RTI being a tool that directly empowers the masses, the reluctance of the GHMC officialdom to do away with its ‘privilege’ comes as no surprise.
Seven years after it came into being, the RTI Act continues to get a backhanded treatment by the GHMC. People, especially senior citizens, are seen going up and down the building several times not knowing how to go about getting information.
Lack of proper guidance and an irresponsive attitude of the PIO (Public Information Official) are cited as the main reasons for these never-ending hassles that the public faces.
If one somehow manages to cross the first hurdle, he meets a dead-end soon after. After approaching the PIO or appellate authority concerned, he or she is often sent back to the ground floor to the ‘Public Relations Department’. The PRO staff again direct the person to meet the PIO, the process goes on and until he or she gets vexed.
Some people argue, while some irritated others girdle up their loins for a fight. This has been going on for years. “One individual caught hold of my collar after getting vexed,” recalls an employee.
There are 25 PIOs in the GHMC. The important being working at the main building and the remaining in zones and circle offices (deputy zonal commissioners). Lack of clear knowledge about the RTI amongst not only information seekers but also officials is cited as the basic problem by some observers. This can be vindicated by the fact that many an RTI applicant has to run from pillar to post, from zonal office to main office and from zonal office to circle office. “The RTI and its provisions are not clearly understood by the officials who are busy counting bills. As it would not fetch them anything substantial they are not serious about understanding it,” says one of the observers.
A special counter to dispose the RTI cases would be helpful but according to officials it is not practical as the provision can only be availed with the appellate authority or PIO. “The
centralisation of the scheme is not possible as people directly need to approach the appellate authority. One of the reasons that this functions in decentralised mode is the fact that most of the officials are at zonal levels in different parts of the City,” says S Rama Narayana Reddy, additional commissioner (Administration).