Posts Tagged With: Right to Information Act

General musing

A guest column in today’s Economic Times left me wondering..  Why is RTI always in news? It’s either the government is trying to introduce reforms in it or it’s not implementing it right; or RTI activists are being threatened. The guest column is a personal view of a professor who is denied information despite repeated appeals to multiple ministries. She shows how vested interests within the government will try and succeed in protecting (hiding) certain information. She suggests reforms to make government officials more accountable and a “major groundswell of pressure from a large coalition of citizens”. The column is her personal view drawn from her own experience of using RTI and obviously being a professor, it would be well researched in terms of gaining information from other’s experience also.. so in no way am I denying that RTI is still not a very transparent system.

There is obviously conflict in the sense that the Act that is supposed to keep the government accountable is actually controlled by the government itself. I think political influence (power relations) is ingrained in our system and trying to fight against it; trying to remove it completely is theoretical.Frankly speaking can we really do away with corruption? Is it always bad? Maybe in a purely black and white world corruption can be put in the black box and branded bad. Do we live in a black and white world? Aren’t there times when corruption actually helped you? We can get into the debate of petty corruption and grand corruption? petty corruption is fine but grand is unacceptable. Just branding corruption into to categories means that we are trying to justify some acts but theoretically they all fall in the black box… Okay I don’t know what I am saying now…and I should stop.

But I think something as strong as the RTI Act will and should always remain in news. RTI makes me proud!

Right to Information Act

RTI cutting corruption or vice-versa?

image from: www.tisrilanka.org

 

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An inclusive RTI Act

I think I’ve already said this in my earlier post that I’m quite proud of India’s Right to Information Act. The Act is true power in the hands of citizens and till now it has been used very effectively, however at times it has also put RTI activist’s at risk. But that hasn’t deterred them. However, as I also wrote in the earlier post, RTI application isn’t very easy.. and a step to increase it’s accessibility was taken earlier when government announced an interactive website and a call center.

In another positive move, recently Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (SIC) took the initiative of responding to Visually handicapped RTI applicants in Braille! This means that the blind no longer need to  depend on others for filing applications and receiving replies. The Tamil Nadu SIC is doing this with the help of the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped. The Institute had earlier also helped the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in translating the RTI Act in Braille. The copies of the Act in Braille may be obtained from their office in Dehradun.

Such initiatives give positive hope! As a friend of mine, Shruti, had said “It’s really good to see so many people doing such good work! makes one hopeful for the country.”

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My Right to Information

I’m quite proud of India’s Right to Information Act. Imagine I can ask the government anything (well almost!) and they have an obligation to respond to my query within a stipulated time frame!

It’s such a big power to citizens to ensure participatory democracy… and undoubtedly a lot of scandals and injustices have been brought forward by people through the exercise of their Right to Information. One of earliest such example that I had read was of MKSS fighting for workers and peasants rights. I was so proud when we were discussing MKSS campaign during one of our class on Governance in LSE. I don’t know of any other country that has such a law. At least no one spoke about any such law in their country that time… and we had representation from at least 30 countries in our class!

There have been a lot of times that I have asked/ told people to use the RTI act to speak up against injustice to them but I could never say it with complete confidence… The reason being I have myself never used this Right. Not that there weren’t time when I wanted to use it, but just because it’s too much of an effort to send an RTI application. First you need to write the application in the given format, the send it via registered post/ speed post and pay the fee of Rs 10 via post office, DD, IPO etc…

So when I read in yesterday’s paper that government is soon planning to launch an interactive website and a call centre for RTI, I was very happy. (I liked it! Tweeted it, facebooked it and the works J)A call center will ease the application process so much; almost everyone has access to a cell phone and RTI is just a phone call away! No more fretting over if I wrote the application correctly or not or about payment options.. They can simply make the phone call to that number expensive…

But then on second thoughts, would making it easier to access, increase its misuse? More prank calls, more people trying to access the call centre for random queries and as a result the genuine ones will suffer… I can just foresee hearing the recorded message “all our RTI executives are busy on other calls…please hold on or call back later.” While it’s a step in right direction, I hope the implementation will be robust enough to ensure accessibility to the rightful applicant.

You can read the official act in almost all official Indian languages at: http://righttoinformation.gov.in/

The details of the RTI Call centre and Portal Project are available at: http://rti.gov.in/rfp.htm

 Image credits: mandla.nic.in; lawctopus.com

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