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Delhi’s ‘despicable’ neglect of schools for deaf

By Mayank Aggarwal, IANS,

New Delhi: The Delhi government has come under heavy fire from the Central Information Commission (CIC) for failing to appoint teachers in its schools for hearing-impaired children for 10 long years.

The CIC has also fined an official of Delhi’s social welfare department Rs.25,000 for violating the provisions of the Right To Information (RTI) Act by failing to provide information on such teachers.

“It is obvious that the department was neglecting its duty of appointing teachers for hearing-impaired children since the year 2000. This is really despicable,” information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted in his order.

The decision came on an application filed by Amarkesh Mahendru, a south Delhi resident, who sought details regarding the “filling of vacant posts of teachers for children with hearing-impairment” in schools under the Delhi government.

“Even when a citizen using RTI was trying to get the public authority to admit its gross neglect of duties towards hearing-impaired children, the department was refusing to even acknowledge this by providing the correct information,” said Gandhi in his order Jan 12.

Mahendru told IANS: “At present, the Delhi government has four schools for the hearing-impaired where nearly 800 children are studying. But 27 posts for teachers have been vacant for years.”

“Since 1996, the government has not appointed anyone as principal in the Government Lady Noyce Secondary School near Delhi Gate area and that post is still vacant,” said Mahendru, who has written three books on how to teach hearing-impaired children and how to develop their language.

Mahendru had sought information in February 2009 but Public Information Officer (PIO) B.R. Singh, joint director (administration), did not provide a satisfactory reply.

He filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA) that observed in May 2009 “the reply given to the appellant was not appropriate” and ordered the PIO to give information within 15 days.

However, the appellant got some of the information only in October, nearly five months after the first appellate authority ordered him to do so.

On this, the commission said: “He (the PIO) refused to obey the orders of his superior officer, which raised a reasonable doubt that the denial of information may also be mala fide.

“The commission cannot absolve B.R. Singh of the responsibility of having failed to provide appropriate information to the appellant. Initially, he signed a letter providing completely irrelevant information and his subsequent claim that he marked the letter of the FAA to dealing assistants shows a complete lack of responsibility on the part of the PIO,” Gandhi pointed out.

“Singh is responsible for the fact that the (complete) information reached the appellant only on Nov 27 last year,” it added.

The CIC ruled that this was a fit case for penalising the official “since no reasonable cause has been offered by the PIO for the delay of over 100 days in providing the information”.

“Hence the commission levies the maximum penalty of Rs.25,000 on B.R. Singh,” the order noted.

The commission directed the Delhi government’s chief secretary to recover the amount from his salary in five months, beginning in February, by deducting Rs.5,000 every month.

As the hearings proceeded, B.R. Singh informed the CIC Jan 12 that 24 posts had been filled up by a walk-in interview in December 2009.

Noting this, information commissioner Gandhi said: “It appears that the department of social welfare needs the prodding of Right to Information to fill the positions of teachers for the hearing- impaired children.”

(Mayank Aggarwal can be contacted at [email protected])