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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rs 300 cr in Plan for strengthening RTI

The Centre, in a bid to strengthen the Right to Information (RTI) division within the personnel department and for granting financial autonomy to state information commissions (SICs), is set to launch a Rs 300-crore scheme under the Eleventh Plan to fund capacity building, training programmes, awareness and educational campaigns relating to RTI.

The scheme, which will involve disbursal of Rs 300 crore as grants to RTI and the 27 SICs for effective implementation of RTI Act, has already been given in-principle clearance by the Planning Commission. The amount, which will be released over four years from this fiscal year to 2011-12, will help in adequate computerisation and capacity building at RTI division while reducing dependence of SICs on state governments for physical and financial resources.

The largest chunk of the Rs 300-crore scheme — Rs 215 crore — would be spent on capacity building, involving construction of offices and other physical infrastructure for SICs and computerisation of records. Expenses on training of RTI stakeholders are estimated at Rs 53.36 crore over the four years, on creating awareness at Rs 29.6 crore, and on education at Rs 3.35 crore.

The state information commissions, which exist in 27 states, have been complaining of limited resources due to lack of enough financial support from state governments. Concerns to this effect were expressed by various SICs in the Second National Convention of the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions held in October 2007.

With the lack of resources coming in the way of the meeting the growing needs of the information seekers, the Centre now plans to release funds to SICs and RTI division for capital asset formation, facilitating IT supported services and capacity building. A grants-in-aid committee would scrutinise the proposals and the grants released in 2 instalments, the first amounting to 50% and the second 50% on submission of the utilisation certificate.

According to estimates worked out by the Yashwantrao Academy of Development Administration, Pune, and the National Implementing Agency for Capacity Building for Access to Information, a Government of India-United Nations Development Programme initiative, as many as 25,74,200 stakeholders are to be trained on the provisions of the RTI Act.

The proposed Rs 53.36 crore grant, to be released in 2 instalments (first 80% and rest 20% on receipt of utilisation certificate), will help train CPIOs, SPIOs, APIOs, appellate authorities, public authority heads, non-government public authority heads, information commission staff, nodal department staff, exempted organisations, NGOs and citizens. As many as 1500 persons would be trained per district per state and per UT in the first year, 2 districts per state in the second year and 4 districts per state in the next 2 years.

Awareness generation, which will receive plan funds worth Rs 29.6 crore under the scheme, will involve telecast of programmes on state media and dissemination of information on RTI through printed postcards.

Realising the need to incorporate lessons on RTI in the educational curriculum itself, the Centre proposes to include chapters/pages on the same in NCERT and SCERT textbooks. Though the authorities feel that such information may only be relevant at the secondary level as children below that age may not be able to grasp its significance, the same could be incorporated on the backcover or opening pages of the elementary textbook as a dissemination method to mothers of such children. In the interest of standardisation of such educational material, the government proposed to have it prepared by NCERT and provide the same to SCERTs for translation into the regional languages and dialects.


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