Move Beyond RTI

RTI

Truly the RTI has revolutionised the information world of India. Having placed this revoluntionary zeal of RTI I must also talk about the pseudo RTI champions whose full time job is to file RTI petitions. This is for their publicity. But jams the network and disturbs the genuine information seeker. As we know that Indian bureaucracy moves in a snail pace, pseduo RTI applicants job complicates the problem. Moving beyond the RTI the goverment must think about introducing DTP – Duty to Publish as a rule. All the contract, recruitment, government functioning which doesn’t disturb the strategic functioning and policies of the government must be available in the websites. This can lessen the trouble. Let us see below how the information commissioners have fared in the last few years of RTI introduction.

The Times of India writes (23 October 2009)

Four years after the pioneering Right to Information regime came into force in India, many hurdles remain in the way of a citizen
accessing information. Just 27 people out of 100 get the information they ask for. And, even if an information commission rules in your favour, there is a 61% chance you won’t get the information because the rulings are not complied with.

These are some of the many interesting findings of the largest study conducted to assess the performance of Information Commissioners across India. Overturning many commonly held notions, the project led by RTI campaigner Arvind Kejariwal has ranked an unheard of information commissioner from Kerala, P Faziluddin, as the best in the country in terms of public satisfaction. Karnataka was found to have the best Information Commission.

The most public face of the Central Information Commission, its CIC Wajahat Habibullah, is placed fourth on the list in terms of public satisfaction while two IC’s from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra bring up the bottom. Former CBI officer M L Sharma was found to be the least popular among CIC commissioners on the same count.

Apart from analyzing public satisfaction, the ranking also took into account ‘effectiveness’ (whether information was made available or not), ‘deterrent impact’ (imposing penalties for non-disclosures) and ‘pro-disclosure factor’ (which looked at whether the order was in favour of the applicant or not).

The study throws up other interesting results. Violence-racked regions like Assam and Chattisgarh are blazing new trails in ushering in transparency with Information Commissions of the two states passing 98% pro-disclosure rulings. IC Anil Joshi from Chattisgarh has ruled 100% in favour of transparency, the study, that browsed through more than 50,000 rulings, discloses.

And, despite the much reviled system of appointing retired bureaucrats as information commissioners, Kejariwal’s Public Cause Research Trust found all the best performing commissioners were retired babus. The only commissioner with a background in activism, Shailesh Gandhi, was ranked at the bottom of the rung on each of the four parameters.

While releasing the findings, Kejariwal said the rankings may change once more feedback starts flowing in from all parts of the country. “We are asking just one question: Did you finally get satisfactory information after approaching the Information Commission?” Kejariwal said, explaining how his team of researchers wrote to each applicant who got a favourable order to find out what they thought of the interface with information commissioners.

“These findings are just the beginning of a process. The hope is citizens will constantly assess the performance of high public officials as an integral part of an effective democracy,” the RTI campaigner hoped.

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