Monday, March 12, 2012

Former bureaucrat asks Andhra government to disclose info on public lands

March 09, 2012 12:59 PM
Moneylife Digital Team
In a letter to top AP administrators, he said the move is essential to stop land scams from happening

Former Union finance and power secretary, EAS Sarma, has written to top Andhra Pradesh administrators, asking for implementation of Section IV of the Right to Information Act, which talks of voluntary disclosure of information by public authorities. The move, he argues, is essential to stop land scams from happening.

“I request the government to ensure that the various authorities dealing with the public lands make an open disclosure of all such lands with immediate effect, stating the location, the extent under encroachment, if any, and the names of the encroachers, the alienations made if any and the name of the beneficiary with the details of the relevant orders and the rates at which such alienations have been made, auctions made with the details of the auction prices and so on. I am sure that if these details are made public, there will be a healthy public debate and the instances in which there is loss to the public exchequer and the illegal gratification received by those in authority will come to light,” he wrote.

Mr Sarma has also asked the government to issue instructions to this effect to all authorities concerned, including municipalities and panchayats. He said that the most possible reason for this reluctance to disclose information is to shield the corrupt acts that had enabled some people to hoard public wealth and resources in collusion with the people in power.

“If the public comes to know of such information, as for example, details of the public lands available with the public authorities, the purpose for which they are required to be used and the encroachments or alienations that have taken place unauthorisedly, the concerned officials are apprehensive of a public debate that could expose their misdeeds. Similarly, the authorities are reluctant to disclose suo motu the concessions, subsidies, grants, etc, given to beneficiaries under different schemes as any such transparency could expose the corruption that is associated with each scheme,” Mr Sarma said.

He said that on many occasions, RTI activists were intimidated or stonewalled when they filed petitions seeking ‘inconvenient’ details.

“I request the government to fall in line with Section IV and the restrictions on exemptions in Section VIII and instruct all public authorities in the state to make a suo motu public disclosure of all information that has the public interest angle and all such information that cannot be denied to the legislature,” he wrote.

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