RTI puts govt in go-slow mode

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Praveen Kumar Singh | Praveen Kumar Singh | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 26 2011, 08:03am hrs
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has realised the power of the Right to Information (RTI) Act the hard way. Bruised by the row over the finance ministry note on 2G spectrum scam to the Prime Ministers Office, which exposed the schism between the two senior most ministers in the Cabinet, government departments have turned wary of such communications.

The result: a go-slow attitude seems to have taken over, with communications between various government departments being subjected to scrutiny. Top sources confirm Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal has issued a circular demanding that all communications between the ministry and the Prime Ministers Office be shown to him. This pertains to both outgoing and incoming communications.

A senior railway official, however, clarified that the direction was a reiteration of an earlier guideline to inform the railway board chairman of all matters requiring inter-ministerial consultation. The official said since the guideline was not being followed strictly, a fresh circular was issued.

With the full significance of the RTI being acknowledged by senior ministers like Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid and even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it is always better to err on the side of caution, said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity.

Decision-making on the development of roads and ports has also slowed down. In ports, only one project has been awarded so far against the overall target of 23 projects.

In roads, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI ) could award projects for 2,812 km till October 19 against the target of 5,500 km.

Several factors have caused the slow progress towards achieving the target. A recent order from the cabinet secretariat that all issues related to land be routed through it is one of them. However, we will be able to award 22 project by the end of this fiscal, shipping secretary K Mohandas told FE.

Senior officials in the road ministry and NHAI said they had to exercise caution after revelation of an alleged scam in NHAI. Central Vigilance Commission is investigating several cases of wrongdoing in project award and recruitment by NHAI.