RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: Five PIOs say they do not have any information

Five PIOs, who dealt with the RTI application, finally said they did not have any information. The CIC said, this shows a pathetic deficiency in the government where nobody knows who is responsible for something. This is the 92nd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the principal secretary to the Lt Governor of Delhi to enquire into the matter and send the correct information to the appellant and the Commission before 10 May 2009.

While giving this judgement on 27 April 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “After five Public Information Officers (PIOs) had dealt with this, the PIO of the services department at the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) came up with the great information that they did not have any information. This shows a pathetic deficiency in the government, where nobody knows who is responsible for something.”
New Delhi resident Mamta, on 20 November 2008, sought information pertaining to the powers of the Lt. Governor of GNCTD from the PIO of services department under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Here is the information she sought...

1. Whether the Lt Governor, GNCTD is competent in his individual official capacity to make service rules/policy provisioning re-appointment of retired government servants of the Delhi government on contract basis without a Bill to this effect passed by Delhi Legislative Assembly?
2. If yes, how long the rules so notified/ introduced by the Lt Governor will remain valid/operative, if the same is not tabled before Delhi Legislative Assembly for passage?
3. Whether the Lt Governor, GNCTD can make rules/legislation independently in exercise of his powers of legislative subordination? What is his extent of subordinate legislation?
4. Certified copy of official document/orders which empowers the Lt Governor to make rules provisioning contract re-appointment of retired government servant may be supplied.

In his reply the PIO stated,”...your letter noF17/290/08/RTI/GAD/Admn/3723-24 dated 28 November 2008 (received on 1 December 2008) of General Administration Department (GAD) whereby your application (now allotted ID No 639/ RTI/ Services) was  forwarded to this department also under the RTI (Right to Information) Act.  In this connection, it is informed that this department does not deal with the subject matter. Therefore, the information asked for is not available with this department.”

Not satisfied with the reply, Mamta filed her first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said, “I have heard the appellant and the PIO and gone through the RTI application and appeal of the appellant and is of the view that as this department does not deal with the subject matter raised by the appellant in his appeal and RTI application, the appellant was appropriately replied. Nothing subsists in the appeal."

Mamta then approached the CIC with her second appeal.

During the hearing the PIO stated that the application was made to the PIO of the Delhi Legislative Assembly Secretariat who transferred the application to GAD. The GAD in turn transferred it to the PIO of the services department and PIO at Lt Governor's Secretariat. In short, five PIOs dealt with the RTI application and came up with the answer that they do not have any information.

While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, said this (forwarding the application to five PIOs and then saying that no information available) shows a pathetic deficiency in the government.

He then directed the principal secretary to the Lt Governor to enquire into this matter and send the correct information to the appellant (Mamta).


Decision No. CIC /SG/A/2009/000382/2957
Appeal No. CIC /SG/A/2009/000382

Appellant       : Mamta
Respondent    : PIO
                            Govt. of NCT of Delhi
                            Services Department: Coordination Branch
                            Delhi Secretariat, 7th Level, 'B' Wing
                            IP Estate, New Delhi- 110113.


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Food security for labourers and people at the lower economic strata, a new twist!

If we cannot export or do not want to export our foodgrain at cheap prices, can we at least divert a reasonable quantity of the available surplus to meet the needs of millions of workers, who are in the lower rung of the society?

Due to the poor conditions prevailing in the Parliament, the presiding officers of both Houses had to declare sine die as the efforts earlier to get the Food Security Bill passed was in vain.
The Opposition had waged relentless battles on the need to dismiss the ministers concerned, and in the end, both Pawan K Bansal and Ashwani Kumar tendered their resignations, as the investigations by CBI continued. It would be a couple of days before the work can commence again.
In the meantime, the BJP lost its bastion in the South and the people of Karnataka, fed up with the corrupt administration, brought in the Congress by a simple majority vote.  Siddaramaiah took over as the chief minister, on the Akshaya Tirtya day and the ceremony was attended by over one lakh people in the Kanteevara Stadium.
The very first act of the chief minister as to make an announcement of various schemes that he had promised in the manifesto, which would start with the benefit being extended to 98.17 lakh people below the power line (BPL) by making available rice at Re1 per kg, with a maximum of 30 kg per family each month, effective from 1st June.  It may be remembered that earlier, BJP government had distributed 20 kg of rice per family at Rs3 per kg through the PDS.
So far, so good for the BPL families in the state. And what about the national level?  What is the foodgrain situation in the country, and what are the prospects for the ensuing monsoon which is around the corner?  Let's take a look.
 Last year, despite drought conditions in parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka, the country's foodgrain output reached 254 million tonnes. Food stocks in the central pool stood at 59.67 million tonnes (MT), consisting of 35.46 MT of rice and 24.20 MT of wheat. This was after our exports.
Last year, rice exports reached 10 MT but this year, it is unlikely to reach 6 MT due to serious price competition from Vietnam and Thailand. Likewise, after exporting 5 MT of wheat, due to cheaper supplies from Ukraine, Indian export can not make much headway unless the price is reduced or matched. Such delays in deciding the export quantum or price level is detrimental to our exports.
A similar situation is likely to be faced in the export of corn to 3 MT against 4 MT last year due to shipments from larger producers like USA, Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine.  Only in the case of soya meal, India is in a better wicket due to higher prices obtainable from Iran but this can change at short notice, because of the political developments in that country right now.  The elections are around the corner in India and we need to watch the political climate with great care and interest.
The fact is, when prices globally fall or rise, exporters need to be able to take the decision without delay in order to maintain our customers abroad. In the long run, it is cheaper to accept a loss in the falling market rather than trying to maintain perishable commodities like foodgrain, when new arrivals are expected in the months ahead.  Or otherwise, plan alternative uses for the same!
No doubt, there is the urgent need to secure supplies for consumption locally. So far, the monsoon predictions are favourable, but the actual rainfall alone will determine the farm output—right time and in right quantities.
Meanwhile, grains stored both in the open areas and closed warehouses, are subject to natural rot, rodents, and other forms of damage on which we have little or no control.
So, this issue will take us to the innovative canteen scheme of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, who has sponsored these canteens, initially with 73 centres (target of 2,000) by supporting women's self-help groups. The corporation makes available suitable housing locations from where these women make and supply the popular breakfast dish of idli at Re1 a piece, sambhar rice at Rs5 and curd rice at Rs3, from seven in the morning till 10 pm. Such centres will cater to the needs of mainly daily manual labourers, slum dwellers and people from the lower economic strata. Already, these centres are overflowing with people who form early queues even before these are open for business.
The question now, therefore is, if we cannot export or do not want to export our foodgrain at cheap prices, which are currently available due to intense international competition, can we at least divert a reasonable quantity of the available surplus to meet the needs of millions of workers, who are in the lower rung of the society?  Farm labourers, daily wage earners and others in this category can be fed by introduction of this scheme all over the country, with each state providing for basic infrastructure facilities and encouraging women's self-help groups, and these are healthy and good quality food that can sustain their work?
Such a move to popularize the idea will be a boon to a lot of workers all over the country, avoid waste in foodgrain rotting in the warehouses, permit export when international prices stabilize and when new harvest comes in, there is adequate space available for storage for a rainy day?

While the concept of idli, sambhar and curd rice may be workable in the Southern region, a suitable alternative or modification may be in order when it comes to the North, where food consumption is wheat-based. Some food/nutrition experts may have to work out suitable alternatives, but what is important is work on this innovative idea to use our foodgrain in the granaries, and meet the needs of the hungry people.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


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