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Thread: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google

  1. #1
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    Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    As reported by Seema Chishti in indianexpress.com on 22 April 2008:
    IndianExpress.com :: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google

    Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google

    Govt asks PwC to study efficacy of RTI, wary activists launch own study backed by grant from Google Foundation

    NEW DELHI, APRIL 21: The Department of Personnel and Training has decided to get international accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers to study the efficacy of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it marks its third year on October 13. The RTI Act has been showcased by the UPA Government as one of its key achievements.

    Suspicious that this study could end up helping babus instead of citizens, leading RTI activists, including Aruna Roy and her Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Shekhar Singh and his National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) have launched their own alternative study.

    They have formed RAAG (RTI Accountability and Assessment Group) which will examine what they call “the RTI regime.” Significantly, Google Foundation has stepped in to make this study possible by offering $250,000 as an initial grant.

    RTI activists, using foreign funds themselves, say they are not worried about money from a foreign source, but are annoyed at the way, a “foreign organization” (Pricewaterhouse) with “little or no expertise in the manner in which RTI works in India” is being asked to assess the efficacy of RTI.

    Said Roy, formerly a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council and among the earliest campaigners for a Right to Information law: “The process itself adopted by the government to select such an agency for such a key audit, and the record so far of the DoPT makes us wary of the study. There is little point in just opposing it all, so we are doing our own study. All the material we collect in order to draw our conclusions will be available publicly, and then let us have a debate.”

    Activists say they are worried the government, under pressure from bureaucrats, might use this study to cut back or restrain certain freedoms available under RTI. Says Shekhar Singh: “The government is only looking at the problems it faces because of the RTI making the bureaucracy answerable, and how they may have to amend the Act to ensure that applications are not too long, not vexatious or filed for frivolous purposes. How we look at RTI is completely different.”

    The survey being planned by these groups will also involve the Centre for Studies of Developing Societies (CSDS which also does election surveys) and the Tata Institute for Social Service (TISS).

    RAAG also hopes to get assistance from the Nehru Memorial.

    Last week, DoPT hosted a seminar where Pricewaterhouse Coopers presented its Project Progress Report to members of the Central Information Commission and representatives from the State Information Commissions of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, UP, Maharashtra and Orissa, and some Public Information Officers from these states.

    Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said he was consulted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers when it was finalising the project report. He says: “Their earlier proposal did have some weak points. It was too urban-centric, for instance. I have asked them to take into account the RTI’s immense impact on rural India.” Asked about the parallel study, he said: “Activists are welcome to do their own study...Why are they angry with DoPT for getting active? Earlier, it was just the CIC and the activists, with the DoPT taking a passive role, at least now they are active and are taking interest in the functioning of the Act.”


    Twitter: @cjkarira

  2. #2
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    Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    I had a hearty laugh after reading this !
    Whom are DoPT and the activists trying to fool ?

    First make citizen aware of the Act.
    Train PIO's / AA's
    Then encourage people to use the Act.
    Then remove the impediments to the operation part of the Act.
    Then make sure that all the Sections of the Act are obeyed and implemented.

    As per various news reports and threads in this forum:

    - There are still PA's who do not have PIO's and AA's
    - There are PA's where there are no boards
    - A vast majority have not even implemented Sec 4
    - No Government has done anything about Sec 26
    - A vast number of even the urban educated majority do not know about the Act
    - The Act has not even been translated in all the languages listed in the first schedule of the constitution

    After doing all that make a "survey".

    DoPT has not even implemented Sec 26 as yet. They have not removed the controversial note on "file notings" from their website. They do not listen to CIC orders and recommendations. Are we fools to believe that if they themselves are not following the Act, they will implement PWC's recommendations ?

    If Google is funding the RTI Activists to the tune of US$ 250,000 (approx Rs 1 Crore), I am sure PWC's bill will be much much much much higher than that.

    Doesn't anyone in the Government ever read the newspapers, browse the Internet, read CIC/SIC decisions or even visit RTI India - Complete Online Community Portal for Right to Information ? Or is it that all of these are considered so biased and PWC is holier than the holy cow ?

    This is simply a "commission" generating exercise thought off by our politicians, bureaucrats and activists.

    I can "smell" elections in the air.
    Twitter: @cjkarira

  3. #3
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    Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    Editorial in indianexpress.com on 23 April 2008:
    IndianExpress.com :: In the sunlight

    In the sunlight

    RTI cannot be judged by those it is meant to take on

    The Right to Information (RTI) Act, enacted after decades of civil society pressure, is one of the biggest achievements of this government. In its brief life so far, it has unearthed some scandals, delivered some answers, embarrassed some officials and held out the promise of some shift in power relations between the government and the governed.

    Now, the Department of Personnel and Training wants to audit RTI achievements, and has roped in PricewaterhouseCoopers to prepare a report card. RTI activists point out that this situation is rife with irony — that the legislation that is meant to wrest accountability from government officials should be judged by an agency handpicked by the officials themselves. And so, RTI campaigners have decided to do their own calculations and assess the act with support from a variety of research institutions. The underlying question is not about “foreign funds” or foreign agencies like PwC. In fact, the activists’ study is being bankrolled in part by the Google Foundation. Google is openly committed to transparency (although its own dossier on individuals could do with some exposure), and there is no doubt that a citizen survey backed by solid research is infinitely more meaningful than the government’s exercise. RTI activists worry, rightly, that the PwC study could be used to undermine the achievements of the movement, and hobble its hard-won freedoms.

    The crucial point is that the government and the people naturally come at RTI from different directions; this adversarial dynamic is built into the very nature of the legislation. While the government would view RTI through the lens of disruption and inconvenience — the extent to which “frivolous petitions” hold up official functioning or impose excessive curbs on the bureaucracy — the citizens’ perspective would be diametrically different, premised on the belief that a truly participatory democracy rests on public access to information, and these logistical gripes (whether motivated or not) should not be allowed to detract from the greater good of maximum transparency. So both the government and the activists should formulate their own assessments, and we, the people, must be especially vigilant against any possible rollback of the little liberations that RTI has enabled.
    Twitter: @cjkarira

  4. Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google



    Do we need companies like PWC etc to study efficacy of RTI? This is all useless waste of public money and perhaps exercise to curtail RTI effect by making it more complicated. What we require is honest and sincere implementation of the act in true spirit and letter. Govt as usual does not want to see ground realities.
    Last edited by Shrawan; 23-04-08 at 09:00 PM.
    It takes each of us to make difference for all of us.

  5. Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    The review is a good decision and we all must get together in whatever capacity we can to accomplish the survey. Critical review must be accompanied during progress of the survey and after submission of report, to help in effective methodology and transparent report.

  6. #6
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    Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    Quote Originally Posted by kushal View Post
    The review is a good decision and we all must get together in whatever capacity we can to accomplish the survey. Critical review must be accompanied during progress of the survey and after submission of report, to help in effective methodology and transparent report.
    Can you please explain why it is such a good idea ?
    Twitter: @cjkarira

  7. #7
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    Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    Members and guests can just google for "delhi jal board pricewaterhouse" and go through the web pages that appear in the list.
    Twitter: @cjkarira

  8. Re: Testing RTI: Govt vs activists, Pricewaterhouse vs Google


    This is not a good descision of the govt.
    its time to file RTI application on the TOR for the said firm and what the govt wants to achieve.
    the activists should ask for a participatory assessment of the RTI by conducting a psycho-social audit of this act.

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