Thursday, October 06, 2005

On the Right to Information (RTI) in India

On Oct 12th the Right to Information Act 2005 comes into force in India. This act is truly impressive, and has the potential to greatly enhance transparency and reduce corruption at all levels of government in India. It gives Indians the right to access information that is held by the government (information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law). This law is the result of a long struggle by public spirited individuals and organization and a desire among the public for greater transparency in government. The moving spirit behind the Right to Information movement in India has been Aruna Roy and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan. Anna Hazare in Maharashtra has also played a key role. And of course, much credit goes to the govt. as well. In Maharashtra and in Delhi, effective statewide RTI laws have been in force for a couple of years now, and have been used by citizens in uncovering government corruption and inefficiency. Despite some dilution (e.g., exclusion of central intelligence agencies, and exclusion of file notings from the purview of the law), the law does appear to be truly powerful. There is reason to be hopeful that this law will indeed uncover government corruption and inefficiency, and will lead to all round improvement in governance.

The text of the act can be found here. Here is an analysis of the law. For more about Aruna Roy and MKSS click here. Nagrik Chetna Manch in Pune and Parivartan in Delhi are NGOs that are actively using RTI. HumJanenge is a yahoo group dealing with RTI. A very informative web-page can be found here.

[Added later (Oct 14, '05). The national RTI Act. came into force on Dusshehra day 2005. There has been some disappointment that only retired bureaucrats have been appointed as central and state chief information commissioners by the govt. The law states that "eminent persons" are to be appointed to these posts. It was hoped that the govt. would appoint as CICs individuals who are largely independent of the bureaucratic machinery - retired judges for example. Apparently the govt. thinks that only retired bureaucrats meet the description of "eminent persons" as required by the RTI law. Although disappointed, RTI activists have decided not to protest too loudly for now, but to keep a watch on the CICs with an eagle eye. For this, and some other issues, read this article by Prakash Kardaley.]

[Here is another article that I wrote on RTI in India]


Blogger Sujai said...

Thanks for the links to the analysis. I am a strong proponent of this bill and I have been waiting for many years for this to get passed. But they have done it in phases. I gather this one still a very diluted one (as you suggested) and there much more to be done.

April 29, 2006 7:47 PM  

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