To:

1. His Excellency, the Governor,
2. The Hon’ble Chief Minister,
3. The Secretary, J&K State Information Commission

CC:
1. ADGP, Law & Order
2. IGP, Kashmir Division

10 Dec. 2010

Respected Sirs:

With this letter, we wish to appraise you of an incident in Tehsil Khag, Budgam District two weeks ago.  The police and the tehsildar have investigated the matter, and it you may have already brought to you attention through formal and informal channels.

 

This incident happened shortly after threats against RTI activist Sajad Rasool of Raithan, Budgam District in a completely unrelated matter. We appraised you about on a letter dated 27 November 2010 (see:http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=3294)

  1. On 11 November 2010, RTI activist Nazir Ahmad Sheikh filed an RTI application with Tehsildar Khag seeking details of beneficiaries (from halqa Malapora, Tehsil Khag) under the Antodaya Anapurna Yojna (AAY), a centrally sponsored scheme of subsidizing food necessities at the rate of Rs. 3/kg for those who are poorer than ‘Below Poverty Line’ (BPL ), who ordinarily receive food at Rs. 6/kg. The application also sought details about people listed on the ordinary BPL list.  (A copy of the original RTI application is enclosed).
  2. The BPL and AAY lists were provided to the applicants, showing 112 persons on the BPL list and 57 on the AAY list (copies of the lists are enclosed along with English translations of names of government officials on the lists). The applicants and other RTI activists of the area decided to visit Malapora to find out if the information provided was correct. On making inquiries they found that around 13 names on the lists did not qualify for the benefits they were receiving under these schemes. Conversely many of the people who did qualify were not receiving any benefits. They also complained in person to the Tehsildar (Ghulam Mohiudin Shah). The Tehsildar instructed one of his officers (a Patwari) to conduct a survey in the area. The Patwari duly conducted the survey and submitted his report to the Tehsildar. The contents of the report remain unknown.
  3. A week after the activists had filed the RTI application (i.e. on 25 November), Ali Mohammad Dar of Malapora (the brother of one of the RTI activists, Gulzar) had gone to a ration shop to purchase sugar was assaulted by 5 people allegedly at the behest of the local Muqaddam (Village headman). Ali Mohammad was beaten up and repeatedly threatened.
  4. The next day (i.e. on 26 November) RTI activists of the area filed an FIR with SHO Khag Ali Mohammed Reshi against these 5 people. The SHO refused to register the FIR until 27 November.  Still, the SHO did not act. It was only when IGP Kashmir S.M. Sahai called up SSP Budgam that things started moving. The applicants also filed a written complaint about government employees on the BPL list with the Tehsildar (see attached) SSP Budgam called up SHO Khag and instructed him to take action whereupon the SHO called a meeting of the village elders and took the accused to task. The accused wept and apologized and were subsequently forgiven.
  5. RTI activists of the area allege that the Muqaddam and his henchmen refuse to acknowledge that they are answerable under RTI. Apparently the Tehsildar ordered that a fresh list be prepared. The new list has been drawn up but is not being issued for unknown reasons. The RTI activists of the area have filed an RTI application enquiring into the reasons for this. The activists also report that they had filed an RTI application with the Block Development Officer (BDO) of the area (Mohammad Ashraf Dejoo) on 17 July 2010 asking for the details of beneficiaries under AAY for the year 2007 – 2008. Predictably they haven’t received any responses yet despite the lapse of 144 days (well past the 30-day deadline).
  6. The activists report that the benefits don’t reach people they are intended for. A large number of people who are not entitled to benefits under these schemes are listed as beneficiaries simply because they are “well-connected’ (In a majority of the cases this means they are being patronized by the local MLA). Things have taken a turn for the worst in the area with the appointment of the new BDO, who’s dead set against transparency and accountability in administration. The locals report he’s acting at the behest of Hakim Mohammad Yasin, the local MLA.  Only the Tehsildar of the area is somewhat favourably inclined and responds to RTI applications.
  7. There are also gross irregularities in the utilization of funds under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in the area. The activists plan to file an RTI application with BMO Khag seeking information about resource allocation under NRHM in the area.

 

 

Accordingly, we ask that:

1. You take cognizance of this incident and follow-up with the relevant authorities

2. That your respective offices issue public statements condemning threats against RTI users in J&K and outlining steps that your offices will take against those elements who make threats against RTI users in the future, particularly when there is reason to believe that the government officials handling the RTI application have passed applicant information on to corrupt elements.

Yours sincerely,
Muzaffar Bhat
Convener, J&K Right to Information Movement
Supported by CHRI
Mobile: 9419562190, 9596081900, 8010090418 (Delhi)
Fax: 01951257199
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/

Members of JKRTIM:

Dr. Muzaffar Bhat (Budgam), Dr. Preetaish Kaul (Jammu/Delhi), Dr. Shah Faisal (Srinagar), Mr. Raman Sharma (Jammu), Mr. Haq Nawaz Nehru (Doda), Mr. Ayaz Mughal (Poonch), Mr. Balvinder Singh (Jammu), Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool (Budgam), Mr. Sultan Shahnawaz (Budgam), Mr. Satyarth Pandit (Delhi)

This Open Letter was been posted and circulated via the J&K RTI Movement Blog on 17 Dec. 2010 and can be accessed at the following link: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=3498