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RTI Fee Hike: Corrupt Bureaucracy Vs. Common Man

RTI Fee Hike: It's now a direct fight between corrupt bureaucracy and the common man

Claiming the move to hike the RTI fee by Chandigarh Administration as illegal and unjustified, Civil Society Organisations and Social Activists of the region take it now as a direct fight between a "Corrupt and Unaccountable Bureaucracy" and the "Common Man."

"What was till now under cover has come in open. The bureaucracy has shed its cloak, and the fear of getting exposed by free flow of information has resulted in creating hurdles in the way of common man and public spirited people working to cleanse the system of corruption and inefficiency. It has now become a direct fight between the corrupt forces versus the saviors of the democracy and the common man." Social activist Hemant Goswami said.

The success of "Smoke-Free Chandigarh" is largely credited to the constructive use of the RTI Act. Hemant Goswami filed over 300 RTI applications in Chandigarh to expose the disregard for law by the Administration. As the momentum picked up, Chandigarh became the first 'Smoke-Free" state not only in India but of any developing country.

Reacting to the move by Chandigarh Mr. Hitender Jain of Resurgence India said, "The claim by the Chandigarh Administration that the move to hike RTI Fee is to contain frivolous applications is very unfortunate. There are no provisions in the RTI Act which can be misused. Seeking any form of information can not be termed as frivolous. The citizens have all the right to obtain any kind of information which is held by any public authority. The concerned official may consider it frivolous because it exposes the inefficiency and corruption, but for the common man, obtaining such information is a panacea to expose corruption and to reform the system." Mr. Hitender Jain had used RTI Act to expose multi-million rupees fraud in the "Red Cross" because of which many IAS officers stand exposed.

"The replies by the Chandigarh Administration are frivolous and not the RTI applications. Even after over two and a half years of implementation of the RTI Act, the necessary and proper pro-active disclosures under section 4(1)(b) and (c) has not been done. The necessary requirement of updating the records and putting them online under Section 4(1)(a) has a yet not been done by the Chandigarh Administration. The necessary report to be filed by the Chandigarh Administration under Section 26 has not been filed. It's the bureaucracy in Chandigarh which has failed. It's strange that to hide their inefficiencies, they claim that the RTI Applications were frivolous." Mr. Kamal Anand, Secretary of "People for Transparency" said. "When even the Administrator of Chandigarh was not following the RTI Act then what moral strength he has to sign the notification declaring an increased fee." Rakesh Agarwal of Nyaybhoomi questioned?

"As a part of Mission Zero-Tolerance, an initiative to make Chandigarh as a model of corruption-free state, we had filed RTI applications in every department of Chandigarh Administration to check if the departments were following the necessary directions and provisions of various laws for efficient, transparent and accountable functioning. What we found was alarming. Not a single department is managing their office records properly and many were not even aware that such laws existed. Not a single department had published Section 4(1)(c) disclosure and all the 4(1)(b) disclosure were incomplete. As a result we had to make 55 complaints to the Chief Information Commissioner against various departments of "Chandigarh Administration." Hemant Goswami revealed.

Even the CIC took a serious note of the "Burning Brain Society" report when it was submitted to him during his recent visit. During his address also, the CIC has said that it was unfortunate that the compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act was not done by most of the public authorities. When it was pointed out by BBS that many public offices do not even accept the RTI applications, CIC said that this was a serious matter and a direct complaint under Section 18 lies directly with the CIC in all such cases.

Mr. Pardeep Singh Raparia, an advocate and president of Haryanas Justice Platform said that such a move by Chandigarh Administration was shocking as UT was directly under the Union Government. The hike of fee by the Haryana Government too is seen as unreasonable. "In Haryana, people will show their anger in the next election but what will the people of Chandigarh do, they have no control over the bureaucracy and there is no politician to be voted out." Pardeep added.

One point which all social activists highlight is that during the last two and a half years (After RTI came into being) more frauds and corruption in the bureaucracy have been exposed than what could be done in the preceding 58 years. This has really upset the corrupt bureaucracy. The move in Chandigarh has made it clear that it's the bureaucracy which is the most hurt by the RTI Act and not the politicians.

ENDS

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