The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has refused to give information about the extent to which MEA was involved in organising the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, revealed an RTI reply.
Citing “strategic nature” of the information, the MEA in a response to an RTI filed by Lucknow based activist Nutan Thakur said that information (pertaining to the preparation of the Howdy Modi event) which includes notings on the files and MEA’s communication with other departments about the event cannot be given and cited Section 8(1)(a) of RTI Act, 2005, to justify their statement.
However, Section 8(1)(a) of RTI Act states that the concerned ministry does not have to give information if “information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”. Additionally, it adds information cannot be given if it would cause “breach of privilege of Parliament” if it is forbidden by the court, if there is information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, or if there is information received in confidence from a foreign government.
It remains to be seen which of these actually affect the release of the information since it was a corporate-sponsored event.
Thakur had sought “a copy of the official file of MEA, including the note sheet and communications with different offices” through an RTI application.
The wife of an IPS officer, Amitabh Thakur, Nutan had sought information about the organiser of the event also.
Replying to her queries, MEA said that the “Howdy Modi” event was organised by the Consulate General of India, Houston in coordination with Texas India Forum.
When asked about the role of the MEA in the “Howdy Modi” event, MEA stated that “(it was to) conduct the event and organise the participation of Indian diaspora, US Congressmen and US Governors with co-ordination amongst Consulate General of India, Houston, in coordination with Texas India Forum.”
As per media reports, nearly 50,000 people participated in the Howdy Modi event on Sunday. US President Donald Trump with the several US also attended the event organised at NRG Stadium in Houston.
While the BJP supporters hailed “Howdy Modi” event as historic and as a turning point in India’s relation with the US, critics believe it was a showbiz extravaganza lacking sincere efforts to safeguard or further India’s interest on foreign soil.