In a bizarre reply under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, officials of the zila parishad had asked an RTI applicant, Hardev Singh, a resident of Dhingar village, to collect information from his village sarpanch personally.
Besides, the authorities have also violated RTI norms by sending a copy of the application to the village sarpanch, who is supposed to submit the information sought by the applicant to the higher authorities.
The applicant is frightened as he feels that after his identity is disclosed, he might face problems. He is willing to submit a written complaint to the Mansa deputy commissioner against the alleged wrong action of the zila parishad officials.
Hardev Singh had sought detailed information about the total amount of developmental grants disbursed to gram panchayat of Dhingar village from 2008 to 2013, besides the description of developmental works on which grant has been used. The applicant also sought the yearly income generated by gram panchayat since 2008 and the total amount it received under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The RTI application was posted to the deputy commissioner's office on April 12 this year and the latter forwarded it to the zila parishad.
The zila parishad officials forwarded the application to Dhingar village sarpanch instead of marking it to the panchayat secretary for collection of information from the sarpanch.
In a letter sent to the applicant, the zila parishad officials asked applicant Hardev Singh to collect the information from the village sarpanch personally as the record lies with the latter.
Panchayat secretary of Dhingar village, Harbans Singh refused to comment on the matter after feigning ignorance initially, but later he admitted that the letter might have been mistakenly forwarded to the village sarpanch by the higher authorities.
When contacted, district development panchayat officer (DDPO) Harinder Singh Sran said, "The panchayat secretary comes under the village sarpanch and as the record lies with the latter, we asked the applicant to collect the information from him. If the sarpanch refuses to give information to the applicant, the applicant can file an appeal." When asked if his action might land the RTI applicant in problem as his identity would be disclosed, the DDPO failed to give an appropriate reply.
As per an RTI activist, advocate Rohit Sharma, "This is a complete violation as the sarpanch is no authority. The RTI applicant can be called to the government office to collect information from officials concerned rather than getting it from the sarpanch."