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A poor man’s battle for information

Mahim Pratap Singh

CHHATTARPUR (MADHYA PRADESH): In a blow to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a man belonging to the below-poverty-line (BPL) category was asked to pay Rs.9,000 for information sought. The real shocker, however, is that even after paying the amount, Vijaypal Nishad is yet to receive the information.

According to the Act, an appellant is required to pay for photocopies of the information sought — known as the cost of information.

However, under sub-section (1) of Section 6 (Rs.10 fee and cost for obtaining information); sub-section (1) of Section 7 (Rs.2 for each page created or copied); and sub-section (5) of Section 7 (Rs.50 for information provided in diskette or floppy or Rs.2 per page of the photocopy for extracts from publications), appellants belonging to the BPL category are exempt from this rule. And information has to be provided free of cost.

Nishad, a resident of Kasera village under Virampura panchayat in Bakswaha block, possesses an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) card as proof of his poverty. Only the poorest of the poor are eligible for the card.

On February 6, 2008, Nishad sought information on the work done by his village panchayat in the last five years.

After being denied information by panchayat officials, he approached the Janpad Chief Executive Officer on March 20, 2008, who scheduled a hearing on the matter nine days later. The CEO, R.G. Manavi, however, did not seem to be fully aware of the situation. “ I have heard about such a case, but I am not completely sure,” he said.

After the hearing, the panchayat secretary demanded Rs.9,385 for the information Nishad sought. On May 17, 2008, Nishad made the payment against a receipt (a copy of which is with The-Hindu).

More than a year later, he is yet to receive the information he sought and paid for.

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