Citizens' Issues
Kudos to Delhi Municipal Corporation for facilitating online RTI applications



What the external affairs ministry has been unable to achieve in terms of facilitating Indians abroad on RTI—to make online RTI applications and also pay the fees online—the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has successfully introduced this facility


Last week, I had written about how Indians living abroad are finding it difficult to file RTI applications to various government departments back in their home country, thanks to red tapism. I had highlighted how despite the Department of Posts (DoP) making arrangements with Axis Bank for online payments for overseas online RTI applications, the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are sitting on the issue and have yet to take a decision. (Read: "Indians living abroad keen to use RTI, but the government isn't making it easier")

In the meanwhile, very quietly, yet actively, the Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD) has created history, by becoming the first to facilitate online RTI applications along with online payment of fees through credit or debit card. This is one of the most pro-active examples of a public authority (meaning government department, in RTI parlance) responding to citizens' issues, in line with the principles of transparency and good governance, the very fundamentals of a healthy democracy, facilitated by the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

How did it all begin? Dr RC Patnaik, chief of the information technology department of MCD, who has been designated to bring in e-governance reforms in the civic body says, "The MCD has around 200 public information officers (PIOs) and we receive a lot of RTI applications everyday. Since most citizens are not aware about the correct PIO to whom they should address their query, transferring the applications to the appropriate PIO was a cumbersome job. Sometimes it would take a month to pass on such applications to the right desk. As a result, central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi would admonish us for defaults and penalise us too.''

This set Dr Patnaik thinking about an online option, at the behest of the municipal commissioner. "So a few months back, I hit upon the idea of scanning the RTI applications which came to the wrong PIO and sending it to the right one by email. Although it temporarily solved much of the problem, it still was not clear sailing.''

Dr Patnaik's IT team then began exploring the possibility of filing RTI applications online, along with online payment of the Rs10 fee for every RTI application under Section 6 of the RTI Act. The hurdle of online payment was solved through an official arrangement with Axis Bank. The bank was hesitant initially, as this is a very small amount. But since property tax is paid online through Axis Bank and that is a major sum in a city like Delhi, it agreed to process the small transaction also, as a goodwill gesture.

Dr Patnaik explained, "The RTI applicant has to pay Rs11; the one rupee extra is the transaction charge.'' He was not sure whether MCD would be criticized for the one rupee extra charge. However, the central information commissioner put this matter to rest saying, "Any RTI applicant has to either pay for the postage or fuel if he or she goes personally to MCD to file the RTI application. In the case of online application you pay just one rupee, which in fact saves precious time and travel expenses for citizens.'' Mr Gandhi congratulated the MCD and expressed the hope, "Now, every municipal corporation should follow suit.''

In just five days after initiating the online RTI application facility, the MCD received 71 applications from citizens in Delhi and two from people in Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. "In this technological era, we are committed towards e-governance for the comfort of citizens,'' Dr Patnaik says.

We gather from the website, www.mcdonline.gov.in, "The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is among the largest municipal bodies in the world, providing civic services to an estimated population of 13.78 million citizens in the capital city. It is next only to Tokyo in terms of area."

To enter the RTI application area, click on the sub-category "RTI online'' on the homepage of the MCD website. On the right side you will see the online RTI application. It has also uploaded other forms related to RTI applications.

Now that MCD has set a precedent, all municipal corporations must follow suit. "Every government department can now have online RTI applications and we are ready to guide and help them.''

In another first, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has over the past two years, set 3pm to 5pm, every Monday, for any citizen to conduct inspection of files, as allowed under Section 4 of the RTI Act. He or she can visit any of the departments of the PMC and check the files required. This is over and above any other time that citizens can inspect files during working hours. PMC was also the first to set up an RTI library, which has been named after renowned journalist-activist Prakash Kardaley. All these efforts are the result of rules under Section 4 which focus on suo moto disclosure by the government department.

MCD's endeavour on online RTI applications is a big boost for citizens' participation and it should not remain a solitary example. RTI activists in every city must move to shake up the civic bodies in their areas, and insist that they follow the MCD initiative.

Do write to me for any help regarding this at [email protected],com.

(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected].)

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COMMENTS

malq

5 years ago

1) The MCD was amongst the earliest to really try, as an organisation, to work with people on RTI. Despite everything which is wrong with the MCD, much of which is also due to the strange "thing" that Delhi is, where bigger thieves and looters move around openly - there were eager as well as honest people in the midst who tried.

2) Early adopters of RTI, including Arvind Kejriwal (now LokPal Bill and more), Parveen Amanullah (now a Minister in Bihar) and others worked through the early days, amidst tough opposition from existing vested interests. Blade slashing when going to submit an RTI? MCD organised weekend camps and made it easier to send them by post, as well as gave people the option of both Acts, State and Centre.

3) Long story short, MCD (like Delhi Metro, DTC and some other local bodies) appears to be on its way to try to help. Ofcourse, if you go to the MCD office, then much has not changed - but steps like this, atleast for those with Credit Cards, solves some issues.

4) There are a few glitches - an instant email copy of the application, option to apply online and send the payment later by some other means, other languages . . .but no two ways, this is a great step forward by an organisation which was simply never admired for anything in the past.

It just shows that yes, we can do things the correct way, if we want to.

Thanks, Vinita, for this great article, and thank you Mr. Phatak.

nagesh kini

5 years ago

Response to A Banerjee
Vinita is absolutely right. A properly worded and focused RTI query does elicit better response. No way with inquisition of why, how, when type cross question. Amchi BMC has been quite responsive to the extent of telling us not to go for RTI. Sec.4 is an useful tool or weapon!

A BANERJEE

5 years ago

Well, I for one would keep my fingers crossed despite this initiative. This is because, I have never been fortunate enough to have received a single response to my several emails to MCD Commissioner who, being an IAS, is naturally above law and id unapproachable. His secretary is equally unapproachable and, the author ought to have noticed, there is no e-mail access addresses of a single MCD functionaries available anywhere. The culture of bribes obtains even more forcefully and not one single paper can move without that "extra" payment (rates commensurate with inflation!) that is customary in MCD under any party, be it Congress or BJP! The ordinary middle class people building or reconstructing/remodelling/extending their residences are the worst hit as, for every single procedure, one must pay a huge sum for getting the required permission/sanction and approaching the higher officials is neither safe nor permissible, with the IAS Commissioner remaining beyond reach as ever. I had seen some serious complaints some time ago in the website of consumercomplaints.in about the encroachment of public land/space/footpath by the rich and powerful in certain south Delhi gated communities. Strangely, there has never been any action taken while, in the same localities, the moment a resident of modest means commences reconstruction/repairs of his dwelling unit, the visits by the MCD hoologans begin demanding bribe which is compulsory. Otherwise, under some rule, the construction is stopped and the ratepayer harassed. What then is this hype about the ONLINE RTI facility? Does the author think that, any resident of modest means, seeking any information under the RTI Act from the MCD will be safe and be immune frome harassment bordering on danger to life and property?
Let this be the start of a debate on this move by the MCD which is bound to be only a showpiece as the MCD officials are immune from any action by any authority.

REPLY

Vinita Deshmukh

In Reply to A BANERJEE 5 years ago

I tend to believe you on the corruption front of the MCD. However, MCD's online RTI application should be commended as the common, faceless man can sit at home and invoke this Act with the click of the mouse. When more and more citizens file applications which i should think they would as it is made simple now. then the pressure on the municipal corporation to be transparent will be more. Subsequently it should lead to dip in corruption. It may be a long drawn battle but we have to make a beginning somewhere. So, I think we all should spread the good word to invoke RTI applications on so many issues that hurt the common man in Delhi and become a huge citizen pressure group. I know it is only logical to be cynical but we need to get off it whenever there seems an iota of hope of change for the better. Hope you agree/

A Banerjee

In Reply to Vinita Deshmukh 5 years ago

Having been in the civil service and an activist of sorts, and having been a Delhi-ite and also a witness to how the MCD functions, I would like to keep my fingers crossed. This is because, if due to any RTI application any MCD official or employee were to be in trouble, the RTI applicant would need protection. But, yes, let us hope.

nagesh kini

5 years ago

Not that the Mun.Corp.of Greater Mumbai is lagging behing. They do respond but at their own sweet will and pleasure.
My RTI application sent to a Ward Office was forwarded by the AE Maint. to the Tree Officer who reports to him with a cc to me. He replies and says a part of the info relates to the AE Environment with whom he shares his room, in fact both are seated next to each other! Another response follows.
This is a futile exercise to gain time and/or avoid replies.
To save on time and waste of stationery, instead of 10 Public Info. Officers at the Ward Office, the BMC HQ must be having many more, there ought to be just one department collating all the data and forwarding a consolidated response.
In another RTI applicatioin
the SRA replied to all queries but said those relating to Bank Guarantee and Security Deposit of the same Contractor are with the Accounts who took time to respond.

narayan varma

5 years ago

good of you to share this info which i consider landmark and needs to be sent to all Public Authorities one has a contacts and I shall do so. Thanks
N. Varma

Nitin Kirtane

5 years ago

This is a awesome effort by the minicipal corporation of delhi to allow filing of RTI online and payment , this is very useful to thwe commen man , good work by Mr Patnail also to the PMC to keep aside one day to allow inspections , an excellent article by Mrs Deshmukh again as this is a important issue , keep up your good work and writing on social issues , all the best NK

K B Patil

5 years ago

Dr RC Patnaik, chief of the information technology department of MCD, deserves to be congratulated for his initiative. The sad fact is that this important news is yet to be highlighted by leading newspapers and TV news channels.

Indian stocks to open in positive: Wednesday Market Preview

Positive signals from Europe supported gains in the global markets

Global cues are likely to guide our market higher in opening trade as optimism from Greece helped world markets trade higher. However, lack of any domestic trigger might keep a cap on the gains.

On the international front, markets in the US closed with gains overnight on hopes that the Greek austerity plan will get the required support and mixed economic news. With support from France and Germany to help Greece save itself from a debt default, positive investor sentiment boosted markets in Asia, which were trading with gains in early trade on Wednesday. However, protests in the streets of Athens made investors nervous. The SGX Nifty was 43.50 points higher at 5,589.50 compared to its previous close of 5,546 on Tuesday.

Riding on global optimism and adding to the gains of the last few days, the domestic market opened higher yesterday. The Nifty opened 22 points higher at 5,549 and the Sensex gained 82 points at 18,494. The indices soon raced to their intra-day highs with the Nifty going up to 5,558 and the Sensex climbing to 18,527.

However, the market pared its gains and descended into negative terrain as investors lost no opportunity to take profits off the table after the recent gains. The market fell to the day's low in late-morning trade with the indices falling to 5,496 and 18,323, respectively. However, buying at select counters lifted the benchmarks into the green, after which range-bound movement continued. The market lost some strength thereafter, but settled with modest gains. The Nifty added 19 points to close at 5,545 and the Sensex gained 80 points to finish the session at 18,492.

Both the Nifty and the Sensex hit 15-day intra-day highs in the initial trading hour itself. As mentioned in our Monday closing report, we expected the Nifty to move sideways in the range of 5,450 and 5,650. The Nifty traded between 5,496 and 5,558 through the day. If the index closes above 5,560 today, the upmove will gain more strength to reach up to 5,650.

Wall Street closed higher on optimism from Greece and mixed economic data. Germany’s plan to rollover nearly $10 billion in Greek government debt, after France announced a similar move a few days back, fuelled confidence that the Greece might be able to avoid a debt default.

In economic news, US single-family home prices fell modestly in April from a year ago, but edged higher from the prior month. The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 0.1% on a seasonally adjusted basis. On a month-over-month basis, the 20-city index rose 0.7%, while the 10-city index rose 0.8%.

This apart, the Conference Board said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 58.5 in June from a revised 61.7 in May, the lowest point since November 2010 on concerns about the slack labor market and sputtering recovery.

The Dow surged 145.13 points (1.21%) to close at 12,188.69, its biggest one-day gain since 20th April. The S&P 500 climbed 16.57 points (1.29%) to 1,296.67, its best closing since 3rd June, and the Nasdaq rose 41.03 points (1.53%) to 2,729.31.

Markets in Asia, barring the Shanghai Composite, were higher in early trade on Wednesday on positive signals from Greece. Meanwhile, industrial output in Japan rose 5.7% in May, above analysts’ forecast for a 5.5% increase and a 1.6% gain in April.

This apart, the Monetary Authority of Singapore plans to make its local banks hold a higher level of top quality capital as a proportion of their risk-weighted assets than was agreed on by banking regulators in Basel. Banks in Singapore will have to hold a common equity tier one ratio of 6.5% as well as a conservation buffer of 2.5%, making a total requirement of 9%.

The Hang Seng gained 0.52%, the Jakarta Composite rose 0.44%, the KLSE Composite was up 0.22%, the Nikkei 225 climbed 1%, the Straits Times rose 0.33%, the Seoul Composite advanced 1.22% and the Taiwan Weighted surged 0.96%. Bucking the trend, the Shanghai Composite lost 0.03% in early trade.

Oil prices rose more than 2% on Tuesday on signs of easing of debt problems in Europe. US August crude rose $2.28, or 2.5%, to settle at $92.89 a barrel, the biggest one-day percentage gain since 18th May 18. ICE Brent crude for August rose $2.79 to settle at $108.78 a barrel.

Back home, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) may on 30th June consider giving nod to Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy Plc selling stake in its Indian arm to London-listed mining group Vedanta Resources. As if in preparation for the nod which will come with conditions attached, the UK energy explorer yesterday announced lowering of the price at which it will sell 40% stake in Cairn India to Vedanta by over Rs3,800 crore.

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Share prices will trade in a range: Tuesday Closing Report

Nifty may head up to 5,650 if it closes well above 5,560 tomorrow

Riding on global optimism and adding to the gains of the last few days, the domestic market opened higher this morning. The Nifty opened 22 points higher at 5,549 and the Sensex gained 82 points at 18,494. The indices soon raced to their intra-day highs with the Nifty going up to 5,558 and the Sensex climbing to 18,527. Healthcare, consumer durables, power and capital goods stocks supported early gains.

However, the market pared its gains and descended into negative terrain as investors lost no opportunity to take profits off the table after the recent gains. The market fell to the day's low in late-morning trade with the indices falling to 5,496 and 18,323, respectively. However, buying at select counters lifted the benchmarks into the green, after which range-bound movement continued. The market lost some strength thereafter, but settled with modest gains. The Nifty added 19 points to close at 5,545 and the Sensex gained 80 points to finish the session at 18,492.

Both the Nifty and the Sensex hit 15-day intra-day highs in the initial trading hour itself. As mentioned in our Monday closing report, we expected the Nifty to move sideways in the range of 5,450 and 5,650. The Nifty traded between 5,496 and 5,558 through the day. If the index closes above 5,560 tomorrow, the upmove will gain more strength to reach up to 5,650.

The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was positive at 945:796.

The broader markets outperformed the Sensex as the BSE Mid-cap index gained 0.78% and the BSE Small-cap index rose 0.60%.

BSE Consumer Durables and BSE Healthcare (up 0.95% each), BSE Capital Goods (up 0.94%), BSE Auto (up 0.82%) and BSE Power (up 0.72%) were the top sectoral gainers. BSE Oil & Gas (down 0.44%), among the top gainers yesterday, ended as the top loser today. Other major losers were BSE Realty (down 0.33%) and BSE PSU (down 0.22%).

Hindalco Industries (up 4.15%), Bajaj Auto (up 2.87%), HDFC (up 2.18%), BHEL (up 1.82%) and Bharti Airtel (up 1.07%) were the major gainers on the Sensex. The laggards were led by DLF (down 2.21%), Jaiprakash Associates (down 1.56%), Jindal Steel (down 1.16%), Wipro (down 0.76%) and Hero Honda (down 0.31%).

The top Nifty gainers were Hindalco (up 3.96%), Bajaj Auto (up 3.01%), Dr Reddy's (up 2.42%), HDFC (up 2.13%) and BHEL (up 1.92%). The main Nifty losers were GAIL (down 2.60%), DLF (down 2.28%), ACC (down 2.17%), BPCL (down 2.10%) and Jaiprakash Associates (down 1.75%).

Markets in Asia settled mostly higher even as cautiousness prevailed ahead of the Greek vote of confidence. News that French banks have agreed on a plan to roll over holdings of maturing Greek debt boosted investor sentiment. Chinese refiners finished higher on speculation that the government will lower import duties for diesel and jet fuel next month.

The Shanghai Composite added 0.04%, the Hang Seng gained 0.09%, the Jakarta Composite advanced 0.44%, the KLSE Composite gained 0.48%, the Nikkei 225 surged 0.74% and the Straits Times was up 0.08%. On the other hand, the Seoul Composite declined 0.36% and the Taiwan Weighted fell 0.25%.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of stocks worth Rs1,447.42 crore on Monday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities worth Rs766.38 crore.

In the first indication of Cairn Energy Plc's willingness to accept the government's conditions for selling its Indian unit to Vedanta Resources, the Edinburgh-based firm on Monday agreed to lower the sale price by over Rs3,800 crore.

Cairn Energy will sell its 40% stake in Cairn India to Vedanta at Rs355 per share instead of Rs405 a share agreed in August last year. It will now get gross proceeds of Rs27,007 crore (about $6.02 billion) instead of the Rs30,811 crore ($6.84 billion) that it was expecting initially.

Cairn said the transaction will now take place in two tranches: Cairn Energy will sell 10% of its 62.2% stake in Cairn India by 11th July and another 30% upon receipt of government approval. The Cairn India stock price settled 0.58% lower, at Rs307.40 per share, on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Tata Motors today approached the Supreme Court, challenging the Calcutta High Court order refusing its plea to restrain the West Bengal government from distributing land to farmers in Singur. The automaker approached the apex court as the Calcutta High Court had on Monday refused to pass an interim stay order observing that the Tata Motors petition had no specific statement as to when the process of land distribution would start. The Tata Motors stock ended 0.61% higher at Rs983.25 on the BSE.

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COMMENTS

Alok Biyani

5 years ago

Sideways trading indicates a flattening and stabilization of the market. there are trends to watch out for but in my experience as a CSE kolkata broker this is a positive development... Profits and a bull run in the making....

Alok Biyani

5 years ago

this was long awaited.. dis is extremelty essential- now that v can trade in range.. i have been in dis business for a long time.. i even guide ppl regarding their investment in shares. Alok Biyani (kolkata)

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