Crediting the Right to Information (RTI) Act with demystifying the government and how it works, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of India has said the Act has revolutionised the way we are governed.
“No longer is the government a mystery. It (RTI Act) has robbed the government of its certainty. Everything can be questioned,” said CIC Satyananda Mishra during a conference of Lokayuktas.
Enacted by Parliament in 2005, the RTI Act seeks to provide for setting out the practical regime of the right to information to citizens wherein any citizen may request information from a public authority, which has to be replied to within 30 days.
“With whatever information we could gather from the central government, and even with its limited penetration, we have come to know that over a million citizens have used the RTI Act. Countrywide, it would be about two million or so. It has ceased to be just a noun, it has become a verb and is here to stay,” said Mishra.
Unlike other laws, this is perhaps the only law that has been enacted on popular demand. Mishra calls it the only serious and sustainable attempt in Indian society that government has made to address corruption.
Sounding ominous, the CIC said the use of the RTI Act stands to go up in future.
Referring to the climate of all-pervasive corruption and its exposes mainly through RTI in recent times, the CIC said: “It is not in the big exposes that the success of the RTI Act is to be sought. Its success should be seen in dismantling of the
wall of hesitation and trepidation that separates the people from the government.”
Mishra, however, lamented the poor state of record keeping by the government departments, which he said is harming effective implementation of the RTI Act.
The issue of protection for RTI activists found expression in what activist Aruna Roy had to say. “There is a need for a strong whistleblowers’ law even for people within the system. There is no such avenue now.”