Veggies to WiFi speed: RTI queries for PMO
NEW DELHI: How many cooking gas cylinders Prime Minister Narendra Modi used in October 2014? What’s the speed of his Wi-Fi? And the number of sick leave prime ministers took in the last 10 years?
A raft of barmy queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has swamped Modi’s office, underlining the often frivolous use of an otherwise empowering tool that helps hold the country’s vast and powerful bureaucracy and politicians accountable.
One applicant sought documents to prove Modi was the “Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister”, referring to a descriptor he often uses in political rallies. “There is no proposal to change the official designation of the PM,” his office replied.
Other inquiries have ranged from Modi’s kitchen expenses and whether he has read the Constitution to the educational qualifications of his personal assistants and if his principal secretary had ever planned to take his subordinates on a picnic.
But such frivolity masks a serious debate over allegations that the government is seeking to weaken the RTI law by delaying appointments of information commissioners or stonewalling uncomfortable questions.
Inquiries about Modi’s staff, salaries and overheads have gone unanswered. His office refused to reply to a query about visitors at his home and office, saying an answer would have a “prejudicial effect” on the sovereignty and integrity of India.
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