Sucheta Dalal :RTI activist calls for reforming the culture of secrecy that breeds corruption
Sucheta Dalal

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RTI activist calls for reforming the culture of secrecy that breeds corruption  

May 16, 2011

Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, says the Right to Information movement must start from the home, through discussion and financial planning with all family members. He was addressing a Moneylife Foundation workshop on using the RTI Act effectively
Moneylife Digital Team
“Nearly 70% of the Right to Information (RTI) applications are filed by government employees, seeking to know why they have not been promoted or why they have been transferred. Citizens should understand that the RTI is much more than that,” Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor of Mahiti Adhikar Manch said today. Mr Prabhu was speaking at a Moneylife Foundation workshop on ‘How to use the RTI Act effectively’.
Mr Prabhu gave the participants a crash course on the RTI Act, listing the history of its evolution, explaining in detail the salient features, the restrictions and exceptions, the rights of those seeking information and the process to file appeals and reviews.
“We have an inherent culture of secrecy, and it starts in our homes. If we start with our own homes, I think we will create an atmosphere of transparency that will reflect on our public authorities,” Mr Prabhu said. He asked participants how many people really discussed matters within their families before taking decisions, particularly financial decisions.
He described the nature of public information, the institutions that can be classified as public authorities and the forms in which information is available that can be applied for, like even being able to inspect official records.
Mr Prabhu gave numerous examples and tips on how to seek information through the RTI Act satisfactorily. But through the more than 90-minute presentation, he repeatedly underlined the importance of people to ACT on their issues, without which no legislation can work.
“It is the citizen’s right to demand that public authorities maintain records in a way which facilitates the RTI. Ask for a good record-keeping system,” Mr Prabhu said. He also said that in case someone opts for inspecting documents while seeking voluminous information, he must insist that the files/records be made available to him properly indexed and catalogued. “If the authorities resist, fight for it. They are bound to give you information in an accessible form.”
Mr Prabhu also outlined the hurdles that are put in the way of disseminating information and how one should counter them. He also talked about why public authorities should be proactive in disseminating information, and how public awareness can be spread about the legislation.
“Programmes should be conducted for the disadvantaged, to educate them on how to use the Act, suitable training material must be developed, public authorities must be asked to participate in training their public information officers and to sensitise them to voluntarily disclose required information in a cost effective and people-friendly manner,” he said.
Mr Prabhu’s presentation was the second programme on RTI conducted by Moneylife Foundation after the seminar on the ‘Proper and Responsible use of RTI’ addressed by eminent civic activist Ashok Ravat.
The RIT Act is being increasingly used by citizens to check on the progress of plans in their neighbourhood, allocation of funds for schemes and important decisions by the government and has helped in revealing mismanagement and corruption that public pressure can set right. It is key to transparent, accountable, efficient and corruption-free governance.
“If we need a transparent and corruption-free government, we should be proactive ourselves”, Mr Prabhu said. “We must stop bribing officials, and take up the RTI seriously to know about governance deficit. Then only can our grievances be addressed.”

-- Sucheta Dalal