Eight years after it came into being,the RTI Act has caught the fancy of citizens in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad,but what seems to have hampered its momentum is the apparent negative attitude of the officialdom in providing information to RTI applicants.
Information seekers are rushing to the State Information Commissioner with second appeals,which have piled up to 5,604 by September end.
While the RTI Act took effect in 2005,the SIC bench in Pune was set up in 2007. The pendency of appeals has only grown by the year. In 2011,second appeals stood at 1,547,in 2012 the figure reached 1,942 appeals and in 2013,2,067 appeals were pending before SIC bench in Pune. Collectively,5,604 appeals are awaiting disposal.
This,says former State Information Commissioner Vijay Kuvlekar,reflects the fact that RTI has taken root among citizens,they are desperate to get information; but officials seem to be making attempts to offset the momentum.
Kuvelkar said,The problem is that top IAS officers are not taking interest in effectively implementing the RTI Act while lower rung employees attach no importance to the Act, Kuvlekar said. RTI activist Vivek Velenkar,who has forced several government departments to initiate new norms through his RTI applications,said there seems to be no deterrent for the officialdom who are either providing half-hearted information or delaying it,forcing RTI applicants to go in for an appeal.
Only in 10 per cent of cases,a fine of Rs 25,000 has been imposed on officers for not providing information on time. In 90 per cent of the cases,no fines has been imposed. Besides,there is no machinery which will find out whether the fine has been paid by the officers or not, Velenkar said,adding that only a deterrent directive will make officials see reason.
Vijay Kumbhar,an activist whose RTI application on misuse of civic properties had shaken PMC administration,said,There was no system of checking the compliance of SICs order. After I took up the issue with SIC,the practice has started. But I am not sure if this is being implemented, he said.
Kumbhar alleged that several officers have become insenstive to the Act while Kuvlekar said there was need to sensitise officers on the Act. Raviraj Phalle,deputy secretary,SIC bench,Pune,said the pendency has mounted as the commissioner had not been appointed for more than six months. The disposal rate has picked up after the SIC took over. Over 300 cases are disposed off ever month, he said.