BY KRISHNARAJ RAO
While Mantralaya’s documents were going up in smoke on Thursday, many of us RTI activists have suffered a direct hit. We have lost hope of getting the documents we need to unearth scams, as Mantralaya departments will now routinely deny us saying that the files were burnt, or are in disarray and hence unavailable under RTI.
So, did someone want to burn specific documents in Chief Minister’s office and Chief Secretary’s office, and accidentally set on fire some electric wires that carried the blaze uncontrollably throughout Mantralaya? Or was the original fire intended to destroy key papers in Urban Development Department (UDD) about scams even more damaging than Adarsh? The air is thick with conspiracy theories.
Three days ago, RTI activist Sulaiman Bhimani filed five wide-ranging RTI applications to unearth cozy dealings between five state government offices that operate together like five fingers of a hand, namely (1) Chief Minister’s Office (2) Chief Secretary’s office (3) General Administration Department i.e. GAD (4) Governor’s secretariat and (5) State Information Commission. MMRDA is the conspicuous sixth finger, by the way. These RTI applications have a sweeping scope, as they requested RTI inspection of an unusually wide range of files for the period 1 Jan 2005 till date, to enable us (i.e. Bhimani, GR Vora, Anil Galgali and myself) to demand copies of virtually any document relating to the tenures of the present holders of these offices, as well as their predecessors. We requested dates in the next two weeks for these inspections. (Click here to view these five RTI applications)
And now, all of us know that Chief Minister’s Office and Chief Secretary’s Office will say: “The fire ate our homework”. Even Governor’s office and GAD may use this excuse, saying that their files had been called to CMO and Chief Secretary’s office. They will continue to use this excuse for months, if not years!
PS: On a less cynical note, I would like to add here that we sincerely feel sad for all the people who were caught in the blaze – whether government employees or visitors who are routinely let in after 2 pm. In fact, we feel sorry for our beloved state, which has suffered a severe setback. It may be many years before administration and government business become normal again. All of us citizens should participate in efforts to restore normalcy.
(Krishnaraj Rao is an RTI activist. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap)