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Making a better India – Right to Information Act

Posted by Sathyamurthy www.sathyamurthy.com on December 27, 2008

Today a thought came to my mind about the Right to Information Act, 2005.  The Act is said to be arming the citizens to demand information from the Government on any matter related to public interest.

This is an interesting Act that actually provides enormous scope for the general public to achieve several things of public importance and citizen welfare.

For example, this has armed the public with the right to ask for information about people contesting in elections, their public standing, personal wealth, Income Tax records etc.  You have the right to ask about the quality and accuracy of the weighing scales and measures used at the public distribution system (Ration shops), the frequency of inspection of these scales, action taken in the case of weighing scales / measures not meeting the standards.  The scope is vast and the list is endless.

Is there an awareness about this act? Is there a public campaign by the Government to make citizens aware of this Act?

I was doing a bit of research on this Act today to know more about it.  I found a detailed information about the Right To Information Act, 2005 in Wikipedia here.  I also found a forum dedicated to the Act here.  This forum has lots of helpful tips on how one can use the RTI Act and also has some success stories posted.

One of the readers of that forum had asked about “open man holes” in the city and the maintenance frequency of the man holes.  Another information requested from the Government related to the speedbrakers in the city.  Open man holes and improperly built speedbrakers do pose danger to the public.  The fact that RTI can be used to get information on these and thus make the Government machinery move to rectify the discrepancies makes it a very powerful tool in the hands of the Indian Citizen.

There are quite stringent time lines mentioned in the Act for “acting” on the information request made by a Citizen under the RTI Act as under:

  • If the request has been made to the PIO, the reply is to be given within 30 days of receipt.
  • If the request has been made to an APIO, the reply is to be given within 35 days of receipt.
  • If the PIO transfers the request to another public authority (better concerned with the information requested), the time allowed to reply is 30 days but computed from the day after it is received by the PIO of the transferee authority.
  • Information concerning corruption and Human Rights violations by scheduled Security agencies (those listed in the Second Schedule to the Act) is to be provided within 45 days but with the prior approval of the Central Information Commission.
  • However, if life or liberty of any person is involved, the PIO is expected to reply within 48 hours.

I for one, would like to ask information from the Government regarding action taken on the below as I feel that enough publicity has not been given regarding the RTI Act, 2005:

Section 26 of the Act enjoins the central government, as also the state governments of the Republic of India (excluding J&K), to initiate necessary steps to:

  • Develop educational programmes for the public especially disadvantaged communities on RTI.
  • Encourage Public Authorities to participate in the development and organization of such programmes.
  • Promote timely dissemination of accurate information to the public.
  • Train officers and develop training materials.
  • Compile and disseminate a User Guide for the public in the respective official language.
  • Publish names, designation postal addresses and contact details of PIOs and other information such as notices regarding fees to be paid, remedies available in law if request is rejected etc.

Please do send the link of this post to your friends so more people are aware of this Act and can start thinking and acting for the benefit of the community.  https://sathyamurthy.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/making-a-better-india-right-to-information-act/

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3 Responses to “Making a better India – Right to Information Act”

  1. Tarun said

    Yeah lots of good coming from RTI.

  2. triplicani said

    Tarun,

    Do you know of any instances? Anyone known to you or in the circle have used this Act?

  3. Sourav Roy said

    The Right to Information (RTI) Act, that empowers Indians to obtain any information about government functioning, is slowly shaping up to be ‘reactive’ in nature. People looking for information have to ask questions, and wait for answers. This model has failed several times (wiki answers, yahoo answers). Making information ‘proactively’ available (like wikipedia) to people is the only way I can see this idea get implemented.

    The next question that arises is the level of confidentiality required in government functioning. It is the state’s responsibility to define lines that differentiate public and private information. Any violation here should be well accounted for.

    The final question lies in its implementation. I can see two ways. In the first way, the government has to open up its software development agencies, thereby letting complete participation, transparency and collaboration from others- working more like an open source ‘bazaar’ development model. The second way is a code for america like model, which can operate privately, and be supported by organizations interested in government transparency and delivery. The engineers of India must understand that they are the greatest stakeholders of the act, or we’ll end up witnessing another idea in Indian democracy that made it to the headlines but never took off.
    Visit- http://souravroy.com

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