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International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention
ISSN (Online): 2319 – 7722, ISSN (Print): 2319 – 7714
www.ijhssi.org Volume 2 Issue 2 ǁ March. 2013ǁ PP.11-22
RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT: CHALLENGES
Since came into force on 15th June, 2005 Right to Information act has been successfully working in most of the Indian states. The act is enacted by the state government of Tamilnadu (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002), Karnataka (2002), Assam (2002), Madhya Pradesh (2003), and Jammu & Kashmir (2004). Research studies shows that in their operation area the Right to Information act has been facing many severe challenges.
These are as follows:-
(a) Low level of awareness among people is the major challenge before successful implementation of Right to Information act. People, particularly in remote areas are not concerned with the Right to Information act. The research studies observe that the major sources of awareness are - (1) Mass media like- television channels, newspapers, magazines, journals etc. (2) Word of mouth. The nodal agency specifically the state government has not taken any potential step to promote Right to Information act.
(b) Illiteracy and poverty is another major challenge before successful implementation of Right to Information act. Right to Information act has does not have any meaning for a Persons who does not have enough money to live, who is not educated and who does not have freedom. In fact, their first requirement is the right to live (right to eat, right to work and right to shelter) and then Right to Information.
(c) Most of the uneducated even educated peoples do not have the proper knowledge about public Information officers, the procedure of paying fees and to get information.
(d) Non-availability of user guide is another main challenge before successful RTI act implementation. Absence of user guide creates difficulty on the part of the Information seekers to gather knowledge about the process for submitting a RTI request.
(e) Lack of commitment in efficient record management both state and central government instructions posing challenge before successful implementation of RTI act.
(f) Due to the lack of efficient record management system, the public Information Officers face difficulty to get accurate and easy access of information from the concerned department, so that it can be provided to information seekers.
(g) The non-cooperation from the part of bureaucracy is another major hurdle before RTI act implementation in India. The ―Babu type mentality (colonial mindset) makes them to use information as their own prerogative. Sometimes for their vested interest or to show their superiority, the bureaucrats do not want to disclose the basic information to citizens.
(h) Bureaucracy also hides information for fear of criticism and to give a good image of them before public.
(i) Lack of effective coordination and cooperation among state information commissioners and the non cooperation of departments with PIO hinder the process of smooth implementation of RTI act.
(j) Lack of monitoring and review mechanism also hampers in successful implementation of RTI act in India.
(k) The limited use of technology has hindered effective implementation of RTI act. Except in a few states no effective IT system have been establish to monitor and report on the disposal of application by public authorities.
(l) The implementation of RTI act is uneven. It is not equally implemented to all the states. Therefore, awareness level also differs from state to state. In states like Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab the awareness level about RTI act is high, on the other hand awareness of people in Gujrat, Madhyapradesh, Jharkhand and UP is not high. Moreover different rules for different states especially on fees and costs make the RTI filing ineffective.
(m) Generally, it is observed that retired bureaucrats are being appointed for the post of highest level of RTI officials i.e. the information commission at the central and state levels. These commissions are the independent of the government. Activists are of the opinion that these officials often show sympathetic attitude towards their fellow babus.
(n) Non-availability of basic infrastructure is another serious hurdle before RTI implementation. The smooth implementation of RTI act requires the Public Information Officers (PIO) to provide information to the applicant through photocopies, soft copies etc. Though these facilities are easily accessible at districts level, but it is a challenge to get information form the block/Panchayat level. PIO claims that lack of infrastructure blockade RTI implementation at block level.
Recommendations/Suggestions for effective implementation of RTI act-
(a) As stated above due to ignorance, most of people have not heard about RTI act. To tackle this issue government should allocate huge fund for publicity budget of RTI act. However, this fund should be spent through central Information commission.
(b) Publicity is very essential for RTI implementation. NGO‘s and civil society groups can take initiative to make massive awareness campaign to educate citizen about RTI act. This awareness programme may be at national, state and block level. Before making awareness programmes, the NGO‘s and CSC groups must identify the target i.e. vulnerable categories of citizens specifically- women, farmers and families, middle and working class. In this regard media and newspaper can play an effective role.
(c) Children are considered resources for the future health of a nation. Therefore, RTI act should be added in the school syllabus to arouse curiosity of children about RTI at the grass-root level.
(d) As the nodal administrative authority at the district level, every deputy commissioner and district collectors must be given responsibility of monitoring and implementation of RTI act by various departmental authorities within the respective district.
(e) State Administrative Training institute can organize appropriate training intervention for the stakeholders.
(f) There should be efficient and scientific record keeping agency so that applicants can get accurate information. Without modernizing and digitizing management of information and record providing information would take several days often exceeding the legal deadlines.
(g) Government departments should be entrusted responsibility to make the implementation of RTI easy for applicants seeking information rather than tough procedures.
(h) Inculcation of political will is necessary for judicious working of RTI act. The Bureaucrats must come forward to help the aggrieved citizens.
(i) It is the moral responsibility of the government to protect RTI activists and users and to take legal action against the attackers.
(j) There is also need strong and robust monitoring and evaluation system. It will help periodically review implementation of the law and provide feedback to government agencies to address the shortcomings.
(k) There should be proper coordination among state information commissioner and departments for the effective implementation of RTI act.
(l) It is a recognized fact that for enabling and effective implementation of RTI act, the central and state information commissions need to strengthen their technical and IT capability.
(m) Fast action to be taken to integrate different websites of all information commissions through a common IT gateway or national portal on RTI. This will prove to be grateful to common citizens.
(n) Chief information commissioners should have frequent interaction with all information commissioners so that approach of all information commissioners may be similar in dealing with appeals/complaints before them.
(o) According to the act it is mandatory to provide the information in the given time frame of 30 days. Since the information system is not integrated, therefore it becomes difficult to provide information in the given time. Moreover, many departments could not prepare themselves to respond according to the act.
(p) Exemption provides under section 24 to the security and intelligence agencies are irrational and contrary to national interest. This exemption should be removed not by amendment of the act but by withdrawing the list of notified agencies in the 2nd schedule of the RTI act.
(q) Training of officials of all departments and representatives of public authorities is essentially required so that they are made aware of their duties and obligations under the act.
(r) Government of India should set up a National RTI council, which has members, people from various states, so that problems in implementation the RTI can be monitored regularly.
(s) Last but not the least, political influence may anomalies in the functions of high level officials, so they have to maintain integrity by ignoring the vested interest.
Thus it can be rightly mentioned that Right to Information act is an agent of good governance. It makes
administration more accountable to the people. It makes people aware of administration and gives them an opportunity to take part in decision making process. It promoted democratic ideology by promoting openness and transparency in the administration. It reduces the chances of corruption and abuse of authority by public servants. Since the act is prepared for people‘s interest, hence it success also depends on how they exercise the act. Moreover, there is need active participation from people, NGO‘s, civil society groups, coordination among RTI officials, integrity among government departments and political will from government and elected leaders.
My question is:
Should the application for information be confined to the administrative matters of the public authorities only or can citizens ask for matters in which his own personal rights or individual crimes involved?