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RTI now a common man’s tool: study


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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

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* Applicants closed down polluting factories, fought corruption

* Villagers see information as key to solving problems

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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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As reported in decaanherald.com on 15 October 2008:

Deccan Herald - State fares well in RTI implementation: survey

State fares well in RTI implementation: survey

 

An interim survey has praised Karnataka for better implementation of the Right to Information Act (RTI), which is now into its fourth year.

The State is the quickest in responding to the RTI applications at the district level, according to the interim findings of a survey jointly conducted by RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (Raag) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI).

 

Karnataka is also the best when it comes to availability of Public Information Officers (PIOs) responsible for implementation of the RTI Act. Karnataka is followed by Rajasthan while Uttar Pradesh fared the worst. Meghalaya has overall credibility as it was the quickest, most compliant and most polite.

 

In many states, strangely, PIOs did not know that they were PIOs.

 

It was learnt that the Central government responded much more quickly and shared a lot more information than the state governments. Among the ministries, Environment and Railways stand out for speediest responses. The Police department is the slowest to respond to the applications and has also been responsible for most number of rejections.

 

It was also highlighted that the high courts have been seeking exemptions above and over those specified in the Act. The Karnataka High Court also sought such exemptions.

 

The study surveyed 8,000 applicants and appellants across the country and the final report will be ready by December.

 

This coincides with a government survey being conducted by the Department of Personnel and Training.

 

“Our rural survey had quelled the misconception that RTI is only used by urban people. They also felt that information was the key to solving their problems,” Vishaish Uppal, member of NCPRI told Deccan Herald here on Tuesday.

 

Two thirds of the rural applicants got response to their applications and even when the information was not received, the problem was solved.

 

Nearly 60 per cent of the PIOs hold that the RTI Act has led to better record-keeping in their departments.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner said, “The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is undertaking a Rs 23,000 crore project to computerise all the government data and I have put in a request to weave in the RTI requirements in the same project.”

 

However, Habibullah expressed his displeasure that “the government has so far spent only a princely sum of Rs 2 lakh on the promotion of the RTI Act”.

 

The Right to Information Act came into force on October 12, 2005 and covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.

 

 

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