WHY SHOULD you pay Rs 40 for obtaining information that should rightfully be furnished to you on a fee of Rs 10? This was the common refrain of scores of harried people, who flocked from all over the State to HT’s Drive Against Bribe camp, being held in association with several self-help groups here at the Bhim Rao Ambedkar Mahasabha office, on Monday.
Apparently, the ‘babus’ have devised their own devious ways to discourage and deny information being sought from them by the people under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. Not only the applicants are asked to provide the requisite Rs 10 fee through a bank draft and hence pay Rs 30 towards service charges to the bank but they are also being asked to make the application on a prescribed proforma. This ‘norm’ has been adopted by both the district administration and the LDA here, who have devised their own forms for entertaining applications under the Act.
“This is just another ploy that has been invented by the officials to dissuade people from applying,” said SR Darapuri, a retired IPS officer, who is supervising the awareness camp. He said the officials were duty bound to accept an application on just a simple sheet of paper and Rs 10 as fee under the Act, which did not specify any proforma for such applications. Sure enough, Chief Information Commissioner Justice MA Khan himself confirmed his contention. “I would be writing to the heads of all departments that they should desist from the practice of demanding bank draft and accept applications on simple paper,” Khan told Hindustan Times.
Besides 90 applicants, the camp got 150 calls from Varanasi, Bahraich, Sitapur, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Barabanki, Sultanpur, Allahabad and Gonda.
While majority of these people complained that several departments were yet to appoint their respective public information officer for receiving applications, some others pointed out how the State’s secretariat remained out of bounds for them.
The irony is that the State Government has appointed deputy secretary/under secretary level officers as PIOs, who neither have telephones nor the authority to get passes issued for those wishing to meet them in this connection, pointed out Darapuri. “In fact, I along with IC Dwivedi (an ex-IPS officer) and Sandeep Pandey had met principle secretary, administrative reforms GP Verma and apprised him of the problem but no remedial measure has been taken so far,” he added.