RTI, the missing turbo accountability tool

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The RTI basically grants the right to request the disclosure of any information deemed important for the petitioner ensuring, at the same time, the duty of the concerned body or agency to accept the demand and therefore release the information unless strong and valid reasons are cited to explain why the requested information cannot be shared.

Unfortunately the potential of the RTI Act is far from being fully understood by the citizenry: since its inception back in 2007, the overall number of cases settled by the National Information Commission, the apex body in matters related to RTI, is really disappointing with only 260 cases solved.

Honestly speaking how many of us know about RTI? How much do you read, on daily basis, about it? What is it? How does it work?

There is an incredible lack of understanding on the full implications of RTI in the country. Despite some donors funded projects focused on expanding the capacity of the National Information Commission and build a sort of national RTI ecosystem, much remains to be done in order to turn the RTI into a transformative accountability platform that can improve the level of governance in the country.

But what’s wrong? Why RTI is not taking over?

The law is there, the regulations also are there, a public apex body is there but still RTI is not picking up. After all who is really aware of the existence of the National Information Commission?

If after seven years from its start, the records are dismay, what will happen in seven years from now?

There is a high risk that the future status of RTI implementation will remain untouched unless a drastic change in terms of political will turn the RTI into a real accountability’s game changer.

The political leadership must step up its commitment towards accountability, it must be ready to make the RTI a top priority for the nation in such a way that also ordinary people can fully comprehend the power of an enhanced turbo accountability tool like the one provided by RTI.

The key question is how to pressurize a political class too busy or too indifferent to the cause of good governance. You can read many nice proclamations in the programmatic plans of each government but then at the end of the day, nothing really concrete is done to improve the levels of transparency and accountability.

Civil society alone, even if supported by the donors, cannot really make the difference unless a huge mass mobilization manages to revitalize the overall good governance discourse in the country.

RTI could be a practical way to energize the people’s interest in claiming a new sense of ownership in the affairs of the nation.

All NGOs and INGOs should not only embrace RTI as a tool to promote internal accountability, proactively disclosing as much information as possible but also as a top advocacy issue.

RTI can be a unifying, cross sector “totem” for the entire civil society to embrace and rally around.

No doubts that the country has many needs and priorities like for example gender, inclusion, a failing education and health system, climate change, child protection etc.

Unfortunately one thing that very few people got it right is that RTI could help solving all the above mentioned issues. Each of us must understand that we have the power to ask for good. We should take advantage of it.




Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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