‘Portal down since 2017, no report in 4 yrs’: RTI activists meet Bihar info panel officials

6 months ago 26
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A Google search does not show any official link and directs it to the central information commission’s official website, which suggests a private website link.

The Bihar State Information Commission (BSIC) does not seem to part with much information about its functioning for sometime now: its website not working since 2017, the panel not submitted annual reports since 2015-16, and all this despite a Vidhan Sabha committee expressing concern saying that annual reports by a commission, corporation or board have to be tabled before the Assembly at the beginning of every financial year.

A delegation of RTI activists on Monday met the BSIC’s top functionaries to discuss their concerns. “There are over 20,000 pending cases, including over 6,000 of second appeals. We took up the matter of the absence of an online tracking system because of its official website not functioning since 2017,” said S P Rai, who was part of the delegation.

A Google search does not show any official link and directs it to the central information commission’s official website, which suggests a private website link.

Ajay Chourasia, another other RTI activist who was part of the delegation, said the panel has maintained that it can simultaneously entertain only 20 queries of an applicant despite no such cap in the RTI Act.

Santal Singh, an Aurangabad RTI activist, alleged the panel has been returning applications for second appeal on “trivial pretexts” such as not attaching an affidavit or self-attesting the application.

The activists claimed that several applications have been pending for disposal since 2015. Vishwanath Sahani, an RTI applicant from Madhubani, said, “I had sought information on the status of scholarship money distribution in schools from Benipatti block education officer. My second appeal (filed in 2015) is not taken up yet.”

Former Bihar Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary said, “It is a matter of serious concern that the state information commission’s annual report is not being tabled… During my tenure, I had ensured that maximum boards and commissions did so. If the information panel is not willing to share information, what else can one expect from government departments.”

Former Assembly Speaker and now JD(U) minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary had said in 2019 that the Assembly’s Public Undertakings Committee would take up such matters.

BSIC Secretary Suresh Paswan, however, said, “We are trying to sort out website issues. We have now engaged an IT manager to set things right. We are also trying to ensure that our annual reports are prepared.” He said the panel met RTI applicants to help resolve their concerns.

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