Saturday, October 03, 2015

Gujarat RTI commissioner to govt: Proactively disclose climate change facts on "website" within 30 days

By Our Representative
The Gujarat Information Commission (GIC), the state's official watchdog of the right to information (RTI) Act, has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government failing to make public disclosure of the relevant information of the climate change department on its website. Issued in September third week, it would force the state government to set up climate change website, which till date does not exist.
The CIC order wants the secretary, climate change, to ensure that “the requirements of the proactive disclosure under RTI Act are fully operationalised within a period of 90 days from the receipt of this order.”
The order would force the Gujarat government to finally come up with a climate change department website. Though the department was set up in 2010 amidst much fanfare, with Narendra Modi, then chief minister of India, declaring that the state is the first in India to take the initiative, till date there is no website for the department.
In fact, a click on "climate change department" on the official website of the state government takes one to the Gujarat Energy Development Agency, the state outfit meant to promote alternative energy set up decades ago.
The order states, “The state government is directed to maintain and update the proactive disclosure material in letter and spirit of the provisions of the RTI Act.”
Agreeing that a copy of the proactive disclosure material is stated to have been put up on the notice board of the department, the GIC order, which has been signed by Balwant Singh, state information commissioner, says the dissemination of public disclosure should be “communicated to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet or any other means.”
Singh came up with his order in response to an RTI complaint by Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, a Gujarat-based NGO. He said, it should be the “constant endeavour of every public authority” to take steps “to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means or communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.”
Pandya had wanted the Gujarat government “maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the RTI and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources.”
Pandya wanted the state government to disclose the climate change department's “norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; and the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions.”
The online proactive disclosure, Pandya had insisted, should include “a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control”, as also “the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof.”
Other information should include, he said, about meetings of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies which exist under the department, their minutes, the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, budget allocation, proposed expenditures, the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, and son.
The GIC said, “All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format", and be available “free or at such cost of the medium or the print cost price as may be prescribed.”

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