Times of India: Nagpur: Monday, January 16, 2017.
The Pench Tiger Reserve is trying to duck information about tourists data from Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWS). The information was sought by city-based RTI activist Avinash Prabhune.
On December 19, TOI had highlighted how Pench public information officer (PIO) GS Hingne spent Rs40 towards postal charges for supplying information worth Rs6. This led the Pench officials fuming and they, instead of providing information, routed Prabhune's application to three ranges Paoni, Karhandla and Gothangaon ranges of UKWS.
"This was ostensibly done to evade information. Pench receives tourism data every month from all the sanctuaries under it," alleged Prabhune.
On November 10, Prabhune had filed RTI application with PTR regarding information about number of visitors to UKWS. The details pertained from October 17, 2015 to November 15, 2015 and from October 1, 2016 to November 7, 2016 along with few other queries.
Prabhune says the present matter demonstrates lack of administrative and monitoring control of the field director's office. The information against RTI application of November 10, 2016 has been delayed due to improper handling of RTI by forest officials. As per the Act, information should have been supplied in one month.
However, PIO with field director's office informed that details will be provided by PIOS of Umred, Kuhi and Paoni RFOs, and the officials concerned have been informed about it on November 21, 2016.
Prabhune said over two months have passed but none of the officials has provided any information.
The PTR seemed to be blatantly violating RTI Act by asking field officials to provide information. It is surprising as earlier similar information about Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was supplied by TATR field director from his officer in Chandrapur.
"It is surprising how two field directors can act differently if rules are same," said Prabhune.
PIO of Pench could have easily provided information, but it seems to be a deliberate act. All provisions of RTI Act are with sole object to expedite information within stipulated period and it is felt that officials are not expected to use it to cause delay.
Prabhune has urged field director to initiate action against defaulting officials because beyond 30 days period, RTI applicant is entitled to get information free of cost as per Section 7(6) of RTI Act. "I will have to spend my time and money pursuing first appeal in the matter," he added.