Tuesday, February 19, 2008

RTI Project Updates - 11

Working with the Information Commission
It has been a week spent mostly at the commission. On Tuesday, I continued the analysis work with Archana and so far we have looked at close to 50 decisions. This work will continue and the idea is to finish it in the next week.

The next day, I along with Prabha, went to look at hearings. They started at about 11.15. The first case was from a person, who looked a simpleton, but had loads of documents. He had filed applications with the co-operative societies department, asking for various details like the number of societies registered whether they are profitable or not and many more such details. Though I could not know all the details I had asked, it was clear that he suspected that something was wrong in the management of societies but he could not figure out what it was. He generally went on talking very generally without much point. He said when he asked for the number of societies registered and he received the answer as 6. Later elsewhere he got the answer 10, and when he asked for expenses (or profit, I am not sure) he got the number as 11. He said this was proof that he was given false information. But one examination, it was found that, the number 6 was given for a smaller area, and that the dept for which he asked next question gave the number as 10 for a larger division. And when he asked for expenses, the department had added an extra head of expense indicating office expense and hence the serial number went on to 11. So it was pointed out to him that nothing was really wrong. He was not convinced. Then he went on to say that the certificate he got after his training in handloom was not authentic. When asked why he thinks it was not authentic, he said that it did not look like another certificate that was given to an friend. It was again later seen that his friend had the training from the central government and he had it from the state government and hence certificates did indeed look different. It went on that way for some more time. The Chief commissioner told me that this was the fourth time his case was coming up for enquiry. There were two other cases which were straight forward and one more which again had a person who wanted to prove a point but was beating about the bush. I couldnt get the gist, as I left in the middle of this enquiry. But got the impression that the decisions were generally fair, but fines are not being imposed.

The next day I met the commissioner and we discussed for about an hour and half on various issues. Starting from imposition of fines, how PAs go to courts, on training to PIOs, staff and funds shortage at the commission, on whether more commissioners are needed etc. During that discussion I asked the commissioner to give me the list of cases where the PAs have gone to courts. I thought that once I get this, we can publish a newspaper report on how PIOs go to the courts if the decisions are not favourable to them. The next effort would be to ferret out cases where penalty was imposed and see the recovery percentage.

There was an awareness session in Thiruvallur for Thiruvallur district full timers of AID India. Only 15 people turned up (out of a targeted 30). The session went off well, and I have asked them to organise similar sessions in their villages, where I will come and do the training. Let us see how it goes.

On saturday afternoon, I went back to the saidapet slum, to do a follow-up of the RTI applications we filed during the awareness session. My contact point there, a girl called Kotiswari, who is a full timer with AID India was not present on that day, and hence it was difficult to trace out people. So we decided to return next wednesday to do the follow-up.

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