INDIA: Man told to pay Rs 1.22 lakh for info under RTI

TV news reporter was looking for information about raod repairs in Balangir

Times of India
Friday, October 27, 2006

By Sudeep Guru

Balangir --- Manoranjan Joshi was shocked when he was asked by the department of rural development here to pay Rs 1.22 lakh for accessing information under the Right to Information Act.

Joshi had applied for information on the status of projects under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and low-cost repair of roads taken up by the department in Balangir district.

He said he was compelled to apply under the RTI Act after rural development department officials refused to provide information on the projects.

"I approached an assistant engineer, who is also the department's public information officer (PIO), but he refused to give any information. So, I was compelled to apply for the information under the Act. But, to my utter disbelief I was given a letter by the PIO, Birendra Kumar Tripathy, asking for Rs 1.22 lakh as the cost of the information," Joshi said.

Joshi, a reporter with a private TV news channel, alleged that the authorities deliberately harassed him, adding, "If a journalist is harassed to this extent, I don't know what they do to others."

He has appealed against the department authorities before the additional district magistrate, who is the PIO for the district.

Executive engineer of the department here, P K Senapaty, said it could have happened due to a misunderstanding between the applicant and the PIO. "I will look into the matter," he added.

Balangir ADM Manmohan Mishra admitted that he had received a complaint against Tripathy. "I have got a complaint. I will conduct an inquiry into it," he said.

Balangir SP, Narasingha Bhol, issued circulars to all police stations of the district asking the officers not to share information with the press.

Bhol said only the PIO of the district police can interact with mediapersons. This has virtually stopped the flow of information from the police, as DSP (crime) Ranjan Behera does not even have a telephone.

Published: Friday, October 27, 2006