Use RTI Creatively to Prevent Corruption: Jagadananda

Jaipur, April 27, 2010

“Even after 65 years of independence in India a large proportion of Indian population, act as ‘passive citizens’ and thus contributing zero towards the efforts of eradicating issues such as corruption prevalent in various sectors of India” said Jagadananda, State Information Commissioner, Orrisa. He was delivering the keynote address in a final dissemination-cum-advocacy meeting organised by CUTS in collaboration with Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF), US to share the findings of its intervention on ‘Reforming the Processes in the Rural Development Department through Policy and Civic Engagement, based on RTI Act (2005)’, in Rajasthan.

‘Right to Information’ Act is one such progressive act which has the potential to deepen the democracy, bring in transparency in the development processes and combat corruption. In the absence of adequate knowledge of its usage, its effectivity goes down. Jagadnanda stressed on raising awareness and building capacity of the general mass on its proper usage. He then stated that RTI Act, if used wisely, can result in wonders in controlling the menace of corruption in India and thus educating common masses on this tool.

He also opined that instead of using RTI to expose misdeeds and corruption, use it as a ‘preventive tool’ to prevent corruption from its origin.

This project was launched in 2009 through empowered network of the ‘Consortium of Groups for Combating Corruption’, CSOs and other interested citizens that do advocacy at multiple levels and play the role of watchdog” in selected three flagship programmes, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY) & Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) implemented by the State Rural Development Department.

“Common masses should be aware of their rights and entitlements, there is no other way of implementing any welfare scheme efficiently and effectively”, said Nishkam Diwakar, CEO, Zila Parishad, Jaipur. He also informed the participants that a helpline number is available at the Zila Parishad for recording complaints or assisting common masses, but unfortunately it is not very widely used.

While responding to the issue R P Chaudhary, Director, IAY congratulated CUTS for this initiative and said that he aggress to the findings of the study done by CUTS and said that there are actions taken by state department to ensure that the IAY is implemented without any biases or corruption and must benefit more and more BPL population of rural Rajasthan.

S P Baswala, Deputy Secretary, Department of Admin Reforms, Government of Rajasthan insisted on the importance of community participation in such schemes. He said that social audits by small groups of stakeholders would result into village level monitoring of programmes such as NREGS and IAY. He also stated that today all the burden of corruption done by politicians, bureaucrats and other such parties is levied upon the poor, middle and lower class of the society.

George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS international, in his opening remarks said that along with ‘Right to Information’ there must be a ‘Right to Accountability’ to ensure time bound delivery of services at all levels of the government. He threw light on the fact that 37 percent of total plan outlay in 2010-11 budget has been allocated to the social sector, thus funding is no more a issue in India, but the resources are not reaching the intended beneficiaries. Hence, there is need to enhance transparency and accountability in the processes.

Madhu Sudan Sharma, CUTS international presented the findings of the study. He said that the awareness level on RTI in Rajasthan is only 37 percent and only 5.5 percent are using RTI as a social accountability tool to improve the service delivery. Though 78 percent Public Information Officers have heard about this Act, but majority of them are reluctant to provide the required information under provisions of the RTI Act. A set of recommendations was put forth in the meeting to make the processes more transparent in selected schemes. Dharmendra Chaturvedi proposed the vote of thanks.

More than 100 participants comprising representatives of community based organisations, media, government departments, RTI activists actively participated in the meeting.

For more information, please contact:
Madhu Sudan Sharma
Project Officer (Access to Information Programme)
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART)
D-222, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park
Jaipur 302 016, India
Ph: 91.141.4015 395, 2282 823/2282 482
Cell: 91-09460870097; Fx: 91.141.4015 395