LG’s direction to update Websites !

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
COVID 19 pandemic which made lives difficult and brought a lot of miseries into the world economy taught us many lessons. We have now come to this conclusion that without meeting physically or travelling long distances to attend workshops, seminars and meetings, the same can be held through virtual mode as well via several online platforms like zoom , skype etc . These facilities were available in the recent past also but its importance was not explored properly. Similarly, governments across the world became more active on social media during COVID 19 pandemic which has brought them closer to people. I have been following regular posts of various Government officers of various states and even some officers of J&K who were very active on social media during the peak of the COVID 19 pandemic. Officers like Dheeraj Gupta Principal Secretary Power , Manoj Diwvedi Commissioner Secretary GAD, Shahid Iqbal Chowdhary DC Srinagar , Anshul Garg DC Aanntnag, Ajaz Assad MD KPDCL and some others were very active on social media during COVID 19 pandemic plus addressing public issues. These officers continue to be active even now. But when it comes to the official websites of Government they continue to be in mess. Even some administrative departments like Rural Development and Panchayati Raj department had no dedicated website until recently. The social media presence of Administrative Secretaries , Deputy Commissioners , Directors of various departments, HOD’s, District Superintendents of Police (SP’s) needs to be made institutional as most of them don’t have official twitter handles or Facebook pages. I have been writing about this for the last few years. I am highlighting this on social media frequently but there was no always weak response. I finally decided to meet the Lt Governor UT of J&K Manoj Sinha in this regard.
Our meeting with LG
Manoj Sinha the LG of J&K has been quite frequently meeting with political and nonpolitical delegations at Raj-bhavan. We too decided to meet him so that he gets an insight from activists about the misgovernance and non-responsive behavior of some Govt officers. I led a delegation of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement who met LG Sinha at Rajbhavan Srinagar on January 19th 2020. First of all we urged LG to play his role in setting up the circuit bench of Central Information Commission (CIC) in Srinagar and Jammu on the pattern of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which is planning to open its circuit bench in Jammu and Srinagar. The CIC bench in Srinagar / Jammu will give great relief to people as they have to approach the CIC at New Delhi where appeals are listed after 6 months or more from the date of its filing. Pertinently before article 370 abrogation there was a dedicated State Information Commission (SIC) in Srinagar / Jammu but the same was shut down after the J&K state was reduced to a UT on August 5th 2019. Sinha sahib said he would definitely look into this issue. We also urged LG to ensure all the Govt websites are updated on a regular basis. The delegation gave him certain instances wherein websites were not updated at all and information that should have been made available proactively under section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act 2005 was not being uploaded on the Govt websites. Within 10 days the Government vide its Circular No: 05 JK(GAD) of 2021 Dated: 29.01.2021 directed all the Administrative Secretaries, HoD’s and Deputy Commissioners (DC’s) to update their websites / official email ID’s. The circular said that many Govt websites were either not user friendly or were not adhering to the guidelines of Right to Information Act (RTI). GAD sought a compliance report on the functioning of the websites by Feb 18th 2021. We will again follow up this with Secretary GAD after the deadline date.
Govt Websites or Mockery ?
Recently I wanted to get an email ID or contact number of Secretary Tribal Affairs J&K Govt, but after going through the official website of this administrative department https:// tribalaffairs. jk.gov.in, I found this in shambles . I can’t call this a website. J&K RTI Act 2009 and Rules 2012 are yet to be replaced from this website. In the who is who column Mr Abdul Majid Bhat is the designated Secretary of Tribal Affairs and on the main page Ms Rehana Batul is shown as Secretary of the Department. I highlighted this on social media more than a month back but even after being ridiculed by people publicly the admin of the website has not made these minor changes in the website ? This is really a matter of serious concern and I would recommend that such officials be declared as dead wood and be shunted out. The secretary tribal affairs seems to have never seen her official website since she joined the department ?
The official website of State Election Commission UT of J&K www.secjk.nic.in highlights former LG JK UT G C Murmu’s pic on its main page and Shailender Kumar Principal Secretary to Govt Public Works who was Chief Electoral Officer J&K some years back continues to be CEO of JK Election Commission. Under RTI link RTI Acts of 2009 , 2010 and 2012 are shown. There are no such laws existing in India or any other state. In India we have RTI Act 2005 in operation , I don’t know who has updated this misleading information on this website ?
Blocking critics
Majority of the Administrative Secretaries , Directors , HoD’s in J&K don’t have any official twitter handle or facebook page. There are many DC’s who have official twitter handles but they are not much responsive except a handful of Deputy Commissioners. I have observed that Power Department J&K Govt is the most responsive Govt organization that addresses public grievances when the same is highlighted on social media. Principal Secretary Power Department, MD Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Ltd (KPDCL) , Chief Engineer KPDCL and Chief Engineer Transmission Kashmir are always responsive on twitter and Facebook. They address people’s problems when the same is highlighted on social media. The District SP’s are not much active on social media when it comes to addressing public grievances. SDM’s , SDPO’s , Tehsildars and Block Development Officers (BDOs) are hardly seen on Twitter or Facebook in their official capacity? Deputy Commissioner Budgam has a habit of blocking people on Twitter when they make critical analysis. This author was also blocked by him when I only raised issues of mis-governance and not making COVID 19 expenses public. Being public servants Govt officers need to face the critics positively. This is how they are trained. By blocking people on social media for making positive criticism is nothing but exhibiting lack of leadership qualities. Criticism in my opinion is a term for judgment or evaluation, good or bad. It pops up everywhere.
PMGSY has no website
PM’s Garmin Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) in J&K has no official website. This is not only ethically wrong but an illegal act as well. As per section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act 2005 public authorities are supposed to make voluntary disclosure of information. I had sought some information from the PMO last year , a part of it was related to rural road projects and they transferred the same to J&K Govt. Finally after many months I got a reply from Executive Engineer PMGSY Budgam. The officer has asked me to deposit more than Rs 15400 for getting copies of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of some road projects in Budgam which I wanted. The documents I sought under RTI Act are public documents within the meaning of section 4 of RTI Act 2005 and the same should be available on PMGSY’s official website, which they don’t have at all . Asking me to pay such a huge amount is not only devious but illegal as well because under the provisions of section 7 (6) of RTI Act 2005 after a lapse of 30 days the RTI applicant has not to be charged any fees for providing information.
The circular issued by Govt on the orders of LG Manoj Sinha for updating of Govt websites is indeed appreciable. Why should people have to meet Govt officers in the offices when the Govt claims to be reaching out to them through digital platforms ? Why should people have to file an RTI when the information will be updated on websites ? If Govt websites at district level are updated on PM-KISAAN, PM- Awas Jojna (PMAY) beneficiary lists , MG-NREGA works done , SBM Gramin works , Old age pension, beneficiaries of horticulture and agriculture subsidy schemes, DPRs of PMGSY , R&B , PHE and other departments , I am sure that less RTI’s will be filed by people and Govt will be more accountable. Ideally the petty issues like website updation etc should have been addressed by DC’s , HoD’s or Administrative secretaries themselves but unfortunately in J&K we have to bring even these ordinary issues into the notice of Lt Governor as Govt officers have become completely non responsive…
(The author is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement)