Having failed to elicite a response from the Jharkhand government to their demand for a review of ace cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoniâ€™s building map, his neighbours at Harmu Housing Colony have now exercised their Right to Information (RTI) to seek details of his under-construction house.
In a fresh petition submitted to Chief Secretary AK Chug a couple of days ago, 17 residents of the colony have also added the demand for an "immediate stay" on the construction of a swimming pool at Dhoniâ€™s sprawling residence.
"The pool will suck up about 4 lakh gallons of water, leaving us high and dry in the already water-stressed area. It will also pose problems to neighbours in the absence of a proper outlet system, create discord among the affected residents, especially during the rainy season and even lead to law and order problems,â€ they claimed in their petition.
The residents, who had petitioned the Chief Secretary about 10 days ago too, sought to know whether the aspects of technical feasibility of the pool, its drainage and the water scarcity in the area were looked into prior to approving of Dhoniâ€™s map.
Chug, who had directed the Urban Development Department (UDD) to submit a report in this regard, could not be contacted. But, UDD Secretary RK Srivastava said, "We are issuing a letter today to the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA), the sanctioning authority for building maps. We are seeking the facts about Dhoniâ€™s building map and pool among others.â€
RRDA vice-chairman MP Sinha said the authority had taken cognisance of the petition submitted by the aggrieved Harmu residents.
He said the authority was taking steps to analyse the aspects on technical points. Asked if the RRDA had ever analysed the prospects of the pool causing trouble to the water-stressed colony, he admitted that this aspect had not been properly looked into before the map was sanctioned.
Dhoniâ€™s neighbours, however, sought to emphasise that they had "nothing personal" against him and the issue should not be seen in the context of his performances on field. "Apart from the pool, we have no objection to the other constructions going on in the remaining part of his plot," they said.
DhoniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s neighbours demand stay on his swimming poolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s construction- Hindustan Times
Pune, May 14 (IANS) India, on paper, has a very good law granting citizens the freedom to access official information. But campaigners are impatient to make the law work better and more efficiently.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Right to Information Act 2005 has not yet been extended and awaits ratification from the assembly. Social campaigner Raja Muzafar Bhat argues that this act is crucial to fight corruption and human rights cases.
Speaking during a two-day convention on the nearly two-year-old act, held on the weekend here, Bhat said: 'Rs.2,400 crore (Rs.24 billion) were sanctioned to J&K by the prime minister two years back as a special package. But on the ground we don't see any development. Corruption in Kashmir is a serious issue. But even the opposition isn't willing to take up this issue.'
From Tamil Nadu, Prof Vishwanathan of the University of Madras stressed the need for orientation courses for all civil servants, and said that urban dwellers were more aware of the RTI act.
In Maharashtra, campaigners felt that the RTI implementation shouldn't become 'just a ground for retired bureaucrats'. Disclosure of official information should be 'the norm and not the exception', they protested.
Organisations in Orissa questioned the government approach of routing funding through NGOs (non-governmental organisations) via the Right to Information Council. This, it was felt, could not just cause a conflict of interest, but also incorporate critical elements in a way that affects the functioning of the RTI Act.
In Orissa too, there were rules that required a person to come forward with 'proof of citizenship' before applying for the RTI Act. Many concerns were raised about the 'absurd' rules of the state government in implementing the law.
Jasbinder Singh of Ludhiana in Punjab said there were as many as nine information commissioners for a small state like Punjab. Larger Maharashtra was making do with just three, he noted.
In Bihar, campaigners stressed for the need of orientation and training. Andhra's rural areas were still found to be lagging behind in implementing the law. Some 5,300 applications had been received in a year and a half, which was seen as 'small' for a state of its size. Pamphlets and booklets were being printed too.
Haryana had a problem with high fees - Rs.50 per application, and Rs.10 per page, nearly five times the cost for applying for central information, or the rate fixed by most states.
Nagaland advocate G. Lydia Yeptho said the commission there was 'fully running', but campaigners supported by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative had been trained and had worked on a campaign last year through all the districts.
'This year we want to make it an action year. We've started filing applications, helping people to write them. Just now the State Information Commission has penalised four principal information officers for not giving information,' she said.
Roy Laifungbam of Manipur said the Right to Information Act could play a crucial role in his home state to raise human rights issues. Tripura campaigners' complaint was that there were many cases pending before the state information commission. The Tripura government was seen as being 'not interested' in the state.
In Assam, some officers had never heard of the Right to Information, campaigners complained. Two districts in Chhattisgarh were being trained as 'model districts' for the RTI, in a scheme aided by the UNDP.
Problems of rising RTI cases in Naxalite-prone areas, and in areas where only partial human rights were allowed, like the northeast, were also raised.
'When it comes to the RTI, Kerala is as illiterate as any state in the country,' said Jithin Paul Varghese of Kochi. Kerala is also very poor in the implementation of Section 4, the law that requires self-disclosure of official information, he argued.
Making payments easier while applying for information, lack of nameplates of responsible officers outside government departments, poor training for government staff, high security making secretariats inaccessible, and incorporating NGOs by offering them funds, were among the other issues raised.
'By asking for the right to information, we are asking for a political right to govern ourselves. When a people fight for their ration, water or protection of their land, they are also fighting for democracy,' said Aruna Roy, a former IAS official who played a key role in persistently campaigning for the RTI Act over the years.
Plug loopholes, RTI campaigners demand