Open Letter to Narendra Modi by Dr. Trupti Shah

Press Release 

Date: 2 October 2012

Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat

By Dr.Trupti Shah

2 October 2012

Shri Narendrabhai Modi
The Chief Minister of Gujarat
Government of Gujarat
1st Block, 5th Floor, New Sachivalaya,
Gandhinagar - 382 010.

Subject: Government of India should not hide the information about the personal foreign trip expenses if any for Ms. Sonia Gandhi incurred by Central Government. Information regarding travelling expenses of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and State Ministers during “Women Empowerment Sammelans” of 2007 under sought vide RTI application dated 18-07-2007 not provided and my Complaint No. 74/2008-2009 is pending before the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat.

Dear Mr. Modi,

I agree with you that Government of India should not hide the information about personal foreign trip expenses incurred by Central Government if any for Ms. Sonia Gandhi. I believe you have no choice but to agree with me that this is equally applicable to you and the Government of Gujarat also. 

An RTI application dated 18-07-2007 was filed by me to your office asking the details about expenses of Government of Gujarat for organizing “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” in 27 places of Gujarat, just before 2007 State Assembly election. Till today I have not received the information about travelling expenses incurred by you and other ministers for travelling to 27 places for these sammelans 

Even after my repeated letters asking for the details about travelling expenses made by you, the Chief Minister and the other Ministers, it was practically denied to me by forwarding these letters not only from one department to another but also several times between the departments. My RTI application was not only forwarded to all the districts but even up to the block level in some cases.  

At last I got the letter dated 01-11-2007 by General Administrative Department (GAD) which provided list of 27 places visited by you, the Chief Minister for “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” between 10-03-2007 to 20-09-2007 but about travelling expenses the letter states that “As per the information provided by the office of the honorable Chief Minister, honorable Chief Minister do not mention the travelling expenses, so as far as travelling expense of the Chief Minister is concern, considered that as Nil.”

This was ridiculous and unbelievable as it is known that you have travelled to most of these places by helicopter.

The GAD’s letter dated 01-11-2007 was replied by me vide letter dated 20-11-2007 stating that since the list mentions the 27 places the Chief Minister had visited it follows that the expenditure on your travel  to these 27 places would have been borne either by some department of the Government of Gujarat and/or sponsored by some private parties and therefore it is incumbent upon you to provide me the names of persons/agencies who had spent/sponsored the travelling expenses and details of the expenses made by them. Then, since there was no response from your General Administrative Department, a reminder dated 18-01-2008 was sent to the department and your office, the CMO. Further reminder dated 17-04-2008 was sent to the General Administrative Department and the Chief Minister office. Your office always forwarded my all letters to other departments and surprisingly kept silence on my RTI application.

As a result of the silence of your office, I was forced to file a complaint under section 18(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 before the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat. On 03-05-2008 Complaint No. 74/2008-2009 was filed by me requesting the concerned authorities to provide me the information about the travelling expenses made by you, the Chief Minister and other Ministers who participated in the Sammelans. To date, I have not been provided this information. 

In the last hearing dated 26-09-2012 of my Complaint No. 74/2008-2009, the Chief Information Commission orally directed the General Administrative Department (GAD) to collect the information demanded by me from the concerned departments and pass on this information to me before next hearing which may take place in October 2012. During the discussion of the hearing of the case the concerned officer of General Administrative Department (GAD) expressed helplessness by stating that such information is not available with them because though they have requested the office of the Chief Minister and office of the other Ministers for the information, it has not been provided to them. However, they stated that they will once again try to collect this information if available. Looking at discussion before the Chief Information Commissioner and after the hearing of case outside the office, I have a strong feeling that GAD will not be able to collect and send the information to me if the Chief Minister office does not co-operate.

Let me remind you the background of my RTI application as this was not asked just for curiosity by me. These sammelans were organized by you spending crores of rupees in one day programmes in the name of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ when the demand by the women of Gujarat for providing implementation machinery for the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the PCPNDT Act 1994 was denied by your Government in the name of lack of funds. Till today there are not enough full time ‘Protection Officers’ with effective infrastructure to implement these laws. Yet, the State Government was able to raise and spend more than 5 crores rupees on one day Sammelans across the state. I would also like to remind you that the partial information that I have gathered from various departments through my above mentioned RTI, this 5+ crores does not include the travelling expenses by you, the Chief Minister and other Ministers. 

You are conveniently talking about the delay of Central Government for providing the information about travelling expenses for personal foreign trips of Ms. Sonia Gandhi that are incurred by the Central Government, if any. I agree that Central Government should not hide the information. The same should be applicable to you also. Please note, in your case the information was asked in the year 2007 and  5 years have elapsed and till today information about travelling expenses to 27 places for the Government’s specially announced “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” by you, the Chief Minister and other Minister is not provided to me. 

In this context I would also like to mention that no information has been provided to me regarding the expenses incurred by you and your ministers for the Government program called ‘Sadbhavana Mission’ dated 17-18-19 September 2011 for which an RTI application has been filed by me and fellow activist Rohit Prajapati. Since information was not provided to us, we were forced to file a complaint on 20-12-2011 and now our Complaint No. 610/2011-2012 is pending for hearing because of lack of staff and number of information commissioners in the state.

I hope that at least now you will direct your office to collect the information from the concerned Government Departments and provide to me after 5 years, in response to my RTI Application dated 18-07-2007.

Expecting positive response.

                                    Trupti Shah
                        [Dr. Trupti Shah]
Social Activist of Gujarat