The Right to Information Act, 2005 is meant to make government transparent, but Chennai’s monopoly, government-owned bus operator Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) refuses to see the law that way.
In response to a Right to Information Act application seeking the Detailed Project Report of the Corporation for acquisition of buses under the Centrally-funded Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), it has taken cover under Section 8 (1) (d) of the Act to refuse disclosure.
Section 8 (1) (d) states as follows: information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
It is amusing that a government-run bus utility that is funded with taxpayer money has taken recourse to such a provision. Since the disclosure is likely to harm a third party, is it likely that MTC has planned some privatisation, and is in the process of firming up some deal?
We will no doubt be appealing the refusal, and taking MTC to the Information Commission if it continues with its obdurate ways. The position taken by MTC is untenable, because similar DPRs of other states are available in the public domain, and on the Internet, and the funding agency, JNNURM hosts some documents suo motu. For example, here is a link to the DPR of the Airport Link project for Bangalore.
Other questions that MTC has refused to answer, citing the same provision of the Act, are as follows:
1. The number of buses purchased by MTC using the JNNURM grant, and the value of the grant.
2.Do the JNNURM grant conditions stipulate that the buses should only be operated in the city covered by DPR, and not diverted for other use?
In reply to a question on integration of transport under the Government of India’s Total Mobility Plan for cities, the MTC answers “brief details may be furnished” but provides nothing.
It is our view that MTC is clearly in breach of the RTI Act. We urge other transport activists to also file RTI petitions, both with the MTC and the Ministry of Urban Development of the Union Government, seeking the DPR on Chennai transport.
The attitude of MTC confirms our belief that the DMK Government is using transport as a pocket borough, and a tool for political activity, rather than as a modern transport network serving the people of Chennai.
This is furtheraffirmed by the responses given by MTC in response to our queries on why it is not widely advertising its bus passes, including Travel as You Please for daily use. We are posting that information separately on this blog.