A farmer, with an average annual income of Rs 60,000, was ordered to pay a whopping sum of Rs 1 crore to know how Public Distribution System dealers distributed kerosene oil and food articles over the past few years.
Gupteshwar Singh of Bankat village had initially sought these details from Bihar’s supply department in Patna in May last year. The request was forwarded to the Ara district supply officer, who in turn sent a letter to the petitioner asking him to pay a sum of Rs 78 lakh towards the cost of collection of the information and its photo-copying.
The stunned villager then moved the State Information Commission (SIC), saying he was denied information even after expiry of the stipulated 30-day deadline under the RTI in June. The SIC directed the District Supply Officer (DSO), Jawahar Prasad, to provide the details to the petitioner free of costs.
The DSO then sought Rs 1 crore from the government towards the costs involved in complying with the SIC directive. The SIC, in the meantime, summoned the DSO, who explained the costing of the information collection.
The proceedings at the SIC lasted some six months and in December, it accepted the DSO’s plea and issued an order directing the farmer to pay the costs and collect the information.
DSO told HT, “I will forward the latest order of the SIC to the petitioner and if he comes up with the necessary stipulated costs of Rs 1 crore, he will be provided the information he has sought.” He has not yet heard anything from the farmer.