Public authorities, be proactive in giving information: PMNovember 3rd, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) Emphasising that the benefits of the Right to Information Act were now reaching common citizens, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday called for more “proactive disclosures” of information and urged public authorities to remove “procedural bottlenecks”.”I am happy that reports in the media show that the benefits of the Act are now reaching the common citizen. It is a matter of great satisfaction for us that the legislation has begun to facilitate a greater flow of information from public authorities to the common man,” Manmohan Singh said in his opening remarks at the third annual convention of information commissioners.
“Public authorities in our country have still to go a long distance in proactive disclosures. They must endeavour to voluntarily put out in the public domain information of use to our citizens. This will be a major challenge for public authorities in the arena of information housekeeping.”
Addressing the gathering, including participants from Nepal and Sri Lanka, the prime minister said there were some difficulties in the implementation of the act that must be removed.
“Applicants find it difficult sometimes to file applications because of procedural bottlenecks. The modes of payment of fees are also somewhat limited.”
“At many places adequate attention has not been paid to training of personnel, and modernising of records management systems. There is also a need for greater publicity of the provisions of the Act,” he added.
While pushing for greater transparency in the legislation that had become a “powerful instrument of citizens’ empowerment”, Manmohan Singh also exhorted people to be conscious of their responsibilities.
“However, our citizens must also constantly remember that democracy is not just about rights. It is also about responsibilities. Democracy is not just about asserting our own identity. It is also about respecting the identity of others. Democracy is not just about seeking benefits. It is also about contributing to the process of nation building.
“We are passing through a phase in our national life when each one of us is more conscious about our rights, our entitlements, and about our identities. But we do not seem to be really equally conscious of our responsibilities, our social obligations, and our national commitments as citizens of a free democratic country,” he argued.
“Even as we celebrate our individual empowerment through legislations like the Right to Information Act, let us not forget our collective responsibilities and concern for our national goals.”
The prime minister also spoke of the need to strike a balance between the need for disclosure of information and the limited time and resources available with the public authorities.
“Vexatious demands should not be allowed to deprive genuine information seekers of their legitimate claims on limited public resources.”
He asked participants to assess whether the legislation had lived up to peoples’ expectations and whether a course correction was warranted to make it effective.
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