With the government serving a severe blow to transparency in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects worth one trillion rupees the Central Information Commission has decided to seek Prime Minister’s Manmohan Singh’s intervention.
“We will be writing to the Prime Minister that there should not be a blanket ban on making RTI applicable to PPP projects,” said an Information Commissioner, following a decision at the commission’s last meeting.
The CIC wanted the government to have a template for providing information to citizens regarding the PPP projects to make them “transparent and accountable”. It had asked the Planning Commission to insert a clause for providing information to citizens in the agreement with the private partners.
But, its endeavor was shot down by the Law ministry this month when it overruled application of RTI to PPP projects saying the law does not allow private executioners of the projects to be declared public authorities.
The reluctant plan panel had sought Law ministry’s opinion on the commission’s letter after panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia went public with his views against making RTI applicable to the PPP projects.
The PPP projects have entered public service areas such as health, education, social infrastructure and power distribution, which impact citizens directly. It is estimated that India is executing PPP projects worth one trillion rupees.
In wake of this, there had been growing demand from civil society to bring these projects under the RTI ambit to evaluate public service delivery, erstwhile domain of the government.
“With time role of private partners in providing public service has increased. The government’s stand of not making PPP projects accountable to people is not acceptable and we want some mechanism through which people can seek information,” said Venkatesh Nayak, co-convener of the NGO National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI).
The CIC had brought private distribution companies in Delhi and National Stock Exchange, two major private partners in service utilities, under the RTI ambit but its orders were stayed by Delhi High Court.
“Our view is public… now the government has to take a call for ensuring transparency,” said Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who has earlier termed the government’s decision to exempt CBI from purview of RTI as violation of the transparency law.
Not differing with him, Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra felt that they have done their job and it is now for the civil society to take up the issue.
With this being a second blow to RTI within a month after exemption of CBI from RTI, the civil society members will be taking up the issue at the next Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council meeting. “We as civil society will raise the issue at an appropriate form,” Nayak said.