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Maharashtra Misuse of RTI Act delays justice: Information commissioner


Atul Patankar
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As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 7 February 2012

 

PUNE: An unholy alliance of corrupt people in the society and a number of government officials are misusing the Right to Information (RTI) Act and thereby delaying justice to the common man, state information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar said on Monday

 

Kuvalekar, who retires on Tuesday, was addressing a press conference on completion of five years in office. He had taken charge as commissioner of the Pune division on February 8, 2007. He said there are instances where people have filed a large number of RTI applications, thus slowing down the information-providing process and inconveniencing citizens whose queries are genuine.

 

"There are people who have filed 150 applications at one time. Such activities are growing and this by itself is a very serious matter. The mindset of the society and that of these people needs to change to curb such activities," Kuvalekar added.

 

Speaking about the functioning of the system, he said, "I found senior officials reluctant to respond effectively to the RTI Act, the reason is their unwillingness to change the status quo. Officials who have joined office recently have realised that if they implement the RTI effectively, it eases their workload and reduces pressure while taking policy decisions. These officials are pro-RTI and its effective use for efficient governance."

 

But the office of the information commissioner itself is similar to any other government office, Kuvalekar said. "There is a shortage of staff and instead of equipping the RTI office with more stenographers, there are more clerk-level officials. I have already moved a proposal to change the staffing pattern of the office to ensure its speedy functioning. The state government's nod is awaited," he said. "RTI activism has so far remained limited to the urban areas with a focus on civic issues. The economically weaker sections in society are still unaware of the gravity and power of the RTI Act." and how it could be helpful for them. The government has allocated some funds, which are utilised by various non-governmental organisations for spreading awareness about the Act, but the economically weaker section is yet to use it effectively, he added.

 

Meanwhile, before Kuvalekar took charge, there were 2,800 appeals pending with the office. Till January 31, 2012, Kuvalekar's office admitted 16,593 appeals and disposed 12,608 of them. It also received 835 complaints of which 686 were cleared. There are 113 people who have a record of filing more than five appeals at one time, he added.

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As reported at dnaindia.com on 7 Feb 2012

 

‘RTI Act has solved many problems of common man’

 

The outgoing chief information commissioner (CIC), of Maharashtra Vijay Kuvalekar, opined that the judicious usage of the Right to Information (RTI), Act 2005, has proved potent in solving many problems of the common man. Kuvalekar, was speaking to the media persons, on the eve of his retirement on Monday in Pune.

 

“In my five-year tenure, I have come across many cases, where RTI has been successful in solving the problems of the people. The trick lies in using the Act tactfully and intelligently,’’ he said.

Kuvalekar cited the example of cleanliness of the underground passage in the vicinity of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. According to him, the residents had been fighting with the civic authorities, about the upkeep, but their voices were falling to deaf ears.

 

However, during a hearing before the CIC, the civic officials from Mumbai, promised to look after the upkeep of the passage.

Also, he cited the example of starting a state transport bus service in Konkan, which was suspended by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), but was restarted following a successful appeal by affected villages. “The villagers had sought the reason for suspension of services. MSRTC officials had replied that the losses incurred in running of the bus, had led to suspension of services. The villagers then asked for the definition of ‘loss’ according to MSRTC, which revealed that the service in fact was making a profit. Realising this, the officials re-started the service,’’ he said.

 

However, Kuvalekar said the trend of RTI being misused is on the rise, which is a cause of concern. Also, the apathy of the government in terms of providing staff to the offices of various state information commissioner (SIC) was a cause of concern. With the retirement of Kuvalekar, there would be only four SICs in the state out of the eight commissionarates.

 

During his tenure, Kuvalekar said the Pune bench of SIC, had received 16,553 appeals, out of which 12,608 appeals were disposed of. Also, of the 835 complaints received, 686 were

resolved.

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If anything, he is consistent. He has been making these comments about misuse of RTI by people making too many applications. I had confronted him in a seminar, asking him how many of those applications got a complete and timely reply. He accepted that he has no information on that!

 

The one activist IC, being most vocal on labeling all activists as black mailers and misusers is a tragedy.

 

He is retiring today.

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The another tragedy in India is that good patriotic citizens do not unite, as corrupts have. Each good citizen wants to be hero by denouncing others, while bad citizens work as team.

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I think that to address RTI activists as blackmailers is most derogatory remark which can not be expected from a constitutional body. One should think that he is taking salary in exchange of service as well as other facilities, have not forgot RTI activists who perform their pious job to sound whistle if any thing unlawful is going on. One should know that RTI activists are whistle blowers in true sense who performs public service by expending hard earned money from his own pocket. One should think that an RTI activist far better than those who are not not excuting mandatory duty allotted them under the law of land.

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