You will soon have a platform to seek instant replies to your Right To Information queries. The Central Information Commission (CIC) plans to set up a national call centre for RTI by next year.
Prompted by the huge success of RTI in the one-and-a-half years since the enactment of the law, the CIC has got a private firm to draw up a plan for the call centre, to help applicants seek information from government departments. “It (the call centre) will be a type of facilitator where the person answering the call will give direction to a query on how to use RTI to seek information,” Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner, told the Hindustan Times.
But unlike the Bihar RTI line, the CIC’s call centre will not be a platform to file RTI applications. In January this year, the Bihar government started a unique model wherein a person can file an RTI application by simply making a call to the helpline. “As soon as the call is made to the RTI line, Rs 10 gets added to the person’s telephone bill. His voice is recorded and treated as an RTI application. Even if the person has to file an appeal under the RTI Act, a call is more than enough,” said Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan, the organisation that helped the state government set up the call centre.
The CIC’s model will be slightly different. Apart from providing general information on the RTI Act, it will also give callers information about pending appeals with the commission. "Information like when the appeal with the CIC will be heard and what is the status of the case will be provided instantly," Habibullah said.
If all goes well, the CIC plans to make the call centre operational by next year. "We have made the proposal for the 11th Five-Year Plan,” Habibullah said, adding that he was optimistic about getting the necessary approval from the government.
Kejriwal believes the CIC should adopt the Bihar model to some extent. "At least, allow filing an appeal on phone. It would mean fewer hassles for applicants,” he said. The present process of filing an RTI appeal is very cumbersome and an applicant cannot file an appeal without a lawyer’s help, he added.