Silence of RTI champs

There is no visible resistance to proposed RTI ‘rules’


Danish Raza | February 14, 2011

On December 13, 2009, the champions of the right to information (RTI) act held demonstrations across the country, protesting against the government’s desire to amend the act. Aruna Roy was the face of one of these demonstrations held near Jantar Mantar in the capital.

Prithiviraj Chavan, then minister of state for personnel, grievances and training, went on record saying that the government would not amend the act without consulting the stakeholders.
About a year later, on December 10, 2010, the DoPT went public with proposed RTI rules.
Legally speaking, the act will not be amended. Notification of rules is necessary for the functioning of every law. However, the rules awaiting notification will bring in drastic changes in the implementation of the act. In fact, they go against the very spirit of the act. Hence, all practical purposes, the act is going to change.
But this time, the people who participated in the 2009 rallies, are nowhere to be seen.
There is no news of protests, demonstrations or even criticism. No national newspaper or magazine has written in detail about the proposed rules and their consequences.
There are active RTI associations and groups of activists in many states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and Orissa. They are also silent. Why?

I cannot say for sure, but I can see two possible reasons behind this silence.
One, they have admitted that there is nothing they can do now. Since the government has started the procedure to notify the rules, no amount of resistance will help. There is no scope but to watch the act in a ‘paper tiger’ avatar.
Second, and a more worrisome, possibility is that there is no unanimity among the RTI champions on the proposed rules. One group is in favor of the rules and the other, against it.
The former believes that there will be initial hiccups, but after that, the act will be used for the purpose for which it was formulated: introducing transparency and accountability in governance.
The later believes that the act is best in its current form and the government should stay away from it.
In either case, the dramatic scenes of hundreds of people with placards reading ‘stay away from RTI’ and shouting slogans such as ‘Jaankari hamara haq hai (information is our right)’ are a thing of past. May be, they are in search of a new issue to rally for.



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