Pollution may be at critically high levels in the city but the Delhi government’s transport department does not have any annual data related to the number of “Pollution Under Control (PUC)” certificates issued by it, the Central Information Commission has lamented.
Pulling up the officials for exhibiting “sheer indifference” towards their duty, the CIC has now directed the department “to compile and publish” annual data about PUC certificates issued by it to motor vehicles after verifying that they meet emission and pollution control norms.
On January 18 this year, an RTI applicant Deepak Juneja had sought from the transport department information about the number of PUC certificates issued for different class of vehicles in Delhi and the number of petrol/CNG and Diesel PUC testing centres.
He had also asked for total licence fee collected by the transport department in the last five financial years. Not getting any satisfactory response, he filed a complaint with the Commission.
Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad pointed out that in spite of specific queries with respect to the PUC certificates and also marking the RTI query correctly to the branch, no effort was made to attend to the query in the manner envisioned by the RTI Act.
“The relevance of the issue raised in this particular case has a direct bearing on the welfare and creation of liveable conditions of the citizens at large,” Azad said.
He said as guaranteed by the Constitution, protection and improvement of public health is the duty of the State, and the civic bodies discharging this specific duty are thus mandated to maintain the living conditions of the citizens.
“… The annual data on the number of PUC certificates issued is not available. It is a moot point whether in the face of acute pollution impacting the city so adversely, and assiduous efforts being made by the transport department for controlling the same, such a data should be compiled and published or not,” he said.
Azad said in stark contrast from the duty entrusted to them, the conduct of the civic officials in this case has exhibited sheer indifference and ignorance towards their statutory duty and also the mandate of law.
He rued that different branches function as water tight compartments, almost like islands with no connection with the main issues affecting the lives of citizens.
“The organisation–the transport department of municipal authority–after assigning the job of computing to an agency, washes its hands off any further responsibility of furnishing any information pertaining to its own department,” he said.
He said no effort has been made by the public information officer to ensure that information as sought by the applicant is made accessible to him, instead all of them appear to be simply competing with each other to evade responsibility attached to their respective designations.
“What is extremely disturbing is the oral submissions rendered by the CPIOs indicate there is neither a mechanism of monitoring nor is the corporation aware of the data/statistics pertaining to their own department which is maintained by the agencies,” he said.
Azad said transport department web site itself declares that vehicular pollution is considered to be a major source of air pollution in Delhi.
“In the instant case one particular Unit has replied stating that no such data is maintained by them and hence there is no authoritative version on behalf of the Transport Department whether such a data is compiled and published annually or not,” he said.
He said no meaningful submission has so far been placed on record by the respondents (transport department) regarding compilation and publication of the annual data with respect to PUC certificates.
“The commission hereby directs the PIO/PUC under Section 19(8)(a)(vi) of the RTI Act 2005 to compile and publish on their website, annual data about number of PUC certificates issued and fees collected,” he said.
Air quality in Delhi worsened in the last couple of days with a sharp rise in the level of particulates, according to official data.
Pollution had risen to alarmingly high levels in early November in the city, making it difficult for people to indulge in outdoor activities and forcing closure of schools.