Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Change in RTI Act: Sonia’s intervention raises hope

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 20, 2006

Change in RTI Act: Sonia’s intervention raises hope

SEEMA CHISHTI

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/10924.html

Posted online: Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 0000 hrs

New Delhi, august 18:Right To Information (RTI) activists camping in Delhi for the last 11 days, protesting the bid by the government to bring about an amendment to the RTI Act (which would bring only those “file notings” under public scrutiny that deal with social or developmental plans) said they were enthused about reports (published in this newspaper on August 18) regarding the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s quiet intervention in the matter.

The Indian Express reported yesterday that after Sonia expressed her reservations, the amendment Bill was not being brought in for the time being. “We are excited but wary. The government has given us no assurance that they will abandon the amendment. Our mobilisation against the amendment will continue till we know for sure that they have changed their mind,” says Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.

Dey and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal are among the four activists who met Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachauri. They say that while there was no assurance from the minister but they were given a patient hearing, and they have given him their objections to the amendment in writing.

The minister also told the activists on phone that their objections would now be dealt directly by the PM, who also happens to have the portfolio of DoPT under him. Pachauri would consult the PM and the UPA chairperson and then decide on the next step.

Campaigners for the inclusion of “file noting”’ have launched another set of protests from today — “balloting’ popular opinion on the matter by getting citizens from states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh etc.

As far as the government goes, the amendment is far from dead. Sources in the DoPT say that their understanding has always been that “notings” have been excluded in the original Act itself, and the amendment is to actually enable the social and developmental plan-related “notings” to be made public.

They maintain they have a strong case as all state governments are with them in this matter and notings are ruled out by all State Information Acts passed in India so far. The website of the Ministry continues to maintain in its FAQ that “file notings’ are exempt from the Act. However, Pachauri says “we have an open mind on the matter” and are anxious to find a middle ground which they hope to bring activists around to.

seema.chishti@expressindia.com

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