RTI yet to reach Orissa’s tribals, Dalits

November 11th, 2010 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 11 (IANS) They constitute some of the most neglected sections of Indian society, but Orissa’s tribals and Dalits may soon make use of a powerful tool to improve their lot — the Right to Information (RTI), which has so far not touched their lives.

The state information commission has intensified efforts to educate tribals and Dalits — who constitute 22 and 11 percent, respectively, of Orissa’s population of 36 million — on RTI after reports that many were being cheated by government and private agencies.

“Despite several initiatives in the past, knowledge of RTI is not up to the mark in some areas, especially those inhabited by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” state information commissioner Jagadananda told IANS.

The commission plans to set up around 200 ‘RTI clinics’ in the state within a year, he said. “These clinics will have RTI forms, and will create awareness among people,” Jagadananda said.

“We need to create more awareness among them. The commission has already taken several initiatives, but various NGOs also need to act more,” he said.

“We have publicised the act, collaborated with the local authorities in the panchayat, block and district levels and launched awareness campaigns,” he said.

The commission has also published a 40-page booklet in eight tribal languages for distribution, apart from booklets in Hindi, Oriya and English, he said.

“We are distributing them across the state. However, the response is not very encouraging,” he added.

Although the RTI Act came into effect Nov 22, 2005, the state’s information commission became functional in 2006.

According to official data, the authorities had received 37,997 RTI applications in 2008-2009, against over 1,000 in 2007-06. The figure for 2006-07 was below a thousand. Fewer than 100 RTI applications were filed in the state during 2005-06.

The revenue and disaster management departments received the maximum queries, which accounted for 28 percent of all applications filed in 2008-2009. The Panchayati Raj department received the next highest number.

Most of the RTI applications were filed by government employees, both retired and serving, and were mostly about problems related to their service or departments, he said.

“We have also observed that the applications were filed mostly by males. Participation from women is not forthcoming,” he added.

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