The under-staffed Information Commission is showing signs of fatigue

With a whopping 8,000 appeals pending with him, the state Chief Information Commissioner, Suresh Joshi, has asked the Maharashtra government to expedite appointments of three more divisional commissioners and set up voluntary disclosure mode of governance to strengthen the working of the state information commission.

Sources told DNA that Ramanand Tiwari, principal secretary, Urban Development has sought voluntary retirement to join Joshi’s team to head the Konkan division, as he has six months of service left. Similarly, former additional chief secretary Navin Kumar is tipped to head Nashik division, while VN Deshmukh, former chairman MPSC would be heading the Amravtai division of the state information commission.

It is learnt that Tiwari and Kumar’s appointment have been approved by Governor S M Krishna, while Deshmukh’s name, after some initial objections from the advocate general, has also received a green signal. As of now, Vilas Patil (Nagpur), Vijay Borge (Aurangabad) and Vijay Kuwalekar (Pune) are the three divisional commissioners in the state.

“Even with working 8-10 hours daily, we cannot clear more than 100 appeals in a month and the backlog will continue to pile up. In fact, there is also a need of a commissioner for Mumbai,” said Joshi.

Burdened by the growing number of appeals, Joshi has now written to state chief secretary Johny Joseph to ensure that each state department gets into a voluntary disclosure mode with joint effort of the Information Technology department.

“Ideally, every file needs to be indexed and must be easily located. Details like the number of people in each department, their years of service, programmes initiated and who benefited by them must be in public domain on a website or in a printable format in rural areas. This would reduce many RTI applications,” added Joshi.

With growing applications and appeals coming in Housing and Urban development, the commission is asking for more transparency. With the state receiving more than 1,23,000 RTI applications, the highest in the country, the commission is working towards training programmes for public information officers (PIO)s in rural areas.

DNA - Mumbai - Need more hands on deck: Info body - Daily News & Analysis

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