency. And no one has any idea where to look for the relevant documents, notings and records of various decisions. These are not with us, says the ministry of home affairs, passing the buck to the National Archives of India (NAI). The NAI, which is the repository of 'non-current records' of the government of India, says nothing was transferred to it. So where did the records go? "The presumption is that they (the officers) have either destroyed them or they don't want to give it away. In this context, one can only assume that all the allegations (pertaining to the Emergency period) against Indira Gandhi and
Sanjay Gandhi were true," said M G Devasahayam, an ex-IAS officer who served as Chandigarh district magistrate during the Emergency.
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Sunday, August 08, 2010

PMO swoops on air miles for personal use

The Prime Minister's Office has asked the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to find out if bureaucrats are using frequent flyer points earned on official trips for family and personal use. According to a memorandum issued on June 3, 2009, the DoPT had banned using the mileage points for "privatetravel" by bureaucrats and any violation would attract "departmental action". The ban was part of a series of austerity measures announced as the global economy went into a tailspin. The government's stipulation was that the mileage points, if earned, should accrue to the organisation or the department concerned so that other officers could use them. Acting on an RTI application filed by Gopal Prasad, the PMO has now asked DoPT to find out whether this rule has been violated by some babus.

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Urdu Sahitya Akademi under lens for ‘foul play'

RTI queries by a city-based writer have brought to light many financial irregularities in the Urdu Sahitya Akademi over the past five years.The information surfaced when RTI activist Aqeel Shatir filed a second appeal since he had doubts about the answers supplied to his first set of queries. Shatir claimed he filed the query “sensing foul play in the affairs of the Akademi for several years”. The nine seminars and workshops held by the Akademi, five were allegedly held at far-off places like Kutch, Ambaji, Bhavnagar, Surat and Mahuva while four were held in Ahmedabad. The Akademi had hired luxury coaches to take the “audience” to those places but the replies supplied showed only the details of money paid to speakers, who, except for those coming from outside Gujarat, curiously remain more or less the same in all these programmes.Interestingly, a few of the speakers had attended all these functions.

Indian Express
Tanvir A Siddiqui
Wed Aug 04 2010,Ahmedabad

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Auditor general should probe fund diversion: RTI Activist

RTI activist Miloon Kothari on Tuesday demanded that the auditor general of India be asked to audit the accounts of the Commonwealth Games following revelations about the illegal diversion of funds meant for Dalit welfare to the Games. A whopping Rs.744 crore was diverted by the Delhi government from the Special Component Plan (SCP) fund meant for welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This was revealed by RTI activist Miloon Kothari Tuesday at a press conference here. The matter led to huge commotion in the Rajya Sabha, with the opposition forcing three adjournments of the house. Kothari informed that he received information July 30 through an RTI from the Delhi government that Rs.744.354 crore from the SCP has been utilised for the purpose of Commonwealth Games.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Publish names of rejected electoral roll applicants

The Central Information Commission has recommended to the Delhi State Election Commission to put up on its web site the names of people whose applications for inclusion in electoral roll have been rejected. "The Commission recommends that the Election Commission consider putting up details of persons whose applications for registration in electoral roll are rejected giving the reasons of rejection on the website of as part of its obligation under Section-4 of the RTI Act," Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said in his order.

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Greens up in arms against rail link to BIA

At least 371 trees are going to be axed for the ambitious high speed rail link (HSRL), connecting Bangalore city with the international airport. Information available through the Right to Information (RTI) Act reveals that around 371 trees were being axed and 265 trees will be pruned for the project. There are also plans to acquire around 66 hectares of public land. “Earlier for Metro rail, they said that they were going to axe around 400 trees. But they ended up axing 3,000 trees. Now, the detailed project report (DPR) for HSRL says that 371 trees are going to be axed. Finally, the number will be beyond this,” said environmental activist Vinay Sreenivasa of environmental group Hasiru Usiru.

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Discord over piling up of petitions before Kerala State Information

The Kerala State Information Commission is faced with a large backlog of appeal petitions, and the problem is worsening day by day. Vacancies in the Commission and staff shortages and lack of proper systems added to the problem. Appeal petitions now take more than 15 months to be disposed off. The State Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas and Commissioners V. V. Giry and K. Rajagopal differ on the number of pending cases and the reasons for that, though they agree that pendency is going up.

According to the annual report of the Commission for 2009-10, the Commission received 1256 complaints (on non-disposal of requests and other omissions and commissions by State public information officers) and 1556 second appeals on decisions of public authorities in 2009-10. During the same period 1350 complaints and 842 appeals were disposed-off. However, according to data furnished by the two commissioners, only 226 appeals were disposed off during the period. The Commission has received 4678 appeal petitions between January 2006 and June 2010. Of this only 61 per cent could be disposed of. At the end of June this year, 1848 appeals were waiting disposal.

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Temples in Goa not covered under RTI: D''Souza

The temples in Goa cannot be covered under Right to Information (RTI) Act as they are private bodies, state legislative Assembly was told today. State revenue minister Joseph Philip D'Souza, responding to the calling attention motion on Thursday, said the temples (devasthans) were not public authorities. "These are private temples managed by the body of mahajans and governed by their own by-laws," D�Souza told the Assembly. BJP leader and Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar had moved a motion stating that there is anxiety and apprehensions in the minds of people that the government intends to bring temples and other religious institutions under RTI. D'Souza said government is of the opinion that temples are not established or constituted by law made by Parliament or the state legislature. Nor are these bodies controlled by state government, he said. The state government has said the mamlatdar (revenue officer) has limited powers of supervision being the administrator in terms of regulation. The motion was initiated after district collector on July 16, 2010 issued circular to temples asking them to give all vital information to one M Athikesavan of Tamil Nadu, who had moved an application under RTI.

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Speedy CIC appointment sought in Mizoram

The Aizawl-based anti-corruption watchdog People's Right to Information and Development in Mizoram (PRISM) today said it has sent a memorandum to president Pratibha Patil seeking quick appointment of a chief information commissioner for the State Information Commission.Copies of the memorandum were also sent to prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, PRISM said in a statement here.The State Information Commission has been functioning without the CIC since the retirement of Robert Hrangdawla in early February, the statement said, adding that it had urged the state government to appoint a CIC immediately but without any success.The committee set up to appoint the CIC was yet to meet to make the appointment till date, the statement claimed.The committee comprised of chief minister Lal Thanhawla, information minister Zodintluanga and opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) legislature party leader and former information minister Dr R Lalthangliana.

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PMC evades RTI query, fined Rs 25,000

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been fined Rs 25,000 by the State Information Commission (SIC) for failing to part with information sought by city-based Right to Information (RTI) activists. SIC has also directed the PMC commissioner to make special efforts to implement Section 4 of RTI Act.Maj Gen SCN Jathar, Vivek Velankar, Sujit Patwardhan and Vijay Kumbhar had appealed to irrigation minister Ajit Pawar about the dismal water supply of Pune.The quartet had also filed an RTI plea on August 17, 2009 seeking information from the PMC on the same issue.The PMC had sustained a loss of Rs 6 crore as they had to pay a fine to the Irrigation department due to a wrong water supply pipeline laid by the civic body.

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Rs 2,000 ticket to traffic cops for RTI violation

In a dubious first, Nagpur traffic police were fined Rs 2,000 by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay HC for failing to provide information under Right to Information (RTI) Act. The court asked the cops to pay the amount to petitioner Tushar Mandlekar. Mandlekar, a social activist and traffic expert, had made an RTI query asking whether they issued temporary licence against seizure of permanent licence of traffic offenders. It is mandatory for the police to issue a temporary licence (TL) as per Rule 14(1) of Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 and Section 206 of Motor Vehicles Act 1988. Unfortunately, this provision was being violated and citizens, charged with any traffic violation, were being forced to drive without valid driving licence until their offence was settled or compounded.

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Citizens' forum exposes malpractice by Goa poll officers

Goa-based Citizens' Forum today claimed to have exposed malpractices by the state election officers while revising the electoral rolls. Data collected by Pilerne Citizens Forum (PCF) under Right to Information (RTI) shows that election officers in Goa adopt procedures which are different from the guidelines issued by Election Commission of India (ECI). "All the eleven talukas are following guidelines different from ECI to enroll new names or shift the name from one constituency to another," PCF chairman Prakash Bandodkar told reporters here. PCF's allegations are based on the data collected from various offices after one-year-long procedure of getting information under RTI. Bandodkar said ten out of eleven mamlatdars responded to their queries and all were found following procedures which were diverse from the ECI guidelines.

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Water chlorination: RTI exposes MC's tactics

Though tall claims have been made by municipal corporation about the regular chlorination of water tanks, RTI has bought to light, the reality. Information collected through the RTI has revealed that 14 out of 22 tanks are in working condition but are being neglected. Despite having admitted the fact about decaying overhead water tanks, municipal corporation has failed to adopt any measures. A resident, Arvind Sharma had sought information from municipal corporation about the number of water tanks, their condition and the process of chlorination for the purification and was informed about the current tank conditions. RTI stated that in sub zone D-I, seven out of eight tanks are working, while one is yet to be connected to the tube well. Similarly, in sub zone D-2, three out of five tanks are functional and in sub zone D-3, four out of nine function. No inform for sub zone D-4 was provided. The water tanks had been installed to provide supply to the city in case of any snag in the tub wells.

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Erring PIOs fined under RTI Act

State Information Commissioner P N Narayanan on Monday imposed fine on PIO-cum-block development officer (BDO), Parvata, Khagaria, for not providing information to an applicant on time and failing to respond to the State Information Commission's notice.
As per a press release issued by IPRD, the maximum fine amount has been fixed at Rs 25,000 and the PIO has been asked to provide the information to the applicant Jai Prakash Yadav by October 15. The commissioner also imposed fine on PIO-cum-BDO, Parihar, Sitamarhi, as he failed to provide information to an applicant Suresh Thakur and also failed to respond to Commission's notice. The maximum fine amount has been fixed at Rs 25,000 and the PIO has been directed to provide information by October 30.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

No guidelines for hygiene in Delhi eateries, CIC told

Delhi government officials recently admitted that there were "no proper guidelines" to check hygiene levels in restaurants and hotels in the city. This candid acceptance is likely to stir concern among overseas visitors who are planning to travel to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. Responding to an RTI query asking for information on guidelines issued by the Delhi government regarding food safety standards, officials said there were "no proper guidelines". They admitted this during a hearing before the Central Information Commission. With the Games just two months away, Delhi government's sub-divisional magistrates including Satish Kumar, P R Jha and V P Singh said there were "no proper guidelines to check the hygiene standards for hotels, restaurants or vendors of food items".

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Anderson escape: PMO has no record of calls from US

Amidst raging controversy over the escape of Bhopal Gas leak case accused Warren Anderson, the Prime Minister's Office has said it has no records of phone calls received from any US government official during the period of his visit to the country in the wake of the tragedy. This was stated by the PMO in an RTI reply on the issue. Information on the issue might have shed some light on the circumstances of arrival and
controversial departure of Anderson after jumping the bail. The RTI plea had five questions which included details of telephonic conversation of the PMO officials with their counterparts in different countries after the leak of poisonous gas from the Union Carbide's India unit plant in Bhopal which killed over 15,000 people.

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