Indore: Information Commissioners (ICs) efforts to ensure adherence to Right to Information have hit a stumbling block in the form of ‘babus’ in government departments. In fact, the ‘babus’ as clerical staff is popularly known often play truant and desist from furnishing the exact information sought by an RTI applicant. As a result, RTI applications are piling up in every department. In absence of any provision of disciplinary action or punishment, these officials devise new ways of concealing information.
A few of common excuses include language problem, unclear question, difference in names of applicant and the person who purchased the stamp for filing RTO fees. In fact, doling out excuses has become the primary job of officers, who make whole-hearted attempt to reject an RTI application. Sharing experience, RTI activist Chanchal Gupta said that many departments force RTI activist to bring a Rs 10 stamp which is short in supply at stamp vendors shop. A few charge activist huge amount for copy of irrelevant documents.
“More than 10 RTI submitted by me are pending with various departments, including MGM Medical College, MPPKVVCL, Education Department, Indore Municipal Corporation and Smart City company. The officials are reluctant to provide information. Most of them refuse to part with information under the garb of official secret,” he said.
Gupta said that situation is worse in District Collector’s office where officials force applicants to submit a challan of RTI fees with State Bank of India instead of taking the money in cash or by any electronic mean. The five minute task proves hectic as it takes almost three hours as challans are deposited only in Rajwada branch of the bank.
“Officials of Smart city didn’t respond to my application seeking documents related to public opinion collected by them before selecting the area of smart city. The MGM Medical College administration has declined to part with the information with the excuse that they are unable to get the information sought from department concerned,” Gupta said.
Another RTI activist Sunil Khandelwal said, “Officials of Indore Municipal Corporation desist from providing information of building permissions. Once, they called me to inspect documents. When I reached there, they asked to come again another day.” Some of the departments also refuse to give a receipt of Rs 10 claiming that there is no such provision in their software.