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CIC pulls up official for denying RTI data on stranded migrants, urges labour ministry to put information online

Information Commissioner Vanaja N Sarna launched a scathing attack on the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the office of Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) who informed the RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak that it had no data on the migrant labourers.

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has chastised an official for his irresponsible response in denying data regarding stranded migrant labourers during lockdown in different states under the RT1 act. It further urged the labour ministry to upload the required data about stranded migrant labourers in the website.

Information Commissioner Vanaja N Sarna launched a scathing attack on the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the office of Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) who informed the RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak that it had no data on the migrant labourers.

"It is established beyond doubt that the CPIO has handled the RTI application in a very callous and casual manner. The complainant through his RTI application has raised a very important issue related to the stranded migrant workers," Sarna stated in the order.

"In doing so, the Commission invokes section 25(5) of the RTI Act and issues an advisory to the respondent authority to maintain a robust and dynamic website for placing all data related to migrant workers therein as and when it is received from different Regional Heads," she further stated in the order.

Notably, Nayak had filed an RTI application seeking to know the state-wise names of districts from which data on migrant labourers were received. However, the concerned officer denied him the data, even though he had quoted an April 8 circular of the CLC, directing its regional office to count within three days every labourer stranded after the imposition of the countrywide lockdown on March 25 to tackle the virus.

Then a complaint was filed by Nayak under Right to Information (RTI) Act before the commission.

Sarna stated that though Section 18 of the RTI Act, directions for disclosure of the information is not warranted, however, considering the gravity of the situation regarding migrant labourers during lockdown, it was imperative to consider Nayak's query.

After quoting Supreme Court, High Courts and Home Ministry's press briefings to make her case for the order, Sarna said that it was necessary for the Central Public Information Officer to collect data on various regional heads, and place it on the website immediately.

She observed that the CPIO has given the 'a cursory, flimsy and inappropriate' reply to Nayak, ignoring the gravity of the situation.

"The Commission records its severe admonition against the CPIO for such negligent handling of the RTI application concerning an issue of such wide implications," Sarna said.

The Commission warned that if such lapses were to be repeated in the near future, it will take penal action against the offending officer.

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