RTI Act: Why citizens must send a strong message to MPs

It’s disturbing to see MPs cutting across party lines criticizing the poor’s right to information

shailesh

Shailesh Gandhi | April 29, 2016


#Narendra Modi   #Samajwadi Party   #Naresh Agrawal   #NCP   #Praful Patel   #Congress   #Shailesh Gandhi   #parliament   #Transparency   #RTI Act   #RTI  


There is a very disturbing news report about the entire political spectrum agreeing that RTI is misused and some constrictions and impediments should be developed to muzzle it. This is indeed a sad state of affairs.

Samajawadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal has leveled a charge that the Indian parliament made the RTI Act under US pressure! I would have imagined that other MPs would have raised a breach of privilege motion against him. Unfortunately, such a derogatory remark about the Indian parliament did not result in any protests by other MPs.

Praful Patel of NCP made a remark which was still worse. He had objection to the poor –paanwaala and chaiwaala – seeking information under RTI. He then genuflected before the most famous ‘chaiwaala’ of India, and said that the PM was an exception. His implication was that if you are a chaiwaala who is not the PM, how dare you a low-down person seek information from the government? The government appears to have been willing to go along that path. What is most surprising is that Rajiv Shukla of the Congress party also went along with this, almost repudiating his own party’s biggest achievement.

I remember poet Vajpayee’s poem:

कौरव कौन, कौन पांडव, टेढ़ा सवाल है;
दोनो ओर, शकुनी का फैला कूटज़ाल है,
धर्मराज ने छोडी नही, जुए की लत है,
हर पंचायत मे, पांचाली अपमानित है,
बिना कृष्णा के आज महाभारत होना है,
कोई राजा बने,  रंक को तो रोना है.
अब उठ और अपने  RTI की रक्षा कर,
वरना तेरी लोकशाही निवस्त्रा हो जाएगी,
गांडीव  उठा अगर भारतकी रक्षा करनी है.

Citizens must get together and give an effective message that they will not tolerate a retrograde attack on their fundamental Right to Information. If they shackle RTI by labeling some applications as ‘misuse’ they will refuse most information which reveals corruption and arbitrariness.

As an information commissioner who dealt with over 20,000 cases I had the opportunity of interacting with a large number of RTI users and public information officers (PIOs). Generally PIOs would refer to most applicants who filed RTI applications regularly as blackmailers, harassers and those who were misusing RTI. I would broadly divide those who filed a large number of RTI applications in the following categories:

1. Those who filed RTI applications with the hope of exposing corruption or arbitrariness and hoped to improve and correct governance.

2. Those who filed RTI applications repetitively to correct a wrong which they perceived had been done to them.  

3. Those who used RTI to blackmail people. This category largely targets illegal buildings, mining or some other activity which runs foul of the law.

All these categories together comprised around 10% of the total appeals and complaints. These represent persistent users of RTI and those who are generally knowledgeable about appeals and procedures. Nobody will deny that the first category deserves to be encouraged and is growing steadily. In the second category there are some who have been able to get corrective action and some whose grievance may defy resolution. Generally most of us have a strong aversion for the third category who are making it a money-earning racket. This category certainly does not exceed 5% of the total.

I would argue that in the implementation of most laws some people will misuse its provisions. The police often misuse their powers to subvert the law, and so also criminals misuse our judicial system to prolong trials. The misuse of laws is largely dependent on the kind of people in a society and whether the justice system has the capability of punishing wrongdoers. There are people who go to places of worship with the sole objective of committing theft or other crimes.  But society does not define these as their main characteristic. Is it reasonable to expect that only angels will use RTI?

I would submit that the powerful find RTI upsetting their arrogance and hence try to discredit RTI by often talking about its misuse. I have often questioned government officers how the blackmailers operate. They state that the RTI blackmailer threatens an illegal action with exposure and thereby extorts money. I wonder why society has such touching empathy for the victims who have committed illegal acts. If RTI is muzzled by asking people to define why they want information, soon we will have to provide reasons for speaking. We must defend our democracy.
 

Comments

 

Other News

Covid-19 antibodies found in 86.64% Mumbai citizens

As many as 86.64% citizens of the city of Greater Mumbai have antibodies, according to the fifth sero-prevalence survey. Among the people who are fully or partially vaccinated, the antibodies were found in 90.26%, while among the unvaccinated citizens, 79.86% had antibodies. The Municipal C

`Bad Bank`: All you wanted to know about NARCL

The cabinet has cleared the formation of ‘National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited’ (NARCL) which will acquire “stressed assets” of about Rs. 2 Lakh crore in phases within RBI regulations in order to address the problem of humongous amounts of bad loans in public sector banks.

Citizens Charter: How this less-known law empowers us

When consumer rights and RTI activist Mohammad Afzal was shifting to a new residence in a different area, he required changes in various documents. He decided to take the help of the Citizens Charter along with other friends who also required similar work with authorities. The Citizens Chart

Minister for Ports, Shipping & Waterways emphasises on setting up of National Transport Facilitation Committees

Union Minister for Ports, Shipping & Waterways and AYUSH, Sarbananda Sonowal has underlined the importance of cross-border connectivity among India and developing nations of South-East Asia. Addressing the ASEAN summit on Future of India-ASEAN Connectivity Partnerships virt

Ministry of Finance organises advance training programme in PPP for states

The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance and the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore has organised a virtual advance level training programme on Public-Private Partnership. Additional Secretary DEA, K Rajaraman, Joint Secretary, DEA, Baldeo Purushartha

Ministry of Agriculture signs MoUs for Digital Agriculture

Modernisation of the Agriculture sector will continue by infusing new technologies so that farmers can increase their income, states Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. The Ministry of Agriculture and farmer welfare has signed MOUs for pilot projects with Cisco, Ninjacar

Visionary Talk: GVL Narasimha Rao, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha on Upcoming UP Elections


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter