Monday, December 05, 2005

Right to Information Act

Iam not sure how many people clicked on my right to information link on the side bar of this blog.Thought i will write about it in detail and make people aware of this act.Right to information Act is one of the most important act which came into force on October 12th of this year. This is a law that activists all around the country have been waiting for a long time.

The genie is out, granting one key right that the common citizen of India had been yearning for. Whatever the bureaucrats may now wish, it cannot be pushed back into the bottle. And after all, it is a spirit with ‘superhuman’ powers. Any attempt to contain it will seriously backfire.

Citizens have evinced overwhelming interest in the Right to Information Act, 2005. The law became fully operational all over the country on the Vijayadashami Day, both at the central and state levels.

Shahid Burney from Pune, a die-hard user for the past four years of the now-repealed Maharashtra RTI Act, went to the government book depot in the city on 15 October (Saturday) morning to buy a copy of the new national Act made available by the Maharashtra Government. He was surprised to see that there were already 50 odd citizens lined up there for copies. Employees at the depot looked reasonably harassed. Theirs was the last place to witness a stampede for buying copies of a recently released book. Surely they were not selling the latest in the Harry Potter series. more

why is this act very important?
Till now there were lot of restrictions on goverment related informations.Even though every state has its own right to information law, there was no central law in place.But from oct 12th, there is a uniform law all over india on what type of goverment info you can get and how to get it.

Why is the information important?.What is the use of it?
Couple of years before, i signed up for the news letter of Parivartan, a delhi based organization, which fights against corruption.I was impressed with their activities as they made lot of progress in educating and mobilizing people in delhi to fight against corruption. This is the first page of the parivartan site.
We all pay taxes. Even a beggar on the street pays tax. When he buys anything like a soap or a matchbox, he pays taxes in the form of sales tax, excise duty etc. This money belongs to us.

On paper, so much money is supposedly spent on our welfare, but where does all this money go? Why are there no medicines in the hospitals? Where have all the teachers in the government schools gone? Why are the people dying of starvations? Why are the roads in such pathetic conditions? Why are the streets so dirty?

The primary duty of a master is to take accounts from his servant from time to time. We, the masters, never took accounts from the governments. Because, within the existing legal and administrative frameworks, it was not possible to do so.

But, now we have a right to question governments. The governments are legally bound to provide us information. A number of state governments have passed Right to Information Laws, which empower the citizens to question governments, inspect their files, take copies of government documents and also to inspect government works.

Delhi state had one of the better RTI act and parivartan exploited it.Not without any fight.One of there important fight was against the ration shops which swindled a lot of money.

Triveni, a very poor resident of East Delhi, inspired over 150 residents to file Right to Information applications. Although Triveni holds the Antyodaya card, she did not know that its holders could buy ration at highly subsidized rates. Her ration shop was selling at prices almost equal to those at the market and thus she stopped buying from the shop. Supported by Parivartan, she filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for details of her records and discovered that ration had been booked under her name using fake thumb impressions.

Besides this, people were often terrorized when they went to inspect records of ration dealers. In fact, Parivartan workers were beaten up when they went for inspection of records. Soon, Parivartan started getting reports of people in various parts of Delhi being pressurized to withdraw their applications by policemen, ration dealers, and Food Department officials. This is when Parivartan workers stepped in again to approach Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Sheila Dixit with a request for her to intervene. The CM soon asked the Chief Secretary (CS) to investigate the issue. To Parivartan’s surprise, the CS was immediately transferred, through the former are not sure of the exact reason behind the transfer. The new CS has shown a very positive response and has promised all support. In fact as a result of the CS’ intervention, Parivartan received the PDS records for four areas in Delhi: Gautampuri, Bhalswa, Kalyanpuri and Welcome Colony.more

Check out parivartan's page on its efforts against corruption in PDS here

The whole issue was taken to the CM level, because some one wanted to know the information and that small peice of information lead to this whole episode.Lack of transparency in government offices was the major reasons for people not knowing where the money intended for them, where going.But when you have the information, you can clearly point out, how the money is getting diverted. With this act any body can file an application and get the information. What is happening in your ration shop, what is your panchayat office doing? what happened to your roads? why a public building didn't get completed in the siad time frame?.Any question that you want to know, you can ask for information and the government people are bound to answer you.

There is still restrictions on some information’s like defense related etc and people are asking for transparency there also.To know what information that you can get and how to get it. click here

Every government ofice now has an information officer to provide you with the necessary information that you need. And they have to provide you the info with in a specific time other wise they are punishable. For example this is the new page done for southern railway.

It says that they have setup a special Public Information Cell at the Southern Railway Head Quarters in Park Town, Chennai and provides info about who is responsible for the information, what is there phone number, what are the charges etc.

This is not the only office, every single government office and banks have done it and there are lot of information on the internet.

These are the RIT pages of some departments
This is for DOTE
Govt of tamil nadu RIT rules
Tamil nadu tourism
Dept of atomic energy
Pondicherry engineering college
Bureau of indian standards

If you are thinking only NGO's and other big organization's can do anything with this act and ordinary people like us cannot do anything. check out this inspiring article that came in outlook

Uday Gosain is your average Joe. After schooling, he pursued telecom engineering from the Army Institute of Technology, Pune; got a job in Munich, Germany and finally came back to India, landing an appointment with HCL. He commutes via the Outer Ring Road daily to reach his Noida office. But after a day’s work, he is no couch potato. Instead, you’ll see him busy filling a form-A of the Right to Information Act (RTI) which he will deposit at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Corporation or the PWD office next morning..........

On submitting the application, the same afternoon he got a call from the assistant engineer (AE), asking about the issues that he needed information on. He was even keen to meet Uday. He told Uday why such lapses occur. Soon, the road was repaired. In fact, a few days later, a PWD inspection team sent to the site found that the stretch had been resurfaced and the contractor himself had borne the cost.

Uday has undertaken a joint survey of the Outer Ring Road with the AE and suggested improvements. For instance, he thought an auto stand between Khelgaon Marg and iit in south Delhi was imperative. Finally, one day he found an auto stand had indeed come up in the area. Uday has filed three complaints about bad roads and action has been taken in each case.more

The act was the fruit of efforts by lot of NGO's and people like aruna roy.Will write about it later.For now just wanna say that you can get information about anything from your local roads to issue at the ministry level with this act.All you have to do is ask, fill out the form and ask for information.

Govt of india RTI site
RTI express india initiative

senthil, one of the biggest problems with the act is that file notings or rather, the decision making process and the thinking behind every decision hasnt been covered. this i think is a small drawback, but the act in itself is a HUGE STEP FORWARD.

and i think the prime minister has been left outside te purview of the act. so some of his decisions cant be questioned, like why we have a cabinet minister who has no velai, and is sitting vetti
That's a great piece of info, buddy. Thanks for posting about this. need to go through the links in detail.
good informative post and i seriously believe this is a welcome change in the right direction... since u were mentioning about parivartan, i thought i will mention about loksatta ( which works on reforms...
i did the glass managerie in college as part of my ba english course...will certainly c Akale...the last mallu movie i saw was atchuinde amma...i have not heard this spb song.will do soon!
that's right.and also its still has a bit of bureaucratic stuff, but those are minor stuff.Lets hope for an more modified and elaborate version soon.

jo, check it out.

thanxs,yeah i know about lok satta, anyways thanxs for the info.

email me.
Good info. Like the 2 hands for a clap sound, the govt. seems to have come down and the people too seems to be taking the step upward.
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