NEW DELHI (TIP): The government has admitted in response to an RTI that it has destroyed the files of nine of the 22 secretaries/principal secretaries to the Prime Minister. This was disclosed in response to an innocuous query regarding the pay given to the secretary or principal secretary to the premier. In its reply, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that it did not have information on nine officials, including H V R Iyengar — secretary to the first PM Jawajaharlal Nehru — and others like A V Pai, P N Haksar and B G Deshmukh.
The RTI application was filed by Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, who had sought to know the name, pay scale and tenure of the secretary to the President and secretary in the PMO. There also appeared to be no method to the process of “destruction” of records with Pai’s records destroyed on February 28, 1978, while his successor Dharma Vira’s personal file was destroyed four years earlier in 1974. Incidentally, the PMO has given the pay scale of P C Alexander and Sarla Grewal as Rs 3,500, but destroyed the file of their successor B G Deshmukh in 2001. Similarly, as secretary to the PM, P N Dhar was in the pay grade of Rs 3,500 but information on his successors like V Shankar and Krishnaswamy Rao Sahib is unavailable as their personal files have been “destroyed”.
The government’s policy for destruction or preservation of records is guided by the Public Records Act. According to government sources in the know, each department has a policy for keeping and destruction of public records depending on the sensitivity and utility of the information. A source said, “Records are destroyed according to the departmental policy and there is a process followed. It is difficult to say why one set of files was destroyed before the others.”
The President secretariat even denied information to Bhattacharya, arguing that such details were not readily available and would require compilation that would disproportionately divert resources of the public authority.