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    Officers denying information under RTI can be jailed

    The government will come down heavily on officers who do not respond to applications seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act regarding rural development work.

    'We will not spare any officer found erring when it comes to giving information under the RTI Act,' Minister for Rural Development Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said here Wednesday.

    'Such officials will go to jail.'

    The minister's comments came when it was pointed out to him that a politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus in Assam was harassing people who sought information on rural development work under the RTI Act. He was addressing a press conference on his ministry's ongoing projects in Assam.

    When told that most of the District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) offices in Assam have got the reputation of being corrupt, the minister said, 'Whenever such cases come to our notice, we will take strict action against the officers concerned. We are also launching awareness campaigns in rural areas so that people know their rights.'

    To another question on contractors taking up work under the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), a government-housing scheme for people below the poverty line, he said, 'There is no provision whatsoever for IAY work to be allocated to contractors. Strict action will be taken against anybody found doing so.'

    He clarified that, under this scheme, the money goes straight to the beneficiary's bank account and there is no scope for middlemen to swindle money.

    'Each family gets Rs.22,000 under IAY, and in the hill areas, the amount is Rs.27,000,' he added.

    Singh also stated that, to ensure transparency in rural development work at the grassroots level, the government is giving special attention to village level vigilance committees.

    'Village level vigilance committees are being constituted and they are being imparted training so that corruption is totally eradicated,' he said.

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    Re: Officers denying information under RTI can be jailed

    Dear Sir,

    Apropos the news item in which Hon'ble Minister opined that officers/P.As denying information under the RTI Act 2005 can be jailed. Such streingent punishment may be inflicted in genuine cases in order to enforce the right spirit of the RTI Act 2005. On the contrary, we are having such I.Cs even on proven cases of evasive information/delay in furnishing the information, reluctnat to impose the pnealties as envisaged in the RTI Act 2005 and there are inconsistencies in the Judgment pronounced on similar matters. Then what to speak of awarding jail terms ? Mear lip services will not suffice, some concrete steps in right direction may be envisaged in order to inculcate a sense of right spirit of the RTI Act 2005 and its provisions in the larger public intrests.


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