PM's 90-yr-old 'aunt' seeks redressal for dispensary

PM's 90-yr-old 'aunt' seeks redressal for dispensary

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI file photo)

A 90-year old widow claiming to be the aunt of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has knocked on the doors of an appellate authority after failing to get satisfactory answers from the Labour Ministry on her RTI application seeking details of lease renewal of a government dispensary running in her premises.

In a hearing last week before Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, Dahiben Narottamdas Modi sent her representative Ishwar Lal Modi who narrated her ordeal about her premises which was rented on April 11, 1983, for Rs 600 per month.

It was given out for running the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund (BWWF) dispensary in her premises in Vadnagar in Gujarat's Mehsana district.

The rent was increased from Rs 600 to Rs 1500 through revisions of the lease between 1983 and 1998, she said in her submissions before the Central Information Commission (CIC), adding it has not been raised since then.

Dahiben had filed an RTI application in December last year in which she sought to know details of the lease, renewals, norms for fixing rent, reasons for not renewing her lease every five years and whether the department was ready to pay arrears for periods in which lease was not renewed after five years, among others. The matter reached the Commission after she failed to get a satisfactory response on her Right to Information application and her first appeal before higher authorities remained unanswered, according to details submitted by Dahiben before the CIC.

Dahiben claimed she was all alone and survived on the meagre rental income of Rs 1,500 from the building for which the revision of rent was pending.  Welfare and Cess Commissioner S S Bhople told the Commission in a letter that after the expiry of the last lease agreement the office had requested the landlord through letters dated July 24, 200,2 and May 15, 200,8 to submit fresh documents for rent revision. He said the documents were not submitted and hence the rates could not be revised. 

During the hearing before the CIC, Dahiben's representative told the Commission that unless her "information needs" are fulfilled, she will not be providing documents as sought by Welfare Commissioner office for lease renewal.              

He said she is too old and cannot physically go around the PWD office and Welfare Commissioner's office at every stage of documentation. "I am a widow of 90-years old and such type of mental cruelty is intolerable for me as I have no son or (sic)  no one is there to look after me," she said in a emotional second appeal filed by her before the Central Information Commission.

A copy of the second appeal, the RTI application and the First appeal filed by Dahiben were accessed by the PTI. In response to her RTI application on December 21, 2017, the CPIO and Assistant Welfare Commissioner T B Moitra told Dahiben that some information was not available in his office.  Moitra also said that lease can be revised at a new rental which has to be fixed after assessment by PWD/CPWD authorities in Gujarat.  The response has been quoted in the appeal filed by Dahiben and was reiterated by her representative during the hearing held on June 21, 2018.

The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) said Dahiben was asked to submit documents for renewal of lease which was not done and hence the renewal is pending. The response was found unsatisfactory by Dahiben following which she filed her first appeal before Moitra's senior officer, Bhople, on January 9, 201,8 in which she claimed that she was the "real aunt of Prime Minister Narendra Modi" and "if justice was not given to her the matter will be reported to the Prime Minister".

She did not elaborate on the relationship with the PM. She filed a second appeal before the CIC, the highest adjudicating authority for RTI matters, after her first appeal went unheard. The submissions and documents provided under the First Appeal with the concerned department and Second appeal before the Commission are given under oath by the appellant that details given are true.

While hearing the matter on June 21, Acharyulu observed that while she claimed to be a relative of the Prime Minister, she had not used it to influence the authorities.  It was only after not being provided with a proper response that, in utter helplessness, she mentioned her relation with the Prime Minister, he noted. He also asked some tough questions from the department about the ordeal faced by her and why a penalty should not be imposed on the officers handling her RTI petition.