Shiv Prakash Rai had almost fainted after being asked to pay Rs. 1.34 crore to access some documents under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The dumbstruck 54-year-old RTI activist could not understand why he should pay such a hefty amount to lay his hands on dossiers on the activities of land sharks in Bihar’s Begusarai district.
“I almost fainted. According to the RTI Act, 2005, Rs. 10 is to be charged as inspection fee for the first hour. After that, it comes down to Rs 5 per hour.”
Rai had filed an RTI application with the inspector general of the revenue department, Bihar, about a year ago. His aim was to learn how the mafia were buying agriculture land near cities and converting them into commercial complexes.
“I got information from 16 districts, but the Begusarai registration office asked me to deposit Rs 1.34 crore to scan the documents.
“Sushil Kumar Suman, the public information officer at the Begusarai office, said I could get copies of the documents only after depositing the required fee,” Rai said.
According to the RTI activist, it was a strategy adopted by corrupt officials and land sharks to thwart his efforts. Besides, the Begusarai office has asked the activist to pay Rs 2,338 for another piece of information on his query, while others have provided the information free of cost.
Agricultural land is valued at a much lesser price than a commercial plot by the Bihar government.
The state registration department has suffered a revenue loss of Rs 527.25 crore between 2007-08 and 2011-12, an internal review reveals, hinting at possible anomalies.