Thursday, 1 June 2017

Right to Information - CIC orders details of welfare schemes to be placed on website

In an effort to bring about transparency and accountability in the implementation of State Government Schemes, Maharashtra’s Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad has directed all public authorities in the State to upload “complete information” about all welfare schemes being implemented by various departments on their respective websites before April 30, 2017. 
We are not sure if this has been implemented by all departments of the Government and former CIC and leading Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi who had originally filed the complaint has in an email to CAP, requested “all NGOs to check specific departments and see if the order has been implemented”. Gandhi has added, “We have a great order from a responsive commission and we must now ensure and enforce its implementation.”

Gaikwad, who invoked powers vested with him under section 19 (8) (a) of RTI Act to issue a directive to the Maharashtra government, stated in his order: “Section 4 (1) (b) of Right to Information Act, 2005 is the heart and soul of the RTI Act, which makes it mandatory to all public authorities to disclose information about 17 aspects of public authorities which, inter alia, covers schemes implemented by public authorities, and list of beneficiaries to be displayed on the websites of respective public authority”.

To ensure compliance with this order, Gaikwad has also provided a detailed format in which information should be made public on the websites by every government department. Details to be included are: name of the scheme, its salient features, especially budget provisions, number of beneficiaries likely to be covered, eligibility criteria, format of application for the scheme, date of receipt of application, date of approval, and date of rejection with brief reasons for rejection. 
Public welfare schemes otherwise largely remain a secret and there have been alleged cases of large-scale irregularities and financial misappropriation. Besides, there are many welfare schemes of various government and municipal bodies but, often, intended beneficiaries are not aware of these schemes, their eligibility criteria or how to avail of them. The whole exercise of floating schemes is futile if beneficiaries are unaware about the same or have to run from pillar to post to get updates from officials in the concerned departments.
It is thanks to former Central Information Commissioner and leading Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi that people will now have access to this vital information, at the click of the mouse. 

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