THE TWO-day State-level workshop on the Right to Information Act concluded on Tuesday with a demand for the immediate appointment of the State Information Commissioner (SIC) and members on the commission so that the huge number of pending appeals could be redressed at earliest.
Participants at the workshop put forth several recommendations during the four technical sessions and Academy of Administration director general Mala Shrivastava summed these up during the concluding session.
The main points that came up during the workshop were the need for more political will for effective implementation of the Act, setting up of a infrastructure within the General Administration Department (GAD) for the monitoring of the application and their redressal process and emphasis on self-disclosure by authorities that would in itself reduced the scope of usage of the Act.
Also the need for provision of penalty as well as incentive for the first appeal authority (to whom appeals are made when the principal information officer fails to respond) was stressed.
The workshop was organised jointly by State GAD, DFID and voluntary organisation Samarthan. Former SIC of MP T N Shrivastava, SIC of Chhattisgarh A K Vijayvargiya, secretary of GAD D S Rai and additional secretary in-charge of the RTI Cell Akhilesh Argal were present at the concluding ceremony.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Minister of State for Home Nagendra Singh, both of whom were invitees did not attend the concluding function.
The fact that the State has been without a State Information Commissioner featured very prominently during the entire workshop. Participants said this suggested the lackadaisical attitude of the Government towards the implementation of the Act. The role of self-governance institutions like panchayats and municipal bodies in the implementation of RTI was also highlighted.
The recommendations at the workshop were categorised under various heads including strengthening information dissemination for expediting RTI movement that would including publishing list of district level principal information officers, introduction of RTI in school syllabus, incentive for officers doing good work, district level autonomous bodies to monitor implementation of the Act and
inclusion of NGO representatives in them, need to stop misuse of
the Act by checking credentials of the applicants and making provision for punishment, using `one day governance centres’ of the government for handling applications were suggested. Participants also suggested the need for orientation for officials and citizens and stress was laid on self-disclosure by authorities through websites or notice boards.
On the concluding day two technical sessions were held. The first was on self-disclosure and was chaired by State Human Rights Commission chairman Justice D M Dharmadhikari while the second session on transparency and accountability in local self-governance was chaired by Hindustan Times resident editor Askari H Zaidi. The proceedings were conducted by director of Samarthan Yogesh Kumar.