Maharashtra Government websites asked to brush up

RTI complaints urge Mumbai University and General Administrative Department to update their online information

Websites of state departments will need to get timely updates following what could be deemed as two landmark moves — an RTI order and a state government circular on suo moto disclosure by all government departments. The General Administrative Department, which deals with day-to-day functioning of various departments, has on the orders of the RTI Commissioner issued an official circular on January 28 directing all state government departments to update their respective websites twice a year (on January 1 and June 1). Additionally, Maharashtra’s Chief Information Commissioner has ordered the Mumbai University to update all its 17 departments on its website by February 15, which will go a long way in helping the student community.

If these orders are implemented in letter and spirit, then there are good chances of reduction in the RTI applications, appeals and complaints to the state departments and Information Commission. It is hoped that this move will free PIOs and first appellate authorities, who are currently burdened, to perform their duties more efficiently. Shailesh Gandhi, the former chief of the Central Information Commission, said, “Studies have been done by agencies on the subject, which suggest that there could be a drop in the RTI queries anywhere between 50-60 per cent. It’s a fantastic thing to happen, which will also affect the efficiency levels of all government departments,” he said.

With the information on the Mumbai University’s updated website, the student community will be easily able to access information regarding their courses, colleges, the reports of inspections of every college prepared by the Inspection Committee, as well as the quality of faculty. Such updated disclosure will lead to better transparency. According to University PRO Leeladhar Bansod they had already initiated the process of notifying all the departments to comply with the guidelines issued by the RTI Commissioner.

Case 1: RTI to Mumbai University
Filed by pathologist Gaurang Vora, the idea struck him while he was mentoring a group of students about the process of filing RTIs, “Students would approach me about information regarding the Mumbai University.

Gaurang Vora
Gaurang Vora

They would not be able to access the university’s website, or its multiple departments. Even the University’s officials were unaware of the jurisdiction of their own offices.”

Case 2: RTI to General Administrative Department
Vivek Velenkar, an RTI activist from Pune, is responsible for procuring the order from the General Administrative Department.

Vivek Velenkar
Vivek Velenkar

He said that if the duties of every officer are disclosed, including information on the inflow of funds, then additional transparency and accountability would be achieved. This could also curb malpractices by the representative-contractor-officer nexus. 

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