K. Venkateshwarlu

HYDERABAD: Along with National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information (RTI) Act is often billed as the flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance Government that gave information-seeking weapon to the people.

But is the State Government doing enough to take RTI to people? Not much, going by the spending on publicizing the programme, according to the response given to an RTI applicant, D. Rakesh Kumar Reddy. He was curious to know the priority accorded to the highly public interest oriented RTI , the advertisement budget allocated and spent on it and compare the same with other Government programmes.

Expectedly, the amount spent on publicizing RTI was the least at Rs. 7.12 lakh ending October 2007. “In sharp contrast, programmes like rededication ceremony I am not sure to what and Mahilalaku Andaga, Neeti Kosamu Tapassu etc got the lion’s share,” he said.

But a resourceful Mr. Rakesh stumbled on much more interesting details. The Government’s eye- brow raising publicity splurge combining outdoor, electronic and print media has crossed Rs.100 crore mark or Rs. 108.96 crore by October 2007.

And this is official and spending through not-so-official means like corporations could be much more. It also means RTI publicity got just a pittance (0.065 per cent of Rs. 108.96 crore) and confined to electronic media.

Mr. Rakesh says the Government took its own time to respond to his RTI application which he had filed on November 21, 2007. A reminder and almost after 75 days it responded but as the information was incomplete, he had to make two more rounds.

“As a citizen I am surprised at such massive spending of public money on publicity. Most of it is centered round Chief Minister and his image building like his tour to US for which Rs.7.60 lakh was spent,” he observed.