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.
Paddy War: Is it more than what meets the eye?
Paddy War: It seems that the issue of paddy procurement is something that is more than what is being portrayed to public! The recent allegations on the Union minister and the opposition demanding enquiry into the events that have led to wrong numbers of paddy procurement in Food Corporation of India (FCI), is something that everyone has to take note off. Is it true that there are discrepancies in the rice stocks? Is it just the tip of the ice berg?
Definitely there is something fishy about the entire episode. Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president & MP A Revanth Reddy on Monday demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged theft of lakhs of tonnes of rice from the godowns of Food Corporation of India. Revanth Reddy said that rice procured by the FCI has allegedly been stolen from its godowns in Telangana. He said that this was revealed when a team of FCI visited a godown in Warangal and found that nearly 25,000 MTs of rice was missing or stolen. “This was just the tip of an iceberg. If 25,000 MTs of rice was stolen from just one godown, then imagine the magnitude of theft from all other godowns. This is a huge multi-crore scam involving TRS leaders, millers and officials,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on Tuesday boycotted the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament over a series of issues, including the Union government’s irresponsiveness on paddy procurement from Telangana and suspension of 12 MPs among others. The TRS MPs staged a walkout from both the Houses and protested outside the Parliament. They said they were boycotting the entire Winter Session, as the Union government failed to respond to their demands to procure rice from the state.
On the other hand, Revanth Reddy alleged that TRS MPs were enacting the drama of protest in the Parliament. “While holding placards, they are taking pictures of a protest at the Mahatma Gandhi statue and spending a few minutes in front of the Speaker’s Podium. They are spending the rest of their time at the Parliament’s Central Hall like some students do in their college canteens,” he said.
It is being reported that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was working in tandem with the TRS government in the state. Opposition leaders are demanding a CBI probe immediately after it found 25,000 MTs rice missing from the FCI godown.
Andhra Pradesh: NGOs give ultimatum to Jagan
In what could be a major headache to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (APNGOs) have warned the CM of dire consequences if an inordinate delay in revealing details of the implementation of the Pay Revision Commission’s (PRC) recommendations and lack of information regarding the 71-point charter of demands forced the employees to begin a month-long struggle to get justice from the government.
Already the NGOs have started sporting black badges and are attending the work at all the government offices across the state, as per the call given by APNGOs president Bandi Srinivasa Rao. He had urged all the staff to register their protest between Tuesday and Thursday by wearing black badges at their respective workplaces.
The employees are dissatisfied with Jagan when it comes to the way the state government is giving out their salaries, pensions and other benefits. The AP government hasn’t even put the PRC scheme into effect so far, further increasing the ire of the employees. Irked by this negligent attitude of the CM towards NGOs, Srinivasa Rao has clearly warned Jagan that they would directly go against him. Speaking logically, he said, “There are 13 Lakh government employees in the state, which means that there are 13 Lakh votes in the form of these employees. He also said that each employee can bring at least 4-5 additional votes, which sums up to around 60 Lakh additional votes.”
Srinivasa Rao has directly warned Jagan and questioned him if the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) can win the next elections without the help of employees. He threatened that he would strive to defeat Jagan in the next elections if he fails to implement PRC and meet the demands of the employees. “They would then have to lose their votes, alongside the votes of others, which could result in a great loss,” he observed.
The APNGOs head said he was not like his predecessors, while one joined the government and became MLC, and other became the advisor to YSRCP government. “We are disappointed with the lack of a proper response from officials during joint staff council meetings. There is no positive reply from officials over payment of 7 DAs and clearance of applications for withdrawal of GPF and other benefits,” he added.
Polavaram: When will it get completed?
Polavaram: Yet another blow to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his government which had been dreaming of completing the Polavaram project by April 2022. It looks like the works will not be completed by the stipulated time and could extend inadvertently for a much longer time. Though it is not yet clear when they are likely to complete, and with third wave of Covid-10 pandemic staring at us, the delay could be very long then expected!
Earlier this year, Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Rattan Lal Kataria has informed that Polavaram project will be completed by April, 2022, as per the revised schedule. Kataria said that though the Andhra Pradesh government informed that Polavaram Irrigation Project will be completed by December, 2021, in the 12th meeting of Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) held in April, 2020, a committee was constituted to study and come up with a project schedule and completion programme with proper planning duly backed with adequate resource mobilisation.
But that seems to be news from the past. Today it was made clear that the Polavaram project will get extended and will be not completed as scheduled. The Union Jal Shakti Ministry made a clear cut statement that the dam construction may miss yet another deadline. Citing technical reasons, the construction is getting delayed. “We have set a new target of April 2022 and hope to meet the deadline this time. But we faced difficulties in rehabilitation and compensation for the people. Covid-19 is also one of the reasons behind the delay,” read the written statement of the Union Jal Shakti Ministry.
Polavaram project question was shot by Teleugu Desam Party (TDP) Rajya Sabha MP Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar. In reply to this question the Union government made a statement on Polavaram dam in the Parliament today and told that it was not being completed by April 2022! This is has further disappointed the people of AP as well as Jagan government!
The Union government made it clear that funds will be allocated only for the irrigation component of the Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP). In a written reply to YSRC MP V Viajayasai Reddy’s question on Polavaram project funding in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Minister of State for Jal Shakti Bisweshwar Tudu said the Advisory Committee in February 2019 had recommended Rs 55,548 crore as the second revised cost estimate of Polavaram project at the 2017-18 price level.
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