Dear Friends:

The Hon’ble Chief Minister has told us that he will host the next quarterly meeting with RTI activists in Srinagar in early May, following the Durbar (date TBA later). The first meeting was held on 5 January in Jammu, and it was considered by everyone to be very productive.

It was resolved at that meeting that the CM and the concerned departmental Secretaries would thenceforth hold quarterly meetings with RTI activists to continue to review & discuss RTI implementation in J&K.

Since the selection & appointment of J&K’s first Chief Information Commissioner in late January, several important issues have been resolved, either through Government action or steps taken by the State Information Commission.  However, several issues remain unresolved and we plan to raise them at the forthcoming meeting:

Selection & appointment of the remaining 2 Information Commissioners. Their selection had originally been slated to occur shortly after the selection of the Chief Information Commissioner, but the Budget Session of the Legislative Assembly and the Panchayat elections and now the Darbar have delayed this several times.

The lack of a permanent mechanism to address & prevent attacks & threats against RTI users and activists from corrupt elements. On our blog, we have documented 9 attacks directly stemming from RTI applications.

In several cases, the local police refused to help until very senior police officials intervened. We have specifically recommended an Emergency RTI Hotline with a high-ranking police official.  Mafia-like intimidation tactics by corrupt elements are a very serious hindrance to the success of RTI and must be prevented.

These issues were discussed with the Home Secretary following the meeting in January, but apparently no action has been taken til date.

The high RTI fees in J&K. In J&K, the application fee is Rs. 50, while at the Centre and in most states, it is Rs. 10.  In J&K, the photostat fee is Rs.10/page, while at Centre and in most states it is Rs. 2/page.  The CM has agreed that the fees should be lowered, but no action has been taken by the GAD yet.

Introducing RTI in the school curriculum. For well over a year, we have been asking BOSE to include RTI in the school curriculum in line with similar moves by NCERT.  However, no action has been taken til date.

Ensuring a proper, timely budget for RTI awareness programmes and for the State Information Commission. We have received several reports of the Government dragging its heels in allocating & releasing promised funds for RTI awareness programmes and for financing the State Information Commission.