Earlier this month, reports surfaced about an RTI filed by an activist about the Bullet Train project in Maharashtra. The reports said that the Maharastra Government had passed the Bullet Train proposal, without holding any cabinet sub-committee meeting and assessing the feasibility of the project. However, now a report by Times of India states that the information dispersed by Public Information Officer Sarangkumar Patil to activist Jeetendra Ghatge was incorrect and the concerned officer has been suspended for negligence.
In February 2017, CM Fadnavis decided to form a sub-committee to assess the feasibility of the Bullet Train and if it is in tandem with state’s interest. The committee was supposed to analyze the quotation given by Japan Internation Cooperation Agency report and give its own opinion. The final nod to the project was given in September 2017, after around seven months.
“The Maharashtra government has clearly rushed into approving the project under the pressure of the central government without even looking at its feasibility or the interests of the state. It’s really shocking that they ignored their own orders to approve such a mega project that has no practical benefit for Maharashtra. Further, it will add to the financial stress of the already loan-burdened state,” said activist Jeetendra Ghatge, who had requested the RTI.
The RTI reply was widely spread in the regional and national media, falsely holding the Fadnavis government in a bad light.
Following the outrage, the Maharashtra CMO launched a probe to check the veracity of claims. It was found that the information is incorrect, and sub-committee had held several meetings to discuss the feasibility of the project.
“It was found the sub-committee did meet on a number of occasions and briefed the CM. In view of the wrong reply given by Patil, there was a massive embarrassment to the CM,” CMO Maharashtra was quoted by Times of India.
Sarangkumar Patil is the first Public Information Officer, who has been suspended for dispersing incorrect information to an applicant.
Right to Information is Central Act to safeguard and enforce Article 19 (1a) of the Indian Constitution. It was enacted in 2005 and brings accountability to the executive, legislature and judicial apparatus of the country.