Councillors of the Chennai Corporation have started to use the Right To Information Act to get information about various things including open space reservation lands, spending of ward councillor's funds and land use by private parties.
Members of Opposition parties in the council are the ones who are obtaining information under the provisions of the RTI Act. This is despite the fact that under the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919, councillors can access official files of the civic body during working hours.
Councillor of Ward 105 N. Rukmangadhan of the Congress said he had filed 20-25 applications so far, seeking information on snacks being cooked and served in TASMAC bars, land being used by hotels and charges collected by Corporation community halls. “I am an Opposition councillor, even if I ask information I do not get it properly, which is why I use the RTI. However, the flip side is that no action is taken on the findings,” he said.
Ward 53 councillor K. Armstrong of Bahujan Samaj Party, who had moved the Madras High Court for a direction to the State Home Secretary to take steps against civic body officials for not spending his ward development fund, said he got the details under the RTI Act. “I needed information from the Corporation on paper. Officials show us files when we ask them. But I wanted official confirmation so this was the best way. I now plan to file petitions for details of expenditure of ward councillor's funds for all the corporation wards.” Congress Councillor and Leader of Opposition Saidai P. Ravi said he had used the RTI Act to get particulars about open space reservation land in his ward.
“I had also applied to the CMDA about the same land and I got details under both the applications. Now I have submitted the details to the Corporation and the civic body would take up work on the lands. I find the Act very useful to get proper information,” he said. However, M. Jayaraman (PMK), who had applied under the RTI for details of a building in Ward 149, said that he was yet to get the required information.
“I had applied 10 months ago about a building that had been built violating codes. I don't believe that the Act works properly,” he said.