Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NGO asked for Rs.2 lakh as fees for information

NGO asked to shell out over Rs.2 lakh as fees for information under RTI ACT


It sought information about implementation of schemes

MADURAI: Seek information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, but do not be surprised when you are asked to pay as much as Rs.2,16,779.

Public Information Officers and Inspector of Factories I Circle and II Circle, Coimbatore, Tirupur and Pollachi have sought Rs.2,16,779 as fees to provide information under the Act from a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, Campaign for the Rights of Unorganised Workers.

It made an application on April 24 seeking information on implementation of schemes such as ‘Sumangali Thittam,’ ‘Mangalya Thittam’ and ‘Camp Coolie Thittam’ in textile units based in Coimbatore Zone from April 2000 to March 2008.

The information sought were names and addresses of textile units, number of girls employed, working hours, details on leave and salary given, bonus, social security schemes, food, accommodation and toilet facilities. Details of injuries and compensation paid, number of girls who joined work and those who left after their contract period, and girls who quit before termination of their contract were also sought.

Listing out the costs involved in obtaining the information, Public Information Officers and Inspector of Factories have all sent letters to the NGO (a copy of which is with The Hindu) to send demand drafts to their respective offices. The amount sought is as follows: Circle I, Coimbatore: Rs.81,340; Circle II, Coimbatore: Rs.1,06,420; Circle I, Tirupur: Rs.1,390; Circle II, Tirupur: Rs.6,385 and Rs.21,244 for Pollachi.

Stating that as per RTI rules, Rs.2 a page was demanded to provide information, the petitioner, K. Deivendran, district organiser, Campaign for the Rights of Unorganised Workers, wondered whether they would be given 1,08,389 pages of information if the money was paid. RTI’s major objective of promoting transparency and accountability was at stake here and the letters we received were in a similar tone, he said.

S. Ramakrishanan, State Chief Information Commissioner, told The Hindu on Monday over phone that “the amount of fee depends upon the volume of information sought, and if the petitioner feels that excess fee has been asked, and it is unreasonable, there is a provision under Section 18 of the Act to appeal to the commission…and if it is upheld the public authority should give information at a lesser fee.”

He also said that it would be better for applicants to ask for scrutiny of files and go for precise documents, as there were instances in which volumes of information that was not needed were sought.

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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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