Saturday, May 20, 2017

Websites of key govt departments mock at J&K RTI Act: Study

Kashmir Images: Srinagar: M. Owais Gurkoo: Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Even as the divisional offices in Kashmir and Jammu are supposed to keep their official websites complete and up-to-date in all respects so that the people could avail all the information they need, this is not how it is as is evidenced by a recent study.
“The administration in both divisions (Kashmir and Jammu) has dedicated official websites. These websites have an RTI link displayed on the homepage, but here one does not find the information that is mandated to be displayed under Section 4 (1) (b) of the J&K RTI Act,” reads the study carried out by two lawyers -- Bilal Ahmad Bhat and Syed Iram Quadri.
The study was carried out by the two lawyers as part of the internship programme hosted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) at New Delhi during February 1-28. Both the lawyers are members of Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Movement and School for Rural Development and Environment.
The study says that all the information on the websites of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu is uploaded in English language only without any accompanying Urdu version. It says that due to this reason, the information available is inaccessible to the large segment of population in Jammu & Kashmir since they are not familiar with English language.
“The website of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir and Ladakh displays only the text of the J&K RTI Act and the 2012 RTI rules under the RTI link. It also connects to the Jammu & Kashmir State Information Commission website. However, details of the Public Information Officers and First Appellate Authorities are not available at this link or under the links -- Contact Us and Key Officers,” the study points out.
The study says that Section 4 (1) (b) Manual Handbook is also not displayed on the website.
It says that the website of Divisional Commissioner, Jammu fares much worse in terms of compliance of Section 4 (1) (b) of Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act although it displays a wealth of other categories of information proactively.
“The RTI link does not open on any internet browser. As a result it is not possible to get access to the Section 4 (1) disclosures or the list of PIOs and FAAs. The link to the Financial Commissioner’s website is provided though the Jammu DivCom website for explaining issues dealt with by the Revenue administration such as Revenue Terminology, Units of Measurement, Land Reforms etc,” reads the study.
The study says that all districts have dedicated official websites with all of them being in English language without an accompanying Urdu version, making them largely inaccessible to the people who speak other languages.
All district websites display ‘RTI’ as a link on the homepage. However, not all of them have complied with the proactive information disclosure requirements under Section 4 (1) (b) of the J&K RTI Act.
“Fifty nine (59) percent of the districts (13 of 22) have not uploaded Section 4 (1) (b) information to a reasonable degree of compliance on their official websites. Almost 72 percent of the websites contained names and/or designation of the PIO and FAAs with contact details. Whether these names are updated remains to be ascertained as this would require verification through phone calls to these offices,” reads the study.