The next time you file an appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to know the status of a piece of land near a coastal area,chances are that the Public Information Officer (PIO) may cite coastal security as the reason for not providing information.
The Mumbai terror attack could be a plausible reason for PIOs withholding information in this regard.
Pankti Jog,an activist with the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehal had filed an RTI application to know whether environmental clearances were granted to Essar Group for its company Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd in Salaya Creek near Salya village in Madhna of Jamnagar district.
But Hardik Shah,PIO,Forest and Environment Department,Gandhinagar,withheld the information saying it came under Section 8 of the Act and could not be disclosed.
Jog said: The marine national park is located near the land allocated to Essar Group. I filed an appeal in public interest and they cannot deny the information. Earlier,a two-member committee had opposed the land allocation to Essar,while the second committee had allowed the land allocation.
Incidentally,the Essar Group had submitted that the information sought by Pankti Jog are in fact official secrets and require to be zealously guarded in view of the fact that the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were due to sensitive information being available to terrorists from undisclosed sources apart from serious lapses in coastal security arrangements. We apprehend that the information sought by her,which include coastal maps and other details,could land in the hands of terrorists and thereby compromise the security of the nation.
Jog had sought information pertaining to the committee,including a copy of the report submitted for the use of forest land by Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd in Jamnagar.
The RTI application had also asked for a certified copy of the communication received from the Ministry of Environment and Forest with the Director (Environment) regarding Coastal Regulation Zone Clearance for the proposed jetties and seawater intake and effluent release facility of the thermal power project of Essar in Salaya Creek. It also asked for the certified copy of the study reports done by the National Institute of Oceanography,Goa,on Marine Environment Management and Strategies for Gulf of Kutch,on April 28,2009.