The Central Information Commissioner’s order opens up the case for transparency in the operations of public transport in India
The Delhi Metro has been suffering 'technical snags' regularly. The recent one was absolutely scary because the doors of a coach remained open for a few minutes in the running train. In Mumbai, a ‘technical snag’ halted Mumbai Metro on the inaugural day recently. All this raises the concern and safety of lakhs of commuters, which makes the issue to be of larger public interest.
Gurgaon resident Aseem Takyar, has been filing Right to Information (RTI) applications since 2013 to the Delhi Metro, and demanding the list of the number of times that the various metro trains of Delhi halted because of technical snags, or otherwise.
He was compelled to file his second appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC), when he got inadequate reply from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Delhi Metro despite an order from the First Appellate Authority (FAA) for providing the information. It is a fact that Takyar refused to pay Rs550, the amount for photostat copies for the required information. The CIC also noted that the fee of Rs550 for providinng photocopies of 275 pages was reasonable.
But the CIC has also ruled that the Delhi Metro is legally bound to provide, free of cost, information on the number of trains that halted, reasons for the same and duration of the halts as asked by Takyar.
This is what Chief Information Commissioner of Delhi, MA Khan Yusuf has stated in his order on 22nd July, “…appellant has been asking a complete list of incidences when trains services are halted due to technical snag or due to other reasons on all routes/ lines within last one year, along with duration of halt and service. The Commission feels that respondents are under legal obligation to provide the complete list of the incidences, as asked for, free of cost to the appellant.”
This order would be extremely important to the 25 lakh-odd Delhites who travel by the Metro each day. In fact, this order will have a cascading effect, as it would apply to all such public transport systems like Mumbai suburban local trains, other local trains that ply on various routes as well as water ferries and air flights, all over the country.
Manoj Pai, a member of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), says, “Citizens might like to download this decision and explore further, as the same decision would also apply to unscheduled halts of local trains / rakes, inter-city trains besides bus and ferry services as well, which all fall under the public domain. Activists might like to take a step further and demand the cases where air lines cancelled, delayed, and diverted flights, as well.
The recent budget has allocated funds to develop metros in major towns and cities. This means there would be more citizens directly affected with any `failures’ of this techno savvy public transport system. We also witness the inconveniences faced by Mumbai citizens who patronise locals and are thrown off gear during rains and power short circuits. Flying too is sometimes irritating when flights are suddenly cancelled.
Every affected citizen must take advantage of this CIC order (produced below) and make the authorities accountable by demanding information.
is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)