Ludhiana, December 29: In its quest to create awareness on Right To Information (RTI) Act and churn out professionals on the act, the Information Commission has collaborated with the Panjab University to integrate RTI in the curriculum.
As per the plan, the act will be taught as a part of curriculum to the law students. â€œThe law students, future advocates, urgently need to be equipped with the nitty-gritty of RTI. Also keeping in mind the need to teach other students too â€” to make an intellectual group â€” we have proposed to the varsity to add RTI Act as an extra-paper or start diploma or degree courses on it,â€ said the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Punjab Rajan Kashyap today.
Kashyap was here to preside over a seminar held on the RTI Act by the department of higher education, Punjab, at the SCD Government College for Boys.
He said a special committee has been formed at the university level, which will be chaired by the vice-chancellor. Kashyap is one of the members of committee.
The commission, he said, has so far got 1,200 applications under RTI, out of which 350 have been resolved. â€œSixty per cent of our applications are personal complaints, 40 per cent comprise public woes. But with time, we are sure to get more applications public woes, which proves instrumental in improving the system,â€ he said.
Kashyap said when an act similar to RTI was to be launched in the US, the government gave five yearsâ€™ time (2000 to 2005) to the departments to upload their websites with all requisite information. â€œThis resulted in better functioning and better implementation of the Act. However, in India we were given just five months â€” June 2005 to October 2005 â€” and hence there are a lot of problem in implementing it successfully. But with time, we will manage each and everything,â€ he added. Impressed with the divisional-level benches of commission set by the Maharashtra government, Punjab too may go in for divisional benches in order to make the actâ€™s privileges accessible to each and everyone, he said.
Venkesh Nayak, the project co-ordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, said the act is also being misued to settle personal scores and grudges. â€œBut the beauty of this act is that it does not provide any kind of personal information of an individual, which is not in public interest and neither does it enable divulging any information, which may prove threat to security of nation,â€ he added. The seminar was an informative lecture for government collegesâ€™ principals, meant to familiarise them with the RTI Act. The Commission is of the view that educational institutes play pivotal role in making masses aware of the act.
Quest for RTI awareness: Act may be part of university curriculum
The RTI has been Bhoop Singhâ€™s weapon in his fight for the rights of students
About 50 students have gathered at Delhi Universityâ€™s D S Kothari hostel to give a warm sendoff to Bhoop Singh who has just completed his Masters from the School of Environmental Studies. Some friends have booked a car for him; some are packing his luggage while others are arranging food for his journey back home â€”to Mahendragarh in Haryana.
Such a farewell is unusual even on a campus where friendships run deep. Bhoop Singh owes his popularity to his activism. In the past year, he has changed the way hostels treat students. His weapon: the Right to Information Act.
He has filed over a dozen RTI applications, forcing the university authorities to reassess many of their policies. â€œHe has shown that with little effort, students can make the authorities take them seriously,â€ says Anirudh Sharma, his classmate from SES.
Singh took on his hostel last year on the issue of residents being made to pay Rs 880 every year for sports facilities. Singh wanted to know how that money was being utilised since the hostel provided no sports facilities. The result was a refund to every hostel resident.
Students overstaying their term in hostels was another problem that Singh addressed. â€œMost of the students in the hostels come from outside Delhi, and many from humble families. There are many problems with the hostels but I hope that with the power of RTI with us, we can demand and achieve what is our right,â€ says Singh.
Singh also brought to the attention of the authorities the trend of influential professors holding multiple posts. There was protest again and the authorities had to take action.
He then turned his attention closer home. Noticing that th
eir hostel mess changed contractors frequently, he advised students to ensure that the mess workers are not changed every time a contractor is.
Despite his activism, Singh has steered clear of student politics. Says Singhâ€™s hostel roommate Gopal: â€œBut he is more popular than many student leaders in the university.â€
Now that he has completed his Masters, Singh, who belongs to a farming family, has his sights set on the civil services exam. He plans to apply for masters in law and prepare for civil services entrance examinations.
His friends are hoping he returns to the university.