RTI:Bureaucrats use RTI to serve themselves


Bureaucrats use RTI to serve themselves   

    Babus are most reluctant to part with any information to any one , least of all a harassed citizen, a helpless citizen. Information is however available to the ‘right person’ who demands it in the ‘right way’.    

     The very same babus who deny information the ordinary citizen have no hesitation in claiming their ‘Right’ to information.

Extracts:

     When senior IFS officer Veena Sikri was superseded by Shivshankar Menon for the post of Foreign Secretary, she sought the file details of Menon’s appointment through a Right to Information (RTI) appeal. Sikri even went on to move the Central Information Commission (CIC) for access to the Cabinet files leading to the decision.

But it’s not just high-profile appointments like these that flood the commission, the CIC is turning out to be more of a grievance redressal forum, at least for government servants and bureaucrats.
Disgruntled bureaucrats have been using the RTI Act to obtain information on a variety of issues ranging from their promotions, denial of pension and at times even out-of-turn house allotments.
Says chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, “The single-largest chunk of the applications that we receive is from bureaucrats. They comprise the bulk of all applications at the CIC, about 40 per cent at least.”

     The most frequent RTI plea filed by the government servants is regarding their promotion seeking details of their Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs). Apart from this, the other issue is regarding pension details post retirement.
     At times, government servants have appealed to the CIC to obtain the promotion details of their adversaries — citing how they had been ‘irregularly appointed’. For instance, Anil Kumar from the Department of Telecom who alleged that R.P. Sinha had been “irregularly appointed” as the managing director of MTNL and demanded to see his ACRs.

However, this plea does not work in most cases with the CIC not allowing disclosure of ACRs. Its only when it has involved some ‘public interest’ that personal confidential reports have been disclosed.
     At times moving the CIC has backfired, like in the case of a chief vigilance commissioner in Assam who filed an appeal alleging that his pay had been withheld by the state government. Finding that he instead had made irregular payment of house rent, the commission hauled him up for “unbecoming behaviour”.
     “One would have expected him to be a role model”, the CIC stated and was “pained”at his manner, considering that he was “a CVC of an important State”.

     Habibullah, however, sees it as the duty of the government departments who should be voluntarily putting up general information about ranks and grades of staff and their entitlements online.
“Not only would this bring down our work load considerably but it would also give satisfaction to the employees.”
Citing his experience while dealing with pension complaints of retired employees, Habibullah says its appalling at how government officers are dismissive of their former colleagues. Trivial issues also find their way to the CIC with officers moving the CIC at being denied higher grade government accommodation.
     He says, “The CIC is the only forum where government servants feel their grievances can be addressed.”
kavita.chowdhury@mailtoday.in