When it comes to filing RTI applications, Puneites seemed to be right upfront. As many as 5,604 second appeals that are pending before the Pune bench of the State Information Commission (SIC) bear ample testimony to the RTI activism deeply rooted among citizens. After information is rejected twice, some give up but many persist while going for second appeal or even approaching the high court with the hope of getting information they want under RTI Act, 2005.
But the enthusiasm of Puneites on the RTI terrain is increasingly running into roadblocks what with various government and civic departments either delaying the information beyond the stipulated 30 days, giving wrong, misleading or incomplete information or providing information that leaves applicants completely confused. “Their misery is compounded by the fact that only a small percentage of officials are being punished by way of fines,” said activist Vivek Velenkar.
Take the case of Sachin Godambe, a resident of Bhosari, who had four years ago approached Balbharati, the state textbooks bureau, seeking information on Dadaji Konddev as the guru of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Six months later, he was told that the information is “confidential” and cannot be provided. He made the first appeal with the same department. “I got no reply,” said Godambe, who then made the second appeal with the SIC Pune bench.
“The hearing came up after over a year. The SIC directed Balbharati to provide me the information but it replied to me that the information was not available with them,” Godambe said.
So, after over a year and a half, Godambe has received nothing by way of information. He had made one more RTI application before the Social Welfare Department in September last year. “After 10 months, I have started getting information from other branches of the department,” he said.
The case of Vihar Dhurve, a resident of Deccan, is more interesting. He sought information from both Pune and Mumbai police regarding cops on VIP duty. “While Mumbai Police duly provided the information, Pune Police refused citing a notification of the state government. How can one arm of the state government have two sets of rules?”