Skip to main content

Puducherry Ports Dept sits tight on CIC’s order to disclose PPP info

By Venkatesh Nayak*
Readers may remember the major controversy over the coverage of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance Government. While the Central Information Commission (CIC) wanted them to be covered by the RTI Act, the now defunct Planning Commission was hesitant to act immediately. Pursuant to this controversy, in August 2011, I had filed an RTI application with the Department of Ports, Puducherry asking for the Concession Agreement relating to the PPP project. After four years, the CIC has ordered that the Concession Agreement be disclosed after severing those portions relating to commercial confidentiality. Despite the order being passed in June 2015, the Department of Ports, Puducherry has neither sent me the information nor issued notice challenging the CIC’s decision in the High Court.
Thanks to the very vocal demand made by the RTI fraternity in India and the numerous cases piling up before the CIC demanding access to information about PPPs in January 2011, the then Chief Information Commissioner sent a letter to the now defunct Planning Commission with the following recommendations:
(1) that every PPP proposal including the draft agreement be made public inviting people’s comments on it;
(2) the PPP agreement include a clause requiring that the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose of implementing the PPP project become a public authority under the RTI Act; and
(3) that the Ministry/public authority responsible for the PPP project also become directly responsible for making all permissible information transparent under the RTI Act.
The then deputy chairman of the Planning Commission (PC) replied quickly to the CIC stating that it would not be proper for the Planning Commission to expand the jurisdiction of the CIC through PPP agreements. So the PC would seek legal opinion from the Department of Legal Affairs. Meanwhile, he pointed out that Concession Agreements, Maintenance Manuals, Maintenance Programmes and Maintenance Requirements can be obtained by any person from the concessionaire.
Having accessed this correspondence from the CIC website I decided to test the truth of the PC’s claim that any person could obtain the concession Agreement even outside the RTI Act. I randomly chose the Puducherry PPP project as it would fall under the Government of India and therefore would be subject to the jurisdiction of the CIC which I could access easily being based in Delhi. Given the confidence of the PC in the willingness of the concessionaire to part with copies of the concession agreements, I decided to check whether a similar commitment to transparency exists within the Department of Ports, Puducherry.
I filed an RTI application seeking a copy of the concession agreement. The public information officer (PIO) of the Department of Ports did not even bother to send a reply to my RTI application. The matter finally escalated to the CIC in second appeal as the first appellate authority rejected my request on the ground that the concession agreement contained a confidentiality clause.
The CIC heard my second appeal in May 2014 – more than 2 years later – and asked the Department of Ports to file a status report on the PPP project. During the hearing it transpired that the PPP had been shelved after prolonged litigation before courts. Nevertheless the Department of Ports pleaded commercial confidentiality against disclosure.
I submitted a rejoinder at the hearing arguing why it is in the public interest that such information should be disclosed. The CIC passed an interim order directing the Department of Ports to give further details of the court cases and reserved its final order.

CIC Orders disclosure of the PPP Concession Agreement sans matters of commercial confidence

Finally, after more than a year of reserving its order, in June 2015 the CIC has issued a final order directing the Department of Ports to disclose the Concession Agreement after severing the information related to commercial confidence. I have not yet received a hard copy of the CIC’s order. I found it on the website. Strangely, the Department of Ports has also not responded to me either with the information required to be disclosed or its intention to challenge the CIC’s order before the Courts. More than two months have passed since the CIC’s order.
Meanwhile, the NITI Ayog has replaced the Planning Commission. The Central Government has constituted a committee in May 2015 to review the PPP mode of infrastructure development. During the UPA regime a database for all PPPs projects had been established (http://www.pppindiadatabase.com/). While this website has become defunct, the NDA Government has created a new website for infrastructure-related PPP projects (https://infrastructureindia.gov.in/).
The new website is similar to the old one in many ways. It is not clear why the earlier website could not have been used. RTI users as activists might like to file requests asking for the reasons why the old website was junked and the new one created and how much it actually costs the Government to manage the new website.
In 2013 the Department of Personnel and Training issued guidelines for improved proactive disclosure of information under Section 4 of the RTI Act. a wealth of information relating to PPPs is now required to be disclosed by the ministries/departments/public authorities responsible for the PPPs. National Highways Authority of India is one of the public authorities that is displaying PPP agreements and other related information.
Meanwhile, I wait for the PPP agreement to reach me from across the Vindhyas. Will the Central Government’s review committee recommend greater transparency in all PPP projects? That remains to be seen.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat