RTI detained

Published: Sunday 31 August 2008

the Maharashtra State Information Commission has slapped two top forest officials with a fine of Rs 25,000 for withholding information, sought under the Right To Information (rti) Act, for over a year.

At a hearing on July 4, 2008, rti Commissioner Vilas Patil asked the officials--divisional forest officer (dfo) of Bhandara, B S Thakre, and assistant conservation of forest (acf), tendu, S S Gowande--to pay up the fine in a fortnight and reimburse Rs 2,500 that the applicant had paid for obtaining the requisite documents. Two range forest officers were also fined.

Gulabrao Bansod, an office bearer of the Maharashtra State Castribe Karmachari Kalyan Mahasangh, filed the rti query with the acf (tendu), Bhandara, in February 2007 asking for details on the construction of check dams worth Rs 1.9 crore in eight forest ranges in the district. "Under the project, part of the Central government's Rashtriya Samavikas Yojana, check dams were to be built in forests to harness water for wildlife. The aim was to dissuade animals from straying into villages in search of water," says Bansod. "But only a few check dams have been constructed yet. The work was so poor that the dams failed to hold any water."

Failing to receive the information from the acf within a month, Bansod approached the dfo but in vain. In May 2007, he approached the rti commission. Meanwhile, on April 20, 2008, Bansod received some information on his queries from the dfo, albeit in an incomplete state. "Some of the details provided are also wrong," he says. A departmental enquiry has been ordered to probe the issue.

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