Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not enough information - Awareness, implementation RTI's weak point

Eighty per cent of the rural population and 55 per cent of the urban populationin India are not aware of the Right to Information, or RTI, Act. Half of the public information officers are not trained in implementing the act. Only one in four persons seeking information gets it. These are the findings of three assessment reports released recently.

The reports—one of them sponsored by the Central government—call for strengthening the act and point out bottlenecks that severely hamper its implementation. They come at a time when the government is trying to dilute the four-year-old act by proposing controversial amendments.

One report was prepared by global consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) hired by the Department of Personnel and Training that coordinates personnel matters for the Central government. rti advocacy groups objected to the selection of PwC, saying it is linked to controversial water privatization projects and the Rs 7,000-crore Satyam scam. They launched their own study and released its executive summary in August. The third report, released on October 22, was prepared by the Public Cause Research Foundation in Delhi, which researches and disseminates information on governance. Activists' initial suspicion of the PwC study notwithstanding, all audits have reported similar findings.
Complete Article
The facts shows that the Govt. is not interested in spreading awareness about RTI Act either among the public or the implementing Agencies.Govt. should have a strong will/determination to use and implement such a strong Act, instead of thinking of amending it.  
Awareness on implementation is required not only on the part of citizens, but also the officialdom in public authorities. Fact is that sections 4 (almost all), and 6 (application through electronic means) have not been dealt with properly, by default or by design, as is shown at http://drpkaditya.com through 'RTI' and 'Contact' links. Its abstract is reproduced below:
"Summary. A. All records of public authorities, neither catalogued/ Indexed nor computerized and connected through network all over the country, even in four years since 2005, to facilitate the right to information granted to citizens, to promote transparency and accountability in working of public authorities and also contain corruption. B. Prescribed sixteen manuals neither composed properly, nor updated every year, keeping in mind needs of citizens vis-à-vis as much information to be provided suo motu via internet by them, versus information obtained through applications by citizens. C. Relevant facts on current policy formulation or announcing decisions not at all published, all these years, as well as administrative or quasi-judicial decisions not provided to affected parties. Due to prescribed information not provided via internet, at regular intervals, instead of envisaged minimum resort to use the Act to obtain information, citizens had no choice but to make requests through applications. D. The prescribed channel of obtaining information through electronic means, stood denied, due to non-inclusion of email address as one of the particulars of PIOs. Lack of all A, B, C and D, for which entire responsibility was on the Public Authorities, has caused serious handicap to Right to Information Act being effectively used. Urgent solution is required to set it right. Humble suggestion is to give another 120 days to public authorities to do what was envisaged to be done in June-October 2005, to sincerely let restart the process."  
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