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Thread: West Bengal SIC - Won't Tell
Views: 1578 | 10-03-08, 11:19 AM #1
West Bengal SIC - Won't Tell
As reported in telegraphindia.com on 10 March 2008:
The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Opinion | won’t tell
The State in West Bengal is yet to shed its habits of secrecy. None less than the secretary of the state information commission has admitted publicly that three years into the passing of the Right to Information Act in India, the government and most public bodies in Bengal are loath to provide information unless pressed, and even then they would do so with deliberate vagueness. He has also confessed that his two-year-old commission has not yet managed to play a significant role in transforming governance and citizenship in Bengal, putting this to a century-old history of public servants being sworn to secrecy. About a year ago, the governor had sought a report from the commission on how the RTI Act was helping ordinary people. This was prompted by a flurry of complaints from citizens that the commission was failing to do its job. The commission’s response — which was, paradoxically, confidential — reportedly made the same confessions, failing even to give the names of information officers in the various departments and in the districts. A few months after this, the president of the RTI Manch wanted to know the number of applications filed in the state under the act and how many of those were disposed of. He was told by the commission that it was unable to provide him with this information because it was still inadequately computerized. Trying to meet his demand was therefore “disproportionately diverting resources of the office, hampering all other works”.
The failure to provide information is considerably more culpable and sinister than disorganization or inefficiency. The unwillingness to be accountable and transparent comes from having many things to hide. The running of all public bodies, from the government, to the civic authorities, to boards of higher education, to institutions in charge of public health, all using public funds and rendering essential services, is likely to be revolutionized by the RTI Act, if it is properly used. In this, it is equally the responsibility of the citizen to want to know, as it is of the State to inform. And this is where the question of awareness becomes crucial: teaching people, many of whom are the most disempowered in the country, the nature of the weapon that has been placed in their hands. To remain unaware of, or be prevented from using, this prerogative would be a sad and dangerous thing for a modern democracy.
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