Skip to main content

Gujarat RTI watchdog: State departments fail to provide basic information to common citizens

By Our Representative
The Gujarat Information Commission (GIC), the state's right to information (RTI) watchdog, has taken strong exception to failure of various Gujarat government departments to “proactively” disclose RTI information to the general public, saying, guidelines for it are not being “implemented properly”, adding, there has been a “lack of authentic and timely information on the activities carried out for implementation the RTI Act by different departments.”
The GIC, in its annual report for 2013-14, especially objects to what it calls “non-receipt of positive response from the administration” when it comes to complaints from the "common citizen". It says, “Majority of applications received pertained to the services/working of village panchayats/ district panchayats/ municipalities, police stations, district collectorates, electricity supply companies, district education offices/ universities etc.”
Pointing towards indifference all around while providing information in these areas, the GIC says, “To avail of the services common citizens had to deal with the bureaucracy in these offices on a day-to-day basis” and it here where the problem was most pronounced. In fact, the GIC notices that often even the “record of the case is not available with the concerned offices.”
Even they, the GIC says, the rejection of the RTI pleas in Gujarat was quite small, just about 3.32 per cent in 2013-14, though certain departments registered a higher rejections such as Gujarat State Assembly (14.08 per cent), finance (7.95 per cent), health and family welfare (7.35 per cent), general administration (6.88 per cent), agriculture and cooperatives (5.96 per cent), and home (5.75 per cent).
The GIC says, the highest number of rejections, 711, pertained to information about “intelligence and security organization”, followed by 306 rejections about “information supplied by a third party relating to trade and commerce secrets protected by law.”
Then there were 304 rejections which involved “infringement of copyright substance in a person other than the state”, and 214 rejections about “personal information, disclosures of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual”.
In all there were 5,748 rejections in 2013-14, the GIC says, adding, the departments topping the number of rejections being revenue (1,889, or 4.72 per cent), followed by home (1,720, or 5.96 per cent).

RTI activist doubts GIC figures

A senior Gujarat-based RTI activist has said that the GIC's low number of rejections contradict the information collected under her. Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) convener Pankti Jog says, “Going by the complaints that we receive on our RTI hotline, the rejections as high as 50 per cent. Apparently, the GIC has not counted the rejections which it has itself mentioned in the departments which directly concern the common citizens, with whom we directly interact with.”
According to Jog, “Nearly 60 per cent wouldn't even make a complaint, as the GIC admits, in case different Gujarat government officials disclose the information voluntarily, as required by the law. Further, to say that third party information cannot be given is wrong. These third parties have obtained commercial permissions from government, hence there is no reason why it cannot be given.”
Jog says, “Under the pretext of not giving information from third party, those who are sought to be defended as builders who construct illegal buildings, contractors who obtain government work bypassing laws, and even defaulters who fail to pay power bills.”
As for “proactive disclosures”, Jog believes, “In November 2013, templates were sent for making proactive disclosures by putting up information on blackboards at public distribution system (PDS) shops, panchayats, primary and secondary schools, and so on. But even today no steps have been taken in this direction. The GIC should have taken note of it.”

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Ships recycling Bill 'allows' India to be turned into a landfill for foreign hazardous waste

Counterview Desk
In a letter to M Venkaiah Naidu, chairman, Rajya Sabha, senior activist Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance has said that the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to "safeguard country’s maritime environment from harmful and hazardous wastes and materials".

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.