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PWD making mockery of the RTI Act

Public Works Department refused to give information on a bridge across the Yamuna River, making a mockery of RTI Act, reports Amitabh Shukla.
Hindustan Times | By Amitabh Shukla, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 27, 2007 05:36 PM IST

A government department in Delhi is making a mockery of the Right to Information Act and is bent on denying information to the people. In a recent answer, given to an applicant, the Public Works Department (PWD) refused to furnish information on a small bridge across the river Yamuna under one of the clauses of the act.

Jitender, a resident of north Delhi, was shocked to find the reply of the PWD on a question pertaining to the pontoon bridges of the city, particularly the one which links Geeta Colony in east Delhi to Shanti Van on Ring Road.

Jitender wanted to know the details of the tender, floated for the construction of the bridge in the last five years. As the bridge is constructed every year after the monsoons, he wanted to know about the cost escalation and who were the competitors.

In his reply, the Executive Engineer of the PWD said he had "no knowledge" about the number of pontoon bridges in Delhi. On the tender document, the reply said, "no spare copy of tender is prepared and retained on the office".

The shock for Jitender continued in the further reply of PWD. It refused to part information on the pontoon bridge at Shanti Van taking refuge in the Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act, 2005. The Act says, "information including commercial confidence, trade secret or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party" can be denied. The reply said the copy of contract being "commercial confidence" is exempted under the said section of the RTI Act.

Jitender said, "How can a bridge which is for the general public be commercial in nature. It is ludicrous to know that even such basic information cannot be provided to the citizens of the city". He plans to file an appeal to the higher authorities.

Asked about the reply and whether the PWD was in the habit of denying information to the people, PWD minister AK Walia said this could be one of the exceptions. "I will personally go through the question and the reply and seek explanation from the department," Walia told HT.

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