What is Praja?Founded in 1998, the PRAJA Foundation is a non-partisanvoluntary organization which empowers the citizen toparticipate in governance by providing knowledge and March’12enlisting peoples participation. PRAJA aims to provide waysin which the citizen can get politically active and involvedbeyond the ballot box, thus promoting transparency andaccountability.Concerned about the lack of awareness and apathy of thelocal government among citizens, and hence the disinterestin its functioning, PRAJA seeks change. PRAJA strives tocreate awareness about the elected representatives andtheir constituencies. It aims to encourage the citizen toraise his/her voice and influence the policy and working ofthe elected representative. This will eventually lead to Introductionefforts being directed by the elected representatives Genesis of the RTI Act:An Act to provide for setting out the practical regimetowards the specified causes of public interest. of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency andThe PRAJA Foundation also strives to revive the waningspirit of Mumbai City, and increase the interaction between accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of athe citizens and the government. To facilitate this, Praja has Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions andcreated www.praja.org, a website where the citizen can for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.not only discuss the issues that their constituencies face,but can also get in touch with their elected representatives State Information Commission has 8 offices in Maharashtra:directly. The website has been equipped with information 1) State Chief Information Commission, Mumbai- (Headquarter)such as: the issues faced by the ward, the electedrepresentatives, the responses received and a discussion 2) State Information Commission, Nagpur Divisionboard, thus allowing an informed interaction between the 3) State Information Commission, Aurangabad Divisioncitizens of the area. 4) State Information Commission, Pune Division 5) State Information Commission, Konkan DivisionPRAJAs goals are: empowering the citizens, elected 6) State Information Commission, Greater Mumbai Divisionrepresentatives & government with facts and creating 7) State Information Commission, Amravati Divisioninstruments of change to improve the quality of life of the 8) State Information Commission , Nashik Divisioncitizens of India. PRAJA is committed to creating atransparent, accountable and efficient society throughpeoples participation. Tenures of State Chief Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners have been as follows:Sr. No. Name Designation From Up to1 Dr. Suresh Joshi State Chief Information Commissioner 12/10/2005 11/10/20102 Vilas B. Patil State Chief Information Commissioner 14/10/2010 25/07/20113 Vilas B. Patil (Nagpur) State Information Commissioner 27/12/2006 13/10/20104 Vijay B. Borage(Aurangabad) State Information Commissioner 27/12/2006 13/07/20105 VijayV. Kuvalekar(Pune) State Information Commissioner 08/02/2007 -6 Navinkumar(Konkan) State Information Commissioner 01/03/2008 15/08/20117 Ramanand Tiwari(Greater Mumbai) State Information Commissioner 01/03/2008 -(involved in Adarsh Scam and has been suspended since January’11)8 Bhaskar T. Patil (Amarawati) State Information Commissioner 24/12/2008 -9 M. H. Shaha(Nashik) State Information Commissioner 15/10/2010 -10 P.W. Patil (Nagpur) State Information Commissioner 15/10/2010 -11 D. B. Deshpande(Aurangabad) State Information Commissioner 15/10/2010 - Current Scenario in Maharashtra State: Year of Second appeals received Appeals with results Appeals pending at Report in current year declared the end of the year 2007 10628 2762 12882 2008 14928 12844 14273 2009 18205 21762 10716 2010 19483 17266 12933 Kindly check our April’12 newsletter to know more of Civic issue of your ward
March’12State Appeals for the period 2007 to 2010:• On an average 12,701 cases have been pending every year.• Second appeals (state appeals) have become almost double from 10,628 to 19,483.State Information Commissioners:• Dr. Suresh Joshi (SIC) retired on 11/10/2010• Vilas Patil (SIC) retired on 25/7/2011• Ramanand Tiwari (Mumbai Information Commissioner) was suspended for his role in Adarsh on 20/01/2011Since last January Mumbai has no Information Commissioner; also there is no State Information Commissioner sincelast July; and the Pune Information Commissioner is coming to Mumbai on a regular basis to act as an additionalinformation commissioner.Krishnaraj Rao is a Mumbai-based journalist, RTI trainer and campaigner for transparent governance. Heis part of a nationwide-network of like-minded individuals, who work as full-time campaigners on avoluntary basis for the cause of Right to Information.In your opinion, is Right To Information Act nearing its end due to the ‘attitude’ ofbureaucracy/government towards the act?The framing of the query indicates a highly pessimistic view, which automatically assumes that all power lies with the government,and none with We the People. Such is not the case; the future of the RTI Act lies in our hands, and our ability to defend it together.Weshould not raise an outcry about its “demise” because that will only demoralize potential RTI applicants. In my opinion, Right toInformation is alive and well, as there are large numbers of people who are willing and able to defend it through very strong actions,including agitations and public interest litigations.Yes, there is resistance in the government and bureaucracy, but that is natural, giventhe frequent use by citizens to track the functioning of government and administration at all levels.Is keeping the RTI Commissioners post vacant one of the reasons for increase in the number of pendingcases?In Maharashtra Information Commission, there are currently five vacancies that urgently need to be filled up. Owing to these postslying vacant for a long time, pendency of cases is mounting alarmingly at over 2000 cases per month. It is conservatively estimated at24,000 at present, but I feel the real figure is closer to 30,000. In my view, two commissioners extra should be appointed solely for thepurpose of hearing pending cases older than 6 months, while five other appointed hear the fresh cases.On your opinion what should be the role of an elected representative in making the RTI Act and itsimplementation stronger?I feel that the government must design an orientation programme every year for our elected representatives (such as MPs, MLAs andCorporators) so that they do not drift away because of the pulls and pressures of politics. Compulsory reporting procedures need tobe put in place, so that they are constantly made to feel answerable and accountable to the people who elect them.These reports,focusing on various aspects of their official work, must be routinely made public through a government website.Please tell us more on the PIL you filed, and also how you intend to take it forward.Ten of us from different states of India were co-petitioners in a PIL filed in Delhi High Court in 2009, which was however not admitted.This PIL was the predecessor of another one filed by Arvind Kejriwal, which was also dismissed in Delhi High Court, but later admittedas an Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court.This is still pending. Our PIL and Arvind’s PIL was for transparent procedures to beput in place for the selection of Information Commissioners, which is currently a non-transparent and arbitrary process.Please suggest steps in order to arrest the increase in number of pending state appeals.There is a need to set up mentoring centres where people are taught to file RTI applications that are short, sweet and to-the-point.The correct use of RTI is to ask for copies of documents as they exist, and not to ask for individual facts and figures that have to beextracted from these documents. (The documents themselves are a treasurehouse of relevant information, and studying suchperipheral information will give citizens many insights into government functioning, and show them where exactly the corruption ishappening.) If people start asking for copies of documents, the role of the public information officers (PIOs) is reduced to that ofcollecting, copying and despatching documents. Compliance will rise, and the numbers of appeals will fall dramatically. Also, peopleshould consider re-looking at an unsuccessful RTI application and filing a fresh one with corrections and modifications, rather thanhammering on in second appeals; this also will result in a reduction of the appeal process.
To Lodge Civic Complaint (Eg: Road, Water, Drainage, Municipal School, Municipal Dispensary, March’12 SWM, and others): Please log on to http://mcgm.gov.in and file your complaints in the option given under the Complaints tab in the menu or You may call 1916 and register your complaint.Information received from Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner:Shailesh Gandhi is the Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission since 2008. Shailesh Gandhi’s letter to the CM 12 November 2011 Shri Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister, Government of Maharashtra Hon. Shri Chavan, I am writing this letter to you, to draw your attention to a serious problem facing the implementation of RTI in Maharashtra. Presently, there are no Information Commissioners for Mumbai and Konkan.The pendency is mounting and if urgent steps are not taken, RTI will suffer a grievous blow, from which it may not be able to recover. I understand that most cases are taking around a year to be decided. By inaction and allowing pendencies to mount, RTI could become dysfunctional and the aam admi in whose name we undertake most activities will stop using this important tool. I am aware of your personal commitment to transparency and RTI, and urge you to please ensure that Information Commissioners for Mumbai and Konkan are appointed urgently through a transparent process. It would be a good idea to publish a proposed process and get Public reactions and suggestions before finalizing it. It is necessary that the process of selection of Information Commissioners should be made accountable and transparent. I am briefly outlining what such a process could be: 1. The Government should advertise its intention to appoint a certain number of Information Commissioners. Eminent people could be apply or be nominated by others. 2. A search committee,- perhaps,- consisting of the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, Chief Information Commissioner, Vice Chancellor of some Universities, and RTI activists could be formed to shortlist a panel which could be three times the number of Commissioners to be selected.These could be announced with the minutes of the meeting at which the shortlisting was done. 3. A Public hearing could be held to give Citizens and groups the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the candidates. Based on these inputs, the final decision to select the Commissioners could be taken by the Committee as set out in Section 15 (3) of the RTI Act. Various Commissions are the checks and balances of our democracy. If appropriate people are appointed, these important institutions would help in delivering democracy to citizens. It may be prudent to select most Commissioners who are below 60 years in age. It is also necessary that Commissioners deliver adequate number of decisions and are accountable to people. Information Commissioners are not delivering at an adequate pace to meet the requirement. Whereas it is possible to adjudicate 5000 cases in a year,- as I have demonstrated,- most Commissioners are adjudicating less than 50% of this. Those appointed as Information Commissioners must undertake to deliver an account of their job to Citizens. Hoping for a positive response, and thanking you in anticipation, Yours truly Shailesh Gandhi Hindustan Times - 12-07-2011
Table 1: Appeals and Complaints received / Forecast for next five years Year Number of Appeals & Percent increase Disposal Assuming 3500 disposal Per Complaints received in receipt Commissioner With 10 Commissioners Pending cases 2012 to 2016, 2006 4923 2905 2018 forecast assuming 2007 10274 109% 6979 5313 12% increase in receipts in 2012 2008 14565 42% 10285 9593 and 2013 and 10% 2009 21509 48% 19633 11469 thereafter. 2010 27453 28% 23575 15481 Disposals assumed 2011 32982 20% 22414 26049 as 35000 per year 2012 forecast 36940 12% 35000 27989 for this period on the basis of 3500 2013forecast 41373 12% 35000 34362 per Commissioner 2014 forecast 45510 10% 35000 44872 for 10 2015 forecast 50061 10% 35000 59933 Commissioners. 2016 forecast 55067 10% 35000 80000 shailesh gandhiTable 2: Appeals and Complaints received / Forecast for next five years Year Number of Appeals & Percent increase Disposal Assuming 3500 disposal Per 2012 to 2016, Complaints received in receipt Commissioner With 10 Commissioners Pending cases forecast assuming 2006 4923 2905 2018 12% increase in 2007 10274 109% 6979 5313 receipts in 2012 and 2013 and 10% 2008 14565 42% 10285 9593 thereafter. 2009 21509 48% 19633 11469 Disposals assumed 2010 27453 28% 23575 15481 as 50000 per year 2011 32982 20% 22414 26049 for this period on 2012 forecast 36940 12% 50000 12989 the basis of 5000 per Commissioner 2013forecast 41373 12% 50000 4362 for 10 2014 forecast 45510 10% 50000 -128 Commissioners. 2015 forecast 50061 10% 50000 -67 shailesh gandhi 2016 forecast 55067 10% 50000 5000 Biggy speaks: The sunshine law (RTI Act 2005) was brought after many struggles spanning couple of decades by many Indians; many have benefited from the act; the aam admi could demand all sort of legit information – the sunshine law really ushered the era of transparency thus making governance more accountable to the people of the nation! However, it seems that those who are being ‘affected’ by the goods of this act have decided to make the act DEAD by bringing in all sorts of hurdles; increases in fees, not making optimum use of technology, keeping the post of chief information commissioners (CIC) vacant.The last one on CICs has a major impact because of which the appeals pending are increasing manifold and thus the applicant has to wait for a very long time (presently Praja has had experienced of appeals pending for almost 6-8 months).Also it seems that post of CIC is now being seen by retiring bureaucrats as a post retirement ‘perk’ that they deserve so to enjoy some more time at the expense of the exchequer; hence we have seen ‘scam- tainted’ officers being in the post and the our current vacant posts waiting for some retiring bureaucrat to lay claim. If those responsible, our elected representatives, our chief minister, do really feel that they represent we the citizens, then, they must take the right action. First. to fill up the post of the CIC immediately with them who are ‘suitable’, who can take action, solve cases on a war- footing, can make optimum use of technology, and more importantly understand the RTI Act in its word and spirit. Second, attempts to kill the act by bringing in unproductive and unnecessary hurdle creating amendments without any public consultations should be stopped. And thirdly, pro-active updated and machine readable format disclosure of information/development data/departmental reports at the micro-data point available should be made compulsory for all departments/institutions covered by the act. We all should support and upheld the act in the right spirit if governance has to be made more responsible. March’12