The Sentinel: Silchar: Saturday, March 11, 2017.
Many citizens fail to understand or realize the importance or implication of RTI in respect of their grievances related to state or central government establishments. But, Okram Prasanta Singha, a social activist, has shown how a RTI can not only unearth the anomaly or irregularity but also send a signal to those who are found vacillating in taking a decision even when larger public interest is involved. Okram Prasanta Singha has been making all out efforts to get the list of beneficiaries from the Manipuri Development Council (MDC) and even moved the SPIO, Office of the Directorate of WPT and BC since 2015.
With the change of guard at Dispur, Okram Singha got positive response. As reported earlier, he has brought allegations against Jiten Singha, Chairman, MDC, for misleading him on information in respect of the list of beneficiaries against various welfare schemes. Rather, when he sought information, he was asked to pay an amount of Rs.2100 for delivering 70 pages related to the information sought. According to the Section 4 (a) of Assam Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005, State Public Information Officer (S-PIO) can charge at the rate of Rs.2 for each page, created or copied.
Further, he has also alleged that the Chairman charged Rs.9000 without providing the details of the calculations which is in violation of Section 7 (3) (a) of the RTI Act 2005. Moreover, the Chairman furnished false and misleading information in his reply which contradicts the utilization certificate. Finding no alternative, Okram Singha approached the Assam Information Commission to take action against Jiten Singha. He also brought the matter to the notice of Gobin Chandra Mili, Joint Director and SPIO, Office of the Directorate of WPT and BC. On the basis of his complaint, Assam Information Commission fixed March 8 for hearing. Accordingly, both the complainant and the defendant appeared before the SPIO on the date fixed. After hearing both the parties, Assam Information Commission has ordered the Directorate of WPT and BC to allow the RTI applicant or his representative to inspect office records of Manipuri Development Council under Section 2(j)(i) of the RTI Act 2005. The Commission also ordered the SPIO to fix a date for the inspection within 15 days from the date of the order that is March 8, 2017. The Commission also ordered to note the inspection of record by the Directorate of WPT and BC. The Commission has further directed both the SPIO and Joint Director WPT and BC as well as MDC to report to the Commission within 30 days about the development.
Interestingly, according to the order of the High Court of Delhi in the case of Suresh Gupta vs Deputy Commissioner of Police, RTI petitioner can inspect the office records concerned with the assistance of the counsel or an authorized representative. The Chief Information Commissioner, H S Das, has further ordered that inspection of the official record must be done in the presence of an officer not below the rank of Deputy Director of WPT and BC. Assam Information Commission directed MDC to charge Rs.2 per page as RTI fee. Manipuri Development Council (MDC) chairman Jiten Singha in a letter dated February 20, 2017 bearing letter no MDC/2017/124, but he charged an amount of Rs.2100 for delivering 70 number of pages as per the said letter.
The charge for each page according to the Section 4 (a) of Assam Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) rules, 2005, the SPIO can charge at the rate of Rs.2 for each page, created or copied. On the date of hearing, Okram Prasanta Singha appeared with Diganta Bharali. The public authority was represented by Gobin Chandra Mili, Joint Director and SPIO of the Directorate of WPT and BC, Assam assisted by Mohan Hazarika, Senior Assistant of the Directorate of WPT and BC. The information sought by the petitioner Okram Prasanta Singha was certified copies of the names of beneficiaries for 2011-12 and 2013-14 financial years.
But, MDC furnished misleading, incomplete and false information. MDC also could not furnish most of the RTI queries. Okram Prasanta Singha has been making concerted and constant efforts for getting the beneficiary list from the Directorate of WPT and BC as well as MDC since November 18, 2015. There has been lot of irregularities in the implementation of the welfare schemes by MDC. According to the guidelines, the Council should utilize the services of the Sub Divisional Welfare Officers, but the Chairman of MDC did not utilize their services. Moreover, the Directorate of WPT and BC also did not initiate the said guidelines. Expressing his satisfaction at the reply to his RTI by the Assam Information Commission, Singha is hopeful many irregularities committed under the garb of implementing welfare schemes will now be exposed and action initiated against the MDC Chairman.