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Punjab: 76-year-old RTI activist harassed; Rs 3,000 compensation awarded by IC


Atul Patankar

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Atul Patankar

As reported at punjabnewsline.com by Gurpreet Singh Mehak on 09 May 2011

 

FATEHGARH SAHIB: A 76-year-old retired account officer, resident of Sirhind town of district Fatehgarh Sahib will get compensation of Rs 3,000 from Public Information Officer(PIO), Principal Secretary, Local Bodies Department, Punjab for unnecessary harassment. Jaspal Kaur, State Information Commissioner directed the PIO to provide complete information and the compensation before next date of hearing July 4, 2011.

 

N.K. Sayal, who is also member of RTI Activist Federation (Punjab) had detected a fraud after he obtained information about Municipal Council (MC) Sirhind-Fatehgarh Sahib works under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Sayal had sought information from the MC on October 1, 2007 about the works conducted by it departmentally from April 2006 to March, 2007. After getting information, he complained to Fatehgarh Sahib Deputy Commissioner and other higher authorities about the irregularities. The DC got conducted the inquiry from Additional Deputy Commissioner(ADC) and on the basis of these reports he recommended departmental action against then MC Junior Engineer (JE) Harmail Singh Jandu as the inquiry established that he had embezzled Rs 2 lakh . The ADC also recommended to recover this amount from the JE. The DC submitted this report to Director Local Bodies Department for taking administrative action.

 

Sayal said the MC had prepared an estimate on August 31, 2006 for laying earth on a road at an estimated cost of Rs 2 lakh. He said during the ADC inquiry it was found that no work was done and the JE had claimed to have executed the work departmentally and payment of Rs 1,97,880 was made in September, 2007.

 

Sayal pointed out that though the works are claimed to have been done departmentally by the MC but payments had been made to the contractors.

 

As per the ADC’s report, no earth work for the estimate of Rs 2 lakh had been done at the site. The ADC also found that another estimate of Rs 5 lakh was again prepared for the same work and tenders were called on February 29, 2008 by the council, following which part of the work was executed.As per Sayal after the ADC inquiry , the same inquiry was entrusted by Director, Local Bodies Department to the Deputy Director Local Government(DDLG), Ludhiana . He said the DDLG, Ludhiana has also subscribed to the report of DC, Fatehgarh Sahib after inspecting the site and going through all the connected record.

 

He said third inquiry was conducted by Chief Vigilance Officer(CVO), Local Bodies Department. He claimed that all the three inquiry officers had confirmed the fraud through their independent reports submitted to Director, Local Bodies department. He said CVO had detected fraud of Rs 7 lakh.

 

Sayal said initially the information was sought under RTI Act from Director Local Bodies on April 1, 2010 about the final action taken against the persons involved in the fraud. The Director in his reply told Sayal that the matter is being investigated by CVO and when Sayal approached the CVO authorities under RTI Act, and the PIO of CVO against asked him to contact Director, Local government as they submitted their report to the Director for taking necessary action.

 

When Sayal again approached the Director under RTI Act, the Director asked him to approach principal secretary , local government department as the case file has been sent to his office for action. Then Sayal approached principal secretary under RTI act but he was not provided information so he approached State Information Commission. He said despite repeated adjournments of the case, PIO of the principal secretary failed to supply the information.

 

During the last hearing of the case, State Information Commissioner Jaspal Kaur observed, “Local bodies department is not following the provisions of the RTI Act seriously and taking the things in a casual manner. Such an attitude on the part of local bodies department is not appreciated. Complainant(Sayal) has to attend the hearing time and again and face unnecessary harassment for which he deserves to be compensated. He is accordingly awarded a compensation of Rs 3,000 which shall be paid to him by the department.”

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