Enforce Right to Information Act

Coalition on Right to Information, a consortium of 52 civil society groups has demanded the Punjab government to take proper steps for the implementation of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

Executive Director of an NGO Amer Ejaz, other members, including Tauqeer Mustafa, Zahid Islam and Zahid Abdullah said citizens are facing serious challenges in exercising their right to information as the Punjab government has not provided staff to Punjab Information Commission to carry out its functions since the enactment of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. They said ever since the completion of the tenure of information commissioners, new commissioners have not been appointed as yet. 

Addressing reporters  during a press conference here at Lahore Press Club, Amer Ejaz said that without the active support of the Punjab government, citizens’ right of access to information will remain a pipe dream. Therefore, the Punjab government needs to take immediate steps for the implementation of CRTI Charter of Demands.

Amer Ijaz said the information commission in Punjab also faced many challenges like funds, staff, etc during the last three years. He said only Rs1 million were allocated for the advertisements and publicity of the working of the commission which was very meagre to deal with such issues. He also highlighted that only five officials were deputed at information commission in Punjab against a sanctioned strength of 46. 

Tauqeer Mustafa said that citizens are losing confidence in the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 as many public bodies have not designated public information officers.

Even where public information officers have been designated, there is no information available about their particulars on the websites of public bodies. Unavailability of requisite staff and delay in the appointment of information commissioners has resulted in hundreds of pending complaints with Punjab Information Commission, he lamented. 

Zahid Islam said democracy itself is weakened when citizens are unable to exercise their right to know and they are kept in the dark about matters of public importance. He said Punjab Right to Information Act 2013 needs to be strengthened. He said no department/institute wanted to share information desired by the people. He said it was a basic right of the people incorporated in the Constitution of the country.

Zahid Abdullah, Programme Manager, speaking on the occasion, said Punjab Information Commission gave some landmark decision during its three-year tenure. He demanded implementation of Right to Information Act 2013 in totality for the facilitation of people.

On the occasion, CRTI also made several demands for the Punjab government for the implementation of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, including that Chief Information Commissioners and two information commissioners at Punjab Information Commission be appointed on urgent basis in line with criterion mentioned in Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.

It also demanded the government to approve service rules for Punjab Information Commission so that it could recruit staff to carry out its functions, provide requisite staff to Punjab Information Commission.

It also demanded the Punjab government to instruct public bodies to implement Section 4 of Punjab RTI law pertaining to proactive disclosure of information through websites and provide necessary funds to public bodies in this regard.

Furthermore, the speakers demanded the Punjab government to ensure that public information officers are designated and notified in all public bodies as required by Section 7 of the law and in line with the guidelines issued by the commission and also ensure that their contact details are easily accessible through notice boards, websites and publications. Public information officers should be designated by post and not by name to ensure continuity in case of retirement, transfer or death of a public information officer, they concluded. 

tribute: Punjab University’s Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS) in collaboration with Sir Ganga Ram Heritage Foundation organised a 10th international seminar “Dr BR Ambedkar’s Role to Empower Women” in connection with Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Day. 

Social activist from Ahmadabad, India Ms Manjula Pradeep, Dr Parmod Kumar and Dr Anu Mehra from University of Delhi, India, Mangesh Raj Dahiwale from University of Pune, India, ex-VC of Sargodha University Dr Muhammad Akram Chaudhry, Director CSAS Prof Dr Umbreen Javaid, faculty members, MPhil/PhD scholars and a large of students were present on the occasion. 

Ms Manjula Paradeep said Ambedkar influenced a wide range of population all over the world. Dr Parmod Kumar said Dr Ambedkar emphasised on equal wages for female labour, equal rights of education and right to own property for women. 

Dr Anu Mehra from University of Delhi said Dr Ambedkar himself had to face discrimination, formed the Constitution of India and legislated to empower women and to grant many rights to strengthen their role in society. 

Mangesh Raj Dahiwale acknowledged the services of Dr Ambedkar to work for the empowerment of women, abolishing caste system and upholding minority rights. 

Dr Muhammad Akram Ch quoted many references from the religious book of Hindus “Manu Smriti” in which it was ordained to suppress women and Dr Ambedkar in that society struggled for the rights of women. 

Prof Dr Umbreen Javaid paid homage to Dr Ambedkar and thanked Sir Ganga Ram Heritage Foundation, Lahore to continuously organising seminar every year. 

interviews: Punjab Minister for Primary & Secondary Health Kh Imran Nazir Thursday chaired a meeting to conduct interviews for the selection of Vice Chairmen and Technocrats for District Health Authorities of various districts in Punjab. 

According to a handout, Secretary Services Farhan Ali Khawaja, Prof Faisal Masood and all other members of the committee were present. 

Museum Day: National Museum of Science & Technology, which is under administrative control of School Education Department Punjab, Thursday observed International Museum Day. 

Free entry to general public was offered on the occasion while a large number of students visited the museum and showed keen interest in items put on display in the museum. According to the organisers, the day was observed with an aim to promote science and technology related knowledge among the general public. 

Ramazan Bazaars: Lahore Deputy Commissioner Sumair Ahmed Syed said that private companies of oil, beverages, spices and others will also set up their special counters in 31 Ramazan Bazaars to sell their products on cheap rates. 

Sumair Ahmed Syed said these private companies had also set up their special stalls in Ramazan Bazaars last year.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2017


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