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It’s our right to information


Atul Patankar

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Atul Patankar

As reported at www.expressbuzz.com on 27 February, 2009

There is too little of sustained pressure from citizen groups on our rulers to explain what they are up to. We say this on the occasion of a victory for public accountability flowing from a petition by this newspaper to Karnataka’s appellate authority for enforcing the national Right to Information (RTI) Act. As we reported recently, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), the said body, has directed the state government to ensure that all Cabinet decisions are to be made public, and the records of such meetings are to be properly preserved. The state government had declined to give any details of such decisions, and the first level of appeal specified in the RTI, within the bureaucracy, had said such disclosure wasn’t possible. Reminders that the Union government puts out all such decisions by its Cabinet on a website were of no avail. What saved the day for common sense and accountability was that the KIC is an independent body and decided this stand of the state government was nonsense. And our query is how the government was able to get away, for all these decades and regardless of which party was elected to power, with such denial of basic accountability.

The answer should be clear to all of us — there was no pressure from electors to do otherwise.

 

Note, for instance, that Karnataka’s ruling party is governing the state on its own for the first time ever and still new in office; they’ve taken no time at all to pick up the habits of an oligarchic ruling class. And they are not unique at all; it is hard to find any of the 30-odd governments in India, past or present, Union or state, whether run by parties of the left, centre or right, pro-Dalit or otherwise, which exuded or exudes a different culture when in power. Since it is we, the citizens, who both elect them and also need this information, the responsibility for such a state of affairs should be pondered by each of us. Why would those in power explain what they are doing and why, if there is no imperative on them to do so? The culture of joining hands to exchange information on institutions and rules, and on what reforms these need, is still to take deep root in our country, despite all these decades of formal democracy. Why not begin, each of us, by applying under the RTI on local matters?

Source: http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=It%E2%80%99s+our+right+to+information&artid=SGnJ2Y0D/II=&SectionID=RRQemgLywPI=&MainSectionID=RRQemgLywPI=&SEO=KIC,+RTI&SectionName=XQcp6iFoWTvPHj2dDBzTNA==

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