Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Profile of Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)—a social science research centre, based in Delhi. Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS aimed at the study of diverse faith traditions and cultures in the Indic civilisation. She is the ...

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    “I have a horror of all isms, especially those that attach themselves to proper names”.
    -- M. K. Gandhi --
    Posted on: 07.06.2013
    CIC Orders PMO to Track Indira Gandhi’s Time Capsule
    First Published in :

    On 9.02.2012, I had filed an RTI application asking for the following information from the Central Public Information Commissioner (CPIO) in the Prime Minister’s Office:

    1. The exact date and location at which a Time Capsule was buried by the former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi during the Emergency;

    2. Detailed contents of the Time Capsule;

    3. The name and official status of the person who decided what information, objects were to be assigned to the Time Capsule;

    4. The official justification offered for creating such a Time Capsule.

    The PMO gave the following response: “As per records, no such information is available. This has the approval of the competent authority”.

    On 09.03.2002, I filed another RTI application addressed to the Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Human Resource Development. The CPIO of HRD Ministry replied back saying, “Since the requested information does not fall within the jurisdiction of MHA, the application is, therefore, being transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Science and Technology.”

    The Prime Minister’s Office repeated the earlier answer, “As per records no such information is available. This has the approval of the competent authority.”

    The Ministry of Science and Technology also passed on the buck saying they do not have the information.

    In addition I also filed an RTI with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting demanding the same information. I didn’t receive any reply from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

    Aggrieved by decision of the CPIO, I filed my first appeal on 14.04.2012. However, the First Appellant Authority in its reply on 03.03.2012 imperiously dismissed the RTI application saying, “An Information seeker under the Act can only seek information that is held in the records available with the public authority. You have been provided response by the CPIO, PMO based on inputs given by the office as per records held by the office. Therefore, no action is called for on your appeal, which is disposed of hereby.”

    I then filed a second appeal on 1.08.2012under the RTI act with the Central Vigilance Commissioner.  I received a reply from the Central Information Commission office on 30.1.2013 asking me to be present for a hearing on the case on 26.02.2013.

    The Central Information Commissioner on 26.02.2013 issued the following order in my favour:

    “....It is indeed very strange that there should be no information about this in the PMO or elsewhere in the government. During those days, the newspapers had very widely publicised this fact. It had been reported that the Time Capsule had been conceptualised by the then PMO and it had been buried in the Red Fort. If any of this report is right, then not only the PMO but also the Archaeological Survey of India should have some information about this matter.

    The PMO should make a renewed search for any available records on this subject. If necessary, they can take up the matter with the National Archives and the ASI and find out if either of those have any reference or record on this. Even if this entire exercise takes some time, it would be worthwhile. Complete denial of any knowledge about the Time Capsule by all public authorities within the government including the PMO would be very hard for the public to accept.

    We direct the CPIO of the PMO to revisit the subject and, after consulting its own office as well as other possible locations such as the National Archives and the ASI, write to the Appellant within 25 working days from the receipt of this order. If any record is traced on the subject anywhere in the government, the copies of the entire records must be made available to the Appellant including the file noting, if any. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.”

    Following this I received another letter from the Prime Minister’s Office on 18.04.2013 saying that,

    No such information regarding the Time Capsule is available on PMO records. The matter had also been taken up with the National Archives of India which was conveyed vide its letter dated 20.03.2013 that as per preliminary search among the public records of the relevant period, the information sought is not available [Copy enclosed]. The ASI vide its letter dated 28.03.2013 has asked the CPIO of the Delhi Circle to provide the requisite information to you [Copy enclosed]. Further information in this regard will be conveyed upon receipt of fresh inputs from ASI.”

    On 20.03.2013, I received the following reply from the National Archives of India:

    In this regard it may be conveyed that as per preliminary search among the public records of the relevant period transferred to this Department, information sought is not available here. It may also be important to mention that all the records in the custody of this Department are open and accessible to researchers under Public Records Act, 1993 and Public Records Rules, 1997.You are therefore most welcome to visit the Department to undertake any search among the records available here. All facilities as per rules shall be provided to facilitate your research work.”

    On 13.05.2013, I received a letter from the Archaeological Survey of India saying that, “... the required information is not available in this office.”

    It is bizarre that a Time Capsule buried by the Prime Minister’s Office at a premier national monument like Red Fort protected by the Archaeological Survey of India should vanish without leaving any trace whatsoever.

    It is kept in the reserve voult of National Museum delhi. You will not find any mention of it in the records though. It is not taken in inventory or accession register at the instruction of the ministry and PMo. Incidently it is not the only "hidden" item in the voults. There are also personal effects of the sadhu claimed to be SC Bose in the same voult . Not many in the museum know about it though.
    Posted By : Ruchi Anand, On Date: Saturday, June 08, 2013
    It is evident that there is something wrong about the whole thing. I am sure if we can scan the newspapers (when the time capsule was buried at Delhi), it would give lead to officials who were involved. Many of them would still be alive and can offer some information. I recall a photograph of the time capsule being buried being carried in the Statesman/Indian Express. The present administration lives in denial for all matters that confront them.
    Posted By : ARUNAVA DASGUPTA, On Date: Sunday, June 09, 2013
    Plz see this...,5322193
    Posted By : Ashutosh Gupta, On Date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
    The Indian Council of Historical Research under the Ministry of HRD was fully involved in the drafting of the text of the Time Capsule in question as would evident from a perusal of the following link :

    As for the location and subsequent fate of the capsule, some more detective work may be required. There are indications suggesting that the capsule was retrieved --and perchance "filed" away sometime in 1978 by the Janata Government.
    Posted By : Rajat Narain, On Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013
    Good job miankg it appear easy.
    Posted By : Betsey, On Date: Thursday, June 13, 2013
    RTI application has dsiposed off the appeal by stating that the CPIO was not able to give the reply due to administrative reasons and has been directed to give the information called for within a week. There is endorsement at the end which states that the copy of the order was being sent to the CPIO by name and further she has been asked to explain the reason for not giving the information within time and non compliance may attract the provision of penalty Under Section 20(1) of the Act. To my mind this is blowing hot and cold in the same breath. On the one hand the appellate authority has stated the reason to the RTI applicant of not being able to give the reply to RTI application, at the same time in the same order, he is asking for giving the reasons to him by the CPIO. This very appellate authority is now the technical member of Intellectual Property Appellate Board.
    Posted By : Florencia, On Date: Sunday, June 16, 2013
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