The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fact rights panel falls silent
- Lack of data, facilities

The state commission for the right to information has suspended hearings barely 10 months after it was formed.

It has blamed lack of infrastructure and poor — often erroneous — information flow from government departments for the forced break in proceedings.

The commission is the highest authority in the state to penalise government officials for failure to abide by the Right to Information Act.

It has sent an SOS to the government, drawing attention to its problems. Primary among them is the red tapism and lackadaisical attitude of government officials.

“It is almost impossible to interact with all the departments under 35 state government ministries and extract the information demanded by the petitioners,” complained state information commissioner Arun Bhattacharya.

A case in point is Saroj Khettry, whose plight was highlighted in Metro on October 25. After a 20-year fight for a piece of information from the cooperation department, he did make some headway when the commission cracked its whip.

But Khettry has now told the commission that the information provided by the department was “wrong”.

“Here, you either get no information or wrong information,” rued a senior officer of the home and personnel and administrative reforms department, under which the commission is.

This underscores Bengal’s dismal transparency record. Earlier this month, the central information commission had labelled the Bengal government the “most reluctant” to comply with the act.

“We had asked the government for 31 personnel. It has promised only 12. We don’t even have a website,” laments commissioner Bhattacharya.

“There is no registrar, law officer or stenographer. Over 200 cases have been registered, but only 40 disposed of... Though it is an appellate authority, the commission has no official with a legal background,” an officer added.

In 10 months on the fairplay pitch, the commission has not taken action against any government official. And now, stumps have been drawn.

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