Obstructing RTI, the MC Doda way

FARID AHMED ZARGAR
DODA, MARCH 18: Twisting the arm of Right to Information Act which aims at bringing transparency and accountability in the system, Municipal Committee (MC) Doda provided misleading and inaccurate information to an information seeker with utter disregard to the piece of legislation and to the dismay of the applicant.
While the information seeker had applied for procuring details of Swacch Bharat Mission in the municipal limits of Doda town and details of Sunday market Tax collection in the year 2017, the Executive Officer MC Doda vide his endorsement letter No MC/D/18/2640 dated 05.02.2018 provided misleading information.
The details of SBM are confusing as the statements provided do not mention the year for which the details have been recorded. The statements are without any title. The lists so provided do in no way reflect the details of the amount transferred to the accounts of the beneficiaries under the mission. While bank account numbers of the beneficiaries have been mentioned, it is puzzling what made the MC to hold back the mention of amount released or paid to the beneficiaries. In one of the columns of the statements mobile numbers of the beneficiaries are recorded. Again confusing the information seeker, the MC has recorded mobile numbers of 183 Insanitary Latrine beneficiaries with weird digits such as 9.656E+09, 9.906E+09 and so on and so forth.
What made the MC conceal the amount paid to the beneficiaries of SBM can be best explained by the concerned agency but the very objective of RTI gets defeated when monetary transactions that may have taken place are not reflected in the reply to the information seeker.
To the question of detail of income from Sunday market tax from January 2017 to December 2017, the reply is grossly misleading and incorrect.
The MC has provided details of income from Sunday market tax for two years of 2015-16 and 2017 while information was sought for 2017 only. Going by the details provided by the MC, amount of Rs. 97000/- was collected from January 2017 to ending June 2017 and Rs. 93700/- was collected from July to December 2017.
According to reliable sources over one hundred Faddies (beds) are arranged during Sunday market extending from DC office to old bus stand Doda on both sides of the road. The MC charges an amount of Rs. 100/- per faddi from the faddi wallahs. The weekly amount thus collected by the MC Doda comes to over Rs. 10000/- Assuming that Sunday market operates for 45 days in a year the amount collected should be Rs. 450,000/- But according to the information provided the annual collection shown by the MC is less than half of the actual collection. Where does the amount of more than two lakh go can be understood by anyone having rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic .
The MC issues two types of receipts for the Sunday market tax. The number of one type of receipt is hand written while on another type of receipt the number is printed. Greater Jammu is in possession of two types of receipts issues by the MC officials to the faddi wallahs. The receipt issued on Jan.07 2018 bears the serial No. 4892 while the receipt issued by the MC on Sunday 21.01.2018 has serial No 2005. In case the serial Nos. Of receipts are in order then the MC Doda can be said to have collected an amount of Rs. 200500/- in just fiftenn days. The receipts bear no stamp and signature of the Executive officer and have been signed by the petty officials deputed for the collection of tax.
Besides the Suday Market tax, MC Doda collects tax from around fifty Redda wallahs and kiosk owners. These operate on all days in the Bus Stand area against payment of a fixed amount per month in the name of tax.
MC Doda being the richest of all civic bodies in Chenab region with huge assets in the form of shops and community halls. ” Instead of making the best use of the revenue earned from the properties MC officials are bungling the same with impunity,” said Mairaj Khalid a social activist.
” The Executive Officer acts like a property dealer with little regard for providing the much needed facilities to the residents of the town,” said Firdous Khurwani adding MC has hiked the rentals of the shops of MC unilaterally. Sources in the MC Doda reveal that the allotees of shops in many cases have sub-let the shops and are charging ten times higher rent from the shopkeepers while paying peanuts to the civic body. “There exists a nexus between the officials of MC and the allotees,” said Abdul Latief a shopkeeper.
“Without checks and balances and in the absence of an elected civic body, the affairs of the MC Doda are run as per the whims and fancies of the Executive Officer,” said a former ward member of MC Doda pleading anonymity.
” It is only the corrupt who make a mockery of the RTI Act by providing misleading and incorrect information,” said Mohammad Saddiq an RTI activist and District President VishwaManav Adhikar Parishad.