In yet another instance of the Jammu and Kashmir administration showing disregard for the Right to Information Act, the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Budgam has refrained from providing information under a request citing unavailability of records.
In a response to an information request by prominent RTI activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat, the DC Budgam office through its Public Information Officer, Assistant Commissioner Revenue, has stated:
“As per the available official records the information with respect to training/awareness programmes conducted for designated officers, disadvantaged communities since 1 November 2019 is not available in the repository of this office. As such undersigned is constrained from divulging any exact information.”
Bhat had sought information pertaining to the district administration’s implementation of Section 26 the RTI Act — holding training programmes for the general public especially the disadvantaged communities — between 1 November 2019 and 15 January 2021.
It is pertinent to mention that the Government of India had scrapped J-K’s own RTI law, considered more robust than the central law that was imposed in J-K after the unilateral abrogation of the region’s limited-autonomy.
Since then, information rights activists complain that the administration has increasingly scuttled attempts to seek information under the Act. “Saying information is not available in the repository of the DC Office is simply a ridiculous answer,” said Bhat, who heads the RTI Movement. “Not a single officer or citizen has actually been trained on the provisions of RTI Act 2005 in Budgam during the last 1 to 2 years.”
Bhat emphasised that: “I am not only singling out DC office Budgam. But all the DC’s, heads of departments, and even Administrative Secretaries have not held any awareness programme on RTI, physically or through virtual mode, from November 2019 till date.”