Skip to main content

India's 21 of 29 RTI watchdogs didn't take up 'life and liberty' issues amidst lockdown

By Our Representative
A report on the status of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) across India during the Covid-19 crisis, released by two civil rights organizations, Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies, has said that of the 29 commissions set up under the Right to Information (RTI) Act , 21 have not held any hearings during during the lockdown period, currently in its fourth phase.
Suggesting that, under an extraordinary situation, the RTI Act assumes extraordinary importance, the report, which assesses ICs’ working up to May 15, says that despite Central and state government guidelines for different phases of lockdown, “only seven commissions out of 29 issued notifications to make provision for taking up urgent matters or those related to life and liberty. These were SIC and SICs of Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Manipur, Punjab and Telangana.”
Finding this especially problematic, the report regrets, “For millions of workers in the country engaged in the unorganized sector, the lockdown meant an instant cessation of income generating opportunities. Migrant workers walking back to their villages hundreds of kilometres away, carrying their children and belongings on their shoulders, have become the defining images of the humanitarian crisis gripping the country during the lockdown.”
Pointing out that for the poor and vulnerable “the sudden loss of livelihood has meant that relief and welfare programs funded through public money are their sole lifeline”, the report, prepared by Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, Indrani Talukdar and Sagarika Ghatak, says that experience on the ground suggests “without relevant information, it is virtually impossible for people to access their rights and entitlements like rations, pensions and healthcare.”
The report finds that the 21 commissions that did not holding any hearings were Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
Without relevant information, it is virtually impossible for people to access their rights and entitlements like rations, pensions, healthcare
The report says, the SICs of Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Telangana “were holding hearings and disposing appeals/ complaints on all matters”; in Haryana, only the chief was working; the SICs of Manipur, Punjab and Rajasthan “were available only for urgent matters or those involving life or liberty”; and the SIC of Andhra Pradesh was only taking up matters “on the basis of available documents, without holding any hearings.”
The report further says that the websites of 11 commissions out of 29 had “no information/ notification about the functioning of IC during lockdown.” These were the commissions of Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
The report notes, “The SICs of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Sikkim informed us telephonically that notifications had been issued (but not uploaded on their websites)”, adding, “Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Manipur ICs shared a copy of their notifications”, adding, “The websites of 3 ICs -- Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Nagaland -- were not accessible during the lockdown even though attempts were made to reach the websites on different days.”
Calling this “extremely problematic during a time when offices are shut and the primary way for citizens to know about the functioning of commissions and the (re)scheduling of cases is through their websites”, the report regrets, the website of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh SICs has been inaccessible for several months now.
Continues the report, “Of the 29 ICs, two commissions -- Jharkhand and Tripura -- were found to have no commissioners for varying lengths of time. They were completely defunct as the serving information commissioner in both retired during the period of the lockdown.”
Then, the report says, there were four “headless commissions during the lockdown” -- Bihar, Goa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adding, “The SIC of Rajasthan has been functioning without a chief for more than 15 months, since December 2018. The chiefs of the Goa and Uttar Pradesh SICs retired in February 2020, while the chief of the Bihar SIC retired in July 2019.”

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

A locked up offer? Govt of India 'not serious' in involving NGOs: IIM-A survey

By Rajiv Shah
Was the Government of India serious when it asked 92,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) in early April to “assist” state governments and district administrations in taking care of food, shelter and other needs of migrant workers, known to have been affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ sudden 21-day lockdown in order to “combat” the spread of Covid-19 virus, announced on March 24?

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”

Sitharaman's offer for rural jobs to 'create' just 3 crore rural jobs. Demand: 12 crore jobs

By Amarjeet Kaur*
The final package, the fifth one in a row, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 17 was a fiasco. Sitharaman during her press conference for two hours and six minutes spent more than an hour detailing the policy actions of her government’s last six years’ rule, repeating the already provided proposals during the two budgets after coming to power for the second time, even as reiterating her briefings on the four earlier packages she had announced over the previous four days.