Right to Information -A strong safeguard against corruption, misgovernance

Fulfillment of the people's right to information is now universally recognised as a precondition for not only ensuring good governance but also eliminating corruption and anomalies that are inextricably linked to official secrecy. So the advocates of an expeditious enactment of the Right to Information Bill, who spoke in a workshop held in the city on Tuesday, have raised a pertinent point.

The experience that we have had, even during democratic rule in the last 15 years, does indicate that government officials and politicians holding high public offices could indulge in corruption on an unprecedented scale largely because there was no transparency or accountability. Corruption stemmed from official secrecy, which always prevented the people from knowing what was happening in the government offices. The point will be made amply clear by the fact that even the parliamentary standing committees could not elicit the needed information from the ministries when they were trying to probe incidents of gross anomalies and irregularities in quite a few cases. The official secrecy only helped the corrupt to avoid being brought into full public glare.

So, people's access to official information is vital to subjecting governmental activities to public scrutiny.

The present caretaker government is going all-out to curb corruption and introduce a system that will have no place for the corrupt elements. They have already reorganised and made the Anti-Corruption Commission independent, which is no doubt a highly positive development. But the overarching need is to have a law that will force the government to share official information with the public. Barring sensitivity to clearly defined security concerns we are for the media and people to be privy to all other information. There are areas like procurement, tendering, service delivery, administrative lapses and spending of public money about which people may want to know, as they have a stake in all such matters. This is also true about the projects where public funds are utilized, yet people are left in the dark about the way the whole thing is conducted.

So the people's right to information has to be firmly established through enacting the Right to Information Bill on a top priority basis. The right to information has brought about magical changes in governance in countries where it is now a established fact. India is a good example of how the RTI has served public interest by giving the people access to the information that touch their lives. It is the best way to prevent shady and arbitrary deals that ignore the collective interest of people.

The Daily Star Web Edition Vol. 5 Num 1086