Right to Information
MSRDC spends Rs119 crore on maintenance, while MEP collects toll
Over the past 17 years, MSRDC spent money on maintenance of 31 flyovers in and around Mumbai. However, since 2010-11, MEP Infrastructure is collecting toll at five Mumbai entry points and thus should have done the maintenance, says an RTI activist
 
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corp (MSRDC) has spent Rs119.44 crore on maintaining 31 flyovers, which was the responsibility of private toll collecting agency, reveals a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
 
As per the information received by RTI activist Anil Galgali, in the past 17 years, MSRDC has spent Rs119.44 crore on maintenance of the roads and flyovers. However, since 2010-11, MEP Infrastructure Pvt Ltd was awarded the toll collection contract for just Rs2,242.35 crore and thus the responsibility for maintenance rest with this private contractor, Galgali says.
 
Till, 2010-11, the MSRDC itself was collecting toll from five entry points in Mumbai. During FY1999-2000, it collected Rs28.35 crore, FY2000-01 Rs56.57 crore, FY2001-02 Rs65.12 crore, FY2002-03 Rs476.84 crore and so on. The year before the contract was allotted to MEP Infrastructure, the state-run Corporation earned Rs231.39 crore from toll in FY2009-10, the RTI reply reveals.
 
The MSRDC has spent Rs1,058.34 crore for building 31 flyovers in and around Mumbai.
 
However, Galgali, says, he did not get any information on toll collected over the past five years from the five entry points in Mumbai since MEP took over the job. "There are many flyovers, which were constructed prior to 2000 at the cost of the state exchequer, for which too toll is being collected. In addition, private entities like MEP Infrastructure are being given opportunities to earn huge profits, which is very surprising. At one end, the state government is talking of closing down all the toll booths, but there is no proposal to close these five toll nakas as specified by the MSRDC," he said.
 
Last year, following directions from the Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC), nearly 10,000 pages have been uploaded on the websites of Public Works Department (PWD) and MSRDC comprising toll contracts, as well as, toll collections of 16 projects of MSRDC and 42 projects of PWD. Strangely, the toll collection of Pune-Mumbai Expressway and five Mumbai entry points were not uploaded.
 
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Govt endangering lives of RTI applicants by revealing postal address on its website
RTI applications and replies provided by PIOs, decisions of FAAs and CIC that are uploaded on relevant websites continue to reveal details of applicant, including postal address despite a HC directive and several directives by DoPT. Is it not dangerous for the applicant’s safety at the backdrop of threats and killings of RTI activists?
 
As a sequel to a Kolkata High Court directive in 2013 and a couple of orders by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), all public authorities have been asked to refrain from uploading the postal address of the Right to Information (RTI) applicant. This postal address is mentioned in every application and in most replies by public information officers (PIOs), first appellate authority (FAA) and in Central Information Commission (CIC) decisions too. However, these orders are being blatantly flouted, thus putting the individual RTI applicant to possible risk of life and safety.
 
This situation has arisen due to series of DoPT’s circulars to public authorities to upload replies under RTI as a part of suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act. Since these documents are uploaded, as is, the personal information of the applicant is inadvertently being made public.
 
On 23 March, 2016, the DoPT appealed to the public to send their suggestions on the manner in which the disclosure of RTI applications, replies by the PIOs, appellate authorities (AA) and CIC decisions should be uploaded on the relevant official websites. The DoPT in its draft (see here: OM dated 23/03/2016,)  has yet again recommended, “…the public authorities may note that while pro-actively disclosing RTI applications and appeals received and responses thereto on their website, the personal information of an individual should not be disclosed.”
 
Earlier to this, regarding guidelines of implementation of suo motu disclosures, the Department had issued a circular on 15 April 2014, which stated, “All public authorities shall proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses on the website maintained by public authorities with search facility based on key words. RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to personal information of an individual may not be disclosed, as they do not serve any public interest.”
 
The DoPT further reiterated on 21 October 2014 that, “RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed if they do not serve public interested.”
 
Earlier, on 20 March 2013, in the case of Avinesh Goenka vs Union of India, the Kolkata High Court had directed that personal information of an applicant should not be disclosed.
 
The HC order states: “The writ petitioner claiming to be an activist in the field of right to information, has approached us by filing the present writ petition with the prayer, the authority should not insist upon the detailed address of the applicant as and when any application is made under the Right to Information Act.” 
 
“He apprehends, the interested parties would cause a threat to the activist and in fact there had been past incidents of unnatural deaths of activist in the field, presumably by the interested persons having vested interest to conceal the information that is asked for by the activist.” 
 
“The petitioner submits, the authority may not insist upon the detailed address particularly when the applicant would provide a particular post box number that would automatically conceal their identity to the public at large.” 
 
“We have considered the relevant provisions of the statute. Section 6(2) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 would clearly provide an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.”
 
“Looking to the said provision, we find logic in the submission of the petitioner. When the legislature thought it fit, the applicant need not disclose any personal detail, the authority should not insist upon his detailed whereabouts particularly when post box number is provided for that would establish contact with him and the authority. In case, the authority would find any difficulty with the post box number, they may insist upon personal details. However, in such case, it would be the solemn duty of the authority to hide such information and particularly from their website so that people at large would not know of the details. We thus dispose of this writ petition by malting the observations as above.”
 
Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator for Access to Information Program at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), says, “There is no clarity on what constitutes 'personal information' in the context of RTI. In countries like the United Kingdom, all names are deleted from the freedom of information (FOI) requests and responses. Please see examples on the FOI logs accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/freedom-of-information-disclosure-log. In the UK, their data protection law prevents public authorities from making names of individuals on either side of the information accessing process public. 
 
“To the best of my knowledge, the only statutory regime for personal data protection in India is afforded by the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information), Rules 2011 notified under the Information Technology Act, 2000. Under these Rules ‘sensitive personal data’ includes (Rule 3): password, financial information such as bank account or credit/debit card details, physical, physiological and mental health condition, sexual orientation, medical records & history, biometric information etc. However, information that is freely available in the public domain or accessible under the RTI Act will not be treated as ‘sensitive personal data or information’. For example, names and addresses of citizens registered as voters are easily available on the website of the Chief Electoral Officers. These will not be treated as ‘sensitive personal information’, he says. 
 
“Under the 2011 IT Rules, everybody that collects ‘sensitive personal data/ information’ of the kind mentioned above is required to put in place various measures for ensuring the security of such information. The scope and shortcomings of these Rules are examined in depth in the report submitted by the Justice A. P. Shah led Group of Experts on Privacy in 2012.” 
 
“Clearly, the definition of 'sensitive personal data/ information' contained in the 2011 IT Rules will not apply to names and addresses of RTI applicants. So there is no law in force that can protect such personal information. It is in this legal vacuum that recommendations have to be made to the DoPT about protecting personal data,” Mr Nayak concluded.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh 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”.)

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COMMENTS

GLN Prasad

2 years ago

If any one wanted to know any thing, nothing prevents him in knowing things as one has sufficient money to spend. When Transparency is inherent quality in RTI Act, activists wanted to keep their names as secret is not justified. In cases, applicants may ask PIO to keep the name as confidential.

MG Warrier

2 years ago

All authorities are bound by the law of the land and should adhere to and respect court decisions. Having said that, expecting authorities to be secretive about the information they share with third parties, blurs the transparency in transactions.

Aditya G

2 years ago

This freaks me out. The fear feels real, in the age of Google, it's easy to be hunted with just a few clicks. This is a legitimate threat that needs to be addressed.

BJP MP Satyapal Singh hid government dues from EC, alleges RTI activist
Mumbai : BJP MP from Baghpat had allegedly concealed information about unpaid dues to the city collector in his election affidavit, an RTI activist said here on Saturday.
 
As per a reply under RTI received by Anil Galgali, Singh, a former Mumbai police commissioner of the Indian Police Service, had reportedly withheld information about unpaid dues of a penalty of Rs.48,420 imposed on him by Mumbai Suburban District collectorate in January 2013.
 
"The penalty was for renting out his flat in Patliputra Society, Andheri without taking proper permission from the collector as required under the laws," Galgali said.
 
This is because the building is constructed on government subsidised land meant for housing top government officials, mandating permission from the collector after paying the prescribed fees.
 
"The collectorate had served a notice on January 28, 2013 to Singh, who was Mumbai Police Commissioner at that time, but he chose to ignore it and even the subsequent reminders," Galgali added.
 
Later, Singh, 60, -- who earlier served as Nagpur and Pune police commissioner -- quit the coveted post (of Mumbai Police Commissioner) to contest the Lok Sabha elections on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket and won the Baghpat seat in Uttar Pradesh.
 
It has now come to light that Singh -- who defeated Baghpat strongman, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh in the polls -- reportedly failed to mention this outstanding 'government dues' in his election affidavit as required by the EC rules.
 
According to EC provisions, a candidate is bound to reveal details of his criminal conviction, pending cases, assets, government liabilities and educational qualifications in the affidavit filed before the Election Officer.
 
The relevant EC Rule 4 (3) prescribes that the candidate reveal -- 'Laibilities if any, particularly whether there are any old dues of any financial institution or government dues', Galgali explained.
 
Interestingly, in June 2014, Singh faced major embarrassment when police busted an alleged prostitution racket being run from his 10th floor flat which was leased out to a private company.
 
Now, Galgali has written to the EC, Lok Sabha Speaker and Prime Minister's Office demanding that Singh be stripped of his Lok Sabha membership for violating and defying EC rules.
 
The MP could not be immediately contacted.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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