State information commissions a hurdle in implementing RTI: survey

September 8th, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) The main bottleneck in the implementation of the RTI Act in the country are the State Information Commissions (SIC), which are meant to facilitate the dissemination of the information sought, according to a study by an NGO released here Monday.The study was conducted by the Society of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) across 10 states in early 2008. A total of 420 citizens who have used Right to Information Act were interviewed.

It highlights that even though three years have passed since enactment of the RTI Act, citizens continue to face innumerable difficulties in accessing information.

“The Information Commissions in Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have poor disposal rates of appeals and complaints and citizens have to wait for several months in these states before their appeal is heard,” said Vikas Jha, who works with PRIA, which coordinated the survey work.

“The waiting period varies from eight months to two years in the Maharashtra Information Commission and Central Information Commission,” Jha added.

“There are widespread complaints against the information commissions of Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh of poor decisions (one line orders without explaining facts of the appeal) and the reluctance to impose penalties on Public Information Officers,” he said.

“Another shocking finding is that after dealing with several thousand appeals and complaints, the information commissions in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have penalised very few PIOs,” he added.

Jha said the entire blame of the RTI’s poor implementation couldn’t be laid on the state information commissions as they face tremendous budgetary and infrastructure constraints. But there is no doubt that lethargic Information Commissions are slowing down implementation of the RTI in India.

According to the study, another major problem encountered by citizens while filing RTI applications is tracing the public information officers (PIO).

People face difficulty in filing RTI applications at block and district levels.

“Ninety percent of the respondents in the 10 selected districts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh said that since the directories were not available; they found it difficult to file applications at the appropriate offices,” Jha said.

“The survey revealed that once the RTI application is filed, citizens have to make two to five visits to the offices to get information. Forty percent of the respondents said that the information is mostly provided after 30 days,” he added.

“Cases of threats and harassment by PIOs are abundant, which is substantiated by 43 percent of the respondents who found PIOs uncooperative,” he further said.

Another revelation is that majority of the respondents who did not get the information under RTI did not file first and second appeals as they felt it would be a waste of their resources and time, he added.

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