Happy Birth Day RTI
AS REPORTED BY Rahul Mangaonkar,TNN 12 May 2008, 0119 hrs IST

AHMEDABAD: Today is the birthday of the Right To Information Act.
Whether it is happy or sad, is another matter. The Right to
Information (RTI) Act requires that each public authority should
constantly take steps to provide as much information proactively to
the people so that they don't have to resort to the Act to obtain

While RTI celebrates three years of the Act being passed by the
Parliament on Monday, leave alone the pre-requisite an attitudinal
shift among the babus and government functionaries even the manuals
that were to be made within 120 days of its formulation, till October
12, 2005, are not in place everywhere.

These are the 17 manuals which have come to be known as 'proactive

Various state government departments, who have hosted their website on
the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN), have given links to their
RTI disclosure. But these remain limited to only to Sachivalaya
functioning and there is no consistency in their disclosures.

Recently Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA)
decided to do a sample audit of the panchayat department to get a
sense of what has been disclosed. According to sources in SPIPA, there
were glaring gaps in the disclosures and there was realization that
despite training officers on RTI there remained a weak link when it
comes to proactively disclosing information.

The myth surrounding proactive disclosures is that it is limited only
to the headquarters and publishing the names and contact details of
the assistant public information officer (APIO), public information
officer (PIO) and the appellate authority is enough. But that's not
what RTI mandates.

RTI requires all public authorities, right from Gandhinagar to the
gram panchayat in the village, all offices across all departments to
have their own separate proactive disclosures. The Gujarat police
giving links on RTI on their website does not mean that their
responsibility ends there. All police stations need to have their
disclosures not just on the internet but more importantly prominently
displayed in each station as well.

The fundamental logic behind the need for having proactive disclosures
is that since independence till the RTI regime coming into existence,
government functionaries held back information under the garb of the
Official Secrets Act (OSA). The entire government functioning being
kept in darkness for over sixty years, how would a common man know
where to ask and who holds the information that he needs?

According to RTI activists, effective implementation of the
obligations of having to proactively disclose information would put an
end to the touts at grassroot levels and the middle men or liaison
officers from government functioning. As common citizens would know
what they are entitled to as also the power, duties and functions of
all public servants.