The severe manpower shortage is not restricted only to the Mantralaya. Other crucial state departments too have reported staff crunch.
This paucity of staff is hampering work, more importantly disbursal of information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A petition filed by city resident Mohammed Afzal under the RTI Act revealed that the Maharashtra State Information Commission is facing severe shortage of manpower, around 35%.
According to the information, the state traffic police needs 17% more personnel while the state transport department requires 27% more people than its current staff strength.
The sanctioned staff strength in each of the eight state information commission (SIC) offices in Maharashtra is 18. However, six posts are currently vacant in each of the SIC offices; some of the divisional information commission offices have more than 10 vacancies.
The Nashik Division of the information commission, which was started in October 2010, is 70% short-staffed, as 11 out of 18 posts are vacant. Other two divisions — Amravati and Greater Mumbai — closely follow Nashik, with eight and nine vacancies, respectively. “More than 10,000 RTI appeals are pending with the state information commission because of staff crunch. With increasing awareness about RTI, there has been a considerable rise in the number of such appeals. However, such appeals are either unattended or disbursal of information under the RTI is delayed due to poor staff strength,” said Afzal. He added, “Hearings in RTI matters are either pending or those that take place are not recorded due to paucity of staff.”
When the HT contacted the Maharashtra State General Administrative Department (GAD), which recruits staff for the Mantralaya and other state departments, under secretary of the GAD, Suchita Mahadik, said, “We have given them more than 50% of their required staff strength. Now they have to form their own recruitment rules to deal with shortage of staff.”
The chief information commissioner Vilas Patil said, “As per the Right to Information Section 15(6), the state government shall provide the staff to the information commissioner and chief commissioner. If we had to carry out recruitmen on our own, we should have been informed. Why is the GAD shying away from its responsibility now.”