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Old 14th November 2009, 20:53   #1
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Thumbs down Amendments to RTI Act on the anvil

Building in loopholes to potentially emasculate the act!

The proposed amendments envisaging exemption from disclosure for official discussions and consultations (previously known as file notings) and prohibition of "frivolous and vexatious complaints".

The Hindu : News / National : Amendments to RTI Act on the anvil

How do you see this?
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Old 14th November 2009, 21:52   #2
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Good move, IMHO.

99% of of the applcations I receive are plain hogwash; and the remaining 1 % are undecipherable.

I usually ask them to come down to office and look at the files themselves, which they never do.

Edit:- there are a set of rules, made by government (executive) order, called the "Manual of Office procedure". This mandates secrecy in office documents. A better option would have been to amend this rule, than having the legislature to bring in the RTI act.

And the RTI act does have its benefits; the big problem is, in small offices like mine, time spent on dealing with applications under the RTI which have no relevance to my office is very disproportionate.

Last edited by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR : 14th November 2009 at 22:09.
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Old 14th November 2009, 23:59   #3
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1) I am not exactly able to get what are the rules. Earlier our ministers were trying to pass on judgment that one need not declare their property assests. I dont know what exactly was that, but something similar was there.

The RTI act is necessary as it really helps common man. I have read about instances where one person was caught and jailed as that man was involved in post-Godhra riots but Police did not arrest him. One RTI application and that person is in jail.

2) Government should, in lay man's language, come out with rules and regulation for RTI applications. This will really help and one can really take a huge fight against corruption, but the rules are regulation must be clear. They must not be like the warranties we get on cars. Very clear and precise.

Right now I heard from my friend ( family friend ) who just now completed his LLB that the applications are mostly given without purpose, etc., but reality is who is responsible for that ?

The procedure for RTI must also be made simple. Complex procedures are not required.

I seriously hope that with the changes, the strength of RTI act is not lost.

@backseatdriver : Dont you think this is lack of management from government's side ?
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Old 15th November 2009, 00:26   #4
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RTI applications have to be made more simpler. RTI is the single most important tool in a common man's hand since our independence.Hope the act stays the same with the amendments. I wonder why no one has submitted an RTI to find out how the fuel, food and all other politically motivated subsidies are funded. If the state governments are audited and if so what are their balance sheets, etc.
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Old 15th November 2009, 07:14   #5
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from the beginning there was a flaw in this. in fact it's everywhere in our sytem. Nobody thinks on how the activity would be funded. There should be a genuine cost attached to each piece of paper delivered thru RTI (say 50 paise. directly paid to the clerk digging into the paperwork.). this will deter bogus applications.

Our politicians don't hesitate in declaring reliefs and plans without giving any thought to where would the money come from.
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Old 15th November 2009, 12:45   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vivekiny2k View Post
from the beginning there was a flaw in this. in fact it's everywhere in our sytem. Nobody thinks on how the activity would be funded. There should be a genuine cost attached to each piece of paper delivered thru RTI (say 50 paise. directly paid to the clerk digging into the paperwork.). this will deter bogus applications.
Actually, the cost is Rs. 2/- per page of information provided. And cost of the media, if info is provided in digital form like CDs. (err.. what to do if the info is in some exotic format, like AutoCAD drawings, where cost of software to access the info is very high?)

But there is an exemption for persons BPL. BPL - not the original mobile provider, but "Below Poverty Line". All the RTI misuse is being done by these people.


Quote:
Originally Posted by aaggoswami View Post
The RTI act is necessary as it really helps common man. I have read about instances where one person was caught and jailed as that man was involved in post-Godhra riots but Police did not arrest him. One RTI application and that person is in jail.
True, RTI does give the citizen power to ask the right question to the right individual. Ishould admit that it does have several persons (officials and politicians) squirming.

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2) Government should, in lay man's language, come out with rules and regulation for RTI applications.
Err. they already are in place. And they are quite simple. Just name the information you want, on a sheep of white paper. No need for forms or give reasons. Just be prepared to pay the fee. Once the fee is paid, collect the information.

No need to identify the exact office where the information is available - if the application is submitted to office X and information is available only in office Y, office X is bound to send the application to office Y and intimate the applicant about the forwarding. It really cant get any simpler.

I am an admirer of the RTI law.

What I do not like are the people who misuse them - with support of "BPL' certificates.

Quote:
This will really help and one can really take a huge fight against corruption, but the rules are regulation must be clear. They must not be like the warranties we get on cars. Very clear and precise.
Quote:
I seriously hope that with the changes, the strength of RTI act is not lost.
Me too.

Quote:
@backseatdriver : Dont you think this is lack of management from government's side ?
Which part of my post are you referring to?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cruiser_1982 View Post
RTI applications have to be made more simpler. RTI is the single most important tool in a common man's hand since our independence.Hope the act stays the same with the amendments.
See above. It really cannot get any simpler. Any simpler and the officials will have to use telepathy. ;-)

Quote:
I wonder why no one has submitted an RTI to find out how the fuel, food and all other politically motivated subsidies are funded.
Yeah. This is one example of misuse of RTI act. You think you are precise in your question, dont you?

For a start, please define

(a) Subsidy. For example, (a) is providing free medical treatment in govt. hospitalsa a subsidy? (b) Some years back, the Govt. of Kerala introduced a scheme to fund farmers purchase water pumps. Pumps purchased through this scheme costed 2 to 3 times the cost of same pump in the open market. Was there a subsidy?

(b) "politically motivated". Is the golden quadrilateral "politically motivated"? Is the chandrayaan politically motivated?

And if you take out the "politically motivated" part from your sentence, I have the answer for you. It is funded from the taxes you pay. Errr.... technically, the "Consolidated fund of India".


Quote:
If the state governments are audited
Ever heard of the comptroller and auditor general of India? Nah? Too bad.

Quote:
and if so what are their balance sheets, etc.
The balance sheet, along with an estimate of next years' income and expenses is always placed before the state legislature (or parliament, inc ase of the central government). This happens sometime in February. The papers are called the "budget". Hope you hae heard to the "budget", haven't you?

And now for a personal experience.

I work in a statutory organisation (so not exactly the government or its department), and the work is related to what may be loosely called social security. A bit like the Employees' Provident Fund.

I got an application under the RTI with 3 pages of bulletted questions. Some 30 or 40 of them. (I read just a few, and issued orders in 10 minutes - "please feel free to come to my office and examine the papers free of costs").

One of the questions related to why one "Mr. Ummenchandy" "corruptly and maliciously" did certain acts.

Another question was "what Mata Amritanandamayi was doing with the foreign contributions she receives".

Yet another question was what happened to the various promises for investments made in a certain convention.

I was like and after reading this. First because I will be sent to jail if I do not answer the quesions. And the second because the questions were really hilarious.

Please... please tell me, what do the above 3 questions have to do with activities in my office, namely, social security? What other meaningful answer could I have given?

And I am the only person in charge of 4 (that is right, four) offices. (the offices are kept open during office hours by sweepers). That is entire the entire of Kerala State. And I travel close to 1.5 K km each week. With that kind of time in hand, you expect me to go around collecting information like this?

Please, give me a break!!!!


Postscript:- We govt. servants are not supposed to make public statements about information we come across in course of our duties. Since RTI is about giving the public access to information, wiil somebody take action against me for making the above information public??

I have run out of smileys. So, ROTFLMAO!!!!!

Last edited by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR : 15th November 2009 at 12:47. Reason: Fixed some typos
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Old 15th November 2009, 22:17   #7
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oops, i didn't know about the fee, may be always heard the BPL story. in any case, I am sure the political motivation is behind the amendment much more than cleaning up bogus apps.
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Old 16th November 2009, 12:18   #8
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Backseatdriver - bro thank you for educating us on the process.
One thing I would love to know is, after one gets the information then what?
I mean, for example everyone knows that funds are being misused by the govt. there are 100's of RTI's out there and they say xx crores spent on flower decorations etc. What happens after that? Is anyone asked to be accountable ? Is anyone penalized?
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Old 16th November 2009, 13:12   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR View Post
Which part of my post are you referring to?
I was referring to the part of your earlier post where you have stated that you are getting applications that have no relevance to you office. This is where I believe the management has to be stronger. You must only receive the applications concerned to you and your department.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR View Post
And the RTI act does have its benefits; the big problem is, in small offices like mine, time spent on dealing with applications under the RTI which have no relevance to my office is very disproportionate.
2) RTI is very good specially one a police case is regestired against some politician or corrupt officials. However, pertaining to crime, RTI is meaningless as in court, eventually due to lack of proper investigation and buy/sell of eye witness, the high power culprit will lose.

3) I think RTI applications regarding roads not built ( coming to this later ) and suspect fuel quality, amount of taxation on per ltr of fuel are very good questions.

About road, well one ring road was planned just behind our house. This was the reason why we bought the plot and constructed house. Now after 5 years for construction ( which was deliberately slowed down as we were waiting for road to be constructed ) + 9 years after shifting here, we are still to get road. And now the news is that instead of road, some shops will be constructed behind our house and road has been shifted a bit away.

How ?
Here is where the officials will have to run for cover, but again the arguments like condition of land was not appropriate, etc will come even if and RTI application is files.
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Old 16th November 2009, 13:41   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BaCkSeAtDrIVeR View Post
One of the questions related to why one "Mr. Ummenchandy" "corruptly and maliciously" did certain acts.

Another question was "what Mata Amritanandamayi was doing with the foreign contributions she receives".

Yet another question was what happened to the various promises for investments made in a certain convention.

I was like and after reading this. First because I will be sent to jail if I do not answer the quesions. And the second because the questions were really hilarious.
As far as I understand it, you don't need to reply to these kind of questions.You are only supposed to provide information & there is absolutely no need to give an explanation as to why such & such action was taken or not taken by any individual or an employee.
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Old 16th November 2009, 23:36   #11
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Originally Posted by sammyboy View Post
One thing I would love to know is, after one gets the information then what?
Ah!!! The million paisa question, no?

RTI Act can only provide the transparency; not the process / rules for fixing things going wrong. It is more like a diagnostic tool.

This is a bit like an air pressure guage and an compressor. You have no use for the air presure gauge if (a) you do not know the right tyre pressure, and (b) do not know / cannot fix when pressure is more / less.

RTI Act gives you only a pressure gauge. You have to find your own compressor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rishab.k View Post
As far as I understand it, you don't need to reply to these kind of questions.You are only supposed to provide information & there is absolutely no need to give an explanation as to why such & such action was taken or not taken by any individual or an employee.
Hmm.... ntot entirely true. If I had information about the said "Math" in my office, I would be bound to give it.

If I know where that information is available, I have to forward the application to the office where the information is available.

In actual practise, when such applications aka "fishing expeditions" are received, a "relay race" is started, office X sents to office Y, which in turn forwards it to office Z and so on. It is a sheer waste of public time (at least for me; I am very hard pressed for time).

Quote:
This is where I believe the management has to be stronger. You must only receive the applications concerned to you and your department.
Goswamiji, it is the guy making the application who decides where / to whom the application is submitted.
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