RTI not being used effectively

The Hindu, April 30, 2010

Special Correspondent

It has the potential to strengthen democracy and combat corruption

The passivity of a large proportion of the Indian population towards issues is contributing to prevalence of corruption in various sectors of the country. Progressive legislation such as the Right to Information could have brought about a major difference but for the fact that people are not using it effectively, said Orissa’s State Information Commissioner Jagadananda at a seminar here.

“The Right to Information Act is one that has the potential to deepen democracy, bring in transparency in the development processes and combat corruption. But without proper knowledge of usage, its effectiveness goes down,” Mr. Jagadananda said delivering the keynote address at the gathering organised by CUTS International in collaboration with Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF). The objective of the meeting was to share the findings of the CUTS intervention on ‘Reforming the processes in the rural development department through policy and civic engagement, based on RTI Act (2005)’, in Rajasthan. Emphasising on knowledge and awareness building over RTI among the masses, Mr. Jagadananda said the RTI Act if used wisely could work wonders to control the menace of corruption: “In fact, instead of just using RTI to expose misdeeds and corruption, it can be used as deterrent, or a ‘preventive tool’ as well to check corruption at its origin.”

The CUTS project was launched last year through an empowered network of the ‘Consortium of Groups for Combating Corruption’, CSOs and other interested citizens that do advocacy at multiple levels in three flagship programmes — Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY) and Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) implemented by the State Rural Development Department.“Common masses must be aware of their rights and entitlements. There is no other way to implement this Act effectively,” said Nishkam Diwakar, CEO of Jaipur Zila Parishad. He underlined the need for transparency in the actions of authorities for uprooting corruption. R.P Chaudhary, Director of Indira Gandhi Avas Yojna, accepted the findings of the CUTS study. Actions are being taken by the State Department to ensure more effective as well as corruption free implementation of IAY, he said.

S.P. Baswala, Deputy Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms, Rajasthan, underlined the importance of community participation in such schemes. Social audits would result in village level monitoring of NAREGS and IAY, he said.

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