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Running a group to educate people about RTI from a Government Quarter is ‘Misuse of Facilities’ – Government of Andhra Pradesh

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Here is the story of an honest citizen who was trying to the help the government by highlighting rent amounts due to the government. Instead of encouraging him, the government of Andhra Pradesh goes on a witch-hunt by alleging that he is misusing government accommodation and that he will be vacated.

S K Madar retired from the Irrigation Department of Government of Andhra Pradesh and has been living in Government quarters at Lingamguntla in Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh. He is an active Right to Information (RTI) user and has been seeking information from the Irrigation department on various issues. He is also part of an active group that educates people about the RTI.

The Issue

S K Madar has been using RTI to seek details of pending rent & other dues of occupants of the Government Quarters in the Nagarjuna Sagar Project area. He collected a lot of information from various agencies about these dues. A total amount of 1.45 crore rupees was due from the occupants as per the information provided by the Government. He also alleges that these quarters are often allotted to private people close to the officials and they never pay the rent. Armed with all this information, he even filed a petition in the Andhra Pradesh Lokayuktha in September 2014 which is still pending.

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Documents from the Government showing due amounts

The Letter from the Government

All this activism peeved the powers to be. The Superintending Engineer (SE) sent him a letter seeking clarification on why he was ‘misusing’ government accommodation by running a group to educate people about RTI.

The letter starts off by confirming that Madar is a retired employee and has been living in Quarter B/28 as per government orders. It also says that he has no pending rental dues. That’s where the letter starts getting interesting. The SE says Madar has been allotted the government quarter only to live and not to run any group. He goes onto say that the department has evidence to prove that Madar is playing a key role in the group.

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The letter from the SE

The Government mentioned in the letter that no individual is authorized to run any organization in the quarters without the prior permission of the SE. But they do not cite any rule/law supporting their contention. The SE’s letter then talks of the alleged ‘misuse’. The letter alleges that Madar has been misusing government facilities and subsidies by participating in activities of such groups. The SE’s letter then mentions Madar’s obsession with rental dues of other occupants and that the department will look into illegal occupants of government quarters & rental dues.

The SE’s letter asks Madar to clarify since when he has been running this group and its registration details. The letter ends by saying that it is not proper for him to run such a group in a colony where a lot of employees and retired employees are living. It warns Madar that, he be ready for any subsequent action by the department and he might even have to vacate the quarters if required. It must be noted that not a single rule or law is referred to anywhere in the letter.

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The letter from the SE

Price for Honesty

The government should be thankful to the hundreds and thousands of honest whistle blowers and RTI users who highlight important issues of corruption. Instead, the use of strong-arm tactics has been on the rise. The growing intolerance of government & government officials is a worrying sign.

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