- NPAs under PM Modi's Mudra scheme jumped 126% in FY19
- shows RTI
- RTI query reveals banking frauds of ₹ 2.05 Trillion reported in the last 11 years
- 509 per cent rise in cases under child labour law: Study
- The Central Information Commission has allowed disclosure of file notings on the mercy petition of a rape and murder convict, rejecting the government's contention that the records cannot be disclosed as these are privileged documents under Article 74(2) of the Constitution.
- Electoral bonds worth over ₹5,800 crore were bought by donors to fund political parties between March 1, 2018 and May 10, 2019, a Right to Information reply has said.
- Don't pay 500/- for answer sheet now- Supreme Court says if Answer sheet is asked under RTI, RTI Fees will be governed
Many Right to Information Act (RTI) activists, including policemen, have been harassed and even murdered for seeking information to "promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority" in India. Many face assaults on a regular basis. People seeking information from their gram panchayat and the local administration also face social ostracism. A few activists who sought information under RTI related to MNREGA scams, were killed. Many threats and attacks (including murder) go unreported by the media.
Media reports of more than 300 instances of attacks on or harassment of citizens and at least 51 murders and five suicides can be linked to information sought under The Right to Information Act. Maharashtra followed by Gujarat tops the list for states with the most attacks on RTI users.
RTI activists are vulnerable human rights defenders (HRDs) in India. Unlike other HRDs, a majority of the RTI activists are not part of an organisation; they often act alone, moved by anger at corruption and other illegal activities. RTI activists are vulnerable because they live in the same areas as public authorities and political leaders who do not want information about their activities to be disclosed. For the most part, human rights defenders receive media attention only when killed or seriously injured. When complaints are made by RTI activists, law enforcement personnel (who often work with corrupt officials) do not take appropriate action.
The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides inadequate protection to whistleblowers. The Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are not mandated to deal with such threats or attacks or to provide protection when needed. Attacks on RTI users have not ceased despite directions from several information commissions and state governments to protect them from harm.
While RTI activism became an industry, attacks on RTI activists followed. The number of such attacks now number hundreds and dozens have been killed. Lalit Mehta was exposing a NREGA scam and was killed in 2008. Satish Shetty was exposing land scams in Maharashtra and was stabbed to death in 2010. In the same year Amit Jethwa was shot in the Ahmedabad High Court complex. He was exposing a mining scam. There are many such stories which talk of the bravery of RTI activists.
SO WHY THERE IS NO PROTECTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT ?
This RTI is a powerful tool to expose major policy decisions. Recently a major breakthrough happened with effort in Delhi to privatize water supply in the city.
Apparently, this was a proposed World Bank funded effort. The proposal was on since the mid nineties in complete secrecy. However, some news leaked out in to the press, and an RTI petition was filed asking for the files on this process.
At first there was a lot of resistance, but finally the files were made public, and the story was shocking. Apparently, the World Bank was arm twisting and almost dictating policy to the government. The process of privatization (or any government work) takes place with bids by bidding companies. There is a two layered process, where first in this case the top six companies would be selected, and then in the second round, the best among them would be selected. Here, in the first round, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, the well known consulting firm, had a bid that came in tenth. By law, they should have been eliminated. But the world bank insisted that PWC be considered. At first the government protested, but with continuous pressure relented, and declared PWC to be selected in the top six by declaring it to be an Indian company! In the next round, again PWC fared badly, with only a 67% score, and a terrible proposal. Again the world bank pressurized the government (by asking it to remove the people who evaluated the proposal), and forced the government to declare the PWC bid as the winner. Again, the government capitulated to pressure.
It wasnâ€™t just this, but the entire process of water privatization in this proposal was rather absurd, and would have affected millions of people adversely.
Bowing to public pressure (after the dealings were revealed due to the RTI petition), the government scrapped the project completely.