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  1. As reported by Seema Chishti in indianexpress.com on 22 April 2008: IndianExpress.com :: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google Govt asks PwC to study efficacy of RTI, wary activists launch own study backed by grant from Google Foundation NEW DELHI, APRIL 21: The Department of Personnel and Training has decided to get international accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers to study the efficacy of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it marks its third year on October 13. The RTI Act has been showcased by the UPA Government as one of its key achievements. Suspicious that this study could end up helping babus instead of citizens, leading RTI activists, including Aruna Roy and her Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Shekhar Singh and his National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) have launched their own alternative study. They have formed RAAG (RTI Accountability and Assessment Group) which will examine what they call “the RTI regime.” Significantly, Google Foundation has stepped in to make this study possible by offering $250,000 as an initial grant. RTI activists, using foreign funds themselves, say they are not worried about money from a foreign source, but are annoyed at the way, a “foreign organization” (Pricewaterhouse) with “little or no expertise in the manner in which RTI works in India” is being asked to assess the efficacy of RTI. Said Roy, formerly a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council and among the earliest campaigners for a Right to Information law: “The process itself adopted by the government to select such an agency for such a key audit, and the record so far of the DoPT makes us wary of the study. There is little point in just opposing it all, so we are doing our own study. All the material we collect in order to draw our conclusions will be available publicly, and then let us have a debate.” Activists say they are worried the government, under pressure from bureaucrats, might use this study to cut back or restrain certain freedoms available under RTI. Says Shekhar Singh: “The government is only looking at the problems it faces because of the RTI making the bureaucracy answerable, and how they may have to amend the Act to ensure that applications are not too long, not vexatious or filed for frivolous purposes. How we look at RTI is completely different.” The survey being planned by these groups will also involve the Centre for Studies of Developing Societies (CSDS which also does election surveys) and the Tata Institute for Social Service (TISS). RAAG also hopes to get assistance from the Nehru Memorial. Last week, DoPT hosted a seminar where Pricewaterhouse Coopers presented its Project Progress Report to members of the Central Information Commission and representatives from the State Information Commissions of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, UP, Maharashtra and Orissa, and some Public Information Officers from these states. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said he was consulted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers when it was finalising the project report. He says: “Their earlier proposal did have some weak points. It was too urban-centric, for instance. I have asked them to take into account the RTI’s immense impact on rural India.” Asked about the parallel study, he said: “Activists are welcome to do their own study...Why are they angry with DoPT for getting active? Earlier, it was just the CIC and the activists, with the DoPT taking a passive role, at least now they are active and are taking interest in the functioning of the Act.”
  2. Atul Patankar

    1st RTI audit a partial success

    As reported by Rashme Sehgal at The Asian Age on 17 June 2009 June 16: The first nationwide audit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, undertaken by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), estimates that over four lakh RTI applications have been filed from villages across the country. This will put paid to the much-repeated criticism that the RTI Act had an urban-centric bias. These institutions, working along with a group of RTI campaigners under the banner of the RTI Accountability and Assessment Group (RAAG), fanned out across 240 villages spread over 10 states including Meghalaya, Delhi, West Bengal, Orissa, Karnataka, Rajasthan, UP, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. "A minimum of six RTIs were filed from each of these villages that the RAAG team visited. But since these applications are made at the block, panchayat and district levels and often get resolved there, they do not reach the level of the state information commissioners and therefore remain discounted by the department of personnel and training (DoPT), the nodal organisation of the RTI Act," said Shekhar Singh of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). The RAAG volunteers spoke to over 30,000 people in the course of group discussions apart from conducting 18,000 one-to-one interviews in order to get a feedback on this act. Over 1,000 civil servants were interviewed, including 10 senior level secretaries, of the Central government to get their assessment on what they felt were its plus and minus points. It was found that only six per cent of applications were from government servants putting paid to the myth that the act was being used by bureaucrats to find out about their service conditions. "The RAAG team also filed 600 RTIs in order to understand how the act was working," Mr Singh pointed out. The conclusions arrived at were that bureaucrats did fork out the information in 55 per cent of the cases, though not within the stipulated time frame. This is contrary to the government assessment which is claiming a success rate of 70 per cent he said. The applications reflect the population break up in the country. source: The Asian Age - Enjoy the difference
  3. RTI now a common man’s tool: study as reported by Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu, Oct 15, 2008 Study belies propaganda it is used by select social activists ----------------------------------------------------------------------- * Applicants closed down polluting factories, fought corruption * Villagers see information as key to solving problems ----------------------------------------------------------------------- New Delhi: An interim assessment of the Right to Information Act, 2005, undertaken independently, has concluded that more and more people are now using it in new ways, disproving the propaganda that RTI is an instrument handled only by select social activists. The first of its kind, the comprehensive study, conducted jointly by the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and the Right to Information Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), has been billed as a people’s initiative to assess who is using the Act and to what purpose. The study covered 10 States, besides Delhi. In their report, “The People’s RTI Assessment 2008,” the NCPRI and RaaG pointed out that so far all information on RTI was either anecdotal or derived primarily from government data. Nor was there any evaluation of how the Act impacted societal actors such as the media, courts, the corporate sector and non-governmental organisations. The NCPRI and RaaG conducted separate rural and urban surveys and also collected about 5,000 case studies from across the country, culled from the Hindi and English print media and downloaded from websites and blogs. A perusal of the cases showed that more and more people were invoking the Act, and for a variety of reasons. In many cases, the applicants went beyond securing answers to their questions. They closed down polluting factories, fought corruption, and formed themselves into a larger group to support one another. Internet users formed their own online support groups, and helped applicants fill applications. Specific examples of enlarging RTI: People in rural Karnataka combined campaigns for the Right to Information and the Right to Food to fight hunger. An 86-year-old Dalit farmer in Maharashtra used the RTI data to prevent his strawberry fields from drying up. In Uttar Pradesh, over 14,000 residents in a cluster of eight villages, 60 km. from Banda, used RTI to fight for their right to have roads, bridges and electricity. The surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of rural residents saw information as the key to solving village problems. More than two-thirds of rural respondents said they had received a response to their applications and nearly one-third said their problems had been solved though they had received no information or received only partial information. Among urban respondents, nearly three-fourths said they had received responses though they were slow in coming. Only a third of respondents said they had received responses within the stipulated one month. The Hindu : National : RTI now a common man’s tool: study
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