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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Maharashtra State is leading RTI user

By Manjiri Damle/TNN, Pune: Active and aware citizens of Maharashtra have emerged leading users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 in the country. The Maharashtra information commission received as many as 6,641 complaints and second appeals by December 2006, as compared to other state commissions which received an average of less than 2,000 each. Significantly, the Central Information Commission, which has five information commissioners and is the second appellate authority for all Union government bodies, received 4,939 second appeals and complaints — much lower than the Maharashtra state commission. Second appeals are applications made by the complainants against decisions given by local appellate authorities of various departments pertaining to appeals that challenge decisions given by the public information officers. Mumbai-based activist Shailesh Gandhi, who procured the data to check the use of RTI across the country, told TOI that Maharashtra not only leads in use of RTI, but showed that the RTI movement had spread across the state, with all revenue divisions receiving a sizeable number of second appeals and complaints. Most of the credit goes to noted social crusader Anna Hazare’s tireless efforts and his pressure on the state government, which resulted in enactment of RTI in the state way back in 2002 and the appointment of more than one state information commissioner, Gandhi said. Pune division tops in exploring RTI Act Pune: The city has emerged as the leading user of the RTI Act. The data collected by Mumbai-based RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi showed that Pune division tops the state. As many as 1,383 second appeals and complaints have gone from here to the state commission. Mumbai follows with 1,372, Nashik with 905, Konkan with 901, Amravati with 775, Aurangabad with 685 and Nagpur with 620. Leading city RTI activist Vivek Velankar attributed Maharashtra’s performance to greater awareness about RTI and its use in the state since 2002. “During the three years before the Union government came out with the RTI Act, 2005, over 30,000 RTI applications were received by various information officers in the state. Of them, 10,000 got the required information,” Velankar revealed. He pointed out that people in Maharashtra got excellent practice in RTI usage thanks to social crusaderAnna Hazare. “Other states do not have the same level of awareness,” he remarked. Gandhi pointed out that initially, the Maharashtra government lagged behind in implementation of RTI. The government only acted when Hazare threatened to agitate. “The government provided only one chief information commissioner despite a huge caseload, whereas Assam had two and Kerala had four!” he said. However, the government appointed two more information commissioners in December and has now selected four more though the selection method has remained opaque, Gandhi said. He felt that the government should be given credit for distributing the information commissioners across all revenue divisions, instead of keeping them all in the state capital. About the performance of the sole chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi, Gandhi said that after a slow start at disposals, he has begun disposing about 110 applications per month during the last three months. “He disposed 324 cases in the first nine months which increased to 326 cases during October to December,” he said. A stage would soon come when an applicant will get a decision in 60 days, he added.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 07; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

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