Third RTI convention starts Monday, but activists unhappy

November 2nd, 2008 - 7:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Monday inaugurate the third annual Right to Information (RTI) convention. Activists, however, are not too happy with the convention, as they claim it is only a waste of public funds and nothing will come of it. The main theme of the two-day convention organised by the Central Information Commission (CIC) will be “RTI and its Ramifications for Good Governance” and will have seven technical sessions covering major aspects of governance.

“The third annual convention will have a distinction of being one of its kind where the assessment of the act both by the government and by the civil society would be discussed,” a CIC official said.

In October 2006, on completion of the first year of implementation of RTI Act, the CIC organised a three-day national convention (Oct 12-15) which was attended by nearly 700 delegates representing a cross-section of academia, civil society, media, professionals and others.

The second conference of the CIC with State Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners was organised Oct 17, 2007, and was attended by around 175 delegates from across the country.

The convention starting Monday is the third in the row.

The first session on Day 1 ‘RTI and Transparent Governance’ is expected to discuss the impact of the RTI Act on various aspects of governance.

The second session on ‘RTI - Need for a Different Strategy Specific to Rural Area’ will discuss whether a different strategy needs to be adopted for implementing the RTI Act in rural areas.

“This session is expected to bring forth some of the interesting success stories of the RTI Act in rural areas, and the session will also provide a platform to share the attempts made to assess the level of awareness of the RTI Act among the rural folk,” the CIC official said.

The first day’s last session ‘RTI and Poverty Alleviation’ is aimed at analysing the socio-economic nexus of the RTI legislation.

The second day opens with the session on ‘RTI and Protection of Individual Privacy’, which would be the first attempt to debate on the issue since the promulgation of the RTI Act.

The other sessions on the second day will be devoted to media, civil society and RTI; RTI in South Asia - ‘An Overview and Current Assessment of RTI’.

However, RTI activist are not very happy with the convention.

RTI activist Manish Sisodia told IANS, “There is no single instance in the last two conventions which has resulted in any difference in the implementation of the RTI Act. It has neither helped in bringing any change in the poor working of information commissions.”

“The commission cries over less resources. However, by organising such conventions they are doing nothing but wasting public money,” Sisodia added.

Another Delhi-based RTI activist, Rakesh Agarwal said: “The convention is nothing but a nonsense event. The event is a best opportunity for the Information Commissioners to get their photographs clicked with the prime minister.”

“They serve little purpose when there is no co-ordination among information commissions and no courtesy shown for each other’s decisions. So it is meaningless for the commissioners to sit together and a waste of public resources,” Agarwal added.

Prominent RTI activist and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal said: “The convention would serve its purpose if they invite general public and ask for their feedback about the functioning of the commission and take corrective measures. There is just no point in Information Commissioners talking to each other.”

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