Communique by two info commissioners to top official ignored
The offices of two state information commissioners at Nagpur and Aurangabad may not be able to function in the near future due to a severe shortage of funds.
The funds are required for the day-to-day operations and to pay stationery, telephone, electricity and travel bills of the office.
The state information commissioner's office allocates funds to the regional bureaus.
The commissioners, Vilas Patil of the Nagpur bench and VB Borge of the Aurangabad bench, have written to state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi saying that their offices are cash-strapped and will have to close down for want of funds.
Both Patil and Borge along with information commissioner of the Pune bench Vijay Kuvalekar have openly accused Joshi of laxity in allocation of funds for day-to-day administrative expenses.
The situation is on the verge of collapse, the SICs have said.
Patil, in a letter to Joshi on January 29, wrote that Rs2lakh was required to meet operational expenses like computer repairs, postage stamps, vehicle allowance, telephone expenses and newspaper bills pending for the past three months.
Patil also brought to Joshi's notice that an urgent requirement of Rs7.50 lakh for office furniture, partition and electricity appliances has not been met with.
"The size of the Mumbai SIC office is just half of the Nagpur office, but the expenditure is incurred again and again for its renovation," Patil said, adding that the Amravati bench has been advised to seek funds from Nagpur. "Is it a sign of administrative incompetence," he wrote.
Borge, in a separate communication to Joshi last November, said that the Aurangabad office had run up unpaid bills. "The office stationary alone has arrears to the tune of Rs44,000 and we will not get stationary till the arrears are paid," he wrote.
"The stamps used for postal communication will also be over soon. We cannot purchase them from our pockets which we have been doing till now. There is a likelihood of the office being closed down," Borge wrote.
Kuvalekar, in another written complaint to Joshi, pointed out that the proposal seeking four typists has been pending with the CIC since August 2008. "Since June 2008, no vehicle or telephone allowance has been given to the Pune bench. I had to spend from my own pocket to conduct the district level and special hearings from June to September 2008. Afterwards, I was forced to stop the hearings due to absence of funds from your office," Kuvalekar said.
City-based Right To Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar, who had earlier invoked the act and obtain documents to show the discord between the CIC and the SICs, said that it was unfortunate that the SICs are contemplating closure. "Given the increase in applications and the slower rate of disposal, this will only defeat the purpose of the Right to Information Act," said Kumbhar.
State information commissioner (SIC), Pune bench, Vijay Kuvalekar has alleged in a letter to the state chief information commissioner (CIC) Suresh Joshi that the CIC has failed in establishing a basic system for the coordinated and effective functioning of the information commission and in taking the initiative for disposal of the pending Right to Information (RTI) appeals.
Kuvalekar had sent a strongly worded letter to the state CIC a few months ago. A copy of the correspondence between Kuvalekar and CIC was procured recently by RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar.
Kumbhar had earlier brought to public notice the functioning of two top state officials by using the RTI Act, 2005 provisions. He had obtained documents of the correspondence between the state information commissioner (SIC) of the Nagpur bench and the CIC.
Kumbhar had highlighted the backlog of RTI cases due to the rift between the two. Nagpur bench SIC Vilas Patil, in a letter to Joshi, had alleged that the functioning of the CIC's office was neither transparent nor efficient.
In his letter, Kuvalekar has said that considering the pendancy of RTI appeals in the state, a special drive needs to be taken to bring down the duration of pendancy to six months. It could be achieved within four months.
"While the state government has adopted positive attitude toward the implementation of the RTI act, the leadership of information commission is not establishing a basic system for the same," he wrote to Joshi, adding that people have high expectations from the RTI.
He said the functioning of state information commission was not going on in a coordinated manner. Various benches of the information commission were undertaking initiatives to speed up work. But nothing is being done by the commission to coordinate their activities.
He wrote that there is no certain process in the functioning of the commission and setting of rules even after three years of the prevalence of the RTI Act, 2005.
He said that the set of rules was discussed and finalised in a meeting between CIC Joshi and the then SICs including himself. SIC Vilas Patil had prepared a detailed draft. But the final set of rules has not been published so far.
Chhattisgarh has published the set of rules but Maharashtra, which is in the forefront in implementing the act, has not made it public.