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  Home >> State tops in use of RTI to get at truth


State tops in use of RTI to get at truth

Viju B | TNN

Mumbai: In the one year since the Right to Information Act came into effect,
public information officers (PIOs) of government organisations in
Maharashtra have received around 60,000 RTI applications, says Suresh Joshi,
chief information commissioner of the state. Although he does not have the
figures, Joshi says that Maharashtra "is way ahead of other states''.

    The RTI Act was implemented on Dussera day which fell on October 12 last
year. The Central Information Commission in Delhi has got 3,405 complaints
and appeals. In this regard, too, the state is way ahead.

    "Maharashtra got around 12,000 first appeals and 3,000 second appeals
which shows that we are clearly ahead of the CIC too,'' Joshi said.

    The RTI Act now has been effectively used by the poor who otherwise face
immense hurdles to acquire simple documents like land records, pension dues,
Employment Guarantee Scheme, and pending police cases.

    PIOs of state government organisations have received over 60,000
applications under the RTI Act in a year Pending queries under RTI Act cause
worry Mumbai: The RTI Act has e m p ow - ered the poor and disprivil e g e d
eve r y - where, especially in Maharashtra. State chief information
commissioner Suresh Joshi recalls a case where a woman from a village in
Akola district was trying for long to get the salary certificate of her
estranged husband who was a State Transport employee. She went in for an
appeal after the local bodies were unwilling to give her the details. "When
the case came up for hearing, I directed ST officials to release the
document,'' said Joshi.

    In a landmark judgment, the State Information Commission deemed that the
accounts of district co-operative banks should also be open to public
scrutiny. "These banks have over Rs 10,000 crore as rural credit and when
the authorities were unwilling to reveal details, the commission passed a
judgment in favour of the RTI applicant,'' said Joshi.

    But what is cause for real concern is the rising number of pendency
cases. Till the end of August this year, there are 3,483 second appeals and
complaints pending for disposal. RTI activists also question the slow pace
of disposal of cases. "It is shocking that only 277 orders have been passed
in the last eight months,'' said activist Shailesh Gandhi.

    During an RTI conference last month, activists raised this issue with
the state information commissioner and demanded that at least 200 orders be
passed each month. "The state commission needs to pull up its socks, so that
people get justice,'' Gandhi said. The CIC received 818 appeals and
complaints in August this year and disposed of 369 complaints.

    The CIC, incidentally, has five information commissioners, while the
Maharashtra State Commission has just one commissioner.

    Senior information officials meanwhile admit that they have a heavy
workload and are grossly understaffed. "We just have 18 employees, while CIC
has 65 employees working for the commission. States like Chhattisgarh have
35 employees, though these regions get fewer RTI applications than
Maharashtra,'' said a senior official.

Publication:Times of India Mumbai; Date:Sep 30, 2006; Section:Front Page;
Page Number:1




It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner