Right Of Information Act -RTI

People often have to pay bribes in their daily interaction with Government Departments – be it getting a passport or a ration card or a license or an income tax refund etc. Sometimes, even if a bribe is not directly asked, your work is still not done because of complacency or simple bureaucratic delay. So, one has to either pay a bribe or face harassment.

 

What does one do in such a situation? So far people were helpless. They could only curse the system and do nothing about it. Each one of us, when faced with a similar situation, wondered whether there would ever be a time when our country would get rid of this curse of bribery.

Maybe that time has come. Now we need not pay a bribes in such situations. We have the Right to Information Act. Use it. Often, it works faster than bribes. Hundreds of people across the country have benefited from this tool. They got their passport, income tax refund, ration card, pension, PF, electricity connection, water connection, etc – works that had been pending for several months, were done within a few days when they applied under Right to Information Act. Under this Act, when we demand to know the status of our application and reasons for delay, most of the time, the work gets done.

Nannu applied for a duplicate ration card in January 2004. Though his card should have been made in 10 days as per the rules, it wasn’t done despite several visits. Three months later, when he applied under RTI, the card was made within four days.

Ashok Gupta was demanded Rs 5000 bribe for a new electricity connection in the year 2000. But the connection was denied to him when he refused to pay. Two years later, when he applied under RTI, he got his connection within 10 days.
Prem Sharma applied for a passport. It should be made in 45 days according to the rules. However, he kept running for six months. When he took his application under RTI to the Regional Passport Officer, the passport was done within 7 days.

Though RTI has such a huge potential, it hasn’t been able to make a big difference so far, because not many people are using it. This is so, because they are either not aware of it or of its potential. Earlier, RTI was available only in a few states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka. But with the passage of the Right to Information Act 2005 by the Parliament of India, it is now available to all citizens against all Government authorities in the country.

Drive Against Bribe Campaign is a big collective push by the people of India against bribery. The Campaign attempts to create awareness about the existence and effectiveness of this Act and to help people file applications under this Act. It is a nationwide awareness cum-assistance programme. Awareness about RTI would be created through mainstream media. Assistance would also be provided to those who wish to use RTI but do not know how to use it. This will be done through website, phone, direct physical assistance and letters.

People would be encouraged not to pay bribes for their personal works like getting your ration card, getting passport etc. They would be asked to instead use RTI. During these 15 days, various citizens’ groups and NGOs will set up assistance centers in several cities across the country. People would be provided assistance at these camps in preparing and filing RTI applications from 11.00 am to 6.00 pm everyday. Such arrangements have been made in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Deogarh, Dhanbad, Raipur, Bhillai, Chhindwara, Shahdol, Satna, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Gorakhpur, Faizabad, Sangli, Satara, Indore, Dehradoon, Guwahati among others.

Let us all join this campaign, either as a direct applicant or as a voluntee, and say a big NO to bribes.

How does it work?

Let us take the case of Nannu. He was not being given his ration card. But when he applied under RTI, he was given a card within a week. What did Nannu ask? He asked the following questions:

a)I filed an application for a duplicate ration card on 27th January 2004. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

b)According to the rules, my card should have been made in 10 days. However, it is more than three months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so? What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken? By when would I get my card now?

c)In normal circumstances, such an application would be thrown in a dustbin. But this law says that the Government has to reply in 30 days. If they don’t do that, their salary could be deducted. Now, it is not easy to answer these questions.

The first question is – please provide the daily progress made on my application.

There is no progress made. But the government officials cannot write in these many words that they have not acted for so many months. Else that would be admission of guilt on paper.

The next question is – please provide the names and designations of the officers who were supposed to take action on my application and who had not done so. · If the government provides names and designations of the officials, their responsibility gets fixed. Any officer is most scared of fixing of responsibility against him in this manner. So, the moment one files such an application, his/her pending work is done.

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