Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to RTI

12th April was the birthday of the Right To Information Act. Whether it is happy or sad, is another matter. The Right to Information (RTI) Act requires that each public authority should constantly take steps to provide as much information proactively to the people so that they don't have to resort to the Act to obtain information.

While RTI celebrates three years of the Act being passed by the Parliament on Monday, leave alone the pre-requisite — an attitudinal shift among the babus and government functionaries — even the manuals that were to be made within 120 days of its formulation, till October 12, 2005, are not in place everywhere.

These are the 17 manuals which have come to be known as 'proactive disclosures'.

Various state government departments, who have hosted their website on the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN), have given links to their RTI disclosure. But these remain limited to only to Sachivalaya functioning and there is no consistency in their disclosures.

Recently Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA) decided to do a sample audit of the panchayat department to get a sense of what has been disclosed. According to sources in SPIPA, there were glaring gaps in the disclosures and there was realization that despite training officers on RTI there remained a weak link when it comes to proactively disclosing information.

The myth surrounding proactive disclosures is that it is limited only to the headquarters and publishing the names and contact details of the assistant public information officer (APIO), public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority is enough. But that's not what RTI mandates.

RTI requires all public authorities, right from Gandhinagar to the gram panchayat in the village, all offices across all departments to have their own separate proactive disclosures. The Gujarat police giving links on RTI on their website does not mean that their responsibility ends there. All police stations need to have their disclosures not just on the internet but more importantly prominently displayed in each station as well.

The fundamental logic behind the need for having proactive disclosures is that since independence till the RTI regime coming into existence, government functionaries held back information under the garb of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). The entire government functioning being kept in darkness for over sixty years, how would a common man know where to ask and who holds the information that he needs?

According to RTI activists, effective implementation of the obligations of having to proactively disclose information would put an end to the touts at grassroot levels and the middle men or liaison officers from government functioning. As common citizens would know what they are entitled to as also the power, duties and functions of all public servants.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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