Skip to main content

Reveal concession agreement under public-private property project under GoI, rules Central RTI watchdog

By Our Representative
In an important move, the central information commissioner (CIC), the right to information (RTI) watchdog on the Government of India (GoI) and its agencies, has ordered, in a ruling, that concession agreement for a public-private partnership (PPP) project should be disclosed after “severing those portions relating to commercial confidentiality”.
While the order relates to an RTI query by senior activist Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Organization (CHRI) seeking information from the Department of Ports, GoI, regarding Puducherry Port’s PPP project, this marks a break from the past when RTI pleas on PPP projects were set aside citing "violation" of business confidentiality.
It is not just GoI ministries and departments which would refuse information on concession agreement. The Gujarat government's industries department, too, has acted similarly saying this would "hit private interests."  Several RTI pleas seeking agreement with Tatas on the prestigious Nano project have been rejected citing confidentiality "violation". The Nano agreement with the Gujarat government is said to have meant concession to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore to the Tatas.
Nayak made an application seeking information on Puducherry Port as a “test case” after he accessed a letter the CIC had sent to the now defunct Planning Commission in January 2011, which said, “every PPP proposal be made public inviting people's comments”, all PPP agreements, including on special purpose vehicle created for the purpose of implementing PPP project should be treated as “public authority under the RTI Act”; and the Ministry/public authority responsible for PPP project should be “directly responsible” for making permissible information transparent under the RTI.
The Planning Commission, in its reply said, while it would seek “legal opinion”, but it would "allow" applicants to obtain concession agreements, maintenance manuals, maintenance programmes and maintenance requirements from the concessionaire.
Based on this correspondence, Nayak decided to seek PPP agreement of the Puducherry Port under RTI. While the first appellate authority rejected his request on the ground that the concession agreement contained confidentiality clause, the CIC, two years later, in May 2014, following the hearing on RTI plea, asked the department of ports to file a status report on the PPP project.
“During the hearing it transpired that the PPP had been shelved after prolonged litigation before courts. Yet, the department of ports pleaded commercial confidentiality against disclosure”, Nayak says, adding, however, he Nayak insisted that the information be released in “public interest”.
Finally, this led the CIC, a year later, in June 2015, to issue the order directing the department of ports to “disclose the concession agreement after severing the information related to commercial confidence.”
Interestingly, despite the ruling, Nayak has not yet received a hard copy of the CIC order. While the information has been put on the website, the activist says, “Strangely, the department of ports has also not responded to me either with the information required to be disclosed or its intention to challenge the CIC's order before the courts.”
Meanwhile, Nayak says, the Niti Ayog has replaced the Planning Commission, and he is still waiting “for the PPP agreement to reach me from across the Vindhyas”. He wonders, if the current review of the infrastructure projects will also lead to “greater transparency in all PPP projects.”

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.