Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Aruna Roy to leave advisory council

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 20, 2006

Aruna Roy to leave advisory council



NEW DELHI: In what signals a growing disaffection between civil society activists and the ruling arrangement at the Centre, the 'right to information' activist, Aruna Roy, has decided to leave the National Advisory Council (NAC).

Ms Roy, who is widely believed to be the force behind getting the Right to Information Act adopted under the UPA regime, has said she will not seek a renewal of her NAC membership.

"Membership to the NAC has to be renewed every year. I will not seek renewal this year. I want to focus on the RTI and NREGA, which are both big programmes," Ms Roy told ET.

Ms Roy is the second high profile appointee to move away from the NAC after economist and activist Jean Dreze, who had authored the draft of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) – left the advisory body in protest last year.

With Ms Roy's decision to leave the NAC, the Congress' attempts to spread its influence over a constituency represented by the civil society may be in trouble.

After the UPA government came to power in '04, it had yoked a number of eminent activists such as Ms Roy, Mr Dreze, Dr Jayaprakash Narayan and others to the banner of the NAC in a bid to cultivate the party's new-found constituency.

Given the composition of the NAC and the authority it derived from the leadership of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was its chairperson, it was widely believed that the civil societywallahs had become powerful in Delhi's power circuit once more.

However, there has been a steady erosion of the extra-governmental power associated with the NAC since Ms Gandhi resigned from the body in the wake of the office of profit controversy. Under pressure from the Opposition, Ms Gandhi resigned from the NAC and her Lok Sabha membership.

Though she has been re-elected by a decisive margin from her parliamentary constituency, Rae Barely, the prospect of going back to head the NAC has evaded her with President APJ Abdul Kalam declining to give his assent to the office of profit bill. The last meeting of the advisory body was held in mid-February.

While Ms Roy's ostensible reasons for not wanting to seek a renewal of her membership in the NAC might be to devote more time to the mega projects RTI and NREGA, sources indicated that she might not have been too happy with the manner in which the government has gone about the implementation of the RTI.

Ms Roy, it may be recalled, had demanded the publication of the government's report on the Narmada rehabilitation exercise under the RTI Act. But the Prime Minister's Office refused to make the report public. The decision was taken when the Congress leadership realised that backing the case of the civil societywallahs could hurt the party's political interests.


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