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MP RTI Activist Denied Info on Panchayat Tax Fraud; SIC Panel Orders Probe, Summons Officers

Bhopal: In yet another example of government officials disregarding the Right to Information Act (RTI), a social activist, seeking information on an alleged multi-crore scam, has been made to do rounds at three government departments.

Taking strong objection to this brazen denial of information under RTI, the State Information Commission (SIC) has initiated action against the concerned government authorities.

The SIC, which usually takes a few days to take cognizance of a complaint, immediately acted against the officials after a tweet by the appellant.

The panchayat taxation scam, which has been making the rounds in the media, is in lieu of the tax collected locally by Gram Panchayats even after a grant was sanctioned to 75 panchayats in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh.

Under the grant, 38 panchayats of Gangev janpad block were exempted from paying taxes but it later emerged that some of the government employees had not only collected taxes, but also allegedly misappropriated Rs eight crore.

According to social activist Shivanand Dwivedi, Rewa collector had ordered an enquiry into the taxation scam through block Chief Executive Officer.

Dwivedi moved RTI queries with Gangev janpad block and the district collectorate, but was denied information at both the places. The collectorate even declined to provide the copy of the order under which the collector had ordered an enquiry into the taxation fraud.

The collectorate transferred the query to the Public Information Officer (PIO) at Zila Panchayat and ordered them to probe into the case and submit a report in seven days, but no action was taken, claimed Dwivedi.

From the Janpad office to the collectorate, everyone kept shifting the responsibility but no one provided the required information.

After Dwivedi was denied information by the three establishments, he tweeted the matter to the Information Commissioner in charge of Rewa district—Rahul Singh, who took cognizance and issued show cause notices to the PIOs concerned.

Holding the officers responsible for gross negligence of the RTI act, Singh has issued show cause notices under sections – 20 (1) and 20 (2) of the RTI act, asking them to be present at SIC on December 23 with all the relevant records.

Commenting on the matter, Singh told News18 that this is clear evidence of how the RTI act is made ineffective through gross denial of information to appellants, especially in cases of corruption.

“I have already summoned the officers concerned and would also write to the Panchayat department to make details of the taxation scheme public to bring in the required transparency,” he added.

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Source: News18