How we can save the RTI : All you need to know

0

rti-logo

The 2005 RTI Act allows the public to access information about all public authorities. Subject to this act, all public authorities must follow guidelines to ensure that their activities are recorded and available to the public. The Act intends to promote transparency and accountability in the system, empower citizens and neutralize the rampant corruption. An integral part of the Act is its scope which extends to all ‘Public Authorities’.
The term ‘public authority’ has been elaborately defined in the guide to RTI Act http://rti.gov.in/rticorner/guideonrti.pdf :
A “public authority” is any authority or body or institution of self government
established or constituted by or under the Constitution; or by any other law made
by the Parliament or a State Legislature; or by notification issued or order made
by the Central Government or a State Government. The bodies owned, controlled
or substantially financed by the Central Government or a State Government and
non-Government organisations substantially financed by the Central Government
or a State Government also fall within the definition of public authority. The
financing of the body or the NGO by the Government may be direct or indirect

For a comprehensive look at the Act, visit http://rti.gov.in/webactrti.htm

A contentious proposition which was pending in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament this year, was the amendment of this vital Act in order to exempt all political parties from its ambit.
For ordinary people like you and me, here’s why :
The Business Standard reported that on August 12th the government introduced a Bill to Amend the RTI act so that ‘Public Authority’ would no longer include political parties registered under the Representation of People Act 1951. The catalyst to this bill was a preceeding ruling of the Central Information Commission that required all political parties to disclose their sources of income- an ostensibly brave move to curtail any dubious political financial activities. In August, the aforementioned Bill stated that this was a very ‘liberal interpretation’ of the act (Diplomatically speaking, liberal is synomymous with outrageous) adding in its defence that rival parties might try and exploit the Act.
Following the introduction of the bill there was instant uproar in the country, with activists all around condemning the government’s obvious motive to undermine the RTI Act. Online petitions were drafted by public moral watchdogs with lakhs of Indians voicing their protest against the planned amendment. People contacted their local MP’s, called up the Lok Sabha Speaker, staged rallies and protests, tweeted, blogged and openly discussed via social media the need to fight the dilution of the RTI Act. The National Campaign for People’s Rights handed the Prime Minister three memorandums urging him to not amend the RTI Act and instead pass a handful of Bills such as Lokpal and Whistleblowers protection that aimed at tackling corruption. However circumstances became tenuous when the PM responded that all political parties were ‘unanimous’ in their decision to amend the RTI.
The power of the people especially in a democracy is, however, a force to be reckoned with. When the Vox Populi became impossible to ignore and when the furor over the amendment gave no indication of dying down, the government finally referred the Bill to the Standing Committee, a decision which was hailed as both ‘welcoming’ and ‘reassuring’ by activists.
A plan that could have potentially destroyed the RTI, has been delayed, deferred but not blown out of the water yet. The matter is likely to come up again during the Winter Session, a possibility that has been anticipated by activists fighting for RTI.

rti new

Activist Aruna Roy along with Change.Org tells us how we can register our disapproval with the government. In a concise e-mail from the website, here are some of the simplest steps you can take to fight for RTI :

1. Sign this petition : http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/shri-manmohan-singh-prime-minister-government-of-india-save-rti-act-from-amendments?utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

2. Start your own petition to save RTI at : https://www.change.org/en-IN/campaigns/rti-act

3 TWITTER : You can tweet to your Member of Parliament and ask him/her to represent your interests and not support any amendment to the RTI. You can also tweet the same to the Prime Minister. You can find their twitter handles at this link :
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Au0b0uIGHRL4dFFfU0FobGRBZDhaY1l5V0pwNkhCeWc#gid=0

4. You can send a personal E-mail to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha at [email protected] requesting her to ensure that the public is consulted and polled before the Bill is enacted
5. As always, if you are on Facebook, Twitter or a content writer for any legal website or blogger for WordPress, Blogspot etc make sure that you continually discuss this issue online and convey your stand.

Another website called Firstpost http://www.firstpost.com/ tabulated the ways in which a concerned citizen can save the RTI. Although it involves a legitimate but fairly daring approach, it represents the very essence of a democracy sustained by conscientious citizens and promoted by a dynamic social media forum. You can always refer to the article that recounts first-hand reports of what contacting your MP means http://www.firstpost.com/politics/rti-call-a-thon-how-citizens-are-engaging-with-mps-to-save-the-rti-act-1024851.html

6. Establish communication with your local MP by visiting this site for contact details : http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/members/membercontactdetail.aspx
Since many of us have no idea who our MP is, the procedure to identify him/her is simple. Visit

http://getrti.org/campaigns/rtia/

Remember, every voice matters and every vote counts.

Emblem_of_India.svg

{Courtesy of Change.Org, Aruna Roy, Business Standard, RTI.gov, Bhanupriya Rao, Firstpost and Facebook Pages}
Any feedback is welcome.

Original article can be found here : http://duexlegalia.blogspot.in/2013/09/how-we-can-save-rti-all-that-you-need.html