Right to Information (RTI) applications at the sugar commissionerate have dipped compared to 200 applications received every year till 2012. Last year it was almost halved and this year so far, there have been only 40 queries, signifying almost 50 per cent decline. The reduction is being attributed to pro-active disclosure of information by the sugar commissionerate on its website.
Other than mandatory information under Section 4 of the RTI Act, the sugar commissioner has started updating financial returns of cooperative sugar factories as well as latest data on sugarcane crushed, and sugar produced.
The office of the sugar commissioner regulates 168 cooperatives and 72 private sugar factories in the state. Other than being involved in the production process, this office is involved when sugar factories are to be liquidated or sold. As per records, 26 factories have been sold, and 36 cooperative factories are under the process of liquidation.
The cooperative sugar sector, although the backbone of the state economy, is a political hot potato.
Political barons of the state control most sugar factories . In the recent years, liquidation of sugar factories had snowballed into major controversies, with political feuds being witnessed over it.
RTI applications have been extensively filed with this office to get details. In 2011, the office received 261 RTI applications, while in 2012 it received 173 applications. Every month , the office used to get more than 20 applications. Ever since information started getting posted online, applications dropped. In 2013 there were 104 applications against 40 applications in the first half of this year.
When contacted, Sugar Commissioner Vijay Singhal said the decision was taken to ensure effective and transparent running of the office. “We have put in minutes of important meetings as well as committee reports. All government resolutions and notices are put online,” he said. The office updates section 3 information once in 3 months while government resolutions are put online almost immediately.