Information about financing by the NABARD for development of Orchards / Vegetable gardens by poor adivasis in rural areas through ‘Gramin Vikas Trust’ a NGO attached to KRIBHCO - CIC: Copies of the two replies from GVT should be disclosed to the Appellant
This matter pertains to an RTI application filed by the Appellant, seeking information on the following three points:
(i) Attested copies of the communications, e mails / letters exchanged between NABARD and GVT, 15.05.2014 onwards regarding progress of the TDF WADI project.
(ii) If there is any misuse of funds disbursed for the said project, provide information regarding the projects in which funds were misused and the amount involved in each case.
(iii) Attested copies of communications, concerning the progress by GVT in regard to the project, between RO Bhopal and DDM and RO Bhopal and HQ in Mumbai.
2. The CPIO denied the information in response to point No. 1 under Section 8 (1) (d) and (e) of the RTI Act. Regarding point No. 2, he stated that this was not information as per Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act and with regard to point No. 3, he stated that the information did not exist. The Appellant filed an appeal to the FAA and approached the CIC in second appeal, received in the Commission on 22.10.2014.
Hearing on 18.12.2015
3. The Appellant stated that the TDF WADI Project involves financing by the bank for development of Orchards / Vegetable gardens by poor adivasis in rural areas. The Respondent Bank has been financing such projects through the NGO ‘Gramin Vikas Trust’ (GVT). The Appellant alleged widespread irregularities in the financing of the above projects. She stated that in many cases, where funds have been disbursed, no orchards etc. have come up and yet further funds continue to be released.
4. The Respondents stated that the funds for the above project do not come from the government but from their own surpluses. They further submitted that a good deal of information has been provided to the Appellant in response to her other RTI applications. This includes information running into 670 pages in respect of the issue raised by the Appellant in point No. 3 of her RTI application. The Respondents further submitted that the appeal to the FAA was disposed of vide the FAA’s letter dated 18.9.2014 and he pointed out, inter alia, that the Respondent Bank could not provide information regarding progress of the TDF WADI Project in general, but only regarding the segment of this project financed by them. With regard to point No. 2, the Respondents stated that some irregularities have been reported and an enquiry concerning the same is in progress. The Appellant continued to insist that she has not been provided the information sought by her.
5. We have considered the records and the submissions made by both the parties and are of the view that financing of such projects should be completely transparent and this position does not change merely because the funds are being provided from the surpluses of the Respondent Bank. Further, from the RTI application, it is seen that the information sought was clearly with reference to the financing of the project by the Respondent Bank. In the face of contradictory claims made by both the parties during today’s hearing, held through videoconferencing, and without having the relevant records before us, it is not possible to take a final decision in this matter. Further, we would also like to give an opportunity to the third party Gramin Vikas Trust to make their submissions, if any, before a final decision is taken. In view of the foregoing, this matter is adjourned to be heard again on 5 th February, 2016 at 2.00 p.m . at Room No. 305, 2nd Floor, August Kranti Bhawan, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066. The CPIO is directed to forward a copy of this interim order, immediately on its receipt, by registered post, to Gramin Vikas Trust, asking them to be represented at the next hearing on 5.2.2016 in case they wish to make any submissions in this matter. The CPIO should also file his written submissions in the matter, enclosing therewith the order of the FAA, so as to reach the Commission latest by 21.1.2016. He should endorse a copy of these submissions to the Appellant also. The CPIO is further directed to bring with him all the relevant records pertaining to the three points of the RTI application and the information running into 670 pages that has been provided to the Appellant.
Hearing on 10.3.2016
6. The matter came up again on 10.3.2016 because the hearing scheduled on 5.2.2016 was postponed to this date. The Appellant was not present. She has sent us her written submissions dated 17.1.2016, in which instead of mentioning any specific information needed by her, she has essentially alleged that the Respondents are deliberately not providing the information to promote certain personal and vested interests.
7. At the outset, the Respondents stated that as per the Commission’s directive in paragraph 5 above, a copy of the interim order dated 18.12.2015 was sent to GVT by registered post on 8.1.2016 and as per the postal record available with them, the above letter was delivered to GVT on 11.1.2016. Copies of the relevant records in this regard have been shown to us by the Respondents. However, no one was present on behalf of GVT at the hearing.
8. The Respondents stated that the RTI application concerns a rural development project for livelihood promotion and involves provision of funds for creation of orchards and related facilities for tribals. They further submitted that Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT) is an NGO attached to KRIBHCO. It is a nonprofit body. The Respondent Bank uses GVT and certain other NGOs to channel funds for the above project. In response to our query, the Respondents further submitted that they are a development finance bank and 100% government owned.
9. We have considered the submissions made by the Respondents and reiterate our view that financing of such projects should be completely transparent. Since the project involves use of public funds to promote livelihood amongst poor tribal farmers, such transparency is a matter of larger public interest. Further, as stated in paragraph 5, the above position does not change merely because the funds are provided from the surpluses of the Respondent Bank.
10. Coming to the specific queries of the RTI application, the Respondents informed us that as part of a large volume of information, running into over six hundred and fifty pages, already provided to the Appellant, they have provided her copies of the requests for release of grants for the above project, submitted by GVT from time to time to the NABARD Regional Office in Bhopal through the DDM. They further submitted that these requests contain information concerning the progress of the project, as reported by GVT. From the documents in question, shown to us by the Respondents, we note that the requests for release of grants, copies of which have been provided to the Appellant, also cover the period mentioned in point No. (i) of the RTI application i.e. 15.5.2014 to the date of RTI application. The Respondents stated that there is no other correspondence on their records between NABARD and GVT regarding the progress of the project.
11. With regard to point No. (ii) of the RTI application, the Respondents informed us that certain alleged irregularities concerning the project had come to their notice from the public as well as their own monitoring reports. The matter has been under discussion with GVT and the Respondents have asked GVT to refund certain amount in view of the above. In this context, they drew our attention to their letter dated 19.6.2014, vide which GVT were asked to refund immediately the excess amount drawn in respect of the projects and the unspent balance in both project measures and management accounts of the projects. The amount of refund mentioned in this letter totalled Rs. 4.48 crores. They have also drawn our attention to a subsequent letter dated 10.6.2015 addressed by them to GVT, vide which, in the light of the letter of 5.5.2015 from GVT and a meeting held on 9.4.2015, the projectwise amount to be refunded was mentioned as Rs. 2,15,57,498/. The Respondents have further shown us the copy of a letter No. GVT/HO/P&A/70036 dated 14.7.2014, vide which GVT had responded to the above mentioned letter dated 19.6.2014 from the Respondents. As per the submission made by the Respondents, copies of their letters dated 19.6.2014 and 10.6.2015, mentioned above, have been provided to the Appellant. However, in our view, in the interest of transparency, copies of the two replies from GVT should also be disclosed to the Appellant. Since copies of the letters concerning the refunds demanded by the Respondents have already been disclosed, it would only be fair to GVT to also disclose copies of the above letters, in which they have clarified their position. Therefore, in response to point No. (ii) of the RTI application, the CPIO is directed to provide to the Appellant copies of the above mentioned letters dated 14.7.2014 and 5.5.2015 from GVT. We note that these letters and their enclosures contain, inter alia, information concerning the activities etc. of certain other NGOs (other than GVT) as well as photographs of some farmers. The CPIO should sever / blot out such third party information, while providing copies of the above letters to the Appellant. The CPIO should comply with our above directives within thirty days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission. The information should be provided free of charge.
12. In regard to point No. (iii) of the RTI application, the Respondents stated that in addition to the requests for grants, submitted by GVT from time to time, which list the progress of the project as reported by them (GVT), the Regional Office in Bhopal also receives reports concerning the progress of the project from the District Development Manager (DDM). Such reports, that are forwarded to the Regional Office by the DDM, are prepared on a six monthly basis by a team composed of a representative of the Regional Office, the DDM and a representative of GVT. The Respondents further submitted that copies of such reports have been provided to the Appellant and they have no further communications, concerning the progress by GVT in regard to the project, between RO Bhopal and DDM and RO Bhopal and HQ, to provide to the Appellant. The CPIO is directed to file a sworn affidavit to the Commission, with a copy to the Appellant, stating that other than the requests for release of grants made by GVT from time to time and the above mentioned progress reports received from DDM on a half yearly basis, copies of which have been provided to the Appellant, the Respondents have no further information on their record to provide to her in response to points No. (i) and (iii) of the RTI application. The CPIO should complete action on our above directive, within fifteen days of the receipt of this order, under intimation to the Commission.
13. With the above directions and observations, the appeal is disposed of.
14. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Smt. Jyoti Chaturvedi v. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/002695