Right to Information – Master key to good governance

RTI Act is our last chance to cleanse the system

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 15, 2006

15.8.2006 Editorial Page, Q& A,  Times of India, Ahmedabad

RTI Act is our last chance to cleanse the system

The Right to Information Act is a rare piece of legislation that promises transparency and accountability in government. However, the bureaucracy and the political class have joined hands to kill the potency of the Act. Rights activist Aruna Roy tells the Times of India that the proposed seven amendments to exclude file notings, the identities of those who make notings, and all information during the decisionmaking process, from the purview of the RTI Act, is as good as repealing the Act:

Why are RTI activists agitated over these amendments?
File notings are a record of recommendations made by every official who handled a file, and are essential to understand how, when, and why a particular decision has been taken. Further, denying access to all information during the decision-making process will forestall access to reasons for government delays, for example on why a ration card is being delayed. It will also hide information on how the government is going about finalising a mega deal, or on why a huge project is being approved. As access to file notings will ensure that publicly stated rationale for government decisions could be checked against the actual files, it will force politicians and bureaucrats to be more responsible in decision-making, thereby improving efficiency.
Who do you think is behind the amendments?
I suspect those people who fear that transparency in decisionmaking will expose their misdeeds and corruption. This includes many bureaucrats and politicians. In contrast, honest officials know that public access to file notings will help them resist pressures from corrupt superiors and politicians. I have got many calls from secretaries to the government and from others, requesting that we should prevent the amendments. For example, a police officer called us to express support. His point was, security breaches and intelligence failure leading to terror attacks often happen because we are not posting the right person for the right job. Politicians have the final say in appointments and transfers. If they have to put the reasons for recommending specific transfers and postings on record and if these are open to public scrutiny, they will hesitate before pushing the case of unsuitable candidates. The RTI Act is our last chance to cleanse the system of corruption.
What is to be done now?
We are concerned that a section of the political class will close ranks and pass the amendments. The RTI Act impacts everyone, cutting across class, caste, religion and region. We need to guard it. Every person interested in the future of this country should oppose the amendments and put pressure on the government to desist from introducing them. The RTI Act was the outcome of a democratic process that involved grass-roots activists, ordinary citizens, eminent jurists, and even progressive civil servants and politicians. It can’t be subverted from the top. We can’t allow that. We will fight these amendments every inch of the way.


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