Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ordeal in payment of fee in P&AR Department

The Secretary,
Personnel and Administrative reforms department,
Chennai - 600009.

31/IV, Maan Sarovar Raaja Apts.,
11A, Arcot Road,
Porur, Chennai - 600116.
Ph: 9840327303.

Date: 1-Apr-09

Subject: Regarding mode of payment of RTI fees in the P&AR department.

This is with respect to the mode of payment of Right to Information fees under the Right to Information act, 2005.

On 31st Dec 2005 I had come to the P&AR department for inspection of the file related to the GO, in which DVAC and TSVC were exempted from the Right to Information act. After that inspection, on the same day, I had given a requisition asking for copies of some pages of the file. For this I received a letter from Mr.P.Rangaraju, Appellate authority/Deputy Secretary to Government, P&AR department informing me that the cost of the information I had sought, comes to Rs.104 and that I had to pay it as Demand Draft/Bankers’ Cheque/Treasury Challan/Cash.

So yesterday, 31st Mar 2009, around 12.00 noon, I went to the P&AR department to pay the fees. I intended to pay it as cash. And this is what happened.
1. There I met the Mr.P.Rangaraju because he was the person who sent me the letter. He asked me to go meet Mr.Chandrasekaran, Under secretary since he was the PIO.
2. When I met Mr.Chandrasekaran, he asked me to go the section, which was near the office of the NIC in the secretariat to pay the fees as cash.
3. So I went there and met Ms.Janaki, Section officer. She pointed out that this letter was received from P&AR (N) department and so I should go and meet Mr.Thilagar who was the Under Secretary for the N department. This was probably correct, but I don’t know why the Appellate Authority asked me to meet Mr.Chandrasekhar and why Mr.Chandrasekhar asked me to go to this section. But those can be assumed to be genuine mistakes on their part.
4. I went and met Mr.Thilagar, who said that cash cannot be accepted as payment and asked me to meet Mr.Vilvam, a section officer of N department.
5. I went and met Mr.Vilvam who said that cash cannot be accepted and I had to pay it only through a treasury challan and again took me back to Mr.Thilagar.
6. Here again Mr.Thilagar and Mr.Vilvam tried to explain to me the problems they had in accepting cash, since they did not have any facility for accepting cash at the office and that I had to pay it only through a treasury challan. When I asked in what name the DD has to be paid, Mr.Thilagar told me that DDs will not be accepted and that I had to pay only through Challan. I gave the option of paying through cheque since I pointed out that the procedure for both cheque and DD would be the same. Even that was not agreed. Finally I has to relent and agree to pay through Challan, but requested Mr.Thilagar to talk to the Secretary of the P&AR department, and try to arrange some facility for accepting cash. Mr.Thilagar then talked to Ms.Janaki over phone and asked her to keep a challan ready, and then asked me to go there and get the Challan.
7. I went to meet Ms.Janaki to get the Challan form. She told me that she did not have the challan and told me that the Challans will be available at RBI. Even Mr.Thilagar pointed out that the Challans would be available at RBI. When I told Ms.Janaki that on a different occasion when I asked for a Challan at RBI, they asked me to get it from the Secretariat, Ms.Janaki asked me to get a Challan from Pay and Accounts Office on the second floor.
8. And so I went to Pay and Accounts office on the second floor where they said that they normally do not have challan copies and that I had to get it only from the department.
9. So I went back to Ms.Janaki and told her that Pay and Accounts office did not give me a Challan, and by this time it was 1.40 PM. The Reserve Bank refuses payments after 2 PM.
10. So when Ms.Janaki and I went back to the P&AR department on the first floor, Mr.Thilagar and Mr.Chandrasekhar were also there. I told them the whole thing and about how I was made to go around like this for a Challan copy. Then I told them that I don’t need a challan now, since by the time I reach RBI it will be more than 2 PM and so will not be able to pay the amount today. So I asked Mr.Thilagar whether he will take DDs. He still staunchly refused to take DDs and only after some convincing by Mr.Chandraekhar he finally agreed.

And so at 2.00 PM I left the secretariat, after 2 hours of running around here and there in the hot sun, without paying the amount I had come to pay.

My questions are as follows.

1. Why is there no procedure for cash payment at the department when the rules for payment of fees clearly gives the option?
2. If there is no facility for payment of cash, then why did the letter say that payment can be made through cash?
3. Why did the letter not tell me the name of the drawee in case of demand drafts?
4. Why did Mr.Thilagar and Mr.Vilvam refuse to take even Demand Draft initially and agreed only when there was no other option?
5. Why is there no proper mechanism to even get a challan form for which I was made to run around so much and was finally not given?
6. Why is that not a single officer I met in the P&AR department all through the 2 hour ordeal knew where I could get a challan from?

The problems with non-cash mode of payments are many.

1. For Demand drafts, it is not always easy to find out the name of the drawee. Also even for paying 20 rupees as fee, we are forced to pay 50 rupees as exchange.
2. For Demand Drafts, I need to find out the name of the drawee, which is not easy to find in many Public Authorities
3. Treasury challans are also difficult, because the challan is not easy to get. And you need to go to RBI to do the payment.

Above all these, cash payment is the right of every citizen under the Right to Information act. It is hugely disappointing that the P&AR department which is the nodal agency for implementing RTI in the state, does not fulfill this basic requirement of the act even after three years of Right to Information act, 2005. As secretary of the P&AR department I request you to take immediate steps to ensure that these basic facilities are made available to the common man.

Thanking you.

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