Tamil Nadu

Govt. will improve suo motu publication of data under the RTI Act, says Minister

New perspective: Author S. Rukmini, Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and journalist M. Gunasekaran at the launch of the book Whole Numbers and Half Truths on Monday.   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

The Tamil Nadu Government will improve suo motu publication of data under the Right to Information Act on the websites of government departments, said Minister for Finance and Human Resources Management Palanivel Thiaga Rajan here on Monday.

To a question raised during the discussion following the launch of the book Whole Numbers and Half Truths, authored by journalist S. Rukmini, he said the non-publication was partly because of non-availability of data.

He said a big problem was that the structure of government was not designed to collate data and make it available in a timely manner even for those who were governing, let alone making it available for the public. “A lot of times, it is not intentional obfuscation, but the data simply does not exist or does not exist in a way that is publishable,” he said.

Mr. Thiaga Rajan added that the government was planning to streamline and develop certain minimum standards that will significantly improve such availability of data in the next couple of years. He said the State Government also had scope for conducting its own sample surveys similar to those done by the National Sample Survey Office to improve availability of data for decision making.

Ms. Rukmini said the culture of suo motu publication did not exist in many government departments across the country, and added that the culture of seeing data as the right of citizens was yet to be built. The discussion was moderated by journalist M. Gunasekaran. Responding a question on the reliability of government data, Ms. Rukmini said it was important to engage with the data. She said while skepticism with strong reasons was fine, there need not be a blanket suspicion of government data.

Mr. Thiaga Rajan said while government data could be systematically biased, as in the case of under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths or unemployment, it was possible to check for inconsistencies by comparing it, for example, with previous years’ data or information available from other sources.

Ms. Rukmini stressed on the need for combining field reporting with data journalism to provide a nuanced understanding of issues. She said that explaining the data in detail could be a way to make numbers accessible to more people.

Mr. Thiaga Rajan said humanising data by providing case studies or individual examples could make data more easily accessible.

To a question on how Gujarat was projected as a model State during the 2014 general elections even though States like Tamil Nadu had achieved more equitable development, the Minister said such false narratives through suppression of data was not infinitely sustainable.


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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 2:51:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/govt-will-improve-suo-motu-publication-of-data-under-the-rti-act-says-minister/article37875810.ece

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