TODAY -

Embedding Right to Information : A Long Road Ahead

N. Birbal Singh *

Villagers preventing RTI activists from inspection tour at Wakhong Primary School as police intervene to control the situation in August 27 2011
Villagers preventing RTI activists from inspection tour at Wakhong Primary School as police intervene to control the situation in August 27 2011
Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao



Hailed by intellectuals as a watershed moment in the constitutional history of India and looked upon as a savior to the common man who are deprived of the privilege entitled to them by the constitution of a democratic nation, the RTI Act still remains to prove itself. Despite the Act being in force for 6 years, the greater section of the populace still remains largely ignorant and public authorities refuse to fall in line.

Transparency being a major component of a functioning democracy, the RTI act, 2005, is intended to complement the constitution of the largest democracy of the world. The act supposedly makes navigating through the government's machinery to obtain information simple. And, equipping oneself with the right information enables to buttress one's rightful claim.

However various factors, mainly to do with the Indian mindset, are proving to be impediments and prompt us to re-question the potency of the act in breaching the prevailing veil of secrecy surrounding governance in India. Withheld compliance to directives of the act on part of the public authority, ignorance of the masses, threat and execution of threat against activists, etc. have created a bulwark against proper implementation of the RTI act.

In many departments of the government, PIOs (Public officers exclusively mandated to tend to RTI queries) are yet to be appointed. Inordinate delays in replying, refusal on the pretext of non-availability of records and other manipulative interpretation of clauses of the act by public authorities discourages people from pursuing their case. While the law has empowered citizens to ask questions, he is, ironically, not guaranteed the answer.

Although not entirely heartening, but may, nonetheless, positively impact the psyche of the public, RTI enjoyed considerable newsprint space in national and regional media in recent times. Stories of Jumbo sized scams were brought out to the public domain through the use of RTI act. The exposure of Adarsh Housing scam in Maharastra once again reiterated the omnipresence of the politics-business nexus.

Earlier this month, another irregularity about recruitment practice was exposed when one Sanatombi Devi filed RTI applications sensing bad practices with the recruitment of Sub-Inspectors in the Manipur Police. Corruption is widespread in Manipur and the state hold the dubious of being one of the most corrupted states in India. While there is no dearth of such evidence to reinforce the claim, the RTI act makes it only easier to unearth scams and more scams. On the other hand, events of RTI activists being attacked for being concerned about the welfare of his fellow citizens have become part of our daily dosage of news consumption. News of RTI activist being assaulted, ostracized and threatened are not rare. To quote an example, a resident of Wakhong in Imphal East, Manipur was ostracized for raising questions over the construction of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan school building.

Appalling as it is, on 26th February, 2011 in Kutch, Gujarat, a farmer killed himself in the compound of a government office by putting himself on fire. Being denied information under RTI, he saw the last straw of hope slipping away from his hand. He may have chosen to undertake the ethereal journey for want of earthly sustenance, but it is will also be too pitiless of us to ignore the mental torture he must have endured. It seems he had expected too much from the landmark Act or maybe he was only expecting that is expected of it. The event managed to attract the attention of rights' activists but have failed to prove itself as a fulcrum to initiate a vigorous campaign to bring non-performing authorities to task.

Despite the numerous physical attacks being committed against activists, it is encouraging as well as veritable to say that the RTI cloud too has a silver lining. Sensing increasing scrutiny by concerned citizens over the affairs of the government which is perpetually shrouded in secrecy, the government proposed legislations to clip the wings of the RTI act. Keen eyed as they are, activists immediately understood the repercussions portended.

Relentlessly building pressure over the government against the amendment that would significantly forestall the purpose of the act in spirit and otherwise, the NAC convinced the government to yield to reason and purpose. The propose amendment intended to impose a word limit on RTI application might have acted as a hindrance to the not so educated but concerned activists. Another proposed amendment was the ceasing of the query with the death of the applicant. As RTI empowers the common man to demand transparency and justice from power mongering authorities, many activists had to face life threatening physical assault with alarming frequency. Ceasing the query with the death of the applicant would certainly invite life attempts against activists' multi-fold.

This is a major achievement on part of the civil society and other like minded people in their endeavor to bring about transparency. Theoretically, RTI is the ultimate way towards transparent governance. At the constitutional level, RTI act is a significant achievement and India is looked upon as a role model in the sub-continent. However, implementation of RTI has yielded mixed results. While a handful of citizens have actually been benefited by the RTI, some seeking to avail their constitutional rights through the Act had to pay a heavy price their life. Some had to face physical assault, some threatened and more others ostracized.

On the legislation level, the Right to Information Act seems to be holding ground, unwilling to lose its spirit by diluting itself. But, the actual implementation at the ground level is turning out to be tough. Awareness among the common populace remains low and authorities are still unwilling to embrace the idea that they are accountable to the masses. The idea of RTI is still alien and it will be of optimal practical value once it flourishes in our minds. Embedding an idea in our psyche that has long evaded even our wildest imagination will of-course require reminders persistently from concerned citizens experts or non-experts.


* N. Birbal Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is based in Delhi and works in the development sector and can be contacted at birbalsinghn(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on September 12, 2012.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.


LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Sangai Fest: Maibi Jagoi : Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows : Gallery
  • Nupi Lan : Women Agitation, 1939-40 #1
  • Promoting Human Rights: A Perspective
  • Khongji :: Poem
  • Surveying tigers: A big challenge in Manipur
  • Terrorism & Technology - II
  • Silencing significance of Human Right Day
  • Trun up to Parliamentary polls: Issues
  • Deteriorating Tumukhong Village road
  • Sangai Fest: Chareng Len : Gallery
  • International Mountain Day, 2018
  • Loudness not ok please
  • A wounded Pine Tree :: Poem
  • Natural remedies for hair growth
  • BEHS office inaugurated at Motbung
  • Tattooed With Taboos :: Review
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Stone Forest @Yunnan, China : Gallery
  • Eerie, Eerier, Eeriest :: Review
  • Sangai Fest: Muay Thai : Gallery
  • ..that made me fall in love with Naga
  • Research Support Officer wanted
  • Condemns arrest of Journalist Wangkhem
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Programs at Public Health Foundation
  • Fixing the broken window
  • Head count of dogs !!
  • Pari Imom (Film) #2 :: eRang
  • Matheous Thingbaijam Cycling NE: Gallery
  • Chumthang Nganbi, Ulen :: eMing
  • Chengni Khujai: Insurgency Chronicle #1
  • Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2019
  • Tests for allergies
  • Cycling across NE: Matheous Thingbaijam
  • Site Officer/ Manager @R-Square Design
  • Armed Forces Flag Day celebrated
  • A lasting legacy
  • 'Stray dogs' as predators
  • Sangai Day 3: Pung Chollom #2: Gallery
  • Thai Princess @Imphal Airport: Gallery
  • Fashion Show @Sangai Fest #1: Gallery
  • Mysterious Animal Attack of Manipur
  • Khelen Thokchom Media Fellowships
  • Career option in Purchase Management
  • Terrorism & Technology - I
  • Intimidation to media person
  • Ban on hunting migratory birds
  • Manipuri Diaspora in Myanmar #3
  • Sangai Day 3: Pena: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 1: Inauguration #3 : Gallery
  • I am a beautiful HIV Virus :: Poem
  • Teacher & Student: Stop eroding education
  • Diaspora unites at Thadou Nampi, USA
  • Deciding Mary's title :: WJ
  • A good man perspective
  • Now people need to extend co-operation
  • Day 3: Kabi Burnan : Gallery
  • Art meets Fashion : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 5: @ BOAT #3: Gallery
  • NAF announces Annual Scholarship
  • Preventing methods to save livestock
  • How Do You Do ? :: Poem
  • Competitiveness of Manipur
  • Shattered dream - "The Smart city"
  • Arrest, release & re-arrest of young man
  • Ningol Chakouba @ MBC #3 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Thang Ta #3: Gallery
  • Stalls at Hapta Kangjeibung #1: Gallery
  • How do you see 'disability' today ?
  • I don't exist without polo: Rafael Secco
  • The Road :: Poem
  • Students needed for cultural revolution?
  • Hard stand, hard decision
  • Cong rolling up sleeves ahead of LS polls
  • Day 8 : Arambai Langba : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #3: Gallery
  • The Midnight Hunter : Analysis
  • Art exhibition "Art meets Fashion"
  • The Haipi Lho-lhun Kut
  • Gaudiya Vaishnavism in Meitei Nation #3
  • Sangai Day 9: Thadou Dance: Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Cooking Final : Gallery
  • Han Kang's The White Book
  • Sangai Day 4: Yubi Lakpi : Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1 Cooking Final
  • Disaster Management Course at NEHU
  • Training on Online Fact Checking
  • Clarify : Impact of Act East Policy
  • On the series of Killing of Livestock..
  • Today is World AIDS Day
  • From entrails to body now
  • NESO : abolish Citizenship Bill
  • NEC building cultural centre at Delhi
  • 12th Manipur Polo Intl #1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 9: Kabui Dance : Gallery
  • Day 5: Stalls @Keibul Lamjao: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Holi Pala #1: Gallery
  • Importance of TESOL in Government School
  • Farewell to Lt Gen LN Singh, VSM**
  • Waphong Inthan - A failed village
  • On the arrest of Kishorchand
  • Blank Editorial
  • Predator or predators on the prowl
  • Thai Princess visit Kangla #1: Gallery
  • December Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Sangai Day 8: Mukna Kangjei #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #2: Gallery
  • Polo grows on you: Col Tarsem
  • Rediscovery of Gangmumei Kamei: Review
  • For whom does she cry ? :: Poem
  • DG Assam Rifles visits Manipur
  • Detention of TV journalist not fair
  • Arrest of 8 mountaineers from Manipur
  • Sangai Day 4: Lai Haraoba #1: Gallery
  • Bangladesh Manipuri Students : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Pung Chollom #1: Gallery
  • We have a balanced team: George Shelton
  • Cry of a Dying River - 56 :: Poem
  • Sangai with Sumo & Samba ?
  • Morphing : An innocent loses her life
  • Bangladesh Manipuri students at Sylhet
  • Thai princess visits Kangla Fort
  • Olympics gold my dream : Mary Kom
  • Exploring the beaten path
  • Opening up Manipur: Visa office assurance
  • Thai Princess Sirindhorn @Sangai : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2018 #5: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 6: Pherzawl Dance : Gallery
  • Manipuri Maichou 7 :: Book Review
  • Chandon :: Poem
  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Defers proposed indefinite highway bandh
  • 19th Hornbill Festival at Kisama
  • Sangai stops dancing
  • Mary Kom: Epitome of sporting excellence
  • Sangai Day 5: Evening Prog #1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 5: Thailand Dance : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Imphal Art Camp : Gallery
  • Edward Armstrong - USA Polo Team
  • An abrupt journey to an oasis of blue bull
  • Winter Blues :: Poem
  • Technical Internship Training for Japan
  • NPF on Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister
  • A ditch to Technology
  • Border row: India Myanmar, sacrificial lamb
  • Sangai Day 4: Pena Esei :Gallery
  • Day 5: Sangai Chef: Season 1 : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Evening Program #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Festival 2018: Turning into a Mela?
  • Sumo Wrestling: popular event in Sangai
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1: Cooking : Day 5
  • Truths in rumours & humours
  • PANE Conference organized at AUDC
  • Sangai Day 2: Dance from Kamjong: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 3: Thang Ta #1: Gallery
  • Can we have the Sangai festival daily?
  • Platonic love :: Poem
  • IGAR(s) congratulates Mary Kom
  • WPW Syndrome operated and cured
  • NSUD clarification on Nagas' Meet
  • National Highway bandh from Nov 27
  • Prospective candidates of Cong, BJP
  • Sangai Day 2: Sumo Wrestling #1: Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Myanmar : Gallery
  • Sangai Day 2: Geet Govinda: Gallery
  • 2017- a watershed year for Manipur Polo
  • Faculties (PG) at Gauhati University
  • Biodiversity for economic development #2
  • Mera Kongchat Mass Rally #4: Gallery
  • Sangai Chef: Season 1 : Day 1
  • GC Tongbra's 'Chengni Khujai'
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Thy name :: Poem
  • Bartending as a career option #2
  • Legal Awareness Programme
  • Tribute to Bhupen Hazarika at London
  • Blessing for Manipur
  • Cherry Blossom & Sangai: beyond Imphal
  • Sangai Fest: Inauguration #2 : Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Inauguration #1 : Gallery
  • Natural Resources Management in Manipur
  • Leishemba Takhellambam : Polo Player
  • Robert Naorem at Eco Friendly Australia
  • Cry of a Dying River - 55 :: Poem
  • Jobs at ICERT, MeitY
  • NHPC Raising Day at Loktak Power Station
  • Where have all the city buses gone ?
  • Back to politics: Man from Langthabal AC
  • Mera Wayungba #2 : Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba @Pune : Gallery
  • State Level Basketball : Gallery
  • Combating drug abuse in Manipur
  • Ningol Chakkouba celebrated at Pune
  • Glamour at 55th Naga's Meet 2018, Delhi
  • Myanmarese greeted at Khudengthabi
  • Rejoinder to PRO IGAR(s) statement
  • Quami Ekta Divas
  • Subsuming a smaller tribe
  • Kwatha Festival #2 : Gallery
  • ChingTam Ningol Chakouba @Goa: Gallery
  • Thoudam Kaoba :: Profile of Polo Player
  • The festival of the Inpui Nagas
  • Hazari/Tombi Polo Tournament : Gallery
  • Ashok Veilou (Purul) award in Kolkata fest
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Mysore #2 : Gallery
  • Scaramouche, Fandango, Galileo, Figaro..
  • Laija (Film Scenes) #1 :: eRang
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Dubai #2 : Gallery
  • Lamklai Kummoi Maring Fest #2: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba Nga Mela #2 : Gallery
  • Rajkumar Jhaljit : Sahityaratna 2017
  • Ningol Chakouba :: Poem
  • Kut festival @ Chandel : Gallery
  • Ningol - mapam lamdam : Gallery
  • Mera Houchongba @Konung #3: Gallery
  • Fabrics of Bangladeshi Manipuri: Download
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Mera Houchongba @Konung #1: Gallery
  • Eepan Thaba #1: Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download
  • mtM :: Seireng
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #4: Gallery
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS