Chandigarh, August 3
The Right to Information Act (RTI) may have gathered all the hype, but the Public Records Act of 1993 remains stronger and more potent than the RTI; more importantly, its implementation being critical to the success of the recently-enacted legislation.

And yet, awareness regarding this Act, that mandates management, administration and preservation of public records of the central government and union territories, remains poor. Ever since it came into force on March 1, 1995, very few states and UTs have been able to implement it, leaving large chunks of public information inaccessible and unavailable under the RTI.

It is this inaccessibility of public information that drives the National Archives of India’s nation-wide awareness movement with respect to the Public Records Act. Through a specially-structured records management workshop that has travelled to all the metros, the national archives are ensuring enactment of this significant Act. Today, their team of archivists was at Government Museum auditorium in the city to conduct the first-ever records management seminar in north India.

“These seminars are very important as they seek to secure public records, which have absolute evidentiary value. These records are admissible in courts of law and are, therefore, tools of the administration and its memory. If saved well, they can save the government unwanted litigation,” said Sanjay Garg, director general, National Archives of India, the nodal agency for the implementation of Public Records Act.

At the seminar, Garg and T. Hussain, a senior archivist with the National Archives, trained government officials to create, control, preserve and dispose of public records to enable the governments to identify relevant information and take prompt action. According to a private survey, 10 per cent of administration staff time is lost in retrieving information that is stored haphazardly.

“Besides saving time, records management ensures that RTI works well,” said Garg, who is also overseeing the massive computerisation drive of the documents at the National Archives of India.

The archives are on the verge of computerising its huge volume of records that run into 45 linear km of shelf space. The next step, Garg said, would be digitisation of records to allow users anywhere to access information on the Internet.

“Right now, we have references of our entire record on the intranet. Our 60-year-long microfilming project is also under way,” Garg said, adding that the archives were specifically targeting the promotion of Hindi language.

In July this year, the archives hosted a special exhibition on Hindi, at the eighth World Hindi conference, held at New York. The show featured the archival wealth of Hindi, including personal communications of the doyens of Hindi literature. The archives are now preparing an exhibition around the 150th year of the first war of Independence.

The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Chandigarh Stories