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Govt offices ignoring RTI Act

By Staff reporter

GUWAHATI, June 17 � A section of those who use the Right To Information (RTI) Act in Assam have voiced concern over omissions and commissions by State Government authorities, which they say have undermined the actual purpose and intent of the Act.

They told The Assam Tribune that a strong message has still not gone to government offices and establishments to carry out the provisions of the Act several years after it was adopted as a tool to promote probity in public affairs, including transparency in Government finances.

An NGO worker based in Golaghat, who was among the pioneers who made use of the Act said, �From some time we have seen government officials gradually ignoring the provisions of the Act. In most cases these days we do not get the information within the stipulated 30-day period,� he noted.

He further pointed out that the State Information Commission has failed to rein in erring officials as a result of which they have not bothered to deal with RTI applications with due seriousness.

Some frequent users of the Act agreed that often Public Information Officers created unnecessary hurdles when it came to receiving applications. A frequent question asked by the officers is about the use that the information would be put to, something they are not authorized to do.

Another problem facing those interested in using the Act is the absence of public information about the names and designations of the PIOs and APIOs. Even in several district headquarters of the State, there are many offices which do not have display boards containing the relevant information.

According to RTI user Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, there was an urgent need to improve the entire machinery involving the RTI, and it should include the State Information Commission. �Unfortunately after the tenure of RS Mooshahary, we have seen the Commission become weak,� he remarked.

At the grassroots, he pointed out, PIOs and APIOs frequently remain absent from work, as a result of which applicants have to make several trips to submit their applications.

Nani Saika of Satra, an NGO, was of the view that all Government offices must ensure that PIOs and APIOs are designated and their names put up on notice boards for public viewing. Saika also asserted that PIOS and APIOs should not discourage an RTI applicant by asking irrelevant questions. He mentioned an incident in which a youth with a BPL card was repeatedly harassed by an official when he sought to submit an application in Darrang district.

However, Saikia said that even though hurdles were being set up by officials with vested interest, more people were using the RTI Act, and it is because of such a development that government officials have become �a little bit more alert�.

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Govt offices ignoring RTI Act

GUWAHATI, June 17 � A section of those who use the Right To Information (RTI) Act in Assam have voiced concern over omissions and commissions by State Government authorities, which they say have undermined the actual purpose and intent of the Act.

They told The Assam Tribune that a strong message has still not gone to government offices and establishments to carry out the provisions of the Act several years after it was adopted as a tool to promote probity in public affairs, including transparency in Government finances.

An NGO worker based in Golaghat, who was among the pioneers who made use of the Act said, �From some time we have seen government officials gradually ignoring the provisions of the Act. In most cases these days we do not get the information within the stipulated 30-day period,� he noted.

He further pointed out that the State Information Commission has failed to rein in erring officials as a result of which they have not bothered to deal with RTI applications with due seriousness.

Some frequent users of the Act agreed that often Public Information Officers created unnecessary hurdles when it came to receiving applications. A frequent question asked by the officers is about the use that the information would be put to, something they are not authorized to do.

Another problem facing those interested in using the Act is the absence of public information about the names and designations of the PIOs and APIOs. Even in several district headquarters of the State, there are many offices which do not have display boards containing the relevant information.

According to RTI user Akhil Gogoi of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, there was an urgent need to improve the entire machinery involving the RTI, and it should include the State Information Commission. �Unfortunately after the tenure of RS Mooshahary, we have seen the Commission become weak,� he remarked.

At the grassroots, he pointed out, PIOs and APIOs frequently remain absent from work, as a result of which applicants have to make several trips to submit their applications.

Nani Saika of Satra, an NGO, was of the view that all Government offices must ensure that PIOs and APIOs are designated and their names put up on notice boards for public viewing. Saika also asserted that PIOS and APIOs should not discourage an RTI applicant by asking irrelevant questions. He mentioned an incident in which a youth with a BPL card was repeatedly harassed by an official when he sought to submit an application in Darrang district.

However, Saikia said that even though hurdles were being set up by officials with vested interest, more people were using the RTI Act, and it is because of such a development that government officials have become �a little bit more alert�.