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
  • Tangkhul Zingtun Longphang #1: Gallery
  • Wungramphy, Khamgonpou: eMing
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows #3 : Gallery
  • Career option in Human Rights
  • Water conflicts over the Brahmaputra
  • PAC against Killing of Pravish: 17 Jan
  • Neiphiu Rio resigns from NPF
  • NPF-BJP Relationship : NPF clarifies
  • Consolidating the sporting heritage
  • Rising air and noise pollution
  • Kukis have equal right... : Neiphiu Rio
  • Rajnath reviews security in NE
  • Lafoi Shamda puthorkpa #2 : Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Commercial Stalls #3: Gallery
  • The joy of living :: Poem
  • Bamboo a tree or grass ?
  • SELF Workshop on Leadership & Fulfilment
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Fight against corruption; we need Lokayukta
  • Hailing the role of drivers
  • Nangna Helli Nungshiba #2 :: eRang
  • Pung Chollom : Gallery
  • Wakhal Seireng :: Book Review
  • Imphal Jamboree by Global Shapers
  • Importance of regular health check-ups
  • Meetei demand for ST is Constitutional.. #2
  • Weapon Display organized at Moreh
  • Ex-Servicemen Rally organized
  • AR helps Orphanage & Old Age Home
  • Search of comprehensive culture & identity
  • List of MLA (Jan 2018) #1 : Gallery
  • Manipur Gas Today :: Android App
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #3: Gallery
  • GNRC media fellowship announced
  • The Meiteis- Festival & celebration maniacs
  • How to make bridal mehndi long lasting
  • Governor's attention drawn to RIMS
  • Scientist develops prototype of electric car
  • Stereotypes about NE make people living..
  • Light Show at Loktak Lake #5 : Gallery
  • Candlelight vigil for Pravish : Gallery
  • Imbroglio of ethnic identity of Ranglong
  • Foundation For Excellence scholarship
  • Time Table - Class XII Exam 2018
  • Mail spoofing- Trickery by deception
  • Trial by fire
  • Call for solution before election
  • Villagers along Myanmar border get pass
  • Meetei Chanu 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Art and Artist, A Creative Space
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows #2 : Gallery
  • Ode to Thy Mellow Light :: Poem
  • Xmas with Meitei eche at Phaijol
  • Time Table - Class XI Exam 2018
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • IMC , now another hurdle to traffic mgmt
  • Setting aside two days for the people
  • Maring: Kummui Chaa-um : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #5 : Gallery
  • Statehood Day Women's Polo Tournament
  • Time Table - HSLC Exam 2018
  • Bananas: Beauty's best friend
  • DPC for Follower at Manipur Police
  • Job Openings at JCRE Skill Solutions
  • The lost treasure
  • Nagas' Interests : Stand of NPF MSU
  • Nagaland polls on schedule: HM
  • Mukna Kangjei Tournament #2: Gallery
  • Keisham Manihar : Natyabhusan(Leela)
  • World Tourism Day #3: Gallery
  • Responsibility of protecting the environment
  • Phishing vs Vishing: The Verbal Challenge
  • BNHS Bi-monthly Program for Jan-Feb
  • Managing weight for preventing diabetes
  • Making democracy peoples' participatory
  • Progressing from media to SC
  • Manipur to set up modern food lab
  • Gaan Ngai @ Kakhulong Khun: Gallery
  • A trip to Moreh #2 : Gallery
  • How long catchy slogans keep hopes alive
  • Recycling of hospital waste-water
  • I am sometime or somewhere : Poem
  • Angami Zapu Phizo's Surreal 2017 AD
  • Film "Legacy Of King Narak" awarded
  • Of PM and our CM
  • Patronising the killing machines ?
  • Deferment of polls unlikely: Ravi
  • PM may visit Manipur in March
  • Emoinu Khoiramba @Koubru #2: Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs East Bengal #2: Gallery
  • Transform Colleges into Innovation Centres
  • New Delhi: World Book Fair 2018 :: Review
  • Cry Of A Dying River...12 :: Poem
  • Workshop on National Pension for NE
  • Law enforcers action - Well & good
  • Final pact yet to see light of day
  • Cold wave hits Manipur
  • Take out the cymbals, Manoharsai to stay
  • Indo-Naga Peace Process :: Articles
  • MaiOn - Scenes #2 :: eRang
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #2: Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #4 : Gallery
  • Is Global Warming Natural or Anthropogenic
  • Prof Gangmumei Kamei: Legendary hero
  • Common Education System rally organized
  • DAMMS launched 2018 calendar
  • Chorus for 'Solution Not Election'
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows #1 : Gallery
  • Gaan Ngai @Moirangkhom : Gallery
  • I was born healthy, I wanna die healthy
  • Practice peace & change the life
  • TSA Moreh Block installed
  • Cycle Rally: common education system
  • Ethics, medical profession & soaring fees
  • Meetei Chanu 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Meira rally for Pravish : Gallery
  • Accelerate momentum to endTB for SDGs
  • The call that can't be turned down
  • Live@MDU: New act with same old vibes
  • 1st Centre of Excellence- Electronics Skill
  • LED Lights installed by Loktak Station
  • NE tragedy: Policy failures & influx
  • Angaoba - Scenes #3 :: eRang
  • 51st Mr Manipur Contest 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Result: Manipur Sangai Intl Digital salon
  • Use Swachhata App to Make Imphal No. 1
  • Career @ events and celebration
  • Night nourishing
  • Indo-Nepal Friendship: 25 yrs of Don Bosco
  • Understanding the indices of life
  • Poppy cultivation & drug cartels
  • Emoinu Khoiramba @Koubru #1: Gallery
  • Day 10: Closing of Sangai Fest #4 : Gallery
  • The creation of the universe, matter...
  • Mumbai: The city of dreams
  • Let this new year kill your new fears
  • Asian Waterbird Census: Count waterbirds
  • Looking for a better inclusive alternative
  • Coaching & commercialisation of education
  • New Year picnic @ Singda Dam : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Despite Stolen Dreams :: Book Rvw
  • Handloom Training @Hojai : Gallery
  • The Perfect timing
  • IGAR (south) meets Chief Minister
  • Communique from Neiphiu Rio on NDPP
  • Discussion on 'Rohingyas' at Delhi
  • In the process of making change- Manipur
  • Looking ahead from vantage point 2017
  • NEROCA FC Vs East Bengal #1: Gallery
  • World Tourism Day #2: Gallery
  • Immediate Manipur
  • Easter Peace :: Poem
  • You are what you eat
  • Goals for Girls: Leadership Summit @Delhi
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #1: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Front Page Photo #6: Gallery
  • LUCIFER-X released debut EP
  • ..on the ocean of despondence :: Poem
  • Happy new year to State lovers
  • New year, new me: Re-designing self
  • Quiz Competition & Career Awareness
  • Calendar for the Year 2018 :: e-pao Tools
  • Gaan Ngai : Zeliangrong festival :: Flash
  • 51st Mr Manipur Contest 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Crowd @ Flower Festival @Mao #4: Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai Festival of Zelianglong
  • Goodbye 2017, welcome 2018
  • Cry of a dying river- 11 :: Poem
  • Free Heart OPD & Echocardiogram
  • Peoples' mandate: what next?
  • Understanding Manipur and its history
  • Kwatha (Indo-Myanmar Border) #2: Gallery
  • Thang Ta @Parlimentary : Gallery
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Bamboo for poverty alleviations
  • A costly peace deal
  • The song of the speech-impaired : Poem
  • Opportunity for NE Youth @Delhi/NCR
  • Chief Of Army Staff visits Manipur
  • Waiting for another begining
  • NE: Little change albeit promises galore
  • Flower Festival @ Mao #3 : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Why the Ngamu Fish ?
  • Unsung heroes
  • Wishing a goa in Manipur!
  • Handloom Weaver at Nagaon, Assam
  • Reminder on role of media & political party
  • Hospital death: Deliver justice if delivery ..
  • Restricted Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • Lourembam Bedabati : Sangeetbhusan
  • Culturals @ Mera Houchongba #3 : Gallery
  • Handloom Training @Assam : Gallery
  • Ras Leela @Parliment committee: Gallery
  • List of RIST popular talks during 2014-2017
  • 'Good Governance Day' & Manipur
  • Christmas eve @ CCpur #2 : Gallery
  • Public Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • Pui Thangamliu #2 :: eRang
  • Christmas Carol @ Lamphel : Gallery
  • Royal Crematorium at Bangkok #2 : Gallery
  • Christmas Carol at Namdulong : Gallery
  • General Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • 3rd Flower Festival @ Mao #2 : Gallery
  • Lafoi Shamda puthorkpa #1 : Gallery
  • Nupilal Ningsing Lamjen : Gallery
  • cYK_rb TwaI :: Seireng
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #7 : Ooba
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download it
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS