Bihar is among the top three states where the response to information in the first appeal either does not come or is insufficient as per the data on the number of second appeals and complaints filed at information commissions. This shows that the bureaucracy is unwilling to act unless it feels threatened. Maharashtra and Karnataka have topped the list of second appeals at information panels.
Notably, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are also the top five states to get an utmost average number of applications yearly under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The findings are based on an evaluation of replies to RTI applications filed by the Transparency International India (TII).
TII is a non-government anti-corruption organisation of India to gather compliance under the RTI Act. As per TII, against around 2.44 crore RTI applications received, Bihar got 8.64 lakh requests for information between May 2006 to March 2015.
Maharashtra that received 54.95 lakh RTI applications topped the list. The centre received 57.43 lakh applications during 2005-06 to 2015-16. Notably, Maharashtra received more RTI applications (5.49 lakh) yearly as compared to the centre (5.22 lakh).
“The high number of second appeals is a sad commentary on government officers, who either do not act or do a perfunctory job unless they feel threatened of having to face disciplinary action,” said Binod Kumar Poddar, a former employee of the Bihar State Human Rights Commission, and an RTI activist.
However, Bihar chief information commissioner, Ashok Kumar Sinha, a former chief secretary told Hindustan Times, “This (that officers are laggard) is a presumption. The reason for a high number of RTI applications and second appeals is because people in Bihar are more conscious and smart. They expect us to get their work done. We cannot order for action on a pending work. The government already has in place a public grievance redressal forum for that purpose. Our mandate is to only ensure that information sought is provided to the applicant,” Sinha told HT.