Rahul Noronha, Pioneer, January 10, 2007
Following the law in letter rather than spirit is an established bureaucratic trait. But the mandarins at the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) took it to absurd levels when they asked a Below Poverty Line applicant who had sought information under the Right to Information Act to deposit Rs 3,44,875 as analysis charges.
Ironically, BPL information seekers are not to be charged for information sought by them.
Hazra Bi, a resident of JP Nagar and a gas victim had sought information from the MPPCB on three counts. The applicant had sought details from the MPPCB of water testing, especially of solar evaporation ponds between 1977-84, reports of water testing and ground water contamination between 1984-92 and water testing reports from Union Carbide and its neighbourhoods between 2003-05.
The MPPCB in its reply to the applicant stated that it would provide the reports of samples collected from the neighbouring areas of the Union Carbide plant and asked for Rs 3,44,875 as analysis charges. To be fair to the Board, the rules under RTI guarantee the required information be given to a BPL applicant free of cost, whereas the Board asked for the sum as analysis charges.
Satinath Shadangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action told The Pioneer that the Board was deliberately misinterpreting the application. ” The applicant had asked for photocopies of the report and not asked for an analysis to be conducted again for which the Board asked for the sum,” he said. Moreover, he added that the Board couldn’t provide the reports as samples collected between 2003-05 cannot be analysed now. ” The Board intends to dissuade people,” he alleged.
The Board agreed to give the executive summary of the water testing and ground water contamination between 1984-92 for Rs 20. The State Information Commission is presently without a head and other officials of the Commission were unavailable for comment.