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More than 2 Lakh Appeals and Complaints Pending in Information Commissions

The largest number of complaints were pending from Uttar Pradesh with 52,326 cases followed by Maharashtra (45,796 cases)

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Appeals, Complaints, Information
As per the report, a total number of 2,18,347 appeals and complaints were pending for disposal across 26 information commissions of the country till March 31, 2019. Pixabay

A report on the performance of various information commissions across the country has revealed that more than 2 lakh appeals and complaints are pending for disposal at various stages.

Using data on the backlog of appeals and complaints and their monthly disposal rates, the report further highlights that Andhra Pradesh has the longest estimated waiting period of 18 years for disposal of cases.

The report has been compiled by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, a citizens’ group working to promote transparency and accountability in the government.

As per the report, a total number of 2,18,347 appeals and complaints were pending for disposal across 26 information commissions of the country till March 31, 2019.

Appeals, Complaints, Information
Using data on the backlog of appeals and complaints and their monthly disposal rates, the report further highlights that Andhra Pradesh has the longest estimated waiting period of 18 years for disposal of cases. Pixabay

The largest number of complaints were pending from Uttar Pradesh with 52,326 cases followed by Maharashtra (45,796 cases) and the Central Information Commission (29,995 cases).

The report titled ‘Report Cards of Information Commissions 2018-19’ was released to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 on Saturday.

“The comparative data for these three commissions show that the number of cases pending increased by 20 per cent between March 31, 2018 and March 31, 2019. The information commissions of Bihar, Karnataka and Uttarakhand did not provide requisite information on the backlog of appeals and complaints under the RTI Act. The information was also not available on their websites,” states the report.

As part of the assessment procedure, though a total of 129 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 information commissions, only 12 out of them provided full information in response to the queries.

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The report is primarily based on an analysis of information accessed under the RTI Act from the 29 information commissions. A total of 129 RTI applications were filed with 29 state information commissions (SIC) and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

“The experience in India, also captured in various national assessments on the implementation of the RTI Act, suggests that the functioning of information commissions is a major bottleneck in the effective implementation of the RTI law,” states the report.

As per the report, West Bengal (7 years and 5 months) and Odisha (4 years and 3 months) followed Andhra Pradesh in average waiting period for disposal of cases.

Appeals, Complaints, Information
The report has been compiled by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, a citizens’ group working to promote transparency and accountability in the government. Pixabay

The assessment found that several information commissions were either non-functional or functioning with reduced capacities.

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Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan were functioning without a Chief State Information Commissioner. The Central Information Commission in December 2018 was functioning with just three information commissioners even as eight posts, including that of the chief, were vacant, states the report. (IANS)

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According to Defence Experts, Better Social Media Usage can Prevent Hacking

Experts also believe that China poses the most imminent threat to India in hacking sensitive data in possession of defence forces through the use of malware and spyware installed on cheap smartphones

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Wikipedia, Social Media
Like other social media platforms,Wikipedia's WT:Social will let users share articles. Pixabay

The Indian Army’s recent directive to its personnel in critical posts to deactivate their Social Media accounts and not share official information on WhatsApp might only partly address the challenges posed by tech-based espionage activities, experts said here on Friday.

On the contrary, better education and training in Social Media usage, greater stress on switching over to homemade software and hardware, and adoption of best practices in cyber-hygiene, in line with advanced militaries across the globe, can go a long way in thwarting attempts at hacking to steal sensitive information, experts told IANS.

In addition, defence forces also face challenges of security vulnerabilities from spyware like Pegasus, which can track calls and read messages, if physically installed on smartphones, apart from phishing and attempts of ‘honeytrapping’.

Earlier this month, two soldiers of the Indian Army were held in a case of ‘honeytrapping’ by the intelligence wing of Rajasthan Police allegedly for sharing sensitive information with Facebook user ‘Sheerat’.

“Social media has become so embedded into our lives that it is difficult to restrain anyone from its use. The answer does not lie in banning the use of Facebook and WhatsApp alone. The soldiers can easily shift to other social media platforms like Telegram. Moreover, there are thousands of other apps available for everyday use. These apps have the threat potential to be used for hacking into a smartphone. The answer lies in better training in cybe- hygiene and data privacy that would enable a user to take a call on what not to post, what to post and even avoid phishing,” former Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen D.S. Hooda (retd) told IANS.

Experts also believe that China poses the most imminent threat to India in hacking sensitive data in possession of defence forces through the use of malware and spyware installed on cheap smartphones. “There should be more emphasis on usage of indigenously developed software and hardware,” added Hooda.

China itself had taken a lead in avoiding social media misuse by its armed forces personnel when it directed for the installation of special software on People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers to prevent hacking.

“All devices used by PLA soldiers should be installed with special software created by the army’s IT experts and domestic mobile operators, so their activities can be closely monitored by the army’s newly established internet administration centres,” the Hong Kong-based English daily South China Morning Post reported in April 2016, quoting the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Social Media
The Indian Army’s recent directive to its personnel in critical posts to deactivate their Social Media accounts and not share official information on WhatsApp might only partly address the challenges posed by tech-based espionage activities. Pixabay

“The software aims to filter all ‘unhealthy and negative messages’ that could harm the army’s political spirit and morale, curb access to sensitive information that might lead to leaking of military intelligence,” the People’s Daily report said. It also tracks off-duty officers in case they visit ‘unwanted places’,” the South China Morning Post further reported.

However, the decision to ban the use of social media to share “official information” has been seen as a step in the right direction by defence experts.

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“It is possible for inimical elements to open fictitious accounts to communicate with those privy to sensitive official information. It is possible for data to be extracted from Chinese smartphones. Though communicating with the use of social media platforms cannot be stopped, sharing of official information through these channels should be put to an end,” said former Director-General of Information Systems, Army, Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd). (IANS)