Right to Information – Master key to good governance

War in the Time of Peace

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 18, 2006

War in the Time of Peace

Posted: 2006-07-17


There is a time for peace and there is a time for war. But as Leon Trotsky so well put it, war has the nasty habit of coming to those who refuse to go to it, hence the need to fight wars even during the times of peace. American president George W Bush, perhaps instinctively, or else as an unconscious interpretation of Trotsky, said very much the same thing while pushing his agenda of “War Against Terror” when he appealed to the American people to stand by him in making war on Iraq saying America must prefer to fight with its military then, rather than with its police and ambulances on the streets of the cities of America later. The image of September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on New York and Pentagon being fresh in the minds of the Americans at the time, this argument must have been passionately convincing. But Trotsky’s insight into conflict need not necessarily be taken to mean literally what it implied. It could, and probably was, meant as a metaphor. We would much prefer to interpret it to mean tackling a problem actively before it grows into a crisis. This however is not an easy proposition. For this would involve not just the ability to tackle the problem, but also foresight to anticipate potential crisis of the future and vision to evolve the strategies to nip them in the bud without causing avoidable social trepidations. Needless to say, this is one area where our state has failed miserably. Most of the blame must go to our politicians for it is indeed the requirement of their job to have incisive foresights into issues with crisis potential and then develop strategies to overcome them well in advance. However, the state’s intellectuals and also the larger citizenry cannot simply wash their hands of the guilt, for they too have fed to the conditions that made our policies deaf, blind and mute to many of these issues. If our politicians have not made the attempt to identify and evolve corrective strategies for these, so have the intelligentsia done meaningful little in the regard.

Take the issue of corruption. We all knows how deeply concerned everybody is of this corroding agent wasting away our collective soul and creative energy. A media opinion poll conducted by the All India Radio, AIR, demonstrated that an overwhelming majority, crossing boundaries of sex, age, education, profession and community, agree corruption is at the core of the downward spiral of our society today. Those in the media who by the very demands of their profession have to keep their ears close to the ground, or anybody else seriously and sincerely concerned with the fate of the state, will testify this is a statement of the obvious. The point is, there is hardly anybody who does not agree corruption has decapitated our society. It has destroyed the true spirit of competition; merit is no longer valued; money, regardless of whether it has not been earned by sweat and enterprise, has come to be revered and worshipped; our education system is at the bottom of the pit… and the list of woes is endless. Everybody is disgusted and angry, but nobody has ever thought of strategizing a way to get over the problem. Even the crude justice of bullet in the thigh, and sometimes in the head, has not ended it or can end it either.

Surprisingly, a ready-made legal strategy to defeat it, drawn from the principles of democracy, lying before everyone still goes largely unrecognized – the Right to Information Act, RTI Act.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us climb down from all the lofty but empty intellectual platitudes about RTI being a fundamental democratic freedom etc, or some kind of an additional news-gathering tool for the media. In concrete terms, this is an anti-corruption Act, just as the Anti-Defection Law was an Act to prevent political horse-trading. It is meant to empower the public to fend themselves against becoming victims of State corruption, individually or else as a collectivity. Imagine a simple case. A student who is not happy with the marks she or he receives at a public examination, for example the forthcoming MCS recruitment examination, files for a personal scrutiny of her answer scripts, and the authorities are bound by law to oblige her.

At the very basic, this is what the RTI Act guarantees. Under the circumstance, which exam authority would be still encouraged to manipulate results in exchange of lucre? The same issue would apply to all other public issues. So why is our intelligentsia dragging its feet in pressurizing the state government to form an Information Commission under the RTI Act without further ado? To return to Trotsky, let us fight the war against corruption now so that corruption does not come to us later and swallow us all.

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