RTI applications get vague, misleading answers: Forum

RTI applications get vague, misleading answers: Forum
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SIC promises action if law is violated  
SRINAGAR: The J&K RTI Foundation has alleged that public information officers in different departments violated the norms set under Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009 by providing vague and misleading information in response to their applications.
The chairman of the foundation said that his application seeking data regarding the ratio of caesarean births to the normal births received a misleading reply from the health department. Another RTI activist said that his applications, filed in health, education and power departments, did not get a response in time. The activists are planning to file a complaint with the information commission.
The chief information commissioner, Khurshid Ganai, has promised a strict action against the officers violating the RTI Act.
Banka filed an RTI application on 03 March 2017 to find out the deviation of actual ratio of caesarean births from the international norms. “World Health Organisation says that the ratio of caesarean to normal deliveries must not be greater 15 percent. It seems that the rate is higher in the state and hence the application,” Banka said.
“The reply is totally false, irrelevant, as the details given were those not sought in the application. The reply is addressed to someone else – a ploy to deceive and mislead me”.
Banka said that he sought reply to three specific questions, like the hospital-wise ratio of caesarean deliveries to normal deliveries. “But the department is misleading me and thinks the applicant will tire before filing a complaint in the State Information Commission,” Banka said.
Sheikh Sartaj, an RTI activist from Budgam told Kashmir Reader that he filed four applications before the concerned PIOs and none of them was responded to in time.
“I filed three applications on 4th March 2017 – one sought information from assistant commissioner (development) office in Budgam about works executed in block Khag and S K Pora under Indra Awaaz Yojna (IAY) scheme. The second application sought information from chief medical officer Budgam about the funds released for different health centres and sub centres,” Sartaj said. “The third one sought information from chief education officer Budgam about the funds received by the office and zonal education offices in the district for different schemes besides otrher information regarding number of schools and appointments over the last three years”.
Sartaj’s fourth application, he said, was to power development department (Division Budgam) about appointment in previous two years.“None of the PIOs responded in time. I have no option left but to file a complaint in the State Information Commission (SIC) in this regard,” he said.
Barka said that he has been visiting the offices to seek the status of his application. “But the concerned officials are taking the matter for granted. The officials have blatantly violated the norms set under RTI Act 2009,” he said.
“Government departments aren’t serious about RTI. The act was meant to provide information. It states that the information which can’t be denied to the parliament of the state legislature shall not be denied to any person either,” Banka said. He said that the state information commission must look into the matter and penalize such officers.
Data available on the commission’s website, jksic.nic.in, states that penalties have been imposed only in 23 cases since the enactment of RTI Act in the state in 2009, which weakened the commission itself, Banka added.
“Many activists lose faith in power of RTI. The commission must penalize such officers and recommend disciplinary action against erring PIO’s to strengthen the Act. It will help to reduce number of appeals and complaints,” he said.
The State Information Commissioner, Khursheed Ganai, told Kashmir Reader that applicants had a right to get the information. “If a PIO is denying any information, he has to site a reason why the information is not worth sharing. If any officer is found violating the law, they will be dealt with strictly,” he said.

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