Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Strategies for RTI Applications . . .

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 30, 2006

Strategies for RTI Applications . . .”Malik, Veeresh” veereshmalik@gmail.com 


a) If a Public Authority makes submitting and receiving an RTI Application difficult for you, or if the experience impacts your self-respect, then submit it by the “via APIO _______ Post Office” method STRAIGHT to the CPIO of the President of India, PMO or Governor of that State right away, adding a line that the relevant Public Authority was not co-operating and so you are forced to go to the added effort of submitting it to the CPIO of the President/PMO/Governor, under the RTI Act. I have done this ample number of times, it is perfectly legitimate, and gets the message across very well to all concerned. By rights, the submission of an RTI Application should be as simple as buying a Railway ticket. Till then, if we have to utilise the help of the Super PIOs at President/PMO or Governor, then so be it.

b) If a Public Authority tries to draw you into personal meetings or telephone conversations, then please request them to set up a specific agenda before-hand, and stick to it. Ideally, such meetings should be avoided, but if you have to meet them, then let it be at neutral locations, sitting in a public park or on a railway platform is a valid proposition. The written word is all that has value, and truth is in numbers; much of the rest is hot air.

c) If a Public Authority tells you by whatsoever means that such-and-such activity is not their responsibility, then politely tell them that the activity is not the issue, the information pertaining to the activity is the real issue. Again, to draw an example of the Railways, if the Chairman Railway Board says that something pertaining to Indian Railways in North East Frontier Railway or in Katra (where they have an Out-Office) is not his responsibility, then response should be that the information is all you seek, and if Chairman Railway Board can not get information about NEF Railway or Out-Office/Katra, then he should either seek retirement, or fire his staff.

No Public Authority will ever admit that information for something in his domain can not be made available. Their internal power lies in messing around with this very information. For example, Ministry of Road Transport can say that they have nothing to do with State Highways or Private projects, fair enough, then why were they running around when the Prime Minister went to inaugurate Highways in Karnataka? Or Ministry of Health & Family Welfare may say that they have nothing to do with a Primary Health Centre in rural Orissa, then why did their Minister or Officials go abroad to attend conferences on the subject? Get the drift?

d) If a Public Authority tells you that such-and-such information, especially those pertaining to break-up of funds spent/collected, are “classified” or “not available”, then please wave a copy of a Railway Time-Table and fare-chart at them, and ask them to do a logical comparision. It usually stuns most Public Authorities who are used to even keeping the price of a bus ticket or what a bottle of water costs, as a confidential document.

e) Courtesy CN Kumar of Bangalore, the strategy of filing a simple complaint, and then waiting for 2-3 months when the reply does not come, and THEN filing an RTI Application, is excellent. You get the action AND you get the information, for the same 10/- rupees.

f) And finally, CIC Wajahat Habibullah is publicly stating that the largest number of RTI Applications they get seem to be for departmental queries on promotions and other similar issues. It is up to us to file more public interest RTI applications, of the sort that General Jatar has done from Pune on motor vehicle utilisation, or the sort that Shailesh Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal file on their issues. And various others. And when any of us run into problems with specific CPIOs, like Arvind did with CPIO/AIIMSc, then the rest of us should file a few RTI Applications on that CPIO. Like I did with the CPIO/Indian Oil, when he “rejected and returned” an RTI Application to an applicant from semi-rural Ghaziabad.

g) I tend to use the Indian Railways example a lot, because they do have some of the best cash-management and fiscal audit systems in the world now, truly speaking I know from my work life that their cash management and internal audits are now setting world benchmarks, that the biggest and best corporations and Governments worldwide are looking at them with respect for this and other wonderful things, and that they are also the same Government of India. Sure, leakages are there everywhere, but anybody aware of the subject can see up front how Indian Railways are tightening up things for overall benefit of stakeholders over the last few years.

And at the end of the day, the main purpose of the RTI Act is to try and evince public participation in trying to block theft of public money. Both at input and output stage. Wave a Railway Time-Table at somebody trying to refuse you information, and see the logic emerge in most cases.

I say again –  as an Indian in India out of choice, and with a background in the logistics as well as infotech industry, I get a very good and proud feeling when my foreign clients and contemporaries take the example of Indian Railways and Mumbai dabba-wallahs for basic efficiencies.

For example, I have been taking the NHAI, DoRT&H and others in multiple RTI Applications just to find out more about this business of tolls and other fees collected all over the country by contractors. Likewise, I am pursuing the Civil Aviation Ministry and various Authorities under it for the freebies thrown at so-called VIPs. The loss to the Nation with the current method of collecting tolls or providing freebies by AAI is best compared to if the Indian Railways gave a favoured contractor a train route for free and then gave the contractor the rights to collect whatever they wanted for a passenger or goods train as well as keep whatever they could earn by way of advertisements – property development – etcetc . . .  without any due process on remitting the collections back to the Government of India.

Thank you for reading this.

Veeresh Malik

2 Responses to “Strategies for RTI Applications . . .”

  1. B Gogoi said

    Very good and informative article.

  2. Rauni said

    The defence doesny leave any chance of strstegies as they are bigerr in size “by the word we save the NATION”
    Iam to doing the same by not sitting at the border.

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