Manoj Kumar Agrawal sought details of land transactions in Kalahandi district over a period of 20 months
When Manoj Kumar Agrawal, a resident of Bhawanipatna, sought details of land transactions made in Kalahandi district over a period of 20 months, little did he know that he would be asked to cough up 10 years of his earning for laying hand on the information.
Mr. Agrawal received the jolt when he glanced over the letter dispatched recently by Uttam Kumar Bag, District Sub-registrar, Bhawanipatna, who had estimated the cost of information sought by him at Rs. 21,94,441.
“In July this year, I had asked information about land transactions made in Kalahandi district over period of 20 months. The information could have been summarised in 2,000 pieces of papers. But they asked me to pay Rs. 22 lakh, the amount is my entire earning in a decade,” he said. The letter of District Sub-Registrar says administrative cost towards searching 6,658 documents would be Rs. 4.78 lakh, inspection fees (Rs. 1.39 lakh), copying fees (Rs. 1.71 lakh), urgent fees (Rs. 66,580), stamp fees (Rs 66,580) and user fees (Rs. 12.71 lakh).
Mr. Agrawal, a trader, said, “When I filed my first RTI application in this regard, officials discouraged me to pursue. However, I kept on meeting the officials and stuck to my RTI application. The amount sought for reply is perhaps intended at dissuading me.”
When inquired, DSR Mr. Bag, who is also public information officer, said, “We had not estimated the cost of reply. To furnish reply to the application required gigantic administrative exercise. We had forwarded the application to Odisha e-Governance Service Limited. They came out with the calculation of Rs. 21.94 lakh.”
The official said entire administration cannot be engaged for preparation of report for complying a single RTI application and information seeker would be provided with copy of entire document available with administration, for which the cost probably shot up to Rs. 21.94 lakh.
RTI activists termed the letter against the spirit of the RTI Act. “I had gone through the entire letter which sounded very hilarious. Cost has been estimated in fictitious account. For example, there is no provision of searching fees, urgent fees or user fees in the RTI Rules in Odisha. This is just an attempt to discourage information seekers,” said Pradip Pradhan, an RTI activist.