Friday, July 28, 2006

An appeal not to weaken Right to Information (RTI)

To: Prime Minister of India July 26th 2006

Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi.
Dear Dr. Singh,

An appeal not to weaken Right to Information (RTI) We are disappointed with Congress and allied parties in the rulings government to learn that you have allowed the Cabinet to approve an amendment to exempt file notings and cabinet papers from disclosure under the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005. We are appalled that a progressive UPA government that promoted the Act has chosen to take this retrograde step and kill the act in its infancy.

In the last few months, RTI has emerged as a very effective instrument in the hands of a common Indian Citizen to check corruption, fight injustice and make governance transparent. It appears from the proposed amendments that people in power (politicians and bureaucrats) do not want anything which curbs there tendencies and acts of corruption and injustice – there are umpteen examples of such cases.

The proposed amendment will prevent people from knowing why a particular decision was taken and who proposed, rejected or introduced changes in that decision making process. It will prevent people from knowing why no action was taken on their applications and who the guilty officials are. In effect, the Government would end up protecting the corrupt and dishonest officials.

We are aware that people like you are aware that the proposed amendments would blunt RTI's effectiveness and still maintained silence on the matter. It is strange that at almost the same time when your cabinet was approving such retrograde amendments, you were making a speech on how RTI could improve governance. In your speech, you stated "This Act, by promoting transparency, can be a vital instrument for cutting down corruption and ensuring that goals set for improved public service delivery can be met."

Dr. Singh we expect more than mere rhetoric from a person like you. Mr O P Kejariwal, Member Central Information Commission, recently said that "Information minus the file notings amount to taking the life out of the RTI Act". You and some other genuine parliamentarians know very well that transparency is not possible by exempting file notings from RTI. We do not expect service delivery to improve if you protect the identity of guilty officials. We expect that UPA government must take a stand in favour of people and implement policies and programmes which enhance democratic and transparent governance

The Act is just 10 months old and why has it frightened the bureaucracy and the government which called for an amendment? The change in regime in 2004 was seen as a fresh air in India’s history and politics but you and your government seem to be keen on going back on your promises and prove that you are no different from the right wing capitalist government.

We therefore expect that the Right to Information Act, 2005 not be tampered with. Let the transparency in governing which is vital for a thriving democracy be not held hostage by its Babus obviously supported by some politicians in power.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Lenin,Shruti,Prashant,Anupam,Vijay,Anup