Claiming that citizens would be deprived of a transparent and accountable system, activists have vehemently protested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s opinion about the ‘frivolous and vexatious” use of the RTI Act and how it can be a problem for public private partnerships (PPP).
The PM’s remarks followed the Supreme Court and the Central Information Commission’s criticism of frivolous RTI applications.
“The RTI Act has been used and owned by the people of India. It has gone a long way towards giving ordinary citizens a tool, through which they can fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power to ensure accountable, transparent and democratic government,” the activists said at the end of an RTI Mela organised to mark the seventh anniversary of the transparency act.
They were criticising the prime minister’s statements on Friday during his speech at the annual convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC).
The Prime Minister had said the blanket extension of the RTI Act to PPP entities might discourage private enterprises to enter in partnership with the public sector whereas its blanket exclusion may harm the accountability of public officials.
Thrashing the prime minister’s words, Anjali Bhardwaj, part of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, said, “Apprehensions regarding these words were discussed threadbare last year after the department of personnel and training put it up on the website and subsequently dropped from the proposed amendment.”
A statement by NCPRI, signed among others by activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey and journalist Kuldeep Nayyar, also attacked the prime minister’s idea of the exclusion of PPPs.
“If anything, a PPP project should have greater standards of transparency and accountability because a public service is being entrusted in the hands of a private body. Many ordinary people see the PPP model as a ploy by the government to escape its responsibilities and accountability,” the statement said.
The RTI Mela had become a celebration — through songs, plays and sharing experiences about how the participants used the RTI Act to demand information and transparency to make officials accountable.
Participants from as far as Manipur and closer home Rajasthan shared their experiences about the use of RTI applications.