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Details wanted, so is officer

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By PRIYA ABRAHAM in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 18.12.06

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 18: Finding Sudarshan Panda at Utkal University may not be the same as looking for a needle in a haystack, but it is not an easy job either.

Panda, a sub-registrar of the university, is also the institute’s public information officer (PIO). But those who want to benefit from the RTI Act by seeking information from him usually have a hard time locating the officer.

“One has to be lucky to find him. I had to run from one room to another for about an hour to find him,” said B. Mishra, a student from a coastal Orissa town who had dropped in to seek information on rejection of a scholarship.

In the absence of signboards at the entrance displaying the name of the PIO, Mishra, like other visitors, do not know where to find the in-demand officer.

The situation is similar in a number of government offices where signboards are yet to be put up informing people of the whereabouts of the PIOs.

With the State Information Commission apparently lacking the resources to monitor the activities of the offices concerned, finding the right person has become more difficult in many cases than finding the right information.

“It is difficult for a person to figure out whom to approach to seek information inside the offices, whose scores of clumsy cabins are packed with people and files,” said Mukteshwar Jena, a businessman who had dropped in at the regional transport office here to meet PIO Uttam Chandra Sahu.

Like Utkal University, the Bhubaneswar RTO office does not display the name of the PIO at the entrance and visitors are expected to find the officer on their own.

“I have been hunting for Mr Sahu for the past two hours. Someone just told me to come tomorrow and I am leaving now. It’s a waste of time,” he said.

Offices like Gridco, on the other hand, are yet to designate a PIO. “Our public relations section takes care of all that and so we did not feel the need for a separate designation” reasoned D. Shah, general manager (finance), Gridco.

The PIO display board at the office of the directorate of treasury and inspection, which deals with disbursement of pension among government employees, is yet to arrive.

Bibekananda Biswal, officer in-charge of the RTI cell at the information commission, claimed Orissa was the forerunner in implementation of the act despite the drawbacks.

“The state information commission has directed the government offices to display the names of the PIOs. The basic objective of such a directive is to make the process convenient and less time-consuming for the people. We lack the manpower to properly monitor the functioning of the offices but do follow it up whenever we find the time,” Biswal said.