Whistle-blower harassed in Kendrapara, asked to cough up Rs 50,000 for information

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Kendrapara: In a case of whistleblower being willfully harassed, an RTI activist was asked to cough up Rs 50,000 for daring to expose the large-scale corruption in Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

RTI activist Mr. Anirudha Sethy native of Rajnagar tehsil of Kendrapara district received rude jolt of his life after postman knocked at his doors to deliver speed post issued by ICDS authorities. The official letter asked in clear-cut term to pay Rs 50,000 to get the information that he had sought for.

The ICDS here is stuck in deep-neck corruption here.  After visiting Anganwadi centres, I found that the ICDS officials here were either devouring the sum meant for ‘Chatua’ ‘the nutrition supplementary diet for tiny tots. Wherever Chattua was being supplied, the quality was substandard. Parents of children enrolled in Anganwadis had also complained to me. Thereafter I sought for the information details through RTI application, Mr. Sethy said.

The Public Information Officer (PIO) has asked me to pay Rs50,000. The payment was demanded against papers pertaining to the quality test report and quantity of distribution chart in Rajnagar block, he said.

The sum demanded was astronomical. The cost of Xeroxed documents is Rs 2 per single piece. That meant, they sought for the payment against providing 25,000 xeroxed documents. It was quite hard to believe on my part. The lone objective of demanding Rs 50,000 was to harass me as I mustered the courage to expose the gaping holes in the system.

“It’s gross abuse of RTI act by a bunch of corrupt officials. Cases of misuse and abuse of RTI Act are pouring in from various places. The RTI applicants are being charged exorbitant fees for furnishing of information. Under RTI laws, an applicant can only be asked to pay a maximum of Rs 2 the photocopying charge for a page of information. Asking information seeker to pay Rs 50,000 means that PIO has prepared 25000 paged information which appears illogical”, said Mr. Pradip Pradhan RTI activist and the convener of Odisha Suchana Adhikar Abhijan.

“We have sought the sum in accordance with the provisions of RTI Act and rules. If the applicant will not deposit the amount within a week then he will be denied the right of getting information”, said Public Information Officer, ICDS, Rajnagar, Mrs. Rajani Roul.

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