Saturday, August 18, 2007

RTI Act: State urged to follow Bihar example

: Karnataka would do well to follow the Bihar example and make it possible for citizens to file Right to Information (RTI) applications over the telephone, said Aravind Kejriwal, Magsaysay Award-winner and founder of the Delhi-based NGO Parivartan.

Delivering the keynote address at a public awareness programme on the RTI conducted by the Karnataka State Chartered Accountants Association, Bangalore University and Doordarshan, the well-known activist said the next step forward for the effective implementation of the RTI Act was simplifying the process of application.

Bihar had evolved a system of accepting applications over the phone. Karnataka, being the hub of information technology, could do it easily, he said. It could be done in 10 days and would cost as little as Rs. 1.5 lakh a month, he said.

Penalty clause

Mr. Kejriwal also emphasised the need to strengthen the functioning of the Information Commission and ensure that it was strict on bureaucrats who refuse to follow the RTI guidelines. The crucial clause of the Act, he pointed out, was the one which said that a penalty would be deducted from the salary of erring officers.

Even honest officers tended to evade the responsibility because they are “culturally not oriented to give information to the public”, Mr. Kejriwal said.

Citing several examples to illustrate how the RTI had helped a range of people, from a daily wage earner to a software engineer, he called it a radical piece of legislation that ensured that an ordinary citizen no longer felt “helpless” before the system. “It is an opportunity to make a difference in governance,” said Mr. Kejriwal, and urged people to file applications on ongoing schemes in their localities to ensure that the government machinery was accountable and responsible. He also emphasised the role of the Lokayukta in ensuring that action was taken on the information obtained.

Recalling the genesis of the legislation, he said it had its roots in the struggle launched by a labourers association with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan started by Aruna Roy in Rajasthan. The labourers had demanded that they be shown the muster rolls because they were getting Rs. 12 instead of the Rs. 24 they were promised. The struggle was carried forward by pioneers such as Anna Hazare in Maharashtra. “The right to information is fundamental to the very existence of democracy,” said Mr. Kejriwal.

No comments: