Pune, May 13 : Nearly two years after the parliament passed the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act, campaigners from across the country are looking at the law's strengths and weaknesses, its successes and loopholes.
At a two-day 'National Convention of Right to Information Crusaders' held over the weekend here, representatives from 23 states sounded upbeat about the momentous law, but warned that a lot more needed to be done to make it effective.
"It's almost two years since it was passed. We have an active national (Internet-based) HumJanenge network. We need to learn from each other's experiments. We need more intense discussions (to work out a strategy to make the law work better)," said Right To Information campaigner Arvind Kejriwal.
Kejriwal is one of two South Asian winners of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards for 2006 for his role in the campaign.
Others present were Aruna Roy, a top bureaucrat-turned-campaigner, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, social activist Medha Patkar, and over a hundred others.
Roy stressed that the passing of the law was an achievement in itself, and said many who had campaigned long and worked hard, including media persons, needed to be acknowledged. She narrated how some had told her "you won't see this happen in your lifetime".
"Sometimes I still wake up wondering whether it is still a dream. We still don't know how it happened, but it was a historic window of opportunity," she said.
There "were still a number of enemies of the law" who didn't want transparency in governance to happen, Roy added.
"The enemies are temporarily silent. But they are still around," she said, warning that there were efforts to amend the law.
"India has one of the best laws in the world," said Prakash Kardalay, Pune-based former editor and a dogged campaigner for the full implementation of the Act, passed in June 2005.
While strong networking for this is underway via the Internet, the campaign "needed to be rooted firmly in the ground" and linked to those with no access to cyberspace, Kardalay noted.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that the law could be judged in terms of how many institutions it covered, the few exceptions it left uncovered, the stringency of penalty provisions for non-compliance, and how independent the appellate authority was.
On all grounds, India's law had fared fairly well, but the implementation needed to be tightened up and made more people-friendly, he suggested.
Campaigners from Jammu and Kashmir stressed the need to extend the law to their state to curb corruption, which they said was a serious issue there.
Four issues were focussed on - expectations from the government, expectations from the information commissions, the need of government bodies to suo moto declare information about their functioning under the Act, and the need to create national-level RTI helplines and a common platform.
Maharashtra journalist Vijay Kuvalekar, who's now a state information commissioner, got a standing-ovation after calling for a humane approach in making the administration more responsive to the people. He explained his approach with a wide range of examples.
Re: Scrutinising the RTI Act, nearly two years later
I would like Kushal and all other active members to note that the RCVP Noronha Academy of Administration are holding a National Workshop on 31st October involving NGOs involved in such work at Bhopal. I have been invited as a former DG of this institution and hope some members involved in developing site could attend as this will help improve this website! Incidentally the wife of the first CIO of MP for the act is the present head of this instituition! Useful feedback can be obtained to develop site!
Best wishes to Kushal and his team!Hari Gautam Obhrai.