Saturday, December 27, 2008

MEA says can't give more than 20 years old record under RTI

If the response of the Prime Minister's Office was precise, the same cannot be said about the reply Ministry of External Affairs has sent to yours truly. The MEA appears to have information relating to the old allegations that a minister of Indira Gandhi's cabinet had spied for the CIA during the 1971 war, but won't part with it.

Just as was the case with the PMO, the MEA had been approached by me with a detailed RTI request. For the convenience of the officers, I gave a brief background about the old allegations. Added to that were the copies of two declassified CIA and the State Department documents to underscore the veracity of details I recalling and also to help them trace the info I was seeking.

One of the records sought was the MEA's documentation/information about a meeting India's Foreign Minister Swaran Singh had with US Secretary of State William Rogers in 1972. According to declassified State Department record of the meeting, Swaran Singh made startling disclosures that "that GOI has its own sources and knows that CIA has been in contact with people in India in 'abnormal ways'" and that the "GOI had information that proceedings of Congress Working Committee were known to US officials within two hours of meetings".

In this case, I should think, the ministry should have done better to either accept that they had their own record of the meeting, which they could or could not release. Or simply say, if it were a fact, that there was no record of that meeting.

But it seems the MEA officers who handled my request read something else into it. "The request for information/documents is based on reports of foreign Government, newspapers and books, which the government of India does not take cognizance of unsubstantiated reports." Well, I have good reasons to believe that our Government does take cognizance of information originating from foreign media, not to speak the governments -- even if they are of the cook and bull type.

The MEA is also saying that the "authorities are obligated to divulge records/information of only those events which have happened within 20 years of the request being made." That makes one wonder what will happen to the records more than 20 years old. They will not be shared under the RTI act and nor will we ever see them in the National Archives, which hardly has any documentation about major post Independence events. So where will they go? Maybe they will remain forever in the dark chambers of the South Block.

This is not done. I am going to contest Ministry's response with the Appellate Authority.

2 comments:

canarytrap said...

I think our leaders and bureaucrats will never understand the meaning of declassifying old records as that will disclose the blunders made by them over the past five decades.

Similar to your contention about a CIA mole in former PM Indira Gandhi's cabinet, I have also read about an ISI mole.

Would suggest reading "Operation Triple X" by M K Dhar. Although its a fiction (faction infact), there is enough information in it which can be compared with the real events.

Will wait for your next post. Keep up the great work mayte.

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