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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Co-ops now under RTI : Gujarat

Paul John | TNN , Ahmedabad: Co-operative societies and Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) across Gujarat will now be considered as public authorities under the Right to Information Act (RTI), according to a recent state circular.
Any citizen can directly apply under the RTI Act for any information on these bodies by making a simple application to the respective public information officers (PIO) of these societies.
The state circular came as a blessing for borrowers, depositors and members who have been demanding accountability from co-operative banks, APMCs, societies or even milk and housing co-operatives for a long time. This concern grew after a string of scams were unearthed in some of these co-operatives across Gujarat a few years ago.
For simplifying the process, the department of co-operation circular has already asked all co-operative societies, including those functioning as banks, housing societies and APMCs to appoint public information officers and appellate authorities as mandated in the Act.
The circular states that officers holding the post of either secretary, institution secretary, manager or managing director should be appointed as PIOs while those holding the post of chairman or the president should be appointed as appellate authorities under the Act.
The circular was issued on March 30 following an order passed by the Gujarat information commission (GIC) in the case of Dilipsinh Jhala versus APMC Unjha, which said that co-operatives and APMCs are public authorities.
However, nearly 50 co-operative banks have argued that they should not be ruled as public authorities. An APMC of Unjha has challenged the decision of the GIC ruling it as a public authority in the High Court.
“Most co-operative societies have been providing information under the RTI Act directly to applicants lately and wherever the applicant feels the requirement for an intervention, the registrar of co-operatives has been called in to demand information on his behalf.
Our earlier circular which restricted this process has been scrapped following the RTI Act and under the new circular, we have mandated that PIOs and APIOs be appointed in the co-operatives,” says a senior official of the department of co-operation.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Apr 09; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

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