Sunday, March 23, 2008

RTI Project Updates 15,16

State Information Commission
This is an update of the last two weeks. THe first week was spent in preparing the report for the Madurai workshop. The report was the compilation of data I had collected over the last three months regarding implementation of RTI in government departments, and the SIC's functioning. The report can be viewed here. This was done in consultation with Nity after which Mr.Ossie of HRF had also had a look. At the last minute I thought of doing the tamil translation and this itself took one whole day :-). I spoke about this report at the Madurai workshop. It was also decided at the workshop that a statewide campaign on RTI awareness has to be conducted (tentatively from Mar 1st to Mar 10th).

During the first week I also went to Doordarshan and gave them a letter saying I wanted to do a program with them on RTI. If this program happens, then awareness would go to even the remotest villages. Last week when I went to the Doordarshan again, I was told that the letter was marked to the Program Executive. I will have to meet him the coming week.

There was a call from one Mr.Parthasarathy, who had called me up on the RTI helpline, saying that he had applied for Ration card and that it had been more than a year and is yet to receive the card. So I told him how to file an RTI application. Within fifteen days people from the government department had come come for inspection. What is even better is that at that time, he was not at home, and so they came back again. Now they have promised him that he will get his ration card soon. He was very excited and called up to tell me this.

As was mentioned in some previous posts, I had been trying to get some publicity for the phone helpline through BIG FM and it happened this saturday. The people at BIG FM were very supportive and we did a one hour program hosted by RJ Dheena which was a kind of Q & A session between him and me wherein he asks questions about this act and I answer them. All this happens between songs that are played. They have also suggested that we do this program for one more week where we can look at more questions and also take some viewers' questions on the radio itself. That would be really interesting. This can be heard on 92.7 FM saturday 10 AM to 11 AM.

Filing RTI Applications
There were also a couple of interesting replies to my RTI applications. I had filed one with the DoME asking about section 4 disclosures made by various government hospitals. They in turn forwarded it to all the hospitals and asked them to reply to me. Only 3 hospitals replied till a week back, but this week I received a reply from the Government General Hospital (opp. Railway station) saying that the information asked for has been enclosed. But the envelope had no enclosures at all. It was just a single page letter. I was shocked. I just hope it was genuine mistake by the GH. I have written back to them with a copy to DoME saying that there were no enclosures and asking them to send me the enclosures immediately.

The second one was regarding the RTI I filed with Railways asking for details of various quotas like Tatkal, Emergency etc. I had also asked for the number of tickets booked under various quotas for a period of 10 days of 1 train. The information was very specific. For this I received a reply saying that the information has been collected and that it comes to 47 pages and so I have to pay 94 rupees. Moreover, they also said that they spent 8 hours collecting the information regarding the specific train and hence I have to pay Rs.750 for the effort. This is rubbish. Since all the data is computerised (to the extent that even online booking is allowed) it is unthinkable that it takes 8 hours to get the data. For somebody who knows the structure of the database, it will take a maximum of 15 mins to come up with the proper query to get the data. And they say that it took them 8 hours. And that I have to pay 750 rupees for that. Naturally, I intend to go in appeal against this, but this is one of the methods that Govt departments use to discourage usage of RTI.

Also I have filed an RTI application to know the applications for licenses of firearms that have been issued by the government. An other application I filed was to know the exact procedure that has to take place for disbursal of application forms for various government pension schemes like Old Age Pension, Widow pension etc. I have also asked for the procedure for a new ration card. I have also asked for the time limit that each official should do his part of the procedure. This will help in filing RTI applications since these are the areas most people have problems in.

1 comment:

Raghu said...

very much inspiring......