Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Archive for the ‘RTI Derailings’ Category

Put NGOs under RTI scalpel

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 9, 2006

Put NGOs under RTI scalpel


Sandhya Jain (Pioneer Delhi) 8.8.2006

The $50,000 Magsaysay Award was recently conferred upon Arvind
Kejriwal, a former Indian Revenue Service officer campaigning for the
Right to Information (RTI). Though several Indians have received this
prize from Philippines, not many citizens are aware that this is
actually an American award for Asians. Set up by the Rockefeller
Brothers Foundation, most of the purse comes from the Ford Foundation.

The citation does not say when Mr Kejriwal resigned from service, but
mentions his association with Parivartan, an entity campaigning for
RTI. Mr Kejriwal was in service when he was with Parivartan, which is
not a registered NGO (a Society, Trust, or S.25 Company). Under income
tax, it is an Association of Persons (AoP), a coming together of
persons with a profit-motive so that members can share its income,
unlike in a registered society. The Parivartan website conceals its
AoP, barring one Manish Sisodia (part-time volunteer, founder-member
and treasurer), and terms of association, yet demands a level of
transparency from governmental agencies that is not in vogue anywhere
in the world.

In a timely study on some of India’s most exalted conscience-keepers,
Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak argue for public scrutiny of those who
hold society or government to ransom, usually at the behest of foreign
sponsors (NGOs, Activists & Foreign Funds. Anti-Nation Industry, Vigil
Public Opinion Forum, 2006). Kak’s meticulous research shows that in
FY 2002-03, Parivartan showed receipts for Rs 2,02,489 (Rs 2,01,889
are donations); the total expenditure is Rs 1,88,164, of which
salaries take Rs 1,14,000. The only ‘programme cost’ is Rs 35,945 on a
‘jan sunwai’ public hearing), and the rest is standard administrative
expense.

However, Parivartan claims its annual fixed costs are approximately Rs
six lakh, and programme costs are “partly funded through collections
from the community itself including poor people and the shortfall is
made good by raising funds from outside”. Its website does not say if
these funds are included in the receipts statement and if receipts are
issued for small sums given by poor people. Yet it wants to make the
Government of India accountable to itself on behalf of the “people of
India”.

Radha Rajan argues that many high-profile NGOs serve America’s vision
of a post-Cold-War world order. Hence they advocate ‘communal harmony’
in India even as jihad batters the Hindu community, and promote
‘peace’ with Pakistan despite its formidable terrorist infrastructure.
They are essentially political activists using social activism as a
mask for their crusade against an independent nationalist India. Thus
they are invariably anti-Government of India, anti-military,
anti-police, anti-nuclear, and, of course, anti-Hindu.

America uses the Magsaysay and other awards to legitimise its
loyalists. Indian Magsaysay awardees include Mahasweta Devi (1997),
Aruna Roy and Martin Macwan (2000), Sandeep Pandey (2002), Nirmala
Deshpande and Admiral Ramdas (2005). Then, Praful Bidwai and Achin
Vanaik received the Sean Macbride Peace Prize (2000) and Arundhati Roy
the Sydney Peace Prize (2004). In neighbouring Nepal, journalist
Bharat Koirala got the Magsaysay in 2002 for unleashing the anti-Hindu
process there. Today, a Christian Prachanda has taken over the country
by terrorising the effete political parties and the king is a virtual
prisoner.

Krishen Kak’s expose of Harsh Mander (Scoring Against Paganism:
Untangling the Manderweb) is a warning to the Government about the
monetary subversion of serving officers by foreign regimes. In March
2002, Mander, an IAS officer, became an international celebrity when
he attacked the communal violence in Gujarat (after 58 Hindus were
burnt alive at Godhra) in an article in a leading newspaper. Feted in
the West, he claimed he had resigned from the IAS on moral grounds.

This was a deliberate falsehood, says Kak, as Mander was serving the
politico-communal agenda of ActionAid, his British employer. Mander
had managed a profitable deputation to ActionAid, getting part payment
in pound sterling in return for scuttling a government enquiry into
its communal agenda in India.

Managing to ward off moves to end his deputation, Mander took
voluntary retirement only on completing pensionable service. He sought
retirement benefits to the tune of up to a million rupees; the
Government stipulated that he cease working for ActionAid; he refused
and continued demanding retirement benefits. When Kak publicly
challenged the lie that he had resigned on moral grounds, Mander
quickly modified his rhetoric.

ActionAid’s communal agenda may well be the inspiration for the UPA’s
Sachar Committee, and shows how foreign agendas are wormed into the
topmost echelons of power. It recently initiated a study to sensitise
the public and civil society activists about “the dismal economic,
educational and social conditions of the Muslim masses”. Of course,
ActionAid conducted no similar study about Hindu survivors in Pakistan
and Bangladesh.

ActionAid used Mander to connect over 300 voluntary agencies. Its
patronage extended to Aruna Roy of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
(MKSS) and National Campaign of People’s Right to Information (NCPRI).
The MKSS takes foreign institutional support in kind to evade
reporting its funds under FCRA. The MKSS-approved Lok Shikshan
Sansthan states that FCRA money can be sent to its founder-NGO Prayas
or to the Roy-connected SWRC Tilonia “and it would be transferred to
our organisation’

s account.” Very interesting!

Kak’s research has uncovered an hitherto unknown entity patronised by
Mander-ActionAid. This is the “unstructured organisation”, which
solicits public money but does not say if it is registered and how it
banks the money. Shabnam Hashmi’s ANHAD (with Mander, KN Panikkar and
Shubha Mudgal) is one such body. So is the Aman Ekta Manch, Aman
Samudaya, Aman Jathas, Aman Pathiks. Mander’s Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan,
funded by ActionAid, does not reveal the names of the core team of
eleven professionals, or its accounts.

The disturbing aspect of these unregistered unstructured organisations
is their complete lack of accountability or legal scrutiny regarding
foreign donations. Ex-IAS officers and ex-judges often provide
respectability and protection to such dubious bodies in return for
post-retirement sinecures. It is a vicious and dangerous circle.

Russia learnt the hard way that unmonitored West-funded NGOs triggered
the spate of revolutions in the former Soviet Republics and out them
under the scanner. The majesty of the Indian state cannot be
subordinated to hupny-tupny rabble-rousers funded by the West. The
Government should immediately bring all activists under the RTI
scalpel; this will literally scalp them.

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Hide and seek [accountability will be denied and corruption promoted]

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 7, 2006

Hide and seek

Ajit Bhattacharjea

August 7, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1762457,00120001.htm

At every stage of the right to information movement, the biggest hurdles have been created by the bureaucracy. Over the years, they cleverly drafted legislation that appeared to serve the objective of transparency in governance while making sure it contained enough loopholes to avoid just that. However, step by step, the loopholes were removed and mounting public pressure led to Parliament passing the path-breaking Right to Information Act a year ago.

Now that the Act has begun to hurt, threatening individuals with imminent exposure of their questionable decisions, a truly devious tactic has been devised. The government has made the apparently generous gesture of further liberalising the Act with an amendment while actually curtailing its reach. In doing so, the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), the last redoubt of the bureaucracy, attempts to disempower the central and state Information Commissions, the authorities established to implement the Act. The offence of the Central Information Commission (CIC) is to endorse the crucial right of access to file notings, Cabinet papers and other official documents, under the provisions of the Act.

In typical fashion, this hatchet job is cloaked in subterfuge. While suggesting in an official press note that the commissions’ powers be enhanced, their autonomy is, in fact, sought to be denied. According to the amendment, after the commissions have inquired into complaints, the final decision on the same will lie with the central or state governments. In other words, they will have only recommendatory status.

This is only one of the serious changes attempted to be made in the Right to Information Act in a move unfortunately described by the Prime Minister in a letter to Anna Hazare as aimed to “promote even greater transparency and accountability in our decision-making process”. Access to the material on which a Cabinet decision has already been taken is now permitted, but will be taken away. So will access to the identities of those recording notings and giving recommendations. In other words, accountability will be denied and corruption promoted.

The government’s desire to water down the right to information seems to have originated from the file notings issue. It is these notings that disclose the role of individual bureaucrats in governmental decision-making. If access is limited to innocuous files, bureaucrats are shielded from accountability. This is precisely what the proposed amendment attempts.

More than six months ago, on January 31, 2006, the CIC ruled that “we are of the firm view that, in terms of the existing provisions of the RTI Act, a citizen has the right to seek information contained in ‘file notings’ unless the same relates to matters covered under Section 8 of the Act”. This section lists national security and such grounds that can exempt a piece of information from disclosure, though the Act lays down that access may be allowed “if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm done to protected interests”.

The ruling by two members of the commission, including its chief, Wajahat Habibullah, could not be more specific. Access to file notings was not limited to development and social subjects, as the amendment seeks. It was allowed in response to an appeal by one Satyapal against the decision of the Chief Public Information Officer of TCIL. The official had insisted that file notings on the documents of which copies had been sought were “exempt from disclosure in terms of the clarifications given by the Department of Personnel in their website”. This was overruled.

Since then, other CIC rulings have embarrassed the government. One required DOPT to allow inspection of certain Cabinet papers involved in a file concerning alleged irregularities in the appointment of the Chairman and Managing Director of MTNL. Access to such information will be ruled out if the proposed amendment is passed by Parliament.

On July 13, the CIC reacted against DOPT’s delaying tactics: “The Commission noted with serious concern that some public authorities were denying requests for inspection of file notings and supply copies thereof to the applicant despite the fact that the RTI Act, 2005, does not exempt file notings from disclosure. The reasons they were citing for non-disclosure of ‘file notings’ was the information posted on the DOPT website to the effect that ‘information’ did not include file notings. Thus the DOPT website was creating a lot of avoidable and unnecessary confusion in the minds of the public authorities.”

After referring to previous letters on the subject, the CIC demanded removal of the instructions concerning non-disclosure of file notings from the DOPT website within five days. The order was not complied with. Instead the amendment on file notings emerged. It is now for Parliament to decide whether to rely on the CIC, the independent agency it has established to interpret and protect the Right to Information Act, or the guile of a department concerned with protecting bureaucratic interests.

Perhaps because it was bound to raise bureaucratic hackles, the CIC was careful to explain its ruling on file notings at length. For those unaware of government procedures, the explanation is essential reading. It brings out the part played by file notings in decision-making. Here is an excerpt from the ruling: “In the system of functioning of public authorities, a file is opened for every subject matter, generally each file also has what is known as note sheets, separated from but attached with the main file. Most of the discussions on the subject matter are recorded in the note sheets and decisions are mostly based on the recordings on the note sheets and even the decisions are recorded on the note sheets. These recordings are generally known as ‘file notings’.

“Therefore, no file would be complete without note sheets having ‘file notings’. In other words, note sheets containing ‘file notings’ are an integral part of a file… Thus a combined reading of Sections 2(f), (i) and (j) would indicate that a citizen would have the right of access to a file of which file notings are an integral part.”

This leaves no doubt that the right of access to file notings is integral to the Right to Information Act, 2005. Parliament should applaud the CIC for its independence and reject the proposed amendment to it.

The writer is former Director,
Press Institute of India

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Bureaucracy opposes RTI amendments

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 7, 2006

Bureaucracy opposes RTI amendments

Aradhana Sharma/Imtiaz Jaleel

http://www.ndtv.com/template/template.asp?template=Rti&slug=

Bureaucracy+opposes+RTI+amendments&id=91132&callid=1&category=National

Watch story Bureaucracy opposes RTI amendments

Monday, August 7, 2006 (New Delhi):

At every stage of the Right to Information movement, the biggest hurdles have been created by the bureaucracy. However, it now speaks out against the amendments that would curtail its reach.

The Right to Information is a powerful tool that can be used to make governments accountable and fight corruption.

However, the government now plans to make amendments to this Act, changes that activists say will take the teeth out of the Act.

Rao disappointed

K J Rao has been credited with free and fair elections in Bihar. Thanks to him, lakhs could exercise their right to vote.

But today, he is disappointed that the right to know is being subverted by the very government that gave people the Right to Information Act.

Rao, former adviser to the Election Commissioner, is now writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, advising him against the move to disallow notings on government files to be made public.

He feels that the notings are the heart of the matter and give teeth to the Act.

“Through file notings, the common man will know where the corruption has taken place. That’s why they don’t want to open them,” said Rao.

Fighting for RTI

Several retired bureaucrats are unhappy with the government’s move.

Some like former CAGs V K Shunglu and CG Somaiah and former Union Home Secretary Madhav Godbole have also written to the Prime Minister, as have 270 officers of the Steel Authority of India.

All of them disagree with the government’s argument that making the file notings public would deter bureaucrats from being frank.

In fact, they say this would help those who suffer in the system.

“Honest people suffer because all types of inquiries are started against them to discipline them and to suppress them,” said Arun Bhatia, Former Municipal Commissioner, Pune.

“An honest officer will never be afraid of notings. One way it is good, as people will come to know who the best officer is,” added Rao.

The views of these officers clearly show that the reasoning given by the government is not on firm ground.

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No right to information: A UPA farce

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 7, 2006

No right to information: A UPA farce
By Deepak Kumar Rath

There are several instances, in which the information commissioners passed ridiculous decisions completely negating their own previous orders. It’s a frustrating experience for appellants, as experienced at any other forum in our country—nothing different to expect. Do we really need this Commission?

The recent Cabinet decision to amend the nine-month-old Right to Information Act, 2005 by excluding the file noting from the purview of information has exposed Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s inability to rein in the bureaucrats and provide a better governance to the people. The UPA’s leading light, who took entire credit for the passage of this historic Act and its implementation, is maintaining a studied silence on the raising debate barring an unconfirmed stray report that Smt Sonia Gandhi is unhappy about the proposed change.

It is unbelievable that such an important decision can be taken without the knowledge and approval of Smt Gandhi.

If there are genuine concerns being raised by statutory bodies like UPSC to keep its selection process secret that can be solved to put that part of the information under Section 8 [exemption clause] rather than going in for blanket exclusion. “This is a deliberate attempt to cover up for acts of corruption,” felt Aruna Roy,” a leading social activist and till recently a member of the UPA advisory committee. This move is bound to weaken the Act and compromise the UPA government’s promise for a transparent and accountable government, reportedly said a Congress leader.

Interestingly, a close look at the very implementation of the Act in the late October 2005 would reveal that Dr Manmohan Singh was hardly serious to reap the desired benefits of the Act when he decided to appoint a large number of serving as well as retired bureaucrats as members of the Central Information Commission (CIC), thereby giving a message to the state governments for appointment of State Information Commissioners on the similar lines.

The CIC has been placed at par with the Central Election Commission. The salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service for the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner. Four out of the five central information commissioners are former bureaucrats and each one of them is alleged to be close to 10, Janpath.

Even as there are protests against dilution of the Act, the very functioning and decisions of the Central Information Commission, which are required to administer the Act in letter and spirit, have come under severe criticism from both the appellants and RTI activists who are dismayed at the conduct of the Commission. During its little over nine months of existence the Commission has come to be known for tardy disposal of appeals, giving a long rope to the Public Information Officers (PIOs), i.e. no time limit to decide an appeal, succumbing to pressures and, above all, passing illogical and funny orders which clearly protect the erring babus rather than benefitting the appellant.

The Commission’s orders and decisions in several cases are material for great entertainment, says an RTI activist who has been following the CIC’s decisions regularly. He recounts the case of a lady officer in a government department. She failed to get a copy of the inquiry report from her office in a complaint of sexual harassment. In the first instance, the department pleaded that it was not under the government and, therefore, not under the purview of RTI Act. Then the public authority pleaded before the Commission that the report was in the custody of some other section in the department, hence could not be given to the appellant due to a technical difficulty. After almost six months and two hearings the Commission passed an order for giving the copy of the inquiry report to the appellant by a specific date. When the lady requested to have a photocopy of the file noting of the inquiry proceedings as she was asked to file another appeal.

There are several instances, in which the information commissioners passed ridiculous decisions completely negating their own previous orders. It’s a frustrating experience for appellants as experienced any other forum in our country—nothing different to expect. Do we really need this Commission? Appellants wonder.

Magsayay Award winner Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Director of Parivartan India, says: “The CIC has mutilated the whole Act. It does not know what its job is; what the rules are.”

Out of over two thousand petitions received by the CIC, 400 odd appeals are supposed to have been decided by now. Not even in a single case has it imposed a money penalty on an erring PIO as envisaged under Section 20 of the Act. The Commission and its members have taken it upon themselves to interpret the Act in a manner that empowers them to relax the penalty clause, a typical bureaucratic style, when Section 20(1) clearly stipulates that once the Commission is satisfied that the public authority has failed to furnish information within the time specified under sub-Section 1 of Section 7 or malafidely denied the information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information…it shall impose a penalty… One fails to understand wherefrom the Commission gets its power to relax the penalty or to exonerate the erring PIOs even after establishing that they have violated the Act.

Perhaps the lengthy phraseology and meandering bureaucratic/legal expression in sub-Section 1 of Section 20 have provided a scope to the retired bureaucrats in the CIC to show their prowess over English and arrogate to themselves the authority to interpret the Act to the illiterate or vernacular-knowing public—a typical colonial trait. The very purpose of the law is lost in the knowledge and wisdom of the presiding officers.

Unless this trend is broken, any number of forums to uphold our democratic structure will prove meaningless. Then, who needs the CIC if its role is to negate the very intent of the Act?


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RTI loses some more teeth

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 4, 2006

RTI loses some more teeth

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, August 4, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1760446,0008.htm

The government wants to introduce new exemption clauses in the Right to Information Act. These will not only block access to file notings but the entire decision-making process.

RTI activists like Shekhar Singh say this will also curtail the powers of the Central Information Commission.

One amendment clause bars the identification of officials conducting inspections, making observations or giving legal advice. Another restricts access to portions of files relating to opinion given by an officer before the government decides in any matter. A third bars information on examinations conducted by a government body.

Yet another clause proposes to withdraw access to material forming the basis of any cabinet decision. The RTI law can only give you the decision and the reasons for it.

“This means if the government reasons – as the PMO has – that the RTI amendments are to promote transparency and accountability, we’ll just have to take its word for it,” activist Manish Sisodia said.

Arvind Kejriwal, this year’s Magsaysay Award winner, suspects that top bureaucrats are pressuring the central government after questions had been raised on the suitability criteria for posting IAS officers to posts of secretaries at the Centre.

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The Babu Curtain

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 31, 2006

The Babu Curtain
– By Dilip Cherian

Once Parliament downs shutters after the Monsoon Session, expect a more heady defence of the new RTI Act. The babus are likely to trot out a big political honcho to do the talking on their behalf. Any guesses who it will be? The DKB sweepstakes are open!

But the big bugbear with babus is that they are being accused of diluting the Act, when they truly believe that no significant dilution has taken place. At the top of the pyramid, the big babus insist that the little dilution is only to ensure that the officials can continue to put their view in without any fear. Clearly, this is an issue that is still on the boil.

When the Right to Information Act was passed last year, it seemed as though the battle for transparency and accountability in government dealings was won and the right for citizens to know the inner workings of the powers that be, had become a reality. The RTI Act was seen as a key to counter draconian laws like the Official Secrets Act of 1923, which gave unrestrained authority to bureaucrats to conceal and cover up uncomfortable and unpalatable details of government work. The RTI Act has laws that allow citizens to demand information from the government in the form of documents, records, samples, and orders from the government pertaining to any government department, or project, and understand how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

However, scarcely months after enacting the people-friendly Act, babus have made certain that it is rendered useless. The Cabinet, presided over by the PM, amended the Act, restricting access to file notings, unless the project refers to developmental and social issues. This is a significant step backward for enthusiasts of the law. Traces of corruption, after all, can be detected only by studying the record-making process, who takes what decisions and why. Restricting access to vital information such as notings, makes some critics proclaim the RTI Act somewhat toothless.

It was not expected that the government would seem to backtrack on its decision to provide the public transparency and accountability in dealings so soon after passing the law. The RTI Act itself was praised and described as one of the most radical pieces of legislation by the chief information commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah.

However, he was quick to point out that the Act should not be used to humiliate the government. So what kind of humiliation is the commissioner talking about? The purpose of the Act is to bring key information regarding government deals to public notice. If the information reveals details that cause palpitations to the babus or their political masters, for whatever reason, should the public turn a blind eye?

With this basic tenet out of force, the Act is of little or no use to the common man. The PMO has, incidentally, rubbished criticism of the amendment by claiming it is based on incorrect and incomplete information.

The key to the entire matter now lies with who decides what constitutes developmental and social issues. If a matter involves corruption within the Army (think back to the coffin scam), or regarding other scams that do not come under the umbrella of “developmental and social issues,” those notings and details may still not be made available to the people. Critics believe that this is a serious drawback in the effectiveness of the Act. The babus, for their part, are hardly bothered since they do not agree with any ruling that deals a blow to their coffers. At the forefront of the protest against the amendment, a former IAS officer of 1968 UP cadre, Aruna Roy claims that the RTI Act amendment is a shield for corrupt bureaucrats. Even as the activists fighting for the Act gear up for battle, determined not to let the amendment be passed in Parliament, the babus are relaxed, their predicament is over, at least for the moment.

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RTI, RIP

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 29, 2006

RTI, RIP
 
Buiness Standard / New Delhi July 28, 2006
 
 
 
On the face of it, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done the right thing by not completely giving in to the bureaucracy and by allowing file notings to be made available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act insofar as they relate to plans, schemes, programmes and projects that relate to “development and social issues”. While the Chief Information Commissioner has been of the view that all file notings (except where it is an ongoing matter) are covered by the RTI, the bureaucracy has been equally adamant on the issue. The law ministry’s advice was sought on the matter. Now the Cabinet has decided to change the law, and access to file notings will be made highly selective. Given that the bulk of RTI petitions so far have come from within the government, by officials wanting to know about transfers and postings, of colleagues as well as themselves, the move appears logical. After all, which organisation would want internal assessments for promotions/transfers to be made public? Also, the common man will still be able to find out what went behind a government decision to clear, or not clear, a large dam project; what senior officials had to say about a report on resettlement and rehabilitation issues; the amount of money spent on building the neighbourhood road; the quality of water being delivered in the city, and so on.
But things are rarely what they might seem. The citizen’s access to critical information will now depend upon how “development and social issues” are defined. Naturally, citizens will seek to give it as broad a definition as possible, and the bureaucracy will seek to narrow the definition. The abrupt U-turn by the government on the stated policy of reducing tax sops by way of the new law on special economic zones (SEZ) is a good example. It is entirely likely that several bureaucrats, particularly from the ministry of finance, would have advanced sound reasons for opposing the policy, even giving estimates of the tax loss and the impact it would have on the tax-to-GDP ratio. Later, when the tussle was over the minimum size of such SEZs, a similar exercise would have taken place. For a citizen to get access to such records, however, it will have to be established that the development of an SEZ falls under “development and social issues”—which the government might argue excludes economic and business subjects, especially if there is something to hide.
Besides, how does one get the details of what went into the decision to allow the de-freezing of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattarochhi’s bank accounts—which is a criminal, legal or political matter, and cannot therefore come under the rubric of “development and social issues”. Such examples can be multiplied. For instance, would the details of the coffin scam, which is a defence matter, be made available even though there is nothing sensitive about the nature of the defence subject? In short, the government is seeking to hide more than it cares to admit.
The correct course would have been to specify the excluded categories and permit the disclosure of file notings in all other matters, rather than define the one area where file notings can be scrutinised. What the proposed amendment does, therefore, is to emaciate the RTI law and to drastically reduce its effectiveness. In the process, one of the best things to be done by the UPA government has been killed. The absence of Sonia Gandhi from the National Advisory Council, which was the prime mover of the RTI Act in its original form, is clearly being felt.
 
  Total Post : 2
http://www.righttoinformation.org
Last line well said!!! It was National Advisory Council under the guidance of Sonia Gandhi that brought in sound people friendly welfare measures, thereby bringing some amount of credibility for this government to exist.

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A big step backwards

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 26, 2006

A big step backwards

 

 

http://www.hindu.com/2006/07/24/stories/2006072402421000.htm

In a decidedly retrograde move that borders on the outrageous, the Union Cabinet has decided to bring in amendments to the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 that will curtail public scrutiny of file notings by restricting access to them. This will effectively remove from the citizen’s purview information on how decisions are made in government offices and departments. This reneging on a right hard fought and won will detract substantially from transparency in government functioning and strike at the roots of a valuable law. Ever since it came into force last year, the effectiveness of a serious law on the right to information has been amply demonstrated by ordinary citizens using it to assert their basic rights and to bring corrupt officials to justice. The recent media-supported campaign by people’s organisations to popularise the RTI with the slogan “Don’t pay bribes, use the RTI instead” saw a dramatic surge in the application of the new law, which included inquiries into the process of decision-making. As it is, the Right to Information Act carries an exemption clause, Section 8, under which file notings on a broad list of subjects are excluded from public purview. These include notings relating to national security, foreign relations, matters deemed private by court orders or sub judice, trade secrets, information affecting the safety of an individual as well as ongoing deliberations of Ministers. Not content with these exclusions from the ambit of transparency, the Government now seeks to exempt all notings except perhaps those relating to social and development issues from the purview of the Act.

This move will effectively place beyond people’s reach the reasons why most decisions are taken. For instance, the rationale behind transfers, appointments, and other selection processes in government will be shielded from public view. The bureaucratic resistance to the disclosure of such facts, on the ground that it will `put pressure’ on official decisions, has long been apparent. The proposed change is a blow for the rule of arbitrariness and secrecy in governance. The Government is trying to legalise concealment of some of its members’ questionable actions from the very citizens who voted it to office, choosing to ascribe higher value to the protection of establishment interests. The scope for using the law to prevent and proceed against corruption will be greatly weakened. As citizens’ rights campaigner and Magasasay Award winner Aruna Roy points out, the proposed amendment to the law will amount to “giving with one hand and taking away with the other.” “The Right to Information Act,” the National Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance Government adopted in May 2004 promised, “will be made more progressive, participatory, and meaningful.” Now that the law shows signs of developing into a real tool of empowerment for the citizens of India, a shameful attempt is being made to turn the clock back.

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RTI Derailings by DOPT::DOPT is playing around with RTI Act 2005.

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 24, 2006

For all the MESS regarding Amendment of RTI Act 2005 abd CABINET approval of AMENDMENT, DOPT is responsible for this.

All RTI Activists should hold DOPT responsible for this. Let all RTI Activists start email LETTERS to DOPT.

DOPT has created CONFUSION to CABINET about this MISGIVINGS on NOTE FILINGS.

Is DOPT BUREAUCRATS getting paid to do this work from other BUREAUCRATS ? We all need to find out.

We need to go in detail with DOPT and we need to ask why DOPT is not responding to CIC’s letters and Why they have not changed the website. We need to work on this.

V. M. Kumaraswamy,

eGovINDIA and INDIA RTI group

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Petition to Save Right to Information Act 2005

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 22, 2006

Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the online petition:

"Save Right to Information Act 2005"

hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
service, at:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/save_rti/

I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might
agree, too.  If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and 
consider
signing yourself.

Best wishes,

V. M. Kumaraswamy

Posted in RTI Derailings | 1 Comment »