By Paritosh Chakma
Merinews.com, 2 Feb, 2011
IN MIZORAM, as the officials refused to provide information under the RTI Act, accessing information has become a costly affair for common people as they need to go for appeals. This writer has not received information in 9 RTI applications. Appeals have been made before the concerned Appellate Authorities in three cases but all ended in absence of any response.
The cases where information has been denied are as follows:
1. On July 12, 2010, I filed an RTI application with the SPIO, Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit district via speed post seeking year-wise amount of flood relief released by the government of Mizoram to Silsury village in Mamit district during 2000-2010 and list of beneficiaries. But the SPIO, V L Remliana, Sub Divisional Officer (Sadar) failed to provide any information. On 23 November 2010, I filed first appeal before the Deputy Commissioner, Mamit, but have not received any information as of date. On 31 January 2011, the second appeal was filed before the State Information Commission.
2. On October 1, 2010, I filed an RTI application with SPIO, District Project Coordinator, Mamit by speed post seeking the appointment letter of a SSA teacher and the performance reports submitted by the concerned Village Education Committee with regard to the SSA teacher. On 23 November 2010, the first appeal was sent via speed post but I have not been provided any information as of date. On 31 January 2011, I filed the second appeal before the SIC.
3. On August 12, 2010, I filed an RTI application by speed post with the SPIO, SSA Mizoram, Aizawl regarding alleged arbitrary and illegal dismissal of a SSA teacher but received no information. I made the first appeal on 23 November 2010 but I have not been provided any information. On 29 January 2011, I filed the second appeal before the SIC.
4. On August 16, 2010, I filed RTI application by speed post with the SPIO, SSA Mizoram, Aziawl regarding alleged arbitrary and illegal dismissal of another different SSA teacher. No information has been provided.
5. On August 12, 2010, I filed an application with Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi regarding border fencing compensation in Mizoram. The application was forwarded to Deputy Commissioners of Lunglei, Mamit and Lawngtlai vide letter F. No. 11013/39/2010-BM.III dated New Delhi the 19th August 2010. But so far information has been provided only by Lunglei DC office.
6. On July 16, 2010, I filed an RTI application with the Ministry of Minority Affairs, New Delhi seeking information about the scholarship provided to the minority students in Mizoram. On 21 July 2010, the application was forwarded to Smt. L Tonchhang, Principal Secretary, Education and Human Resource Development department, Govt of Mizoram, Aizawl vide letter no. 18/2/2010-RTI/PP(PPR) dated New Delhi the 21 July 2010. No information has been provided till date.
7. On September 22, 2010, I filed an RTI application with social welfare department, government of Mizoram seeking the reasons as to why old age pension has not been provided to two senior citizens who belong to BPL family. The application was sent by speed post but has received no reply.
8. On September 22, 2010, I filed an RTI application by speed post with the District Rural Development Agency, Mamit district seeking information as to why a beneficiary of IAY was not given IAY grant although his name appeared in the DRDA order dated 15th March 2009. But no information has been provided till date.
9. On September 22, 2010, I filed an RTI application with Office of Child Development Project Officer, West Phaileng, Mamit seeking information about appointment of Angwanwadi workers in Silsury village. The letter was sent by Speed Post but no information has been provided till date.
It is needless to say that Mizoram government has failed to put up the particulars and contact details of the Appellate Authorities in each department’s website. Even the website of Mizoram State Information Commission, http://msic.mizoram.gov.in/ is not functioning and hence redundant.
Further, in the Mizoram RTI Rules, 2006 the applicant must pay fee of appeal by way of court fee stamp. The fee is also quite high: Rs 40/- for first appeal and Rs 50/- for second appeal. In short, accessing information through the RTI Act has become a costly affair for common people as they need to go for appeals.
In August 2010, Aizawl-based anti-corruption watchdog People’s Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram (PRISM) came down heavily on Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who had stated that appointing a State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) was a waste of public money as the people of Mizoram did not fully use the RTI Act.
Contrary to the Chief Minister’s claim, what is emerging is the fact that the RTI officials in Mizoram are denying information to the applicants without the fear of the law. The public servants appointed as RTI officials have no right to deny information when the applicant has paid the statutory fee of Rs 10/- to the government in the first place. It is time Chief Minister of Mizoram and State Information Commission took strong notice of the rampant practice of not honouring the RTI Act and ensure that appropriate punishment is meted out to the erring RTI officials as provided in section 20 of the RTI Act.
Under the Right to Information Act, 2005, information must be provided “as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request.” (Sub section 1 of section 7). But in Mizoram state, accessing information is increasingly becoming a tedious and expensive process as officials of various departments have been refusing to provide information.
If any application is rejected, the State Public Information Officer must communicate to the applicant providing the reasons for such rejection under sub section 8 of section 7. Denial of information is punishable offence under section 20 of the RTI Act. Yet, the SPIOs are less concerned. Even appeal before the Appellate Authority yielded little.