How fruitful is Info Act?
PARALAKHEMUNDI, March 19: The government has been harping on the Right to Information Act and its implementation as it professes transparency at all levels. Scores of workshop have been organised in every block and even grama panchayat in order to ensure that there is wide publicity in this respect and the common men who got necessary relief.
But there are instances galore of how officials continue to ignore applicants and refuse to provide information. Mr Laxmi Baba, a social worker of repute, had applied for information regarding quarry works in Koinpur and Mahendragiri hill ranges. There were at least 20 questions relating to the permission, environmental clearance and administration clearance. The same person made an application to the collectorate on 20 march, 2006 and the collector’s office asked Laxmi Baba to furnish his attested BPL card after which he was directed by the same office to apply to the tehsildar of Paralakhemundi for the information.
When Laxmi Baba applied for the same information from the tehsildar on 20 October, 2006, he was directed by the tehsildar of Paralakhemundi to approach the mining office at Berhampur. The letter was received by him from the tehsildar three months after his application.
On 20 January this year, he applied to the mining office in Berhampur through registered post, but till date, no communication has been received from the office. In the meantime, Laxmi Baba had sent a communication to the commissioner of information, Bhubaneswar, describing his predicament, but till date, there has been no reply.
Till date, there has not been a word about the information sought by Laxmi Baba who finally decided to intimate the Press about the lack of concern on the part of the government agencies.
“My intention behind asking for the information was to understand and know as to how permission has been given to certain organisations to set up granite digging units near the Mahendragiri Range of mountains which are protected zones. At present, we have forced them to stop work after agitation with the support of the local tribals,” said Mr Laxmi Baba.
Mr Baba expressed the hope that he would be able to expose the nexus between government officials and granite companies which throw all norms to the wind while setting up such units with commercial purpose.
While the RTI 2005 clearly states that it is obligatory on the part of the officer concerned to give information related to a query in specific forms and after paying the requisite fees. The carelessness on the part of the tehsildar and the mining officer in not sharing the information is a matter of gross irregularity and should attract financial penalty as per the provisions of the Act.
Mr Laxmi Baba has demanded that the officers, who had failed to provide the information, should be punished and also the information sought by him should be provided to him so that he can continue his campaign relating to the protection of the Mahendragiri forests and mountains.