RTI Heading For Slow But Sure Death In Country, Say Experts In Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar: The Right to Information (RTI) Act is dying a slow but certain death with the executive letting go of no chance to hasten the process. Between 40 and 60 lakh RTI applications are filed every year, but less than 3% of Indian citizens have ever filed an RTI plea, said experts.

Speaking at a function to mark the RTI Day in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday, former State Information Commissioner Jagadananda said, “The anti-corruption law will become obsolete if we don’t use it on a greater scale. More use of RTI by citizens will certainly reduce the attack on RTI activists who expose corruptions.”

He made a strong pitch for use of the law at the grassroots level and called for a sustained awareness campaign among the citizens including tribals in interior areas about RTI Act, which came into effect 17 years back, promising a new era in transparency in government functioning.

Former bureaucrat and advocate Sribhusan Sukla said the government should make the administration’s work so transparent that there is minimum requirement to file RTI applications. “The system should function in a way that we don’t need to file RTI applications. The RTI Act itself envisages government making information available pro-actively, but at the end of the day, I should be able to access the information that I need, not just the information that the government wants to publicise,” he said.

Publicly available data, including in the annual reports of the Central Information Commissions (CIC), point out that the number of RTI applications has been rising every year. The backlog is also increasing accordingly, he added.

Sharing RTI’s success stories, including Adarsh housing scam, RTI activist Nishikanta Mohapatra said the transparency law which came into force across the country on October 12, 2005 aims at creating an informed citizenry, contain corruption and promote good governance.

Lack of adequate infrastructure and shortage of staff in government offices to deal with RTI applications is another cause for worry. Then there is the issue of threats and acts of violence against RTI activists. Helping the government in its endeavour to make the RTI movement ineffective is the higher judiciary, which has been resisting bringing in any kind of transparency in its own functioning, he said at the function, organsied by RTI Clinic, a Bhubaneswar-based social forum.

Convenor of RTI Clinic Manoranjan Panda said the primary objective of the campaign is to empower people , especially youths, to get up and start asking questions. Through the initiative, people can put forward their questions to different government agencies on the matters most relevant them. The campaign will include outreach programmes in public places, he informed.

In the second session, training was imparted to students and youth in drafting RTI queries and how to submit them to the authorities. More than 80 students and RTI activists were present.

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