Enough is enough…RTI activists of Gujarat want action from the GIC

Bilkul News, Gandhinagar, Feb 26: Tired of lethargy and unwillingness from the authorities at Gujarat Information Commission (GIC), Right to Information (RTI) activists staged a dharna in Gandhinagar on Monday. More than 10,000 activists from across the state joined the protest. 

“A total of 14,000 RTI applications are pending with the GIC since 2009 and we haven’t received any answers for the RTI. The act says that any RTI application should be answered within 30 days, then why isn’t it followed?” asked Gautam Gohil, state president of Gujarat RTI Activist Association.  

However, talking to Bilkul one of the most active activists Bharatsinh Jhala said “We are happy pleased that Governor Kamlaji has heard us with patience and accepted the memorandum wherein we have put our woes which are serious and demand immediate and stern action”. 

Earlier Jhala said the GIC is an autonomous body in nature as such but the Commissioner seems to be so afraid of the government machinery that he is hardly working and there are no penalties levied on the higher officers for the delay in replies. As many as 14,000 RTI applications are still pending in Gujarat and yet there is no action. What does it speak?” questions Jhala. 

“The Act states that action should be taken against the concerned official if he/she doesn’t provide information sought under RTI within the stipulated time period (30 days). But, in last 2-3 years, only a few officials have been punished for not providing the required information,” added Pankaj Bhatt, city president of the association. 

Bhatt also said that only 37 officials were punished by the GIC. However, there are more than 300 officials, who deserve punishment and this clearly depicts the leniency of GIC.  

The association, through its memorandum, will also demand for protection for RTI activists. “I was kidnapped by agriculture minister Babubhai Bokharia three months back and was threatened for my RTI application,” alleged Dilip Katariya, vice-president of Amreli.  

So far, Katariya has filed around 1,600 applications. Out of those, hardly 1,000 have been answered. Announcing their decision on Sunday, the association members said that the dharna will be held at Gandhinagar. The protest will be followed by submitting a memorandum to Governor Dr Kamla.  

Also, in order to create awareness among people about RTI, the activists would take out a yatra in 18,000 villages of the state in May. 

Activists feel that the state government is deliberately sitting on information that could expose corruption.  The state’s RTI activists believe that the state government is not transparent in its working and that it deliberately sits on information that could expose corruption. Gujarat RTI Activists Association, which has around 5,000 members, says that there are around 14,000 RTI applications pending at different stages in various departments of the state government.  

However, the annual report -2010-11 (which was recently tabled in the Assembly after a big hue and cry of the RTI activists)  of the Gujarat Information Commission states that, in the financial year 2010-11, the state government received 4,761 applications out of which 3,341 were appeals. As regards disposal of appeals and complaints, the report mentions that it had disposed of 3,926 cases in the same financial year. However, the RTI activists want to get reports right from 2009. Their allegation is that the report that has been furnished lacks crucial details and is devoid of truth and real answers sought. 

The report also says that the revenue department leads in number of complaints made against government departments, followed by the panchayat, rural housing and rural development departments. The report, however, also says that public information officers in various public bodies appear not to have done their jobs satisfactorily. This is the reason why many members of the public had been forced to approach the commission with complaints, the report suggests.