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Delhi Education Department's strategy to duck RTI queries -- transfer applications

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karira

Delhi Education Department's strategy to duck RTI queries -- transfer applications

 

NEW DELHI: The Directorate of Education, complain activists, has evasion down to a fine art. Activists using RTI to obtain collated data that ought to be available with the DoE headquarters have had their applications pointlessly forwarded to the district and zonal offices and schools - even private ones - for replies. The result: no response at all, a deluge of paperwork or information so scattered, it's impossible to draw meaningful conclusions from it.

 

 

"They can transfer applications to another public body if they don't have information but HQ transfers blindly," says laywer-activist Khagesh Jha. He'd sought land allotment letters of minority schools. "HQ transferred to the districts and they, to zonal offices. I'm getting responses saying the information is "bulky" - each document is no longer than four pages - and that I should visit each zone and examine it personally. That's 28 trips. This defeats the provision."

 

 

The DoE transfers queries even to private schools though it's well-known they aren't covered by RTI. Mohit Goel, another activist, had filed a query on complaints related to nursery admissions in private schools. "Complaints are registered with the directorate but the query was sent to the individual schools who then replied RTI doesn't apply for them," says Goel. In case of government schools, he's received replies that, taken together, were "junk or camouflaged." "While private schools are outsideRTI, the law empowers the DoE to collect information from them using provisions in any existing act - such as the Delhi School Education Act and Rules, 1973 - but it chooses not to use that power," says Jha who started filing questions under the Delhi RTI Act 2001 (instead of RTI Act 2005) because "that has no provision of transfer." "But the DoE transfers even these queries."

 

 

Rajiv Kumar of city NGO, Pardarshita believes this practice began when "Heads of school were made APIOs (assistant public information officers)." "That was done to make filing queries easier. Applicants could submit at the nearest school instead of going to districts offices." Kumar had filed a query on complaints on Right to Education Act violations registered through the grievance redress system. "It was addressed to the district office as complaints are registered with and arguments heard by the district's DDE (deputy director, education). That was sent to the zones that keep no such record," Kumar says.

 

 

Activists also see this as an appalling waste of resources. "To have 200 schools reply individually when that data can fit on a single sheet is absurd. As Rs.17 per speed-post, you have spent Rs.3,400 and wasted paper," adds Kumar.

 

 

Then, filing appeals becomes difficult; for each level of administration, there's a different appellate authority. "For schools, zones and districts, it's the regional director, education. If all districts refuse to reply, you have to file 13 separate appeals and one more challenging the transfer itself," explains Jha. For queries filed under RTI Act 2005, the appellate authority is the Central Information Commission; for Delhi RTI Act 2001, it is the Public Grievance Commission. If DoE also needlessly forwards queries to aided schools. "In their case, the principal is PIO and manager, the first appellate authority. In short, you won't get anything."

 

 

"If the department placed more documents in public domain, the number of queries would automatically reduce. It doesn't and behaves like a post office when queries are filed. They don't even read the questions," complains Jha. To test the system, he'd sought the 2012 Shailaja Chandra Committee report (on review of the DSEAR 1973), even though it's available online. He says the reply turning down his request said, "The report is under consideration."

 

Read More: Delhi Education Department's strategy to duck RTI queries -- transfer applications - The Times of India

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