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Seeking info from Gujarat govt via RTI becoming hard: Activists

Virtually addressing a seminar, Jagdish Patel, from Vadodara-based People’s Training and Research Centre, said he had filed an RTI with the chief secretary’s office seeking details of compensation provided to the kin of the dead workers, among other issues.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
December 12, 2021 12:47:50 am
Jagdish Patel also narrated his experiences of filing RTIs in offices of the labour department and Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) where he faced difficulties in finding stamp papers, buying postal orders from post offices and payment of fees.

Citing difficulties in getting replies from the Gujarat government under the Right to Information Act (RTI), a group of NGOs working with unorganised workers deliberated on stone-walling of their pleas, including information about “compensation paid to the kin of a labourer who died after falling from a dome being built on Helipad Ground at Gandhinagar for the swearing-in ceremony of former chief minister Vijay Rupani.”

Virtually addressing a seminar, Jagdish Patel, from Vadodara-based People’s Training and Research Centre, said he had filed an RTI with the chief secretary’s office seeking details of compensation provided to the kin of the dead workers, among other issues.

“We had sent an RTI application to the chief secretary. The same plea got forwarded so many times that we ultimately got tired and did not get any information. If interested, anyone present in this programme can find out the details of the person who died, what compensation they got and who got penalised,” Patel said at
the seminar.

“The incident had happened on December 25, 2017, a day before the swearing-in of former CM Rupani and I had filed an RTI on January 1, 2018. One worker had died and two others got injured,” Patel told The Sunday Express later.

He made the first appeal on March 9, 2018, and a second one on June 6, 2018.

Patel also narrated his experiences of filing RTIs in offices of the labour department and Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) where he faced difficulties in finding stamp papers, buying postal orders from post offices and payment of fees.

“Once I went to the subdivisional office of ESIC to know about the procedures to file an RTI. Instead, the official interviewed me and refused to share the information. We filed a complaint against him and later heard that the office initiated steps against the concerned official,” he added.
Bandhkam Majdoor Sangathan’s Vipul Pandya, a panelist at the webinar, said seeking information about the death of construction workers from Gujarat police has become increasingly difficult.

“After RTI law came, it has become easy for us to get information about the death of construction workers in the state. In Gujarat, we now file RTIs with the police commissioner or superintendent of police of all districts every year. Based on this information, we prepared a document on the death of construction workers. But in the last five years, it has become difficult to get the information that we were (earlier) getting easily from the police commissioner or SP. In Rajkot, we are given replies that we cannot directly get such information and have to file RTI applications with each police station in the district,” Pandya said, adding, such replies have been received from Surat and Kutch districts, too.
He said RTI pleas filed seeking details of industrial accidents in Gujarat for the last 10 years got initially refused by DISH (Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health).

“After we appealed, the department provided information. But these papers were so old that they were almost crumbling. They had such bad handwriting that we felt that we should not have gone for an appeal,” he said adding Rs 1,500 was spent on trying to get the
information.

Mahesh Gajera from Ajeevika Bureau and Preeti Oza from the Centre for Labour Research and Action were the other participants in the webinar.
Oza pointed out how some of the state-run firms like the Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation (GMRC) did not fall under the purview of the RTI Act.

Such organisations receiving state or central funding should also be covered under RTI, she demanded.

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