Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Bureaucracy’s fears?

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 1, 2006

Bureaucracy’s fears
Can’t people blackmail government servants by obtaining information?Let us ask ourselves – what does RTI do? It just brings truth in public domain. It does not create any information. It just removes curtains and brings truth in public domain. Is that bad? When can it be misused? Only if an officer has done something wrong and if that information comes out in public. Is it bad that wrongdoings within the Government should become public and be exposed rather than keeping it under wraps. Yes, once such information is obtained by someone, he could go and blackmail that officer. But why do we wish to protect wrong officers. If any officer is blackmailed, he/she has options available under Indian Penal Code to go register an FIR against a blackmailer. Let that officer do that. However, we can even avoid the possibility of any individual officer from being blackmailed by any individual complainant by putting all information, sought by any applicant, on the website. An applicant is able to blackmail an officer only when that applicant is the only person who obtained that information and threatens to make that public. But if all information sought by him were to be put on website, the possibility of blackmail would be substantially reduced.
Won’t Government get flooded with RTI applications and won’t it jam government machinery?
These fears are hypothetical. There are more than 65 countries in the world, which have RTI laws. There are nine states in India, who had RTI laws, before this law was passed by the Parliament. None of these Governments were flooded with applications. Such fear emanates from an assumption that the people do not have anything to do and are totally free. Filing an RTI application and pursuing it takes time, energies and resources. Unless a person really wants any information, he/she does not file it.Let us consider some statistics. In Delhi, 14000 applications have been filed in 120 departments in more than 60 months. This means less than 2 applications per Department per month. Can we say that Delhi Government got flooded with RTI applications? In sharp contrast, US Government received 3.2 million applications under their RTI Act during 2003-04. This is despite the fact that unlike India, most of the Government information is already available on the net and there should be much less need for the people to file applications. But US Government is not contemplating scrapping the RTI Ac. On the contrary they are setting aside more and more resources to implement it. During the same year, they spent $ 32 million to implement it.
Won’t it require huge amount of resources to implement RTI Act?
Any amount of resources required to implement RTI Act would be well spent. Most countries like the US have realized it and are already spending huge resources to make their governments transparent. Firstly, all the cost spent on RTI gets more than recovered the same year by the amounts of money that the Government saves due to reduction in corruption and malpractices. For instance, there is strong evidence to show how leakages in drought relief program in Rajasthan and Public Distribution System in Delhi substantially reduced due to extensive use of RTI.Secondly, RTI is very essential for democracy. It is a part of our fundamental right. For people to participate in governance, the pre-requisite is that they first know what is going on. So, just the way we treat all expenses made on the running of our Parliament as essential, we have to treat all expenses made in the implementation of RTI as essential.
 
Won’t it require huge amount of resources to implement RTI Act?
Any amount of resources required to implement RTI Act would be well spent. Most countries like the US have realized it and are already spending huge resources to make their governments transparent. Firstly, all the cost spent on RTI gets more than recovered the same year by the amounts of money that the Government saves due to reduction in corruption and malpractices. For instance, there is strong evidence to show how leakages in drought relief program in Rajasthan and Public Distribution System in Delhi substantially reduced due to extensive use of RTI.Secondly, RTI is very essential for democracy. It is a part of our fundamental right. For people to participate in governance, the pre-requisite is that they first know what is going on. So, just the way we treat all expenses made on the running of our Parliament as essential, we have to treat all expenses made in the implementation of RTI as essential.
 
But often people file applications to settle personal scores etc?
 
As written above, RTI simply brings truth in public domain. It does not create information. Any attempt at hiding truth or putting a cover over it is not in the best interests of society. Rather than serving any useful purpose, any attempt at promoting secrecy would only increase the scope for corruption and wrongdoing. Therefore, our entire efforts should be to make governance completely transparent. However, if anyone blackmails someone subsequently, there are ample provisions under law to address that. Secondly, there are sufficient safeguards under sec 8 of RTI Act. It states that any information, which relates to private affairs of any individual and has no public interest would not be disclosed. Therefore, the existing laws have sufficient provisions available to address genuine concerns of the people.
 
How to avoid people from filing frivolous applications?
THERE IS NO FRIVOLOUS APPLICATION. What is frivolous? My pending water connection could be the most critical issue for me, but it could be treated as frivolous by a bureaucrat. Some vested interests within the bureaucracy have raised this bogey of frivolous applications. Right now, RTI Act does not permit any application to be rejected on the ground that it was frivolous. But some section of bureaucracy want the PIO to be empowered to reject any application if he feels that it was frivolous. If that happens, every PIO will declare every other application to be frivolous and reject it. It would mean a death knell to RTI.
 
File notings should not be made public as that would prevent honest officers from rendering honest advice?
This is wrong. On the contrary, every officer would now know that whatever he writes on the file would be subject to public scrutiny. This would force him to write things which are in best public interest. Some honest bureaucrats have admitted in private that RTI has helped them immensely in warding off political and other undue influences. Now, the officers simply say that if they did the wrong thing, they might get exposed if someone asked for that information. Therefore, officers have started insisting that the seniors gave directions in writing. The Government is learnt to be contemplating removing file notings from the purview of RTI Act. For the above reasons, it is absolutely essential that file notings should be allowed to be covered under RTI Act.
 
Civil servant has to make decisions under many pressures and the public will not understand this?
As discussed above, on the contrary, possibility of exposures to illegitimate pressures would reduce.
Government records are not in proper shape. How could RTI be implemented?
RTI would force the system to start maintaining records properly now. Else the officials would face a penalty under the Act.
 
Applications seeking voluminous information should be rejected?
If I seek for some information, which runs into a lakh of pages, I would do that only if I need it because I will have to pay Rs 2 lakhs for that.This is an automatic deterrent. If application were rejected only on this account, the applicant could break his application and file 1000 applications seeking 100 pages through each application, which would not benefit anyone. Therefore, applications should not be rejected only on this pretext.People should be allowed to seek information only about themselves. They should not be allowed to ask questions about other spheres of governance, totally unrelated to the.

Sec 6(2) of RTI Act clearly says an applicant cannot be questioned why he/she were asking for any information. In any case, RTI flows from the fact that people pay taxes, This money belongs to them and therefore, they have a right to know how their money were being spent and how they were being governed. So, people have a right to know everything about every sphere of governance. They may or may not be directly related to the matter. So, even a person living in Delhi can ask for any information from say, Tamil Nadu.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/specials/htbribe/faq_9.shtml

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