A senior right to information (RTI) activist has revealed that his RTI interventions have showed majority of Government of India ministries and departments are refusing to comply with the rule 10 of the Rules of Procedure in Regard to Proceedings of the Cabinet, 1987, which requires them to send a report of the work done every month to the Cabinet Secretariat.
Needed to be submitted through the Cabinet Secretariat by the 10th of the next month, earlier, the ministries and departments were refusing to obey the rule saying it would “divert” their resources disproportionately.
Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative says, the monthly reports are not being submitted despite a recent Central Information Commission (CIC) directive to the Cabinet Secretariat in April 2016 to “consider the possibility of proactively disclosing the ‘unclassified’ portions of the monthly reports on their websites.”
Such a monthly report may have a classified portion (labelled “top secret” or “secret” or “confidential”) containing ‘sensitive matters’ and an unclassified portion, the CIC had said.
In June 2016, the Cabinet Secretariat issued a circular to all ministries and departments, which said, “In order to ensure greater transparency and availability of information in public domain about the activities of the ministries/ departments, it has been decided that henceforth, all ministries /departments may upload, on a monthly basis, the major achievements, significant developments and important events for the month on their official websites.”
“After allowing a whole quarter (3 months) for the ministries and departments to put in place systems for publishing the required monthly reports, we checked their websites for compliance. We find that compliance with this directive across the Government is poor”, Nayak complains.
“Only 7.6% (4 out of 52) of the central ministries and 17.4% (8 out of 46) of the central departments have complied with this directive. Even where there is compliance, all reports due since the date of the Cabinet Secretariat’s circular are not uploaded on their website”, he adds.
The ministries/ department which have complied so far are Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Medium Small and Micro Enterprises, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Textiles, Department of Personnel and Training, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Department of Health and Family, Welfare, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotions, , Department of Investment and Public Investment Management, Department of Public Enterprises , and the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.
While most of these submitted their reports for two months, a few have submitted it for just a month.
Ironically, Nayak’s research has found that there is little truth in the fact that submitting such reports would “divert” its resources disproportionately, as “other kinds of progress reports” are being published and uploaded.
For instance, the Central Government publishes a Fortnightly report of the NDA Government. Then, apart from the regular publication of annual reports which are tabled in Parliament, some have published e-books or two-year reports on their official websites. A few of them even publish fortnightly and weekly reports.
Those who have done it include Department of Defence, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Food processing Industries, Department of Sports, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Railways, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Department of Fertilisers, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of External Affairs, and the Department of Atomic Energy.