Tourism Dept. refuses to part with info on Venkatappa Art Gallery

K. V. Aditya Bharadwaj | 4th April, 2016 | The Hindu

Is the Tourism Department wary of sharing details of the adoption of the Venkatappa Art Gallery by Tasveer Foundation? Can an MoU between the State government and a private enterprise over adoption of the public gallery be “confidential”? If the reply to the queries sought under the Right to Information Act is any indication, it is true.

Strengthening the claim of the artists opposing the adoption, who say that the process has not been transparent, the Tourism Department has turned down three queries under the RTI Act seeking copies of documents and clarifications on the issue.

The department has also said that correspondence and minutes of meeting between the foundation and the department were confidential, and therefore, sharing it will affect the competitiveness of the private enterprise.

The RTI queries, copies of which are with The Hindu, apart from seeking documents, including minutes of meetings of Karnataka Tourism Vision Group, and minutes of all the meetings and correspondence between Tasveer Foundation and the Department of Tourism, had also sought clarifications on restrictions on the foundation during the development of the VAG.

In replies dated March 24, 2016, signed by A. Pooavyyan, Chief Information Officer, Tourism Department, to an advocate who had applied on behalf of the VAG Forum, the department cited multiple reasons for the denial, including non-availability of information and time to compile the details.

A senior artist from the VAG Forum said that the turning down of RTI queries went contrary to the claims made by the government that the adoption process had been transparent. “Every time we go to the government, they ask us to read the MoU, go through the proposals and ask us to suggest changes. But we are denied these documents by the same department,” the artist said.