Top Uttar Pradesh bureaucrat calls for more teeth to RTI

November 24th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Nov 24 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Atul Kumar Gupta, who insists that the state government is “ready to part with all information”, has joined rights activists in their demand for the Right to Information (RTI) Act to be made more powerful.Speaking on the concluding day of a two-day seminar on the RTI Act, Gupta Sunday called for “sharpening of the RTI Act” and said the state government was “ready to part with all information”.

“I have advised all government departments to keep their doors open to anyone seeking information under the RTI Act, which is a law to protect the interests of common people.

“People in the government must realise that they will also be like common citizens once they retire from their jobs. Therefore, they must put themselves in the shoes of the common man while dealing with RTI requests,” he said.

Admitting that the disposal of RTI applications was slow, Gupta said: “I will now start monitoring how many applications are received by different principal information officers over a particular period and how many are disposed off.”

He was also receptive to a demand by participants, which included activists and lawyers, for a government sponsored call centre for filing RTI requests over the telephone.

“It is not within my domain to take a decision on setting up a call centre for purposes of RTI, but I will do the needful from my end to promote such an idea,” Gupta said.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who was the chief guest at the seminar, attributed the tendency among officials to conceal information to the British Raj mindset.

He said it was understandable for officials not to divulge information during the British regime, but the same approach was not acceptable anymore.

“The Official Secrets Act took birth under a regime that needed to shield itself from the people. But today, we have a people’s government,” he added.

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