Right to Information- A lost cause or a weapon to combat corruption.
“The Real ‘Swaraj’ will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused.”- Mahatma Gandhi
Introduction of Right To Information–
Right To Information Act of 2005, is a finest piece of legislation in Indian legal system which was enacted for bringing the transparency and accountability in the government. Access to information is so important to an individual’s life and other Fundamental rights that United Nations in the year 1946 recognized that people have a human right to access to the information from their government. And hence this decision compelled different countries to enact such set of rules which can give rights to citizens to have an access to the information to their respective governments. UN stated, ‘Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone for all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated’. UN realized that this right is at the core of all human rights because it enables citizens not only to know their entitlements but also to demand that the government fulfill its duties when their rights are being violated.
“The Right to Information” Act was passed in the year 2005 but there is still existence of some provisions of “The Official Secrets Act 1923” in section 22 of “The Right to Information Act. ” India continued to be dominated by “The Official Secrets Act, 1923” for more than 60 years after the independence. And the attitude of government towards freedom of information is still irresponsible, there is threat of losing the power in both organs of government i.e., Executive and Legislative because of fear of losing the control and power and also pressure of being responsible to the public after the enactment of RTI. The “Official Secrets Act” had given the officer enough protection and excuse to deny basic information to the people. Bureaucracy has typical colonial mindset and they have developed deep vested interests in guarding the information and working in secrecy. By denying the information to the people, bureaucrats think that they gain more power, so they do not disclose the basic information to the citizen. But now after the enactment of RTI Act they have to provide each and every information except some information which fall under “Secrets” under Section 8 of this Act which talk about Exemptions from disclosure of information.
RTI, as a tool to empower democracy and governance-
RTI is not just the piece of legislation but also an important aspect of our society because this only act is sufficient to bring big social changes which everyone is seeking for. Although it is just to seek information but it is actually far away from that, it is not only for seeking information but actually a weapon in the hands of people to crusade various challenges and problems prevailed in the society. As per the cartoons by R.K Laxman, he clearly showed the power of citizens and also a hope in his cartoon. In his cartoon he portrayed RTI as weapon in the hand of people against the corruption and poor governance. In this act we can also find the glimpses of the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi who dreamed of active participation of each and every citizens and this act is able to bring real Swaraj in the society.
RTI brought various changes in the society which is not clearly visible in the society but its impact can be felt very strongly. There is a threat in the minds of bureaucrats, politicians and whosoever is related to governance in any way. By this act not only the corruption can be crusaded but also big changes can be brought like poverty, overpopulation, unemployment can be eliminated because although these problems are more of social problems than legal, but such problems are the result of poor quality of governance and hence once the problem of poor governance is eliminated any nation will be able to fight with each and every problem later or sooner, because governance regulates the society and decides up to where and till what extent any society can rise.
Emergence of New Era of Democracy-
RTI helps in various ways and thus helps a lot to fight with the corrupt system. If any person who need a BPL (below poverty line) card has to bribe 2000-5000 rupees to public officials to get the card, now this do not happen after the advent of RTI because people can ask the procedure to get a BPL card. Thus although RTI does not help in giving someone BPL card but yes it will tell the procedure so that people can’t be charged more by the officials. Similarly if someone want an electricity connection for his house but he does not know the procedure, then RTI helps him in knowing the procedure, this actually helps in fastening the process of providing services.
Various (abuse) Challenges to RTI-
India’s is the best RTI law in the world. It is one of the most progressive laws ever laid down in the country. The citizen’s RTI is more than just a law; it is a fight against the governance shrouded in opaqueness, against the agenda of corruption and the arbitrary use of power. RTI Act is a powerful tool for ordinary citizens to try to overcome bureaucratic stonewalling and corrupt practices. Being so much strong, this Act still faces lots of problem and challenges which stops it from being implemented properly. One of the basic problems with this act is its improper implementation. And the reasons behind its improper implementations are also many such as poor awareness, poverty, politics, corruption etc. Once these problems got vanished, the RTI law will be implemented very properly and it will help in proper governance and will ensure the active participation of people in governance.
1) Low awareness and Corruption-
Problem is faced by each and every law which is enacted in India due to various social problems prevails in Indian society, and RTI is no exception. Various basic laws like RTE (right to education), Right to Food, Indra Awaas Yojna , MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), various child development policies, various policies for women empowerment etc. These policies seem sufficient in eradicating respective problems but just due to poor implementation all such programmes are not used by public. The “Mid day Meal”, it was a program for the primary schools to attract poor children towards school so that they can concentrate on their education instead of concerning about earning wages to arrange food for themselves and their families too. It is one of the ambitious programmes of the government for which government will invest more than 38 thousand crore but this policy is also going to fail just because of corruption. According to this program every poor child will be provided good quality food in the school, but due to corruption and the social inequality which is prevailed in the society children in remote areas and also in urban areas are unable to get benefited by this programme. In villages children are said to be served with good quality food but the reality is far away from this. On conversation with an “aanganwadi” worker and the cook in primary school who use to prepare food for children, in a village named Chakethi in M.P, we were told that contract is given to N.G.Os and those N.G.Os provide the food to the children and they decide the menu, government provide them funds to provide food in the schools, a huge amount of money is misused by them. Children are forced to clean their rooms, their plates in which they eat, and in some places they are forced t cook the food also. A report by ABP news on Mid Day Meal cleared the picture of how the policies are implemented and how people are still unable to utilize it, this report showed that children are provided rotten food, they are provided food items which are unhealthy and not according to the menu decided by the government. The Children from higher caste are given good quality food and their food is kept separated from the food of those children who belong from the lower caste. Same problem is with each and every social developmental scheme, the Janni Shishu suraksha yojna it is a program of Central Government which provides resources to mothers of poor families so that the delivery of child could be done under the surveillance of well trained nurses and doctors. Government provide mothers van and other medical treatments for free and also give them money so that a good and healthy environment can be provided to the mother and their children. But due to poor awareness various families are unable to utilize this policy. We can see behind the failure of such beneficial programmes there are various problems and obstacles like corruption, ill awareness and social condition and politics. Same problem is with RTI too. RTI is the best tool for empowering the public, but poor implementation of RTI proved the biggest challenge. On a telephonic conversation with the secretary of congress of Anuppur district of M.P, he told that out of 1000 people only one or two know about RTI, there is no one to tell people about what RTI is, it is not only with RTI but with various other laws, corruption, ill-awareness and regional politics stops the people from making use of this law, he said “kahne ko to hum ek loktantrik desh me rahte hain lekin aaj bhi humpar rajneta aur naukarshah ka shashan hai”.
During the campaigning days with IAC(India against corruption ) team, we met a person, he told about his problem that his pension fund which is rupees 50000 in total is yet not given to him and Officer is demanding 10000 rupees and a lower officer is demanding 5000 rupees to give him information about his money, he told that after giving 20000 rupees what will left for him, his complaints were not listened, he was illiterate person and when we asked him about RTI whether he had any idea about RTI, he simply replied that for the first time he heard this word, then we elaborated him the full procedure of filing an RTI to know where his money is.