PIOs not named in 80% deptts, administrative units
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Nov 14: In violation of its own rules and the Provisions of the Right to Information Act, Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to designate Public Information Officers in nearly 80 per cent departments and administrative units, defeating the very objective of the Act.
This was revealed by the members of the RTI Movement during an awareness program on the RTI Act here Saturday.
The Movement convener, Dr Raja Muzaffar, said the rules envisage that the PIOs/APIOs must be appointed within 100 days of the enactment of the RTI Act.
“Despite GAD circular, the government has appointed PIOs only at the secretariat level. Most field offices, including offices of deputy commissioners and tehsildars, are without PIOs,” he said.
Pertinently, the Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 came into effect from March 20. The Act provides for making available the information sought by residents of the state.
Under section 5(1) and 5(2) of the Act for assistance of the RTI applicants, Muzaffar said, each public authority or government department has to designate one PIO in all the administrative units and, if required, an Assistant Public Information Officer at each sub-divisional or sub-district level, in a time-bound manner within 100 days of coming into effect of the Act.
On June 6, this year, the General Administrative Department had issued an order to the government departments and units to designate the PIOs.
“All Administrative Secretaries are requested kindly to ensure that the Public Authorities under their administrative control designate the PIO/APIO within the stipulated time frame, under intimation to the General Administration,” the commissioner Secretary GAD, states in a circular (25-GAD-2009).
“However, the order is yet to be implemented,” he said.
Muzaffar said the Government is duty-bound under Section 23 of the Act to organize RTI awareness programmes for the public, particularly for “disadvantaged communities.” He said the section also requires publication of English, Hindi, and Urdu RTI user guides within 18 months of enactment.
“The Government has not taken any action to fulfil these obligations. There have been no training sessions for senior government officers, including Secretariat-level staff and (of course) the PIOs and APIOs. As a result we have found that a variety of mid and high-ranking officials are clueless about key provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.
He said one of the major flaws of the RTI rules is that the application fee has been fixed at Rs 50 and the information fee at Rs 10 per Photostat. While, in the Central Government and 24 other states, the fee are Rs 10 per application and Rs 2 per Photostat.
“But the Government has not even bothered to study, discuss, and rectify these issues. The poor people can’t afford to file RTI application,” he said.
Earlier experts described the Act as a source of empowerment for the common people.
“If properly utilized, the RTI is a source of empowerment for the people. It has the potential to make the system corruption free and transparent,” Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool of RTI movement said while addressing a group of people from different villages.
“This Act will make grassroots fountainhead of governance. It is like a license to make the officials accountable and know the cause for delay in completion of pending works,” he added.
Dr Shah Faisal of the RTI movement dwelt on the provision of the RTI Act. The program was followed by an interactive session.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 14 Nov 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 14 Nov 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Nov 2009 00:00:00 IST
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