RTI Helpline: 20% calls from Public Information Officers Ahmedabad, May 11:
An analysis of the calls received on the right to information helpline run by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) has revealed that around 20 per cent of calls are from Government Public Information Officers (PIOs).
The helpline which completes two years of its existence tomorrow, has till date received more than 25,000 calls, of which 90 per cent were from Gujarat and 10 per cent from other states.
"When we analysed the data on calls received we were surprised that 20 per cent of the call were from PIOs from government agencies, who themselves are designated to provide information to people by their respective organisation," said MAGP coordinator, Pankti Jog.
"Most of the time PIOs ask about the proper procedure or any query in the RTI act which they find it difficult to understand," Jog added.
According to her more people are now coming forward and challenging the system to seek information.
"Over the two years, we experienced that even people who belong to a socially marginalised section of the society are now coming out and demanding their right to proper information," Jog said.
"More than 60 per cent of the calls are from rural areas," added Jog.
MAGP is an independent forum where various stakeholders committed for RTI have come together. MAGP is currently supported by Janpath which is a network of 200 NGOs working in Gujarat.
The RTI act was enacted by the government of India in June 2005. The Gujarat government later framed the rules and guideline regarding the act in October 2005.
"RTI is an effective tool to make democracy meaningful and participatory. Thus, citizens need to understand this tool and make use of it for making system accountable towards them." Jog said describing the mission behind MAGP.
The analysis of the calls attended by MAGP shows that most of the calls are related to land issues wherein the authority is the government revenue department.
"Around 16 per cent of the call were pertaining to revenue department, where the caller might be seeking information on his land records or property," Jog said.
"We also receive large number of calls where people want guidance on getting information out of the police department, the legal department and the provident fund department," Jog further said, adding, "around 8-10 per cent calls are for these departments."
Since most of the callers are from rural areas one has to be very thorough with the RTI act and for this MAGP has a dedicated team of volunteers who assists the callers with their queries.
"We have six volunteers who provide information to the callers and also assist them on how to fill an RTI application. They also tell them about their rights while seek information from any government department," said Jog, who has been associated with the programme since its inception.
All the cases that can`t be resolved on the RTI helpline are referred to the Saturday legal clinic where a team of resource persons attend to the queries, Jog said.