Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said democracy is not just about asserting one’s identity but also about respecting the rights of others.

Inaugurating the two-day convention of the Central Information Commission here on Monday, Dr. Singh said “the country is passing through a phase in our national life when each of us is more conscious about our rights, our entitlements, and our identities. But we do not seem to be really and equally conscious of our responsibilities, our social obligations and our national commitments.”

Pointing out that the Right to Information (RTI) was a powerful instrument of citizens empowerment, Dr. Singh said it was indicative of the process of nurturing democracy and the assertion of people’s power at various levels of government. “Democracy is also about responsibilities. It is not just about seeking benefits but also about contributing to the process of nation building.”

Cautioning that there was a need to strike a balance between the need for disclosure of information and the limited time and resources available with the public authorities, the Prime Minister said vexatious demands should not be allowed to deprive genuine information seekers of their legitimate claims on limited public resources.

There were also some difficulties in the implementation of the Act that we must remove, Dr. Singh said adding that applicants found it difficult sometimes to file applications because of procedural bottlenecks. The modes of payment of fees were also somewhat limited and at many places adequate attention had not been paid to training of personnel, and modernisation of records management systems. “There is also a need for greater publicity of the provisions of the Act,” he said.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan, said the success stories showed that the RTI Act was effective and the government was making efforts to identify areas that needed to be strengthened.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the presence of representatives from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal at the convention would help in taking the movement to the South Asian region.

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