Thursday, March 23, 2017

RTI pleas go unheard; PIOs keep info under wraps

The Hans India‎‎: Hyderabad: Thursday, March 23, 2017.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) has replaced the British era’s Official Secrets Act, 1923. But to the surprise of discerning citizens, the officials of the Telangana Secretariat are still living in the past sticking to the old enactment of 1920s.
For reasons better known to them, the PIOs of various departments in the Secretariat are refusing to divulge information to the applications under the RTI. Probably they are afraid that the irregularities and misuse of funds in their respective departments would surface if they reveal the information.
The Hans India submitted applications under the RTI to 10 departments in the State Secretariat seeking information regarding the cases filed by the Vigilance and Enforcement officials against the irregularities and misuse of funds in their respective departments. They also sought details of number of cases, evidence and recommendations forwarded against such officials, and the present status of the cases.
The officials, who provide information regarding the reports of vigilance and the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and even affidavits submitted in the court by media representatives without applying under the RTI, have refused to divulge information to the RTI applications which means they are bent to protect the persons indulged in irregularities.
It is understood that Assistant Secretary and PIO of Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, DV Varalakshmi forwarded the full reports and the actions recommended against the officials in three cases filed by the Vigilance and Enforcement officials.
However, PIO and Assistant Secretary of Consumer Affairs, Food and Civil Supplies department R Surya Kumar stated in the reply that as per the section 8(1)(h) of RTI act 2005, it is informed that since no V&E case has been completed/finalised by the government, the information as desired cannot be furnished.
Health, Medical and Family Welfare Department’s PIO and Assistant Secretary D Lalitha Kumari said in the reply that one case have been (sic) registered by the Vigilance & Enforcement against the officials working in the Head of Department of Drugs Control Administration, Telangana State and accordingly the disciplinary proceedings have been initiated which is under examination. In this regard, I am to state that as per section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act 2005 there shall be no obligation to give any citizen that “information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.”
Finance Department’s Public Information Officer EVV Nageshwara Rao stated in the reply, “I am to invite kind attention to the reference cited. It is informed that, as per para 8(h), Chapter-II of RTI Act 2005, the disclosure of requested information is exempted.”
Environment, Forest, Science and Technology department’s PIO and Assistant Secretary, M Mahesh, said in a brief reply that 38 vigilance and ACB cases have been filed against various officials in the past two-and-a-half years. The PIO of the Higher Education department who received the RTI applications transferred the same to the Commissioner of Collegiate Education. The PIO of the Collegiate Education stated in the brief reply that only one case was filed in the department.
However, the PIOs of Commissioner of Intermediate and Directorate of Technical Education departments did not respond to the RTI applications till date even after two months. Backward Classes Welfare Department’s PIO and Assistant Secretary B G Sumathi replied briefly that 18 ACB cases and three vigilance cases were filed against the officials in the department.