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Atul Patankar

As reported by Tanaji Khot at punemirror.in on December 14, 2009

 

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is considered a powerful tool for transparency in the working of the bureacracy. And many a times, it has proved its usefulness.

 

However, the number of people whose applications for information have been rejected or those who have been supplied wrong information is also staggering. Since the inception of the RTI Act in 2005, the government has deployed a state-wide mechanism to resolve issues with the help of the Act.

 

If any officer denies or provides wrong information to the applicant, there are certain provisions to take the grievances to a higher authority. If the first appeal, done to the respective government body, is rejected, the applicant can file a second appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC).

 

The SIC’s Pune Bench covers the Pune region including the districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur. The Bench started its work in February 2007.

 

According to the information obtained by RTI activist Sachin Godambe from the SIC, the Pune Bench has received 8,000 applications in the last three years. Out of these, 4,000 appeals have been resolved and half of them are still pending.

 

Interestingly, the Pune Bench has slapped only 25 errant government officers with a fine of Rs 25,000 each in the last three years. The story of Godambe’s hunt for information starts when he had filed an RTI application with the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) about the Bhosari flyover.

 

This application was rejected by the PCMC officials. After that, Godambe approached the SIC to take action against the officials who had rejected his earlier application.

 

According to Godambe, he did not get a satisfactory response to his application with the SIC. When the SIC did not provide him with the information he wanted, Godambe filed an application seeking information on the number of RTI appeals with the Pune Bench.

 

He aslo sought number of cases solved and those that were still pending. According to the information provided by SIC public information officer Y H Deshpande, the Pune Bench had received 7,425 appeals at the end of August 2009.

 

The Bench has 3,908 appeals pending with it. Godambe said, “The data clearly shows that a lot of people are keen to know more about the way their government functions.

 

However, the bureacracy is denying this information for whatever reasons. The SIC should work actively and create a position of reverence and fear with the bureacracy.

 

However, as the data shows, this is not the reality.”

 

In the last three years, the state information commission, Pune Bench, has slapped a Rs 25,000 fine each on 25 officers who have violated the provisions of the Act. Godambe had also demanded the number of employees working for the Pune Bench and their pay scales.

 

Replying to his query, the SIC revealed that there are 16 employees working with the Pune Bench apart from the state information commissioner. The staff at Pune Bench gets Rs 5 lakh collective remuneration per month.

 

Godambe said, “The government is spending a huge amount on this mechanism. But the mechanism has failed to provide justice to the common man.

 

People are eager for transparency but the SIC is not bothered to keep tabs on the bureaucracy. Many people get frustrated in their attempts for information even before reaching the SIC.”

 

Source: Revealed: SIC is sick, News - City - Pune Mirror,Pune Mirror

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