Mahim Pratap Singh

‘Department responsible for foreign refugees’

‘PIO, appellant officer should not be entrusted this work’

Department ordered to obtain information from other sources

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Government’s lackadaisical approach to rehabilitation of internally displaced people is reflected in virtual non-functioning of its rehabilitation department.

The Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation Department does not have any record of the number of displaced persons in the State.

What’s more remarkable is officials saying that the department is not concerned with internally displaced people and is responsible only for rehabilitation of refugees from Bangladesh, Nepal and Tibet.

The can of worms was opened when a local activist demanded information from the department about the number of people displaced due to various “development” projects. The department did not provide the information within the stipulated time and even after a first appeal, amounting to “deemed refusal” under the Right to Information Act.

The petitioner then filed a second appeal with the State Information Commission, where the incompetence of the department’s information officials stood exposed, as noted by the Commission.

Officials from the department reportedly stated before the Commission that now that the rehabilitation of foreign refugees is complete, there is no work left for the department any more.

“Principal Information Officer Prabha Chaudhary said before the Commission that the department is done with resettling refugees and now talks are on to shut it down,” said Rolly Shivhare, the petitioner.

Information Commissioner Mahesh Pandey observed at the hearing, “I am sad to write that the PIO and the appellant officer have zero information about their department. They also neither have any information nor interest regarding rehabilitation as such.”

“In future, these two officials should not be entrusted with the responsibility of providing information without proper training,” he added.

The SIC then sent summons to the Principal Secretary of the department and a show-cause notice to the Rehabilitation Ministry asking why the information sought was not provided within 30 days.

“The information demanded was very vague,” said Principal Secretary (Relief and Rehabilitation) M. M. Upadhyay, adding, “Further, it was a truckload of data. How do you expect us to have provided all that data? It is a six-month-old matter. Where is the need to raise it now,” he asked. The Information Commission also sought explanation from the appellant authority for violating his constitutional responsibility by not hearing the first appeal. Finally, at the Commission’s hearing, the department washed its hands of the State Government’s rehabilitation policy of 2002 saying that implementation and providing rehabilitation to affected people are the responsibilities of the departments concerned. The Information Commissioner ordered the department to obtain information from these departments.