Monday, August 9, 2010

Emergency erased?

Whether it is for the Mukti Bahini Operations in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971, the death of Lal Bhadur Shastri or Shyama Prasad Mukherjee or the War with China (1962) the historical records have been confiscated by the Government (or destroyed in some cases). Is it the hallmark of a great Nation?
How can Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah keep quite in these circumstances? 
This makes me sad!

'30 yrs on, info on Emergency cannot be official secret'
Jaya Menon,
Times of India
Aug 8, 2010
CHENNAI: So where are the records of India's "darkest days", the political period that seemed to spell curtains for democracy, the Emergency of 1975-1977? If replies to an RTI query are to be believed, no one knows where to find the communications between then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the government before and after the Emergency. And no one has any idea where to look for the relevant documents, notings and records of various decisions. These are not with us, says the ministry of home affairs, passing the buck to the National Archives of India (NAI). The NAI, which is the repository of 'non-current records' of the government of India, says nothing was transferred to it. So where did the records go?
"The presumption is that they (the officers) have either destroyed them or they don't want to give it away. In this context, one can only assume that all the allegations (pertaining to the Emergency period) against Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were true," said M G Devasahayam, an ex-IAS officer who served as Chandigarh district magistrate during the Emergency.
On February 25, Devasahayam, who now lives in Chennai, set off a chain of extraordinary events with extraordinary implicationw when he sent an RTI application to Sanjukta Ray, deputy secretary and chief principal information officer in the prime minister's office (PMO). He asked for information on the "presidential proclamation of June 26, 1975, declaring a state of Emergency in the country that lasted up to March/April 1977".
The PMO replied on March 4, transferring the queries "for appropriate action" under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, to the ministry of home affairs, the nodal ministry for enforcing the Emergency. On April 7, PK Mishra, a director in the home ministry, said the information sought was more than 25 years old and not available with the ministry. "As per Rule 5 of the Public Records Rules, 1997, the relevant records and documents may be available in the National Archives of India," he said, adding that a copy of Devasahayam's application had been forwarded to the NAI.
The NAI's response was prompt but the mystery only deepened. On May 11, Rajesh Verma, assistant director, NAI, wrote to Devasahayam, saying, "During a preliminary search, the requisite information sought could not be located ... since it has not been transferred to NAI."
On May 27, Devasahayam dashed off a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act to chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah but says his "good friend and batchmate...remains silent". Devasahayam says he wants the information, which is not under the Official Secrets Act, because "the country is yet to get over the hangover of the dark days. All that is going on now, the corruption in the system, has flowed from then".

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