Expressing his government's firm commitment to effectively implement the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday assured all stakeholders that a sincere effort would be made to strengthen its implementation in favour of genuine information seekers.
Delivering the valedictory address at the national convention on the First Year of Right to Information here, the prime minister said the act was not a substitute for good governance and it could only support and aid the process.
Noting that Indian citizens "have owned this act with their arms wide open", Manmohan Singh said: "Whatever may be the differences on the finer points of the act, we must all be aware of the course that we are setting for the future of democratic governance.
"It can be said that the right to know is the most fundamental of all those rights, which are critical for upholding human dignity. We live in an age of information, in which the free flow of information and ideas determines the pace of development and well being of the people. The implementation of RTI Act is, therefore, an important milestone in our quest for building an enlightened and at the same time, a prosperous society," the prime minister added.
According to him, the act was the consummation of a process initiated with the adoption of the constitution.
"We gave ourselves a Sovereign Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic accountable to all our citizens. Accountability is based on the premise that citizens have access to information on the basis of which they can determine the justness, or otherwise, of actions of the state.
"Hence, the criticality of the right to information and this act is but the means for accessing it.We have kept these means simple, with overriding importance given to public interest, sweeping aside much of the legacy of colonialism. In many ways, this act is the logical culmination of the dreams of our founding fathers," the prime minister added.
Striking a note of caution, Manmohan Singh also called for guarding against the growth of "professional middlemen" in the use of the act.
"Since it is an act for our common benefit in relation to public authority, we are all stakeholders in the Act and must guard against allowing it to become a tool for promotion of an adversarial relationship between different stakeholders. This can only serve to weaken the act," he maintained.
Manmohan Singh hoped a time would come when a citizen would not have to make an application for seeking information under the act.
"The positive manner in which all stakeholders have responded to the challenges posed by this act encourages me to imagine that a time may come when a citizen may not have to make an application for seeking information under this act. Public authorities could place, on their own, more and more information in the public domain, with easy access as mandated by the act."
Emphasising the issue of "public interest", Manmohan Singh underlined the need for a computerised network throughout the country, down to the village level, to ensure public participation in the process of development.