Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Show transparency, make public presentations on lapses, triumphs of last government: PMO advised

"Policy on Nirma cement plant was victim
of non-transparent ways" 
By Our Representative
Soon after the swearing in of the new Narendra Modi government at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, the website of the Prime Minister's Office was re-launched. The message it sent out, interestingly, has already become controversial, both in Delhi and Gujarat. Launched on the very old address, under a new heading “Quest for Transparency” it says, the PM “firmly believes that transparency and accountability are the two cornerstones of any pro-people government. Transparency and accountability not only connect the people closer to the government but also make then equal and integral part of the decision making process.”
While senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, through an e-mail alert, wants Prime Minister Modi to demonstrate what he has said through his website about transparency by making public presentations of different government secretaries to the Cabinet secretary’s plea on achievements and lapses of the previous government, Gujarat-based columnist Urvish Kothari, in a social media comment, wonders how could the website talk about transparency when none of it ever existed during the 12 year rule under Narendra Modi in the state.
The website contains the following message (http://pmindia.nic.in/transparency.php): "During his record 4 terms as Chief Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated strong commitment to an open and transparent government. Rules and policies were not framed in AC chambers but among the people. Draft policies were put online for people to give their feedback and suggestions. At the same time, initiatives such as Garib Kalyan Melas ensured that fruits of development directly reach the poor without any red tape.”
It adds, “Another example is model of ‘one day governance’ that focuses on providing time bound services to the citizens by leveraging the e-governance infrastructure. The main objective of this was to ensure provision of all Government-to-citizen services covered under the citizens’ charter.” Praising Modi, it says, “His strong resolve to transparency backed by the manner in which he put this commitment to practice indicates an era of open, transparent and people-centric government for the people of India."
Nayak says, “A few days ago, the Cabinet Secretariat is reported to have written to all ministries and departments requiring them to prepare presentations about what they did well and what they did not do so well during the previous regime and what they could have done differently. However this communication cannot be found on the website of the Cabinet Secretariat.”
The RTI activist demands, “Perhaps the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) can demonstrate its declared commitment to transparency by displaying the Cabinet secretariat's letter and all the presentations that will be made by various ministries and departments in the days to come." He adds, "This way people of India will be able to better understand the officers' assessment of the previous regime in which they had no small role to play.”
The website has also been quoted as saying, "Through this website you will also get all the latest information about my speeches, schedules, foreign visits and lot more. I will also keep informing you about innovative initiatives undertaken by the Government of India." Asks Nayak, “Will the new website be more compliant with the Right to Information Act, 2005 than it was under the previous Government will be known in the days to come?”
Political analyst Kothari, in his comment, especially takes strong objection to Modi’s claims of a “strong commitment to an open and transparent government” as the Gujarat chief minister. He says, “Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if the website had not openly lied about things on the very first day? It is quite a different thing that one of Modi’s major successes has been to spread lies successfully, indeed full of confidence.”
“One has only to see how transparent the government was from the controversial instance of the recent snooping on a woman, or adopting the practice of releasing the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report on the last day of the Gujarat state assembly session. And, which people were involved while initiating the policy of providing clearance to the Nirma Cement Plant in Mahua in Bhavnagar district? The farmers protested, and only following the Supreme Court intervention, the plant’s construction work was suspended.”

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