Discuss the role played by key stakeholders under the Right to Information Act of India. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • https://rti.gov.in/rticorner/studybypwc/progress_made.pdf
  • The question wants us to write in detail about the key stakeholders in the implementation of the RTI Act and define in detail the role played by them.
  • In the introduction, write a few introductory lines about the RTI Act. e.g mention the huge role played by the RTI Act in giving the citizens of the country access to public information and empowering them.
  • In the main body discuss the role played by the key stakeholders. E.g
    • Civil Society Organizations.
      • enhancing the reach and awareness of RTI among the masses. I
      • It is mostly with the support of the social activists and Civil Society Organizations that a person in a village is able to use the RTI Act for ensuring his basic rights.
      • However given the geographical size & population, the reach of Civil Society Organizations and social activists is limited.
      • contribution towards training of PIOs and AAs and made them aware of their roles and responsibilities under the RTI Act. Media
    • Media
      • It has played an important role in generating awareness at a mass scale.
      • While there has been no major media campaign for promoting the usage of the RTI Act, nonetheless the awareness on the Act has been generated through news articles based on RTI investigation.
      • Journalists at times have played a dual role – as the users of the RTI Act and as watchdogs, monitoring and scrutinizing the implementation of the Act.
    • Central Government
      • Basic institutional structure/processes has been set up as per the RTI act requirement
      • Department of Personnel & Training has been made the Nodal Department for the RTI implementation at the Central level.
    • State governments.
    • Various State Governments had already enacted laws for access to information in some form or the other,
    • Some State Governments have taken innovative initiatives in line with the spirit of the Act. The key initiatives are – Jankari Call Centre, Government of Bihar etc.
  • Conclude with an optimistic summary of the whole discussion.

Answer:

RTI Act was enacted with the objective to establish a practical regime for citizens to access information held by Public Authorities. The first decadal study of the working of the Right to Information Act in 2016 revealed the increasing role it has played in the interaction between the people and the government and its agencies.

It has introduced a new awareness about the rights of citizens and highlighted openness and transparency as essential features of governance. It imparted a sense of accountability in official conduct and helped to make public servants responsible for their decisions and actions.

Based on the secondary research with key stakeholders, the key roles played by various entities are:

  • Civil Society Organizations:
      • Civil Society Organizations and social activists are enhancing the reach and awareness of RTI among the masses.
      • It is mostly with the support of the social activists and Civil Society Organizations that a person in a village is able to use the RTI Act for ensuring his basic rights.
      • However given the geographical size & population, the reach of Civil Society Organizations and social activists is limited.
      • Civil society has also made contributions towards the training of PIOs and AAs and made them aware of their roles and responsibilities under the RTI Act.
  • Media:
      • Media has played an important role in generating awareness at a mass scale.
      • While there has been no major media campaign for promoting the usage of the RTI Act, nonetheless the awareness on the Act has been generated through news articles based on RTI investigation.
      • In the context of RTI implementation, journalists at times have played a dual role – as the users of the RTI Act and as watchdogs, monitoring and scrutinizing the implementation of the Act.
      • Various media entities have contributed to the mass awareness and bringing in transparency through their websites.
  • Central Government:
      • Basic institutional structure/processes has been set up as per the RTI act requirement (like appointment of Information Commissioners, PIOs, section 4(1) (b) etc.)
      • Department of Personnel & Training has been made the Nodal Department for the RTI implementation at the Central level
  • State Government:
    • Post the enactment of the Central Act, some State Governments have taken innovative initiatives in line with the spirit of the Act.
    • Jankari Call Centre, Government of Bihar: Bihar Government has initiated a six-seater call centre. This call centre facilitates a caller in drafting the RTI application and the fee is collected through the phone bill. Requisite changes have been made in the rules for acceptance of the application through this channel.
    • RTI Helpline in Bangalore is providing RTI information to citizens.
    • “Train the Trainer” concept in Assam: Assam has adapted a “Train the Trainers” concept, where the Government trains the CSOs/NGOs to impart training to citizens on RTI in order to maximize the reach of RTI and ensure that there is local ownership and sustainability.
    • Review of Public Authorities by Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission.
    • Public hearings at the district headquarters by Kerala State Information Commission

RTI Act has the potential to bring in a socio-economic revolution, provided that various agencies take up their responsibilities as per the spirit of the Act.

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Vishal Agrawal
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