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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Babus spin a web to keep RTI activist spinning

Expressindia » Story
Mohd Arshi Rafique
Posted: Aug 19, 2009 at 0435 hrs IST

For the last five months, various state departments have been refusing to give information under the Right to Information Act about the land of an institution, which the BSP government wants to take over for setting up a university in the memory of party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra’s mother.

All the departments — Chief Minister’s secretariat, Uttar Pradesh Technical University (UPTU), Social Welfare Department, Handicapped Welfare Department and Urban Development Department — have been passing the buck by saying they do not have the information.

The matter is now before the State Information Commission (SIC), which has scheduled a hearing on August 31. A notice in this regard has been sent to all the departments.

The proposed university for the handicapped — Dr Shakuntala Mishra Rehabilitation University — is coming up at Mohan Road in Lucknow. Adjacent to it is Rajkiya Gobind Ballabh Pant Polytechnic, where 70 per cent seats are reserved for SC/ST students, 25 per cent for OBCs and only five per cent for students of the general category. The government wants to take over a part of the polytechnic’s land for the university.

On March 16, RTI activist Urvashi Sharma had sought information related to the details of the February 25 meeting regarding the transfer of polytechnic institute’s land from the Social Welfare Department to the new university. The meeting was presided over by the secretary of the Urban Development Department.

Instead of replying to Sharma, the CM secretariat on March 20 instructed the UPTU to answer the queries of the applicant.

On April 15, the UPTU passed the buck to Social Welfare Department saying the institute’s administrative responsibilities are handled by it. The Social Welfare Department, in turn, wrote to the Urban Development Department stating that since the meeting was held under its secretary, they must be better equipped to answer the queries.

Even after Sharma filed the first appeal with the CM’s Secretariat on April 16, the departments continued with their game of passing the buck. Sharma wanted to know whether the interests of the polytechnic institute will be protected in the bid to transfer its land.

On May 4, the PIO of the CM secretariat issued a letter jointly addressed to the principal secretaries of all the four departments, asking them to file the reply. A day after Sharma approached the SIC, the government on May 21 asked the registrar of Dr Shakuntala Mishra Handicapped University to provide the information sought by the applicant, but the university replied that since the polytechnic institute’s land is yet to be transferred, it can give no information.

On June 8, the Handicapped Welfare Department, which owns the land, wrote to the principal secretary of the Urban Development Department sating that since the meeting was presided over by its secretary therefore it should provide the information.

On July 27, the Urban Development Department refused to reply saying that its involvement in the issue was only to the extent that the two departments — Urban Development and Social Welfare — had the same official as their secretary at the time of the meeting.

The SIC will now hear the matter on August 31.

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