RTI site: Mockery of its purpose

Portal lacks crucial details, contact numbers of info officers

RTI site: Mockery of its purpose

The process of filing RTI applications and getting replies does not seem to be too smooth an affair. This is highlighted in the fact that the RTI website run by the State government is besotted with problems galore and is no highway to information.

The public are already having issues in availing their Right to Information on the websites of the different government websites.

The website, http://dpar-rti.kar.nic.in/, owned and maintained by the Karnataka government Secretariat, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, was created to enable citizens to quickly search for information on the details of first appellate authorities, public information officers (PIOs), among others. However, RTI activists and citizens complain that the site is not serving any purpose as contact numbers of PIOs are missing. “The information on the site is not updated since 2006. Nobody knows who is monitoring it. Also, some of the PIOs mentioned there are not equipped enough to answer the queries and do not know about the issues highlighted in RTI applications,” said Vincent G, an RTI activist.

The staff at the Karnataka unit of the National Informatics Centre, which has designed the website, said that it was the duty of the government departments to update the details and contact numbers.

“We have issued user accounts to each of the departments, wherein they can connect to the server to add or change information. We have also trained the staff of the respective departments on handling the accounts,” said a staff member.

Members of the RTI Activists’ State Committee (RTIASC) maintained that as per the RTI
Act, 2005, a directory comprising details of all PIOs and other officers has to be published. Also, the email ids of PIOs should be mandatorily published on government websites. However, none of these rules are followed. There are also complaints galore on the functioning and negligent attitude of the PIOs.

Jude Rajesh Ferrao, president of the Citizens’ Welfare Association (HRBR 2nd Block), maintained that he had filed 15 RTI applications to get details of the building plan sanctions of unauthorised structures in his area. However, he did not get responses from the PIO, East, of the BBMP.

“RTI has become a joke as it is not taken seriously. Also, the contact numbers of the PIOs are those of their offices and speaking to them directly is difficult,” Ferrao said.

Veeresh Bellur, RTI activist and convenor of RTIASC, said that as per the Act, RTI queries should be replied to within 30 days. But unfortunately, it is not happening in most cases.
“The Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Janaspandana and Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) are not effectively implementing the RTI Act,” he said.

Sources from KIC said that in the past, circulars had been issued to the departments to declare details of their PIOs along with their contact numbers on government websites. But a few of the departments continue to remain ignorant.

BBMP to shut centralised RTI cell

Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, the civic agency which administers the State capital, is planning to close down its centralised Right to Information Cell.

The Cell, operating for the last nine years, has benefitted thousands of RTI applicants. Palike Commissioner M Lakshminarayana has issued a circular stating that RTI applications will have to submitted directly to the public information officers and first appellate authorities, as mandated by the RTI Act.

It may be recalled that BBMP had earned accolades from Karnataka Information Commission for setting up the Centralised Information Centre bringing transparency in the functioning of civic agency. The commission had even asked other departments to emulate BBMP model.

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