RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap] A milestone in greater transparency, accountability

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Citizen Centric Administration - Power of Technology to realise it

CONTEXT

The Jan Soochna Portal launched by the government of Rajasthan is a remarkable achievement in furtherance of RTI, especially Section 4 of the RTI Act that deals with proactive disclosure of information. 

Importance of Transparency and Accountability –  A case study

  • Transparency must be accompanied by accountability
  • JSP places the power of making the State government accountable to everyone who accesses the information made available on the portal.
  • A National Judicial Data Grid was launched keeping transparency in the justice delivery system in mind. This gave information about all pending cases across the country. 
  • A year-wise break up of pending cases was given on the grid and it was found that more than 70,000 cases were pending for over 30 years. 
  • The justice delivery system was asked to account for the enormous delay in such a large number of cases. 
  • Chief Justices and Registrars in many courts appreciated the fact that they needed to answer questions relating to such enormous delays.
  • Many courts have begun to concentrate on the disposal of old cases with considerable success. 
  • This is a good example of transparency accompanied by accountability brought about by civil society.

JSP

  • Details of every activity of the government such as availability of food grains and ration shops and their distribution, implementation of various schemes and their beneficiaries and a variety of other information are available on a real-time basis.
  • It is a virtual Janta Information System. 
  • The portal has been arrived at through a regular and rigorous consultative process between government officials, IT professionals and civil society. 
  • Since the information is available on the Internet, every citizen, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat, has access to the information. 
  • For example, if identified persons in a particular area had not availed themselves of any rations, they can be easily contacted. 
  • The portal gives the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts. 
  • Another significant piece of information is about mining leases. 
    • This portal gives the list of mines in every district, provides geographical coordinates, and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers. 
    • It also provides details about pollution and environment clearances.
    • It provides details of production and royalties and taxes paid. 
  • This kind of information can facilitate a progressive partnership between the government and citizens for a cleaner society.
  • With the use of technology and digitisation of records and information, this information is made freely available on the JSP.
  • There is no need for anyone to take recourse to the RTI Act and await a response.

Challenges remain

  • Maintenance issues to ensure that there is no let-up in the availability of information. 

System in place

  • Various line departments of the government of Rajasthan have been given a set of obligations that they are expected to fulfill. For example, they are expected to ensure digitisation of records. 
  • The Department of Information Technology will serve as the nodal department for the development, operationalisation, and maintenance of the JSP.
  • Its obligations include adherence to the norms and standards laid down by a digital dialogue advisory group. 
  • The advisory group will be the monitoring agency. 
  • Grievance redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
  • The government of Rajasthan has also taken steps to train citizens so that they are aware of the facilities available.
  • It has been decided to host the JSP in decentralised locations, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat levels. 
  • They will have access to welfare schemes, revenue activities such as mining, and other service delivery issues such as health and education.

CONCLUSION

It would be wonderful if all other State governments follow the Rajasthan government’s initiative, which aims to make people, including the marginalised sections, a part of the governance process.

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