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Gujarat govt institute "fails" to train officials into RTI rules, babus ignorant of mode of payment to file plea

MAGP's RTI campaign
By Pankti Jog*
Manojbhai Patel filed a right to information (RTI) plea with the district collector's office, Ahmedabad, by pasting a revenue stamp worth Rs 20 on July 7, 2015.He was surprise to receive a letter from the Public Information Officer (PIO) saying that his application could not be considered, as he had not paid the fee of Rs 20 by non-judicial stamp.
The letter reached Manojbhai on August 4, 2015. The PIO is also the secretary to the collector.
The Gujarat state assembly passed new rules for RTI on March 22, 2010, which included various modes for payment for RTI application, including cash, judicial stamp paper, non-judicial stamp, non-judicial stamp paper, franking, electronic stamping, demand draft, pay order, postal order, court fee stamp, revenue stamp, challan, revenue stamp, and judicial stamp paper.
Gujarat has the highest – 12 choices – for citizens for paying for RTI pleas, which makes procedure of filing application easy and hassle free.
These rules have been published in the form of a booklet by the state-controlled Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA), Ahmedabad, and an annual report of the institute claims that training of the officials handling RTI has been carried out, and all of them have got one booklet each.
Manojbhai, after receiving the reply, filed a complaint with the information commissioner, Gujarat. The commissioner passed an order, without conducting hearing, on September 9, 2015. The order quotes the Gujarat RTI rules, saying revenue stamp is allowed as a mode of payment, hence the PIO order of rejecting RTI application of Manojbhai is invalid. The PIO was directed to proceed as per the law.
The commissioner's order, interestingly, does not take serious note of the fact that the PIO, who is also senior official in the district collectorate of Ahmedabad, is ignorant of the Gujarat RTI rules of 2010, which are five years old.
Manojbhai is still to get information from the PIO. He doubts the intention of the PIO to furnish information, and thinks that the PIO would apply all available tactics to delay information.
Under the RTI Act, any citizen is eligible to access to information held by any public authority within 30 days. While the “demand side” of the law (citizens, public) is aware of the Act, and people file requests with proper fees following necessary procedures, the “supply side” still does not seem to have been trained personnel for implementing the Act. This is a major lacuna in access to information in Gujarat.
In Gujarat the responsibility for training government officials rests with SPIPA, which is supposed to train bureaucrats, system officials and employees on various governance issues. A plan is in existence, which envisages creation of a cadre of RTI master trainers, who would train other officials into implementing the Act at the local level. Several master trainers have been trained.
For reasons not known, however, the RTI master trainers have not conducted any training at district and block level. Hence, all RTI training is restricted to SPIPA and its regional training centres. As SPIPA gives all types of training, RTI is not its priority.
As there is staff deficit, officials are not nominated for training into RTI. Hence, even 10 years later, we are still left with huge number of employees and officials who are ignorant of the provisions of the law, and citizens have to break their heads and suffer.
Often official approach the RTI helpline run by NGO Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) for guidance, as there is no official mechanism – a helpline or a help desk – which the PIOs and appellate authorities could approach to solve RTI issues.
The Government of India has been urging states to send proposals to run helplines, and also innovative projects for improving the implementation of the RTI Act. However, Gujarat has kept itself away from showing up its good practices in RTI.
At a recent RTI meet at the Kochrab Ashram, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad before he shifted to the present Sabarmati Ashram location, activists and citizens demanded that government should improve implementation of the RTI Act.
There was a strong voice: If this did not happen, citizens would start a state-wide movement exposing the government’s hidden motive of “hiding facts from citizens” while talking loud about governance model, e-governance and transparent government.
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*With Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

rajesh ji said…
RTI act के तहत वाराणसी के सांसद से जनहित में माँगी गयी जानकारी रेलवे बोर्ड से लंबित क्यू ?

विषय – १९५६ में जब आम लोगों की ज़मीन अधिगृहीत करके डीजल रेल इंजन कारखाना, वाराणसी की स्थापना की गयी थी तो उस समय आम लोगों को क्या-क्या सुविधा दी गयी थी?

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