Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Right to Information on Wheels, Gujarat initiative, begins Bharat Yatra from J&K amidst apprehensions on RTI

By Our Representative
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah flagged off Right to Information (RTI) Bharat Yatra on June 16 in Jammu, organized by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) amidst clear signals emerging that the powerful tool promoting transparency may come under Government of India scanner, with efforts being made to point towards how RTI has become a "hindrance" to growth. Supported in J&K by Sangharsh J&K RTI Movement, the multi-media van, RTI on Wheels, will become the vehicle of MAGP’s RTI Bharat Yatra across India over the next few months.
In Jammu, Balvinder Singh, convenor, Sangarsh RTI Movement J&K stated, “RTI has proved to be a powerful tool in the hands of common citizens. It has helped efforts to make government transparent and accountable. It is necessary that the powerful tool reaches to common citizen.”
MAGP and Sangharsh RTI Movement J&K are part of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the two national platforms seeking to promote transparency in governance.
While flagging off the RTI Bharat Yatra, Abdullah was accompanied by the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu and inspector general of police (IGP) Jammu. In a statement, MAGP, said, “A start of RTI Bharat Yatra programme from J&K gives encouraging message to citizens of the nation that RTI will make our democracy participatory and more meaningful.” `
Harinesh Pandya, MAGP founder, said, “RTI Bharat Yatra aims at sharing and learning from each other, and it will connect RTI users across nation. We are happy that RTI Yatra has got momentous start. We appeal the J&K government to initiate RTI on Wheels for the J&K region, so that citizens are informed about government programmes, budget allocations and schemes proactively. RTI on Wheels will conduct its outreach programme in Doda, Srinagar, Badgaun, Pulwama, Rambag, Shopian, Poonch and Rajouri over the next few days.”
During its all-India campaign, which will continue for the entire year, the MAGP’s RTI on Wheels will be supported by respective state organizations making RTI as a tool to bring about greater transparency in governance. India’s first multi-media van for RTI awareness, RTI on Wheels is supported by the Association for India’s Development (AID), a volunteer group mainly consisting of Indian scholars in various universities in the US.
AID has been supporting several people’s organizations across India for quite some time now, including the Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch, working in Kutch among salt-pan workers.
The programme has been launched against the backdrop of government effort to curb the voluntary sector’s foreign links in some measure. An Intelligence Bureau report to the Prime Minister’s office recently blamed India’s voluntary sector for retarding the country’s economic development by 2-3 per cent.
Already, the view has gone strong among certain circles close to the establishment in Delhi that RTI is proving to be a “drain” on government resources. The Reserve Bank of India recently prepared a report which said that nationalized banks should be kept out of the RTI purview, for which, if needed, these should be privatized.

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