You get to exercise your rights, provided you shell out the right amount – a conclusion many would draw glancing at the reply of Central Railway (CR) to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Ahmednagar resident Ravindra Wabale. The businessman had sought reservation and travel details of his cousin Swapnil Surse – who was serving as Resident Medical Officer (RMO) at Mumbai’s Cama hospital and was found dead under suspicious circumstances at Lasalgaon near Nashik in May. In the response, the authorities have demanded Rs 85,000 to furnish all the details.
The railways have cited the Railway Boards letter dated 13-12-2011, in which they have mentioned that Rs 1,000 per page should be charged for furnishing a copy of reservation chart to any person. The information Wabale had sought spanned 85 pages. Replying to Wabale’s application chief commercial manager of Central Railway MA Kamble has said, “Reservation chart details will be furnished after 81 thousand rupees are paid by way of demand draft or banker’s cheque issued in favour of ‘Account Officer, Central Railway, Mumbai CST’.” But activists said that as per the RTI Act of 2005, only 2 to 5 rupees per page can be charged for providing copies of any document to the applicant.
“Railway officials have played with the words in the circular to avoid or dodge RTI queries. The 2010 circular (N0. 2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC New Delhi, dated 31.08.2010) mentioned a fee of Rs 750 for ‘verification of PNR’, but suddenly in the 2011 circular (No.2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC Pt. New Delhi, dated 13.12.2011) these words were replaced by ‘copy of reservation chart’. Also terms like ‘for government departments’ were substitute with ‘any person’,” RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said.
When asked about the background, Wabale said, “My cousin Swapnil Surse was working as RMO at Cama hospital in Mumbai. He was residing at the JJ hospital hostel. On 26th of May he was travelling by Geetanjali Express, and was expected to reach Nashik by Howrah Express the next day. Lasalgaon police had called us to inform that Surse had died after falling off the train.
When we reached there, we came to know that his kidneys were missing. The SIM card and memory card were also stolen.” Activist Vijay Bulbule – who helped Wabale file the RTI plea – said, “Since all the conditions leading to Swapnil’s death were suspicious, we requested the railways to provide us the video footage.
But officials said that they don’t stock recordings beyond 72 hours. For copies of the reservation charts of the two trains to find out who else had travelled along with Swapnil.” “The railways have asked us to pay Rs 4,000 for the four-page details of Swapnil’s bogie number and berth. For copies of the charts, they want us to pay Rs 81,000 more,” he added.
The other side
When asked about the difference in amount charged for furnishing copies of documents requested under RTI, Central Railway Public Relations Officer (Pune Division) YK Singh maintained, “As per the circular, railways charge Rs 1,000 per page for furnishing copies of reservation charts.”
Rs 85,000 Amount the deceased’s kin were expected to pay to get his travel details from CR