By Aires Rodrigues
We have just observed another RTI day. The Right to Information Act came into force on October 12th 2005 enacted to ensure transparency and accountability in governance. But the manner in which the government has been subtly subverting this law is a matter of concern while the bigger challenge has been to ensure its implementation.
A well informed citizenry, transparency, and free flow of information are the very foundations of any successful democratic society. India may be publicly acclaimed as the world’s largest democracy but the ground reality is that we are now ebbing away as Democracy and non-transparency in the functioning of the Government cannot co-exist.
Under Section 4 of the RTI Act all public authorities are duty bound to regularly display on their website a wide range of information, including all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public. This proviso in the law was enacted to reduce the need for filing individual RTI applications. But this mandatory duty has been blatantly flouted by the authorities with most government websites themselves dysfunctional or not updated.
We need to battle it out and cannot allow the RTI Act to be choked by the government to a slow death. Steps need to be taken to strengthen the transparency regime that was sought to be established as envisaged by this Act. Effective implementation of the RTI Act requires political commitment from the very top. Officials denying information or giving misleading and distorted information need to be severely penalized.
Governance by cloak of secrecy and opaqueness needs to be strongly resisted. It cannot be a hush-hush regime. We need to dismantle those walls of secrecy that continue to hound transparency and good governance.