The Right to Information act has completed ten years, but there are mixed opinions evaluating its journey so far. Discuss the challenges in the implementation of the Act in its true spirit.

The Right to Information act has completed ten years, but there are mixed opinions evaluating its journey so far. Discuss the challenges in the implementation of the Act in its true spirit.

Approach:

  • Introduce with RTI and its positives.
  • Discuss both the demand side and supply side challenges to its implementation.
  • Conclude with the way forward.
Model Answer :

Under the Right to Information ( RTI) Act, which came into force in 2005, any citizen of India may request information from a public authority which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. It also mandates self disclosure of information on websites by the authorities. In its decade long existence, the Act has managed to bring transparency by exposing corruption cases such as CWG, 2G and Adarsh society scams.

However, challenges remain in the implementation. They include:

Demand Side Problems:

  • Awareness of the RTI act: The awareness levels about the Act are still poor. According to an RTI Assessment, not more than 35% are aware of the act in rural areas and about 40% are aware of the Act in urban areas.
  • Use of the RTI act: Only a small percentage of population is using the Act, and even in that, a mere 8% of all the applications nationally were women. Rural-urban divide is also seen.

Supply side problems:

  1. Information & Record Management: The record management in the government departments is still in shambles with issues like lack of computerization, files being lost or burnt, files and information being dispersed across several offices of one department etc.
  2. Implementation of Section 4: It mandates self disclosure by the authorities. Studies found that more than 50% of the applications filed under the RTI Act ask for information that should have been disclosed under Section 4.
  3. Working of the Information Commissions: There is a huge pendency of cases, with close to 2 lakh appeals/complaints pending in 23 different commissions.
  4. Public Information Officers (PIOs): These officers are often not properly equipped or trained to handle the responsibility of supplying information .
  5. Lack of substantive authority: State Information Commissions do not have enough authority to uphold accountability in functioning of public authorities; even penalties that are imposed are not recovered.
  6. Lack of Ownership by State Government: Lack of ownership of the Act by state governments has also resulted in scarcity of financial resources for the functioning of the Act.

Way forward:

A lot remains to be done to make transparency and accountability a regular feature of governance in India. Given that the weakness of the RTI lies in its weak implementation, the next phase of RTI act needs to focus on increasing the authority of implementing agencies, especially the SICs to ensure much needed compliance from government agencies.

Subjects : Governance

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