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New Delhi, Dec 20 : With loads of queries coming in everyday, the Army headquarters here is planning to set up a separate Right To Information (RTI) Cell to function under the Public Information Directorate here.
The cell to be headed by a Brigadier-ranking officer along with a Colonel and two Lieutenant Colonels and clerical staff will only look into queries received under the Act. Out of the four officers functioning in the cell, one would be from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the Army, to look into the legalities of queries received.
The cell is likely to come up in three to four months time.
With approximately 600 queries received a month, after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into effect last year, the number of queries being posted to the Indian Army is on the increase.
Officers are being preferred from the 'A' branch of any establishment of the Indian Army, but staff appointments are being held up citing shortage of officers in the Indian Army. The army's 'A' branch deals with pays and allowances and other administrative matters pertaining to serving and ex-servicemen.
The Right to Information Act has opened the door to people seeking information ranging from commercial information with vendor details to defence deals, acquisitions and procurements.
Traditionally shy of asking for information about their personal matters, the officers and men are now inclined to asking questions. The bulk of the queries from officers are mainly about postings, promotions, progress in disciplinary cases and policy matters. Sixty percent of the queries are said to be from ex-servicemen, while five percent are from serving officers and men, and the remaining from civilians.
Multifarious queries are being posed by officers of ranks ranging from Lieutenant Colonels to Major Generals. Non-commissioned ranks too have been filing queries mainly pertaining to pay and allowance with the Pubic Information Directorate.
The queries are required to be addressed directly to the Additional Director General of Public Information with a fee of Rupees 10. The queries are then sent to the appropriate agency. The timeframe for the query to be answered is 30 days, but sometimes it takes longer if it has to go through many agencies. The query which is answered in a written hard copy can sometimes prove to be a little expensive as the information seeker is asked for an additional amount if the answer is to be accompanied with photo-copies of documents supporting the answer.
The present Chief of Army Staff, General J J Singh, kicked up a storm earlier this year by seeking exemption from the Act citing national security interest as the chief reason. But the government did not agree with him.
Security agencies like the BSF, Assam Rifles and the CRPF are amongst others under the Ministry of Home that are exempt from the many provisions of the Act, and are only required to dispense information about corruption and Human Rights violation falling under Schedule II of Section 24 of the Act.
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