Jane Namchu,30 May:Sikkim Information Commission has been actively giving publicity and generating awareness among the public on Right To Information Act. The RTI Act 2005 is a fundamental right that empowers all citizens and ensures access to information from public authorities to promote transparency and accountability.
The Act covers all three organs of government- executive, legislative and judiciary. All NGOs substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government are also covered under the Act. All information concerning developmental programmes and social issues except foreign policy and national security have been brought under its purview. The Act came into force on 12.10.2005 throughout the country except in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Sikkim Information Commission has been appealing to NGOs and social activists in the state to promote the act by holding ‘Jansunwai’ and holding meetings and bringing out publications. The Commission has opened a website www.cicsikkim.gov.in and has been distributing material in English and Nepali on Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) on RTI. Under the Act, Public Information Officers in the head office and district headquarters and Assistant Public Information Officers in the sub-division and at block level have been appointed. Till March 2007, 167 PIO and 222 APIOs had been designated in Sikkim. This is done to help citizens so that they can submit their applications for information and appeals in their area instead of traveling long distances.
Till March, 2007, 428 applications were received by public authorities, out of which 384 were disposed off. The Sikkim Information Commission which is the appellate authority in the state had received 34 appeals till March, 2007 all of which have been disposed off. The Commission has been active and has issued warning to Public Information Officers of Department of Personnel, HRDD, Forest, Irrigation, State Trading Corporation of Sikkim for not providing information during the stipulated period of 30 days. The Commission has also issued orders to PIO, Urban Development and Housing Department to provide information ask by a citizen within 30 days on beautification of Gangtok Bazar and schemes undertaken from 1990 in Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Tibet Road, Nam Nang Road, Paljor Stadium Road and Arithang. Orders have also been issued to PIO of Land Revenue Department to provide a copy of the merit list of selected candidates and evaluated answer-sheet to a complaint for the post of Jr Land Revenue Officer/Inspector.
The Commission has also notified the Sikkim Information Commission Management Regulation 2008 after inviting opinions/objections from citizens. To bring awareness on the Act, Accounts and Administrative Unit, Gangtok and District Collector East and South have been designated as State Implementing Agency and District Implementing Agency respectively under the UNDP funded project on capacity building for access to information. They are responsible for training for all the stakeholders, i.e., PIOs, APIOs, Appeal Officers, other civil society, representatives and media organization on awareness of the RTI Act.