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Tuesday 18 October 2011

Send this letter to PM to oppose RTI Act Amendment

Dear All,
As you know, a “private member’s bill” mooted by Shiv Sena MP Bhausaheb Rajaram Wakchaure seeks to amend RTI Act 2005. See:
Please oppose this amendment immediately. Download this letter:
Take a printout on your own letterhead and dispatch to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with copy to NAC Chairman Sonia Gandhi. Text of this letter is copy-pasted below for your convenience.
18 October, 2011

Dr Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister of India,
South Block, New Delhi – 110 001.
Sub: Any discussion about Amending RTI Act at this point is Regressive
You must be aware of a private member’s bill mooted by Bhausaheb Rajaram Wakchaure, a Shiv Sena MP from Shirdi, Maharashtra, on 02 September 2011, seeking to amend RTI Act 2005.
The draft bill seeks to nullify the biggest protection that the RTI Act gives to citizens, namely, Section 6(2), which categorically states: “An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.”
The amendment seeks to enable the administration to put the RTI applicant’s identity and motive under scrutiny. Currently, the RTI Act focuses on whether the information is to be given, or whether it is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 or 9. The proposed amendment seeks to shift the focus to the identity and motives of the RTI applicant.
This shift of focus is perverse and mala fide. Such an amendment will encourage corrupt officers to hound the RTI applicants and deny information to them.
Sir, in 2005, your government brought the Right to Information Act into existence, and kudos to you for that! RTI activists are your allies, not your adversaries; please do not clip their wings!
Recognize the good work that RTI activists throughout the country are doing. The RTI movement is truly a grassroots-level movement for clean governance. Nearly 60 years after Independence, lakhs of citizens are waking up from their long slumber, and getting involved with self-government based on facts and information, and not just the doctrines and unfounded beliefs.

We urge you to take the following steps to win the goodwill of citizens:
1)      REJECT BILLS THAT SEEK TO ‘CHEAT’ THE RTI ACT. Besides the above-mentioned bill proposed by the Shiv Sena MP, there are efforts to introduce clauses into Sports Development Bill and Nuclear Safety Authority Bill that will exempt them from RTI Act. (Reference:  ) Don’t even consider such legislations.
2)      DEFINE TRANSPARENT PROCEDURE FOR SELECTING INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS. Sir, the recent Supreme Court order for selection of the Central Vigilance Commissioner applies to Central and State Information Commissioners (CICs and SICs) too. (Details Currently, they are being selected as the former CVC was selected i.e. without due procedure and transparency. DOPT at the Centre and General Administration Departments (GAD) at the state level must immediately announce suitability criteria, and invite applications and nominations of eminent citizens from all walks of life, as required by Section 12 and 15 of the RTI Act.
3)      HONOUR CITIZENS WHO ARE EXPOSING SYSTEMIC SHORTCOMINGS. Hundreds of ordinary persons are working for public causes and good governance. Our nation must recognize the extraordinary service rendered by RTI activists and whistleblowers – often at grave personal risk. By ignoring these modern-day freedom fighters and conferring Padma awards on tinsel-town heroes, our nation is showing disrespect to the common man. Holding up celebrities as role models, instead of genuine system reformers, perpetuates distorted social values. Please earn this nation’s gratitude by correcting this distortion.
4)      PLEASE IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATONS OF PWC COMMITTEE. Your government appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to study the implementation of RTI Act, and to give recommendations for improvement. PWC gave a clear report early in 2009. Please implement the recommendations. Here is a summary of these recommendations:
5)      PLEASE STRESS PROACTIVE DISCLOSURE MANDATED BY SECTION 4 OF RTI ACT. The RTI Act mandates public authorities to proactively give information to the public through internet etc, so that they have minimal need to make RTI applications. The deadline for Section 4 compliance expired in early 2006, but so far, proactive disclosures are only symbolic. Please enforce Section 4 before talking about amending RTI Act.
6)      CREATE A MONITORING & FEEDBACK MECHANISM FOR RTI IMPLEMENTATION.Currently, neither Central Govt. nor any State governments have set up mechanisms for monitoring RTI implementation. Please set up such a mechanism under DoPT, so that government and activists can assess the success of RTI implementation.

Sir, RTI activists and RTI users are part of the solution, and not part of the problem. If you want clean governance, then they are your best bet. Therefore, sir, please strengthen their hands.
Yours sincerely,
(Your signature, name, address, phone number)
Copy to:  Mrs Sonia Gandhi, NAC Chairperson, 10 Janpath, New Delhi - 110001.

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