Veg­gies to WiFi speed: RTI queries for PMO

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Saub­hadra Chat­terji saub­hadra.chat­terji@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

CON­TIN­UED ON P12

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