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26% fall in RTI pleas, Gujarat departments 'not registering' applications: MAGP

By Our Representative
The annual report of the Gujarat’s State Information Commission (SIC) for 2018-19 submitted to the state legislative assembly on the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that there are over 4,800 cases pending before the SIC, even as five commissioners’ posts are vacant.
The report also says, the highest number of appeals -- 2,050 -- was filed against the panchayat and rural housing department, followed by revenue department, 1,874 appeals, and the urban development department, 1,187 appeals.
Pankti Jog, who heads the state’s RTI watchdog, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), said in a statement, said, “Surprisingly, some departments have shown that they have received zero applications throughout the year. This is because departments do not register the received applications as a rule.”
During the year, there were 79 cases for whom CIC fined government officials, including 16 taluka-level officials, including 16 talatis, 9 mamlatdar, 5 taluka development officers, 7 police inspectors, 10 municipal chief officers, municipal chief officers, 12 principals or headmasters. The total penalty amount was Rs 6.55 lakh.
“However”, regretted Jog, “No steps were taken to initiate department inquiry against defaulting officials.”
Pankti Jog
Pointing out that the number of applications during the year went down by a whopping 26% in a year (they dropped from 1,52,097 to 1,18,638), Jog said, “It is a matter of concern that the number of RTI applications is decreasing. This is because the level of transparency appears to have gone down. It is also a matter of concern that there have been more cases of rejection of information.”
She added, “The departments have not made any amendments in proceedings towards parting with information. Meant for RTI information, the boards, put up at panchayat offices, did not display anything during the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth centenary.”
Calling this “a very serious matter”, Jog said, there have been as many as 50 cases of attacking those who had sought information sought from the state’s panchayats. This could be one major reason behind the decline in the number of appeals. ”
Jog demanded, the Gujarat government should develop a portal, where accurate information about the working of panchayats is made available at one place. For some reason, the government appears very apathetic in this regard. While old information is placed on government websites, misleading citizens, lack of transparency abounds. There is delay in examining people's grievances, and negligence in implementation.

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