The CIC today issued show-cause notices to two officials of the Union Labour Ministry for not furnishing complete information to a 90-year old widow, claiming to be the "aunt" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had been running from pillar to post for renewal of rent for a government dispensary running on her premises.
The CIC today issued show-cause notices to two officials of the Union Labour Ministry for not furnishing complete information to a 90-year old widow, claiming to be the “aunt” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had been running from pillar to post for renewal of rent for a government dispensary running on her premises. Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu pulled up the officials for not furnishing complete information to Dahiben Narottamdas Modi of Vadnagar in Gujarat’s Mehsana district.
She has claimed in her petition before the Central Information Commission that the ministry has been paying Rs 1,500 a month as rent since 1998 and no renewal of lease has been done since. PTI was the first to report on her petition and arguments which were heard by the Commission on June 21 through video conference. During the hearing, her representative Ishwar Lal Modi narrated her ordeal.
According to the details presented by her, her building in Vadnagar was taken on lease by the ministry in 1983 to establish a dispensary for Bidi workers at a monthly rent of Rs 600. The lease was to be renewed after every five years. Through renewals of lease, the rent was gradually increased to Rs 1,500 in 1998 but after that the lease was not renewed and rent remained at Rs 1,500 as against present market rate of Rs 15,000, she said.
Dahiben filed an RTI applicant last year seeking to know multiple questions related to renewal of lease and whether she should be paid arrears for the period when lease renewal was due but not done by the department. Frustrated with incomplete information provided to her by Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and Assistant Welfare Officer T B Moitra, she filed a first appeal before his senior S S Bhople claiming that she was “real aunty of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and “if justice is not given to me, then entire matter will be reported to PM”.
The first appeal went unheard, she claimed, following which the matter was presented before the Commission in second appeal which was heard by Acharyulu on June 21, 2018. The Information Commissioner found that her claims of not getting complete information were prima facie justified.
“She was appealing for increasing rent to Rs 10,000 per month. The officers knew the entire problem. The representative of the old woman pleaded for justice in this second appeal, as she cannot physically go round the PWD office and Welfare Commissioners office or bribe at every stage of documentation,” he noted.
He said that the Welfare Commissioner’s office, without any concern for her helplessness, asked her to produce some documents in multiple copies, which they could have easily prepared. Acharyulu noted that though Dahiben submitted those papers, the officials did not try to get from Mehsana office.
“Though she is related to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she did not use that to influence the authorities. She did not even mention it in her RTI application but sought for information as a citizen and requested for revision of rent or vacating building,” he said. The Information Commissioner said it was only when her information request was inadequately answered, she filed a first appeal revealing that she was “chachee/kaakee (aunt)” of the prime minister.
“But the officers in their usual manner ignored the entire letter and insisted on production of documents and some papers to be given by the PWD of Gujarat. There was no response to her first appeal. There was neither hearing nor consideration of her appeal on merits,” he said. Acharyulu asked Moitra and Bhople to come up with an explanation as to why a penalty would be not imposed on them for not furnishing complete information to Dahiben.
“Moitra claimed that some of the information sought by the appellant was with PWD department of Gujarat government. If that was so, he should have transferred her application partly to that office. As he did not do so, it becomes his duty to collect the relevant papers from PWD office of the state to address the grievance of non-revision of rental rates,” he said. He also directed the Gujarat PWD secretary to provide all necessary documents needed for the re-assessment or revision of the rent rate to the public authority, i.e Welfare Commissioner, with a copy to the appellant.