Maharashtra leads the country in the number of RTI applications filed in the five years after the Right to Information Act, 2005, came into force.
At least 17.5 lakh applications were filed under RTI in the state. While 74,000 appeals were filed at different information commissionerates, as many as 60,000 were disposed of.
The flow of applications is largely from urban areas implying the need for awareness about the act in rural Maharashtra.
Suresh Joshi, Maharashtra’s first chief information commissioner who retired on Monday, said 62 per cent of the applications came from urban centres.
“There is strong need to take this law to the rural areas where awareness about it is very low,” said Joshi.
“In five years, only 7 per cent of the applications have come from women. This suggests that women also need to be made aware of the act,” he added.
The Central government implemented the act five years ago but Maharashtra had its own RTI Act since 2000. It was amended in 2003 to make it more effective.
The Centre’s RTI Act was modelled on Maharashtra’s act.
RTI activists in the state are dissatisfied with the way the act has been implemented. Vivek Velankar, RTI activist, felt that lot more need to be done to take the law to downtrodden.
He was particularly unhappy with the implementation of section 4 of the RTI Act that makes it mandatory for government offices and staff to make certain information public on suo motto basis.
“Of late, there has been some improvement in implementing section 4, however a lot needs to be done,” said Velankar. Joshi agreed.
“Once section 4 is implemented, the number of applications will drop by half because a lot of select information will already be available,” Joshi said.
Joshi said there have been complaints about people misusing the Act to extort money.
“I have received a few complaints of extortion attempts made in return of not to leak information,” said Joshi.