Small but widespread protests have started across India against the government’s move to introduce amendments to the Right To Information Act to exempt the political parties from its purview in Parliament.
Around 3,000 auto-drivers in Chennai held a march against the UPA decision, which enacted the law in 2005. Senior citizens and shopkeepers in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Assam organised a march against the move.
A small group of Indian Americans had a sit-in protest outside Indian embassy in Washington. Around 6,000 citizens including National Advisory Council member Deep Joshi has signed an online petition urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to amend the watershed law.
Youngsters in Jaipur has held a march to protest and show solidarity with those opposing the government decision to amend the law without opting for legal process of filing an appeal against the Central Information Commission in Delhi high court.
The CIC in June had issued a landmark order bringing six national political parties under RTI ambit and asked them to appoint public authorities within the next six week. Except CPI, no other political party has appointed public authority to implement the CIC order.
“It is shameful that the government has opted for the easier route of amendment and not gone for the one which is available to all (seeking stay from High Court),” former NAC member Harsh Mander told reporters at a press conference organised by civil society to announce demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday against RTI amendment.
Mander added that the government and judiciary were “hell-bent” to kill RTI and had used tools to curb the first empowerment citizens received in 60 years of country’s independence.
Another former NAC member Aruna Roy accused the government of bringing in the amendment in “great haste” without any consultation with people as mandated by NAC headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Roy and other activists plan to meet Gandhi in coming days to seek support for opposing the amendment.
Vinod Mehta, senior journalist, said that by amending the law the political parties have shown their fear of being exposed as people would have right to ask questions of funding of parties. “The parties which run on donations from people and the corporate world are public authorities. If they are not public authorities then no other body can be a public authority,” he added.
The Cabinet last week had approved changes in definition of public authority to prevent political parties being covered under the law.