Apathetic attitude of the government officials working as public information officers (PIOs) and ineffective functioning of the state information commission (SIC) have considerably weakened the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, activists in Madhya Pradesh have said.
Activists are of unanimous view that PIOs try to prevent information flow under the RTI Act on one pretext or the other, and the process often lingers on for so long that the very objective of seeking particular information is lost.
The applicants are forced to approach the SIC in most of the cases but there is hardly any stern action on its part to improve the system, they said while expressing their views on the eve of completion of 10 years of RTI implementation on October 12.
“It is as if government officials have become immune. They are not bothered about proper implementation because they are confident that there would be no action. It is unfortunate that even offices of the governor and the general administration department (GAD), the nodal department of RTI, have failed to provide information despite high court orders,” said Ajay Dubey, an RTI activist.
Dubey has used the law to bring to light corruption in the mining sector and appointment of several public office functionaries apart from the Vyapam scam.
As for the SIC, he said there have been instances of flouting of norms, misinterpretation of law and biased action by some of the information commissioners.
“I have written to chief information commissioner to ensure proper implementation of the Act by sprucing up the functioning of the commission,” Dubey said.
He also pointed out that most government departments have failed to implement proactive disclosure norms under RTI and even the online RTI application filing has not been implemented although administrative preparations are complete.
Activist Anand Rai, who has used RTI to expose DMAT scam, illegal clinical trials, gaps in medical education policy and others, said it is very difficult to get information out of government offices.
“We have had to approach even Supreme Court to get information in some cases, but all citizens do not have such resources and time,” he said. Rai also alleged that the state government has appointed people supporting a particular ideology as information commissioners and therefore the SIC is not functioning effectively.
Another RTI activist Rolly Shivhare said, “We are not much hopeful about future of RTI in state. It is as if all responsible authorities are out to destroy the Act as it brings out corruption in the system. Even during hearings at the SIC, we get a feeling that we are being discouraged rather than the PIOs who fail in their duties.”
Vinod Sen, an activist from Sironj, said it is necessary that the RTI Act is included in school and college syllabi so that there is high level of awareness and officials are forced to implement the Act properly.