Dharamshala: It is not every day that a doctor ventures into Indian Police Service (IPS). But this is not where his uniqueness lies. Dr Atul Fulzele, Superintendent of Police in Kangra district has the distinction of being the second best Public Information Officer (PIO) in the RTI 2009 awards.
The RTI award has been initiated by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), a Delhi based organisation which works for just, transparent, accountable and participatory governance.
As Superintendent of Police in Una district when RTI Act was notified, he disposed all the 43 applications received by giving full and satisfactory information to all applicants. He continued this trend later at Kangra where he has addressed almost all the applications with just 11 applicants going for appeal.
Out of 202 RTI applications received by him, only 11 went in first appeal and only one went in second appeal.
He responded to 193 applicants within 30 days, providing information in many cases within a week. Out of those 85% people reported satisfaction.
“The mindset of our police is the way the British were. They want to hide everything. They don’t realize that not everything is a secret and needs to be hidden from the people under the pretext that the matter is subjudice or is under investigation. It is this mindset that I have always wanted to change,” said Fulzele.
The 2001 batch IPS officer was the SP in Una in 2005 when the RTI Act was enacted and he was the designated PIO. “The first thing I did was to read the Act line by line to know the real powers and duties of PIO. After this I trained a clerk about what was RTI Act, how to receive applications and help applicants in filling out application forms,” Fulzele said.
But the going wasn’t that simple. There was immense resistance from the junior-level police staff in giving out information.
Fulzele said, “The attitude is such that we police officials just resist giving out information. The fear is that people would seek information under RTI and then use it against us to prove police inaction.”
So how did he manage the resistance? “I have always tried to change their mindset. But when they still resisted I just put out an order that this information needs to be given and should be with me within three days. We, the police, still follow the British ways. We follow orders very well,” he said.
Fulzele said usually people are looking for information of their personal cases. People usually ask why an FIR was not filed and only a complaint written by the police. There have been times when people have asked him for details of case which is under investigation. “We don’t refuse. RTI Act clearly says all information should be provided unless it impedes investigation. So we have given information in cases which are under investigation also when we feel there is nothing that could really impede investigation.”
Born in Neri in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, Fulzele is a trained MBBS doctor. He was specializing in forensic science at Mumbai when he got interested in police service. Fulzele, has also served as aide-de-camp to Himachal Pradesh governor.
He said the government needs to have better training for officials to improve implementation of RTI Act as it is a very effective tool to check corruption and bring transparency.
“I have seen through my experience that it is bringing about a change in us police officials,” he said proudly.
Incidentally, Kangra police has one of the best designed and user friendly website www.kangrapolice.com