Arvind Kejriwal may have been a champion of the Right to Information Act but his government seems bent on stonewalling requests for information on several key decisions taken by it.
It’s been more than a month since Dev Ashish Bhattacharya of Noida filed two applications under the transparency law. These have made the rounds of 22 departments — most of them with no connection to the subject matter — but he is yet to get the answers he seeks.
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In his first application, filed January 2, Bhattacharya sought the file notings of two key decisions taken by Kejriwal after becoming CM — an annual 20,000 litres of free water to each household and a 50% reduction in power tariff through subsidy.
The second, filed January 4, pertains to the cost incurred by the government on the swearing-in ceremony at Ramlila Maidan and on the sprucing up of the Bhagwan Das Road residence allocated to the CM (which he later declined to accept).
Most of the departments have responded saying the information sought does not fall within their jurisdiction.
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“The information I asked for was straight and simple, and the chief secretary’s office should have known the answers. But instead of giving the information, my applications were forwarded to a number of irrelevant departments,” Bhattacharya said.
The first application was forwarded to the fire service, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board. The second application was also forwarded to same set of departments.
Calling this a common practice by governments to harass information seekers, former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “It is ridiculous that the chief secretary’s office is not aware of file notings related to decisions taken by the cabinet.”
Even an official at Kejriwal’s office said, “It was a simple RTI query that should have been answered.”
Kejriwal started his civil society career with Parivartan, a Delhi-based NGO that campaigned for transparency and accountability using RTI. In 2006, he won the Magsaysay award for his work in creating awareness about RTI.