Call to create awareness on the Right to Information Act

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Speakers at the inaugural session of the "Consultation on making the right to information a reality — role of government, media and civil society" on Saturday stressed the importance of the right to information in ensuring good governance.

Aruna Roy, Magsaysay Award winner and leader of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan, said a society willing to be transparent had better prospects of good governance. As arbitrary use of power led to corruption, transparency in governance was extremely important for democracy and the rule of law, though it was a tough task to accomplish.

Transparent approach

Not only the Government but non-Governmental organisations also should adopt a transparent approach, more particularly with regard to furnishing details such as the source of their funds and spending.

Ms. Roy underscored the need for making public the file notings of officials. Though opinion on the issue was divided, she was of the view that honest officials would benefit if this system was adopted. Implementation of the suo motu part of the Right to Information (RTI) Act under Section 4 was important, she said and added that till the Central law was put in place, the State law should continue.

She called for creating awareness among the people by distributing copies of the Act and organising workshops on how to use the law.

Social audit

On the implementation of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ms. Roy said social audit at the panchayat level would prevent corrupt practices.

Inaugurating the consultation, N. Narayanan, Chief Secretary, said as the RTI Act would become operational by October 12, the process of its implementation had been set in motion. Initial meetings with Secretaries and heads of various departments were held, and the results of the efforts to frame rules and other related work would be made known shortly.

"No major problems"

Though the lower levels of the bureaucracy might find it irksome at the transition stage and there might be knee-jerk reactions, at some point or the other, there would be no major problem in the implementation of the RTI Act.

The Government, civil society and the media should work in greater coordination to reinforce democratic traditions and good governance through the implementation of the RTI Act. A good information system would ensure the effective implementation of various welfare and social security schemes, Mr. Narayanan said.

Sriram Panchu, founder trustee, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group, (CAG) said the RTI Act should be applicable to the private sector too. The NGOs should play an important role in helping the citizen to raise the right questions to get the right information.

A.K. Venkat Subramanian, trustee, Catalyst Trust, stressed the need for making the right to information a reality.

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