An RTI activist says he has sent the chief minister repeated letters asking him to address the issue, but received no response.
New Delhi: The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra has come under scathing criticism from Right to Information (RTI) activists for its reluctance to share online details of the assets of its ministers.
Talking to The Wire, RTI activist and editor of Agnishila magazine Anil Galgali, who had filed a plea to learn about the assets of the state’s ministers in March-April this year, said while after concerted efforts he has got a response from the government, it has been skirting the issue of revealing online the details of the assets of the ministers. “I have come to know from my sources that some functionaries in the government believe that they are not duty bound to reveal these details online,” Galgali told The Wire.
Galgali, who has so far sent four letters to get the details, said he has thus far received a list of 21 cabinet and 13 ministers of state who have filed details of their assets and liabilities with the government.
The list sent by the General Administration Department, he said, reveals that the names of two cabinet ministers and three ministers were “missing”. “When the media reached out to some of these ministers who were playing truant, one of them claimed that he did not even know that he was required to filed the details of his assets, while still others blamed the lapse on their chartered accountants. The fact is this is a serious matter and all the ministers should understand this,” Galgali said.
Galgali said from the list he had received of those who had filed details of their assets with the government, he has been able to infer that the two cabinet minister who had not yet filed were Ekanath Shinde (public works and government undertakings) and Deepak Sawant (public health). The three MoS who have not filed their asset details were Sanjay Rathod (revenue), Dadaji Bhuse (rural development) and Ravindra Waikar (housing, higher and technical education). All five of them belong to the Shiv Sena, the Indian Express has reported. “But after the public pressure on the issue, I have come to know that they all might be filing their asset details today,” said the activist.
However, it is the approach of the Fadnavis government which has disheartened him the most. Galgali, who took up the campaign of getting in the public domain the details of movable and immovable properties of public servants, said he had started working in the field about four years ago.
“Then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan,” he said, had at least “published the names of ministers who filed their assets on the government website.” But the present BJP government, which came to power in November 2014, has been reluctant to put the information in the public domain.
“There is something wrong with the whole approach. When the Centre can put this information online, when the Bihar government could do it and when former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav could put his own asset details up for all to see, why can’t the Maharashtra government do the same?” he asked.
Stating that Fadnavis has not even bothered to reply to the letters sent to him on November 14, 2014, March 9, 2015, and again on July 28, 2016, Galgali said the file has been lying pending in the chief minister’s office. Since the BJP government had come to power in the state on the plank of transparency and honesty, the activist said it is surprising that they have refrained from bringing their assets and liabilities into the public domain.