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Thread: Bihar Govt RTI-plea-over-phone initiative proves to be non-starter

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    C J Karira
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    Bihar Govt RTI-plea-over-phone initiative proves to be non-starter

    As reported by Nidhi Sharma in Pioneer on 31 January 2008:
    The Pioneer > Home

    Bihar Govt RTI-plea-over-phone initiative proves to be non-starter

    Exactly a year after Bihar took the revolutionary step of accepting Right to Information (RTI) applications over phone, the innovative initiative has hit a roadblock. The phone line does not work most of the time - as many as 20 days in a month.

    On January 29, 2007 Bihar had become the first State to introduce the facility for its people. The State set up a call centre, which had trained executives, for accepting RTI applications and even first and second appeals over phone. One year down the line, the facility remains inaccessible to many. The data collected from Bihar's call centre reveals that though the helpline - called Jankari - drew a tremendous response in the first three months, the administrative glitches ensured that the people did not benefit from the project.

    In the month of July, the phone line did not work for 20 days. Similarly, in May the call centre was not operational for about a fortnight. In many districts, the people have complained that they are unable to access the phone line. Such complaints have been received from Purnea, Saharsa, Supaul and Kishanganj districts. So far, only one or two RTI applications have been filed from these districts and there have been no first or second appeals so far.

    Speaking to The Pioneer, Magsaysay award winner and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who helped the Bihar Government in setting up Jankari, said: "There have been several complaints from Bihar. The biggest problem is that the bureaucracy has ensured this experiment does not work. The phone line remains down and in some cases inaccessible. The data shows that the phone line also remains jammed."

    Kejriwal confirmed there have been certain months when the phone line has not worked for days on end. This is also reflected in the statistics on number of calls received by Jankari. In February 2007, for instance, the helpline had received the maximum number of calls - about 887. However, the calls have shown a downward trend ever since. July, when the phone line was not working, Jankari received a mere 313 calls.

    The Chief Minister had expected to make RTI accessible to the poor by introducing the facility. However, statistics show that it is the urban districts that have benefited the most. The maximum number of calls have been received from Patna where in all 953 applications have been filed over phone.

    Kejriwal said: "It has been a year and we will take up the matter with CM Nitish Kumar. We are now preparing a proper report after analysing the statistics available."

  2. Re: Bihar Govt RTI-plea-over-phone initiative proves to be non-starter

    I would like to know about the possibility of submitting 1st & 2nd appeal through
    e-mail . Is it accepted ? Sometimes I had submitted 1st appeal through mail, but submitted written appeal afterwards. The second appeal; is not accepted in SIC, as informed.


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