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    Maharashtra emerges as leader in RTI activism

    Maharashtra emerges as leader in RTI activism
    Reported By Nithin Belle (Mumbai Musings) in Khaleej Times 4 June 2008

    THE Right to Information Act (RTI) is a landmark piece of legislation,
    enacted in 2005, which enables ordinary citizens to seek information
    from various government departments. The act aims to bring about
    transparency in the functioning of various departments and improved
    communication with citizens.

    Every government department both at the central and state levels
    public bodies and state-owned companies are required to provide vital
    information about their functioning to citizens seeking such details.
    Public authorities have to appoint central public information officers
    or state public information officers (PIOs) to address the requests
    for 'information.'

    State information commissioners (SICs) have been appointed all over
    India to ensure that government departments respond to the RTI
    applications of citizens and provide them the necessary information.

    The success of the legislation can be gauged from the fact that
    government departments have been overwhelmed with a flood of
    applications in recent years and SICs are also clogged with appeals
    and complaints.

    In Mumbai, for instance, the SIC has over 3,600 appeals and complaints
    pending, while the figure for the whole of Maharashtra is around
    16,000. Citizens file appeals and complaints with the SIC when the
    response from a government department is not forthcoming, or the
    replies are wishy-washy.

    The groundswell of applications in a state like Maharashtra reflects
    the public hunger for information ranging from details of a pension
    scheme, to modifications in town planning schemes and from information
    about a polluting unit to the manner in which money has been disbursed
    from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.

    RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi recently got details about how money from
    the CM's Relief Fund meant to be disbursed at times of calamities
    was being misused and diverted over the years for irrelevant
    activities, including cricket matches. Successive chief ministers in
    the state have been dipping into the fund and dispensing huge sums to
    their favourites for things like organising a cricket match, or making
    a film. Maharashtra has emerged as a leader in RTI activism, with over
    300,000 applications having been received last year by various public
    authorities. RTI activists, however, fear that citizens take recourse
    to the act for even frivolous reasons, which adds to the clutter,
    resulting in unnecessary delays.

    BUT the flood of applications has resulted in activists working at
    cross purposes, not knowing what one group has filed, what another has
    obtained, and what are the cases that pending. To set this right,
    Rishi Aggarwal, an activist, has launched a website (, to enable citizens to share information.

    "The usual thing that happens to most such responses is that they get
    filed," says Rishi. "More often than not they contain valuable
    information on matters of public interest, which would be of interest
    to many spirited citizens and can be used effectively by them."
    Rishi has been working on the web-based platform for uploading RTI
    responses and applications since six months. He believes it will help
    facilitate the flow of information on responses to RTI applications
    filed by thousands of citizens all over the country.

    The media also focusses only on a few major cases, but equally
    important ones tend to be ignored. The web site will be a
    comprehensive one, enabling visitors to upload the initial application
    to a public authority and the response that is received.

    Khaleej Times Online - Maharashtra emerges as leader in RTI activism=

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    Re: Maharashtra emerges as leader in RTI activism

    Now we have our own RTI India Directory here:

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