Restoration of Adyar and Cooum Rivers Part 4

Initially we sent 7 RTI to the Chief PIOs in concerned departments in the month of February, 2013. Its been around 5 months now, but still we are struggling to get all the necessary information that we aimed for. The 7 RTI got split into several as the Chief PIOs of all departments forwarded it to several of their sub-ordinates.

Chennai Metro Water and Sewage Supply Board

Original RTI was sent to Staff Manager, CMWSSB, which was then forwarded to SE (STP) and SE(Coordination). Then the superintending Engineers forwards the same to the Area Engineers, but without any intimation us (which is a violation of Section 6(3) of RTI Act). We realized this only when we started receiving partial replies from the Area Engineers and Superintending Engineers, CMWSSB. But the Engineers could provide only a factor of what we asked, which will fall into their jurisdiction.

An Appeal has been filed against Staff Manager, SE (STP), SE(Coordination) stating all their RTI Act violations and our plea to get information that we required for. Parallely we started receiving replies from random authorities in CMWSSB. How they got our RTI Application, when and for what which piece of Information they are responsible? No one knows. No intimation Letters. A Clear violation of Section 6(3) of RTI, which states that,

Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information,-

(i) which is held by another public authority; or

(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub- section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

But all the received responses had only partial information. We were applying First Appeal on most of them asking for complete answers. Apart from forwarding the RTI Applications within the department, the original RTI was also forwarded to Public Works Department.

We were asking for the Layout / Map of our whole Drainage System of Chennai, but since such a thing doesn’t exist, we were provided with Layout of Sewage Treatment Plants of Koyambedu, Nesapakkam, etc.,

Corporation of Chennai

Our Corporation of Chennai was clear from the start itself. They forwarded our RTI (after 20 days, which is a violation of Section 6(3) of RTI Act) to Public Works Department, TNPCB, PHD, CMWSSB, etc., They didnt take the responsibility to answer even one question. But some forwards made were internal like Electrical Department, Storm Water Drain Department, etc., And again the sub-ordinates Elec. Dept, and Storm Water Drain Dept. didnt answer properly and replied only with partial answers.

We just applied for First Appeal on most of them, but still no proper response.

Environment and Forest

The RTI sent to Under Secretary, Environment got a decent response. Few information were given and others were forwarded to other departments including TNPCB and Department of Environment within 20 days. The Director of Department of Environment in turn forwarded the RTI to Corporation of Chennai, PWD and other departments. Hence a loop is formed between Corporation and Chennai and Environment and Forest where each points the finger at the other to provide information and none takes the responsibility.

Health and Family Welfare

The Deputy Secretary of this department was calm and silent from the start, completely ignoring our RTI application. Then we applied for First Appeal after around 45 days and then the Deputy Secretary forwards the RTI to E & F, PWD, Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Again a clear violation of RTI, for forwarding the RTI after such a long time, which is supposed to be done before 5 days. Then we got a reply from Addl. City Health Officer, PHD on May 23rd, almost 3.5 months after RTI is applied.

RTIs forwarded to other departments were then again forwarded to others and others without intimation to us and for us it was like Maggi Noodles.

Housing and Urban Development

The RTI sent to Housing and Urban development was forwarded to PWD in the beginning itself and all further communication was made between us and the PWD. Inside PWD, several appeals made and offices in Palar Basin Circle, Kosasthalaiyaru River Basin, Arani River Basin replied for our RTI.

But most PIOs fail to intimate us while forwarding to others and so its hard for us to track how a particular RTI reached a specific PIO (Again think of the Maggi Noodles).

Municipal Administration and Water Supply (MAWS)

Municipal Administration simply forwarded the RTI to Corporation of Chennai. Our questions were like Budget allocated by MAWS for maintenance of the river, MAWS authorities responsible for maintenance of the river. But till date, we couldn’t understand how the CoC will be responsible to answer on the budget allocated by MAWS and their authorities. ¬†They dont want to take up the responsibility and simply forwarding it to some other.

So, we went for First appeal on March 18, 2013 for which we got reply on April, 30, which had information on only certain questions. Even those answers were vague. For example, for the question on Budget Allocated, their answer was `Sufficient Amount`.

So We applied for Second Appeal on them on June 8th, 2013 to Tamil Nadu State Information Commission. As of 11th August, TNSIC not responded to our Second Appeal. But MAWS directed CMWSSB and Chennai River Restoration Trust to provide us with the information.

Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board

An Award can be given to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for their reasonable responses. Though not perfect, they were much better than the other departments. They replied for the original RTI within 30 days of the application of RTI. They provided us with River Analysis Reports, standards to be maintained, etc.,

Summary

As of July, 5 months after the Original RTI has been filed, after dozens of responses, forwards and appeals in each department, some basic information like Budget allotted to clean maintenance of river were not given and so Second Appeal has been applied with the Tamil Nadu Information Commission. Wish they wont let us down !!!

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