Written and composed by: Aadya Ananta, Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
A small town, 100 kilometres north of Bengaluru, Bagepalli, was marked with tarmac roads. The government officials decided that it would look better with double roads and streetlights adding to their beauty. The work began in 2005, very unprofessionally and haphazardly leading to many road accidents and deaths.
Until November, when Sakshi Trust conducted an RTI workshop that Toufeeq a staffer from ADATS (An NGO), attended. Toufeeq, then used RTI to find out the real story of Bagepalli’s roads. He said, “Nearly Rs. 1.32 crores were sanctioned for the road but no work was done. Out of this, 1.15 crores were shown as spent in response to my RTI application. We finally went and confronted the JE with the information he had and he apologized and promised to fix the road. Thanks to RTI the road work is finally being completed.” Toufeeq is now a RTI trainer and conducts RTI training in vernacular languages like Kannada and Telugu.
“To grant freedom to the people in order to seek information from the government.”
Right to Information Act 2005 delegates timely response to citizen requests for government information. It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide an RTI Portal Gateway (https://rti.gov.in/aboutrti.asp)to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs, etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information published on the web by various Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments. RTI 2005 is applicable to all states of India except for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Government, as per the RTI 2005, is liable to provide the information demanded by the citizen. If the government authority from which information is demanded fails to do so, the government authority will be penalized.
There are certain matters which are state oriented such as construction of a road, problems with irrigation or street light issues. In such case, an RTI application will be filed with the state authorities.
However, if a matter relates to the departments which are related to the Centre, then the RTI must be filed with the central government. In case any failure in the submission of ones RTI Application to the Public Information officer, one can approach the Central Information Commission.
Objectives of the RTI Act are-
To keep the citizens informed about the workings of the government ministries/departments/bureaucracy.
To promote transparency and accountability.
To empower the citizens of India.
Some examples of situations where an RTI can be filed:
Delay in getting IT refund, PPF withdrawal, pensions etc.;
Delay in getting refunds from IRCTC, Nationalised Banks on failed transactions;
Getting information on various infrastructure and public welfare projects;
Information for knowing the allocation of various funds for public emergencies, welfare and utilities including MP, MLA and even PM relief funds, etc.;
Information on delays in implementation and execution of projects;
Seeking the reasons for delay in filing FIRs;
Rechecking of papers, delay in results/issue of certificate by universities;
Information about Fixing roads with pot holes;
Conducting social audit of government projects;
Knowing how the MPs/MLAs spent the fund allocated to them;
Information about a particular government project or scheme that was implemented;
How to File RTI for Central Government Departments with the Central Information Commission?
Central Government Department Identification
The first step while filing an RTI with a department of the central government is to identify from which department the information has to be obtained. For instance, any defence related query should go to Ministry of Defence.
Writing the Application Properly
The next step would be to write the RTI application in the prescribed format. The language of the application can be Hindi or English. Similarly, the government can also respond in either language.
One should make sure that the questions asked relate to one subject only; the application has a chance of rejection if one asks more than one questions in a single RTI Application. For example, if one is enquiring about his/her passports, then one should ask questions which are related to the passport only.
Make Payment of Fees
There is some amount charged for each RTI filed. Thus, to file an application to a central government department, an application fee of Rs. 10/- is attached in the form of Indian Postal Order.
Sending the Application
When all the mentioned steps are completed, one can send RTI application via speed post/registered post and wait for the government’s response. If reply is not received within 30 days of sending the application, one can approach the central information commission.
Central Information Commission:
The Central Information Commission is a government body which has been established to address the grievances of those people who have not been able to submit an RTI Application due to the following reasons:
There is no State Public Information or Central Public Information Officer appointed.
Either of the officers (PIO) has refused to take the RTI Application.
Following is the address of the Central Information Commission
It is possible that one may find the process too complicated, in such a scenario one can seek the help from: OnlineRTI.com
How powerful is RTI Act?
There are watchdogs on multiple levels to ensure the RTI Act is followed without any interruptions. The Act has adopted a 'perform or perish' approach, besides setting up a mechanism to dispense information.
Every state has an Information Commission, comprising a Chief Information Commissioner and a few information commissioners. Former judges, IAS, IPS are appointed to these positions by the government. Above them in the hierarchy is the Central Information Commission and below them are first and second appellate authorities to see to it that an applicant does get the RTI information he/she has requested.
It is very crucial for each and every citizen to be aware of his rights and duties. RTI Act, 2005 makes the citizens of the country aware of their right to be informed regarding any matter which the citizen thinks is important for him/her. RTI Act acts as a bridge between the citizens and the Government of India. It is the driving force that keeps the Government ministries/ officials on its heels. Though, the process of filing an RTI is a bit time taking yet it is worth giving a shot. Most of the RTI’s filed are resolved within the defined time period. As responsible citizens, we must an RTI whenever required because…
“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”