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Gujarat's lack of response irks RTI activists

Nov 23, 2010 11:29 AM IST India India

Ahmedabad: A Right to Information Act (RTI) Awards Committee has ranked Gujarat 18th among states implementing the Act. Two RTI activists, Alpesh Bhavsar and Paresh Parekh, have been waiting for responses to their queries for nearly five years.

The duo filed a RTI application way back in 2006, seeking to know whether it is legal for politicians to publicly brandish weapons in a show of strength.

"The Commission PIO has just replied that there are cases where orders have not been passed and your case is one of them," says Bhavsar.

It is not just about the inordinate delay.

RTI activist Amit Jethwa was killed for trying to expose illegal mining around the Gir Sanctuary. Activists from across the state met in Ahmedabad and the general chorus was that of despair and discouragement.

In the year 2009-10, 819 cases were liable for penalty, but no penalty has been slapped, causing a loss of revenue of about Rs 2 crore.

In the first eight months, there are over 7000 complaints and appeals pending, while three commissioners have passed orders in just 2300 cases.

RTI Awards Committee member Vinod Pandya had invited officials of the RTI Commission for a public hearing but none of them turned up.

"I cannot understand why our RTI commissioners do not impose penalties. Without imposing penalties, information officers here will never pay heed to applications," says RTI Awards Committee member Vinod Pandya.

Hounded by vested interests on one hand and faced with an indifferent and negative response from the authorities, it is indeed a tight rope walk for those who choose to use the RTI Act to set things right.