Right to Information – Master key to good governance


Posted by rtiact2005 on August 11, 2006

5 SPARKS THAT FIRED THE NATION’S IMAGINATIONCompiled by Deeptiman Tiwary and Amit Sengupta


Diehard Warrior: Kejriwal has fought relentlessly for civil society rights

Patience Infinite: Empty buckets and veiled thirst in Delhi’s suburbs

For The Rights That Were Due: Tribals in a protest demanding implementation of the Forests Bill


Knowledge is power

The right to Information Act has been enacted, finally, after a protracted struggle by civil society groups and members of the National Advisory Council, like Aruna Roy and Jean Dreze with some crucial support from Sonia Gandhi. However, it was the long-drawn struggle by the people, in urban areas (led by people like Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan) as well as in remote villages, which turned the tide in support of a law which should go down in history as a political rupture of sorts. Villagers held innumerable people’s tribunals to book the entrenched nexus of corrupt politicians and officials by exposing corruption in development projects. This included the right to food campaigns, especially in areas terribly hit by drought. A section of the media helped the cause by pointing out that official secrecy in democracy can only help the corrupt in an unequal society. Despite severe criticisms of dilution and a section of the establishment refusing to play ball, this is two steps forward in a bleak scenario of stunning top-heavy corruption.


Thirst is human

These are heady times, even in the metros. The middle class for the first time left its drawing rooms in Delhi and came out on the streets against the privatisation of power and water. They refused to pay huge bills for their faulty meters installed by big private companies. Later they, with a little help from Tehelka which led a campaign on water privatisation, categorically said that the backdoor entry of the World Bank and mncs in the water sector will not be accepted. Even Montek Singh Ahluwalia beat a hasty retreat. Water is a national resource, said the people, no one has the right to sell it. Parivartan led the movement. This could be a catalyst all over the nation in the globalised days to come.


Tribals and tribulations

Finally, the government at least thought about giving the forests back to their indigenous protectors, the adivasis. The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 being pushed by the government, though, has been bitterly criticised, especially by hardline pro-tiger lobbies. The debate is still on but the silver lining is that the original inheritors of the forests have, for once, hit the public space.

One cannot deny the fact that the organised elimination of tigers and their alarmingly dwindling numbers in the national parks and our forests is a direct result of the alienation of tribals from their habitat. With forests becoming a prohibited area, the tribals, who for centuries depended on them for their livelihood and also nourished and protected it, were suddenly pushed outside the margins. Is the search for a balance between man and nature not possible, despite the poaching mafia, underpaid forest guards and a bankrupt forest administration? Can’t the tiger and the adivasi co-exist, as it has been for centuries?


The show stinks

The call centres or the glorified bpos, the feather in the cap of globalisation, have suddenly become transparent. Gone is the projected flashy lifestyle, the yankee doodle nightlife, the long distance slangs, the fast bikes and cars and alleged fat salaries for undergrads and the swanky credit card future ahead; gone also is that daily nocturnal trip in that huge bully of a car, from the metros to the suburbs of the twinkling it cities. This manufactured gloss has been now decisively proved to be the creation of the profit-making sharks in the West who control these robotic sweatshops of outsourcing in the developing nations at dirt cheap rates. The reality is out that not only can women on night-shifts be raped, there is no dignity of work, abuse and exploitation is a norm, there are no fundamental rights, staffers are constantly under surveillance, a generation is dumbed down, its dreams trivialised, while sacking is not seen as an aberration. The call centres are stinking, and it’s showing.


One hundred days of solitude

The 100 days of work for adults in rural families in 200 districts have become a legal right after the Employment Guarantee Act was passed by Parliament. This has been a positive move backed by the National Advisory Committee led by Sonia Gandhi. The proposal was ambitious but possible given that several defunct food-for-work programmes already existed; but what makes this special is that it has arrived in the backdrop of successive years of drought, farmers’ suicides, starvation deaths, and widespread suffering in the post-wto, liberalised regime. Amply reflected in the rejection of the obscene India Shining plank by the poor in the last elections, the employment act was pushed by civil society groups, including the radical, energetic ‘Rozgar Yatra’ across the harsh summer landscape of rural India. Will the 100 days project work? Will work bring food, dignity, freedom? That’s a long haul in a democracy where it’s still miles to go before the dream.


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