At a time J&K Chief Secretary Dr A K Mehta has been impressing upon all the Govt offices to make all the offline services online, it seems the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana J&K (PMGSY) doesn’t want to make itself digital; not uploading all its Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of different roads on some web-portal or website. Ironically the PMGSY is not having a dedicated website where one can find the DPRs and other documents. One has to file an RTI application before the PMGSY Divisional Offices & again it takes months and years for them to respond. I am not exaggerating the things but when I say this; I have valid reasons for the same which are listed in detail in this article.
As per the Govt statement issued on December 16th 2022, the Chief Secretary while reviewing the performance of the Information Technology (IT) Department, in a meeting, directed the officers to prepare a list of all the services provided by the Govt departments. The Chief Secretary directed the officers to separate the services still offered through offline mode and prepare a roadmap for offering the same through an online platform with end-to-end digitisation by January 15th 2023. Chief Secretary Dr A K Mehta during the meeting asked the officers of the IT department to issue advisories to different Govt departments for conducting security audits of their official websites as well without any delay. By January 15th 2023 all the offline services had to be made online, but even as we have landed in March, the PMGSY has not even set up its dedicated websites for Kashmir / Jammu regions respectively. There is only one web portal of PMGSY J&K www.pmgsytendersjk.gov.in wherein one can file online tenders but when it comes to making voluntary disclosure of information as mandated under Section 4 of RTI Act 2005, this isn’t made available by PMGSY and unfortunately they are reluctant to do so. On several occasions I highlighted this issue and requested the PMGSY to upload all its DRPs on some web portal but they are least bothered to do so
ACB’s FIR against PMGSY
Few years back on the basis of Joint Surprise Check (JSC) conducted into the allegations that officers / officials of PMGSY Division Thathri with regard to construction of 4.5 Km of road from Barry to Gandoh, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Doda registered a case against the officials of PMGSY Division Thathri. Under FIR No.02/2019 against then AEE PMGSY Division Thathri and few Junior Engineers. The ACB investigation had revealed that sub-standard material was used in the execution of said work as also 90% boulders were used in the drop walls and culverts in order to earn undue pecuniary benefits. As per the ACB statement which was widely circulated in the press around Sept 2019 , it was revealed that boulders instead of cement concrete mix were found used by the suspects in concrete work. “The officials posted at PMGSY Division Thathri in sheer abuse of their official position and in connivance with the contractor have allowed use of boulders in the execution of said work, for conferring undue pecuniary benefit upon the said contra. This is not the case in Thathri only, but there are many PMGSY road projects in other districts especially Budgam wherein similar frauds have been committed and which need thorough investigation. Ironically the PMGSY AEE Chadoora repeatedly denied to share the information under RTI and when a High Court lawyer recently wanted to inspect the works on PMGSY road project in Chadoora around Bonen, Kutabal area under the provisions of RTI Act 2005 , the PMGSY engineers didn’t turn up at the site in spite of the fact that he was given date and time for the said inspection through a written reply.
Seeking Info under RTI
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is a rural infrastructure scheme of the ministry of rural development (MoRD). The tendering process, allotment of work, detailed project reports (DPRs) and other information related to the scheme are available in digital format.
Information about any road constructed under PMGSY in any state is available with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) or its allied agencies, like National Rural Infrastructure Development Agency (NRIDA) or the respective chief engineers in states or Union Territories (UTs). However, when Mushtaq Ahmad Lone of Bonen Chadoora in Budgam district of J&K, sought a copy of the DPR of a 9-km PMGSY road project in June this year, he was in for a shock. The road—which connects the Bonyar and Gogji Pathri villages via Kutabal and passes through Bonen —was damaged within six months of construction in 2019-20. Lone, and many locals allege that the work was not done according to the specifications of the DPR.
M. A. Lone sought a copy of the DPR directly from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) after the Budgam office of PMGSY didn’t provide the information to several other locals. Ironically, the information sought was unavailable on any website of the J&K administration.
He filed his application through www.rtionline.gov.in, which only provides information about Central government offices. Despite being a UT, J&K administration offices lack the facility of receiving RTI applications electronically.
Misusing section 6 (3)
Within 24 hours of filing his RTI application through an online portal, Mushtaq started experiencing the rigmarole of Section 6(3). First, his application was transferred to the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), which further forwarded it to National Rural Infrastructure Development Authority (NRIDA) within a week. On June 30 2021, NRIDA’s New Delhi office directed the Chief Engineer of PMGSY in Kashmir to provide the information, who directed the Executive Engineer of PMGSYs Budgam office to provide information. The Executive Engineer instead of providing information got Mushtaq’s PHH ration card verified from the Food and Civil Supplies Department, but still the information (DPR of road) has not been provided to him for months. After a struggle he got a set of documents but the information was not readable at all. It was completely blurred.One fails to understand why PMGSY is not uploading all its DPRs on a website ?
Harassing public spirited citizens
Lot of thrust is given on the digitisation of Govt records, e-office etc., but when it comes to PMGSY J&K , they are taking all this for granted. Their works are sub-standard in many areas which need a thorough probe by ACB especially the road projects in Budgam. Feeling frustrated on being questioned by public spirited citizens, the corrupt engineers and contractors are now filing fake and frivolous complaints against the citizens who raise their voice. The officials of PMGSY, some touts and contractors are trying best to muzzle the voice of citizens who question them. A simple word of “Blackmail” is used against the citizens who raise voice against corruption and unfortunately Police in some cases without any investigation even registers FIRs against the people speaking truth and they are kept unaware of it for months until the challan is prepared ? What a cruel Joke of law ?
The Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary PWD must seek a response from Chief Engineers of PMGSY Kashmir and Jammu as to why they are reluctant to keep their DPRs available for public scrutiny? An explanation be sought from them why there is no dedicated website of PMGSY in J&K? The DCs must also make the DPRs of respective PIUs public through their official websites.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow.
He is Founder & Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.