A Central Govt Undertaking Asks RTI Applicant To Pay Rs 2.46 Crore For Gaining Information
RTI Activist From Chennai Asked To Pay 2.46 Crore
The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai has asked for Rs 2.46 Crore for shelling out information on high tide line and ecologically sensitive areas from K Sarvanan, a Chennai-based RTI Activist.
The National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) received an application from K Sarvanan, who happens to be an RTI activist from Chennai. In the application, Sarvanan had asked for information regarding the high tide line and ecologically sensitive areas in the Tamil Nadu coast. He asked for soft copies on the HTL data. The NCZMA then forwarded the application to the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management which is in charge of preparing the database.
In reply, officer Purvaja Ramachandran, who is the NCSCM’s Central Public Information Officer, said that the applicant has to pay a sum of Rs 2.46 Crore in return for the information. On September 2, 2016, he in an official reply said, “Soft copy (pdf) of the HTL data of Tamil Nadu will be supplied on payment of the cost of the data of Rs 1,08,87,000 at the rate of Rs 11,400 per km. Also, soft copy (pdf) of ESA data of Tamil Nadu will be supplied on payment of Rs 1,37,52,000 at the rate Rs 14,400 per km by the applicant to NCSCM.” This means that one has to pay Rs 11,400 and Rs 14, 400 per km for the HTL and the ESA.
Sarvanan, taken aback, by this bizarre reply, quickly filed an appeal to find an alternative electronic route to gain information under RTI. The guide is issued under Office Memorandum of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions dated 5th October 2009 and states that a nominal fee of Rs 50 per CD or other electronic modes of information is to be charged.
But that didn’t solve the problem. R Ramesh who is both the Director of the Centre and the First Appellate Authority rejected the appeal instead of processing it. He said that if this information is given, it will affect the sanctity of the scientific research and also affect the economic interest of the state at the same time. Moreover, he also argued that since NCSCM is a fully run Central Govt Organization and falls under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Therefore it falls under the category of State which is exempted from ushering any information according to the protocol of the Act.
When the media contacted the NCSCM officials, they said that if the order dissatisfies any applicant, then he can always file a fresh appeal before the Central Information Commission, New Delhi. Sarvanan reiterated by saying that he will do so. The NCSCM officials in a clarification said that “We said what we have to say. We have already submitted the HTL and ESA data to Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) Tamil Nadu, which will be put on their website once it is made official. People can take the data from the CZMA instead of writing to the NCSCM. The old HTL data is already there on the website.”
Sarvanan also fought back by saying, “It is a planned attempt by the NCSCM to deny information that will be useful to fishing communities to assert traditional rights and fight the upsurge of illegal constructions on the beach.”