Activist's RTI query with PMC fetches answers he didn't seek

Apr 04, 2012, 07:04 IST | Priyanka Deshpande

Information on funds kept aside for public toilets for women in 2009-10 Budget remains elusive even after two years

Ravindra Kavare has been waiting for two years for an appropriate reply from the accounts department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to an RTI query filed by him.

His application had sought information on the funds kept aside for public toilets for women in the 2009-2010 PMC Budget, but so far the only replies he has got do not answer his question.

Disappointed: Ravindra Kavare 

In its budget, the PMC earmarks an amount under the head gender expenditure and then classifies it under various plans and projects for women.

Suspecting the funds allotted for women’s public toilets under the gender budget are diverted to other, less important plans, Kavare had filed an RTI query to know the exact amount allocated for women’s toilets.

Kavare said on receiving his query, the accounts department sent incorrect questions to various PMC departments. He said this resulted in these departments replying to him in over 30 letters that the issue did not fall in their territory.

Since then, the disappointed RTI activist has been running from pillar to post to get a reply, sending appeals to the State Information Commissioner and the PMC accounts department.

“When I filed an RTI to acquire the information, the accounts department suggested I follow the Budget,” Kavare said.
The activist said as he was not able to understand the Budget, he again appealed to the department to provide the fund allotment details.

“In reply, the accounts department told me to follow the Budget as it couldn’t provide the classification of these allotted funds under gender budget,” he said.

Disappointed with the reply, Kavare appealed to the State Information Commissioner, who issued an order to the PMC accounts department in which he wrote: “It is not mandatory to the public relation office to provide classification of this allotment of fund of gender budget, however this query which was asked by the RTI activist was in public interest therefore the information about the asked question should be gathered from the various department and should be provided to the appellant within fifteen days.”

Kavare said the accounts department did get acting after the order, but sent an incorrect query to the other PMC departments, resulting in his getting information he had not asked for.

“As soon as the department got the order, the then deputy accountant, who was also the administrative information officer, sent the query to the various PMC departments.

However, an incorrect query had been sent by the deputy accountant, and whatever information I got was also incorrect,” he said.

Confused by the information he got, Kavare finally sent a letter to the Chief Accountant of PMC, Ulka Kalaskar, but there has been no reply from her even after four months.

Health and RTI activist Chetan Gandhi, who is associated with Kavare, said such experiences were discouraging for activists seeking information under the RTI Act. “How can the accounts department change the nature of the query for its own comfort?” Gandhi asked.

Kavare said after his experience, he dropped the idea of acquiring the same info for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Budgets.

MNS corporators seek more loos in PMC
ALL 17 women corporators of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have demanded more toilets for women in the PMC building. They said there was only one women’s toilet in the PMC. The team of women MNS corporators led by Rupali Patil met Mayor Vaishali Bankar and leader of the house Subhash Jagtap to submit their plea for more toilets on Saturday. In response, the civic body issued orders to immediately construct more toilets for women.

“Considering the high number of women PMC employees and corporators, more toilets for women should be built right away,” Patil said, adding that the MNS was even ready to bear the cost of constructing a toilet if the civic body found it difficult to do it. She said her party was committed to raising the issue of scarcity of public toilets for women in the city.

The other side
Chief Accountant of PMC, Ulka Kalaskar, said that classified information could not be provided to anyone. “There is no provision in the law to provide classified information,” she said. When she was reminded that the State Information Commissioner had himself issued the order to provide the information in question, she chose not to comment.  

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