Posts Tagged With: Social Policy

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

Categories: development, digital living, LSE | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

13,000 teachers put on Census duty – Hindustan Times

13,000 teachers put on Census duty – Hindustan Times.

Different departments of the state need to work in tandem for realistic development. This fact has been again and again emphasised by many working in the field but rarely is it taken into consideration by our state machinery..Here is a perfect example to show that development does not happen in water-tight compartments. Primary school teachers are put on census duty in the months preceding the annual examinations. Teachers to stay out of school for almost a month from Feb 14th to March 5th. Municiple corporation says education does not fall under their department and education department says Census is national duty.. who suffers? the children and their education.

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Life and LSE

It’s been so long since I last posted and after the last posting, one would think I’m doing fine settling in and should have got a hang of things by now. But well getting back to studies isn’t easy. And if you want to give it your best shot then maybe you end up taxing yourself a little too much. I cannot say that I am studying 18X7 (given that I at least need 6 hours of sleep every day!) hours but yes I am studying most of the times..  Something that I hope to change soon. Life has been hectic and I have the usual set of ‘student cribs’ – lectures, readings, essays, submissions, presentations… (read blah blah blah). When I came and was handed over the question for the 1st essay assignment (in the first week of lectures), I had no clue how I would be able to write 1000 words on a topic I had no clue about. It was a topic that I had come to learn, how can they expect me to write on it before I have any interaction with that area! Anyway since then I have done 4 essays and written more than 7000 words and 2 seminar presentations in 2 months. So the learning curve was fast. Though, there hasn’t been any feedback till now so I don’t know if the curve was steep or just mediocre.

Apart from the usual grill, LSE has been fun. The public lectures are very interesting. I remember when the minister to the Foreign minister of Israel had come for a talk, the Palestinian students had staged so many protests and even though it wasn’t huge, it was the first time I was in the middle of a college protest. For me it was an experience.

Before coming here, life moved on without much concern about things happening elsewhere. They were always things happening to someone else, someplace else but not affecting me or my immediate concerns in any way. But now these are things happening to the person sitting next to me in the class and there is no way that I can be ignorant of them. When the news of bomb blast in Peshawar came, a friend was immediately on phone trying to contact his family. There is no way that I can stay unaffected by it. And I think all this is changing me. In certain ways I’m loosing my optimism. I still don’t know whether that’s good or bad. Whether I’m becoming more realistic or just more pessimistic? When I came here, I had a vision, a desire to be part of a process to undo the wrongs done to some people. The perspective or the understanding I had of the world was too narrow and limited. The reality is far more crude and cruel. The challenges are great and the stakes are high. So many times we read of concepts that appear good and so logical and we are left questioning as to why have those concepts not been put to use! Are these beautiful ideas just to win Nobel Prizes? Can policy makers not put these ideas to good use OR are policy makers not doing their job well intentionally, just to ensure that their job stays? At TI, someone once said to me “put a known bug in your design and you are going nowhere for the next 5 years, because you’ll be spending that time fixing it” Perfect solution to job insecurity 🙂 . I wonder if policy makers also think so.

I think I shall leave at that note because otherwise I believe people will stop reading postings here. (not that I have too many people reading it! But I shall stick to my optimism) 🙂

Categories: LSE | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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