Dr. E. M. Sudarasna Natchiappan
Parliamentary Standing Committee on
Public Grievances & Personnel
New Delhi – 110011
Sub: Standing Committee Recommendation of Scrapping of RTI Application Fee
Dear Dr. Natchiappan,
As an RTI activist, I heartily welcome recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Grievances & Personnel related to scrapping of RTI fee of Rs. 10/- at the initial stage of filing application. But the problems being faced are: (i) Lack of awareness of this Act among the people loving in small towns and villages, (ii) Absence of infrastructure in the villages for reaching the Public Information Officers through RTI applications, and (iii) The existing problem in the cities having infrastructure and awareness relates to implementation and assigning different meanings to the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005. This is a big hurdle in successful implementation of this Aam Aadmi friendly legislation.
2. I am senior citizen of 71+ years and a retired Indian Economic Service officer, former Adviser, United Nations and Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Professor of Economics, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. My views and suggestions are based on the personal experience gained working in Delhi and dealing with different Ministries and organisations stationed in Delhi during the last two years of implementation of the RTI Act, 2005 as Director, Right to information Centre, Dwarka. .
3. Villagers and people living in small towns are not aware about this revolutionary and historic legislation passed during the UPA Government tenure. Government of India and the State Governments should spread messages through Print and Visual media about it existing, provisions, format of application, etc. regularly at least once in three months. Every Village Panchayat and village school teachers should arrange RTI Awareness Campaigns for imparting knowledge and interaction among villagers once in every six months. The can help the villagers in filling the application forms. Many useful results of success and failure stories particularly will come out through Area NGOs who can play an important role.
4. For giving the benefit of this most useful Act to the country men particularly Villagers, Post Office will have to join this national campaign. Post Office staff members, after getting training, should help villagers in filling the a[application forms and accept them in forwarding them to the concerned Public Information Officer at the District level and State Capital level. Remuneration of the postal employees for this work and expenditure on Panchayat level campaigns is left to the budget of the Ministry of Public Grievances and Personnel.
5. There should be only one Act –RTI Act, 2005 – for the whole country. All the justice-deprived Indians in search of justice, accountability and transparency should be allowed to file application for information under this Act of 2005. All the States should scrap their own Acts. Delhi Government still implements Delhi Right to Information (DRI) Act and charges Rs. 25/- for filing an application and Rs. 5/- per page for photocopy of documents required by the applicant side by side RTI Act, 2005.
6. Section 4 of the RTI Act relating to ‘Obligations Public Authorities’ has not been implemented by Delhi Government departments and organisations like Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS), Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
7. Most disturbing aspect is that there is all round effort to kill this UPA Government gift to the nation. (a) Replies to the applicants are always evasive saying ‘No Action Taken’ amounting to refusal of information; (b) Provisions of the Delhi Cooperative Societies Act, 1972 (as amended) and DCS Rules, 1973 (as amended) have no relevance for the officials holding prized posts as they openly flout the law to favour some/all builders; (c ) Records of the RCS office are presumably with the builders since information sought is referred to the builders for giving reply to the applicants as if the RCS office is just a post office. Thereby information sought is denied since it is not in the interest of the builders who don’t want that the flats should go the poor and lower income group people for whom this affordable housing scheme in the cooperative sector was launched; (d) Representations made to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi when sent by CMO to the RCS for action taken are simply assigned to the dustbin. Chief Minister is taken for granted by the corrupt officials. A copy of my representation addressed to Smt. Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi speed-posed on 12.12.2007 under the caption of ‘MURDER OF RTI ACT 2005’ is enclosed.
8. Growth Rate of CORRUPTION is many times higher than that of the economy. No honest and sincere effort has been made at the national level to arrest the spread of this cancerous disease of corruption in the society making Social Development in India the biggest and greatest Tragedy. Right to Information Act, 2005 is a revolutionary and historic step in this direction to introduce Accountability and Transparency in the corruption-ridden system. But corrupt officials holding prized positions in Islands of Corruption are bent upon killing this Act by with-holding information or by giving incomplete information, non-relevant information or giving evasive replies mentioned above. According to RCS and Joint Registrars of Delhi Government, applicant cannot seek information on ‘WHY’ i.e., they cannot ask reasons for any action or no-action taken. It is beyond the scope of the Right to Information Act, 2005. This shows their approach and thinking that aim to kill this Act. You have rightly pointed out that for successful implementation of the Act, bureaucratic mindset must change.
9. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public grievances may be pleased to consider these facts and suggestions for making suitable recommendations for proper implementation of the RTI Act, 2005. These are needed for the sake of justice to common man and safety of the country in the long run.
Thanking you in anticipation,
(Dr. Hari Dev Goyal)
Director, Right to Information Centre, Dwarka
55, Kamakshi Apartments, Sector 6, Dwarka
New Delhi -110075 Phone # 25082239 & (M) 9312881883