RTI query on bureaucrats gets engineer transfer, vigilance probe

January 28th, 2009 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Jan 28 (IANS) Information is not the only return that an application under the Right To Information (RTI) can fetch you. It got Kashinath Shetye a quick-fire transfer, a punishment posting and a vigilance enquiry after he filed RTIs seeking information about the who’s who in the bureaucracy and the police department. The RTI applications were made by Kashinath Shetye, who is a junior engineer in the state electricity department and his wife Sanyogita. Shetye’s exhaustive questionnaires sought detailed information from senior officials like the chief secretary, inspector general of police, the state law secretary and others.

Sanyogita Shetye’s application to the under secretary (personnel) dated July 25, 2008, sought a certified copy of the chief secretary’s vehicle log book, details of appeals heard, disposed by the official and the top most bureaucrat’s annual property returns from 1990. Here’s what the Shetyes got in return.

“It’s not poetic justice for sure. It is a clear case of harassment. A few days before our RTI appeal hearing in the chief secretary’s petition, my husband is now being targeted by the vigilance department, which has started an enquiry against him,” Sanyogita told IANS.

Kashinath Shetye has been ordered to submit details of immovable property, financial investments and cash possessed by him or his dependants from 1992 till date.

“Now listen to this. The letter was issued Jan 23 and my husband was directed to file a reply with all the details within three days, which included the long three-day weekend running into Republic day,” Sanyogita said.

When contacted, Kashinath Shetye, who has been posted to a Xeldem, in the remote region of Quepem in South Goa, said that there was no reply forthcoming from officials vis a vis most of his RTIs, forcing him to go in for a appeal.

The public information officer’s response to Kashinath Shetye’s query on Chief Secretary J.P. Singh’s annual property returns and his vehicle logbook was ridiculed in an order issued by the State Chief Information Commissioner A. Venkatratnam.

While ruling that the cadre controlling authority should maintain records of property returns, Venkatratnam asked the Goa government to come clear as to whether the CS has actually filed his annual property returns as per norms or not.

“The returns for the period when the chief secretary is working in Goa have to be submitted to and should be available with the Goa government… If they are not filed by the CS and therefore not available with the personnel department that should also be said in as many words,” the SCIC has observed.

Other RTI applications made by Shetye also have potential to pose uncomfortable moments for senior bureaucrats. Shetye has sought the annual property returns of the inspector general of police (IGP) and has asked for the procedural norms followed by the government in appointing Goa’s 65-year-old Law Secretary V.P. Shetye on a contract basis. Both these applications are also pending in appeal before the SCIC, thanks to wishy-washy replies by the PIOs.

“When V.P. Shetye retired as law secretary, he was not given an extension or asked to continue on contract. The question my husband has posed before the PIO is ‘Has he suddenly become competent so as to avail of this post on contract now?’ ” Sanyogita asked.

Repeated attempts by IANS to seek chief secretary J.P. Singh’s reaction on the issue were to no avail. A query to him by SMS brough no response or reply from the senior bureaucrat.

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