Telangana government seems to have decided to curb the wings of Right to Information (RTI) act and dilute its very purpose. The latest “orders” by the Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar is nothing but a signal that the government is not very happy with the act and the freedom it provides to common man. Hence he has come up with a decision to allow replies to queries raised under the Right To Information Act only after the senior officials give their consent has come as a jolt to the information seekers and RTI activists.
The circular on October 13, 2021 issued by the CS asks all Special Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and Secretaries to the government to instruct all the Public Information Officers (PIO) appointed under the RTI Act to obtain their “orders” before furnishing the information to applicants concerned.
This is nothing but undemocratic and the state is completely heading towards totalitarian rule, warn the RTI activists. While the state government has reasoned that information is being provided to applicants without any scrutiny, activists argue that a PIO in every government office is independent and has to furnish information within a month’s time. If not, the matter can be appealed.
RTI activists, as well as former bureaucrats, have criticized the official order dated October 13. Former IAS officer A Murali tweeted “the government wants to operate in the dark and hide everything from the citizens.” He tagged the offices of the Chief Minister, KT Rama Rao and Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar in the tweet.
The New Indian Express reported that M Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of FGG said that if the order is implemented it will further delay the process of getting information, besides burdening the bureaucracy. He cited the example “if a citizen wants to know of the work done and the amount spent in his village under the employment guarantee scheme, he will file an RTI application with the village Panchayat Secretary who cannot write to the Special CS or the HOD directly. He will have to make a request to the Mandal Officer, who in turn will need to forward it to the District Panchayat Officer. An application will have to cross four levels, increasing the workload at each stage,” Reddy explained in his petition to the governor.
More than 2.5 lakh RTI applications are pending with the PIOs and another 20,000 applications are pending with the appellate authorities. This is because the social activists have been exposing the “failures, misdeeds and corruption” in the last seven years. Lapses in Dharani portal, corruption in construction and allotment of double bedroom houses, lopsided implementation of various schemes and other misdeeds of the government have been exposed by the RTI activists.