Bharath Vaishnov Writes a Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime minister,

The year 2005 was a landmark year in Indian polity. The passing of Right to information act in 2005 was a watershed event that ushered in an element of transparency and accountability in governance. It provided a direct line of accountability of administration to the public. It bestowed on public the power to monitor and ensure accountability of government institutions. In past 7 years, the impact of RRTI has been felt in several areas of administration. It has helped unravel several scams ranging from 2G to CWG.

However there have been several roadblocks in implementation of RTI. Attempts by your government to dilute the provisions under RTI is the single biggest roadblock. At the recently concluded conclave of information commissioners you vented out your concerns over RTI act. You said you worried of the privacy of public servants and private companies who are involved in PPP projects. However you had no concern for the privacy of the common man who requests for information. In past few years, several RTI activists have been silenced to death. Another concern of yours was the wastage of administrative time in replying to RTI applications by public servants. Section 4 of RTI act calls upon public authorities to proactively disclose information like budget of organization, reasons behind decisions taken etc. However, very little progress has been made on this front. Had this section been implemented in letter and spirit there would have been a drastic reduction in number of RTI queries.

Major hallmark of RTI act has been its user friendly nature. A common man could request information from any public authority by writing an application on plain white paper. Recent Supreme Court judgement mandating information commissions to have multiple member benches with one of the members being a retired judge of Supreme Court or High Court. A study by CIC has shown that only 15% cases required legal interpretation. Hence the order of supreme court was uncalled for, if the order is implemented in Toto, it will make commission proceedings complicated making it difficult for a common man to pursue his/her case . Information commissions will end up with same fate as consumer courts.

Although RTI has enabled citizens to gather information, in current scenario there is very little that a citizen can do with the information in absence of a robust grievance redressal mechanism. The current trend of rights based schemes and legislations along with RTI can form a potent weapon to tackle the corruption prevalent in India. I commend your government for initiating this trend of rights based legislations like right to food, work etc

RTI was a result of years of campaign by civil society. Today it is facing obstacles from none other than your government itself. We the people of India request you to protect our right to seek accountability of public servants. After 7 years of RTI, it is time for your government to make right to information a fundamental right by enshrining it in constitution as a fundamental right

Bharath Vaishnov


Image Courtesy: [The Viewspaper]

Disclaimer: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and not of the publicatio