Embracing RTI

More than one year has elapsed since the Right to Information Act (RTI) came into force. But the impact of RTI on the people is yet to be felt simply for the reason that except for a very few cases, the Act itself has yet to be fully realized as a tool for empowerment. While the State Information Commission has done its part by traveling across the State to help spread the basic tents of the RTI movement, yet for ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability at all levels of government functioning, there is still much that needs to be done to create awareness on this very important piece of legislation and educate the public about the different facets involved so that the Act would prove beneficial for the citizens. While most of the government workshops in partnership with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has been done mainly to prepare the administrative heads, heads of departments and other public authorities to enable them to meet their obligations under the newly enacted Act, similar workshop should also be conducted for the public. The concerned NGOs, academic forums or even the civil society groups should take the lead in this regard. When citizens are properly enlightened about the legislation only then will they realize the immense utility envisaged in the Act.

Some of the success stories in States where there has been effective utilization of the Act are indeed heartening. It is no secret that it is rarely possible to get any work done in any government office without paying bribes or being made to run around. But now one would have an option without the need of paying or doing a favor to somebody to get your legitimate work done in any government department. The simple act of demanding to know the status of your grievance petition, and the names of the officials who have been sitting on your file, does wonders. There gave been stories about people getting new electricity connections, faulty meters replaced, wrong bills rectified. The Act has done wonders in other States. Right to Information is also redefining the relationships between the people and the governments. Till now, the people had to run around the government officials to get any work sanctioned or to get any work done in their area. Not any more. Right to Information provides such critical information and evidence in the hands of the common man that equipped with this evidence, a person is able to take on the most entrenched vested interests. 

Information is indispensable for the functioning of a true democracy. Open Government is the new democratic culture of an open society towards which other States are moving and Nagaland should be no exception. But for all of this to happen, requires a vigilant public ready to actively participate in the democratic process. The RTI Act is a lever to help in this democratic participation and the immense potential available through the provision of the RTI can be harnessed for public welfare. More importantly, since the chief objective of the Act is to bring about transparency and accountability in the administration by transforming the people themselves as watchdogs of the administration, the Act if properly utilized by the common man, will make our administration more effective and at the same time responsive.