Skip to main content

Right to information online: A "good step", but activists warn it would make whistleblowers "vulnerable"

By Our Representative
Controversy has broken out among India's right to information (RTI) activists over the latest order of the Government of India's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), released on October 20, 2014, which allows all ministries and departments to "facilitate uploading of RTI applications and appeals" on their respective websites, even as providing links of replies through a URL. Suggesting that it was being implemented by the DoPT on a pilot basis, and has proved successful, the order says, however, that the "RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed if they do not serve any public purpose."
Already, whether to upload the applications, appeals and their response from the officials has been left to the respective public authorities looking into RTI applications, which has become a major source of concern. While some activists suggest that leaving things to the government officials to upload selective applications and their replies is discriminatory, others argue, disclosing names of individuals filing applications would “infringe upon” their privacy. More, it might lead to a situation whereby certain powerful sections may blackmail individuals seeking information.
Even then, many activists say, the order has certain “positive elements”. Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat’s premier RTI organization, believes it is a welcome step in some respect as it would put “lot of information into the public domain.” Jog thinks, the public information officers, knowing well what they are replying, would provide “qualitative replies” as these would be uploaded, adding, “This would also avoid repetitive RTIs.” Further, as the order wants that the first appellate authority’s orders are also uploaded, “their replies will also be accountable.”
Yet, Jog says, “There are some RTI activists who believe that the identity of applicant not to be disclosed. One should understand that when the application and the reply is uploaded with the name of the applicant, that is dangerous. People will not file applications fearing that their names would be put online. We are thinking of requesting the Government of India to think of blacking out part of the name and the address, so that this fear not to file application is not there. But one should also consider another part of the issue – that RTI activists even today proactively approach media with their names, and tell the world what reply they are getting.”
Jog further says, “The RTI has been registering names and addresses and information sought for last the last nine years. These registers are disclosed pro-actively. The threats and murders are not because the system discloses the name of the applicants, this will come even otherwise. And, there have been cases when the data, and replies coming in the public domain, are not sought to be disclosed by even RTI activists. With the decision to put the data of public domain on the web, this would end.”
Meanwhile, there is a section of RTI activists with an anti-Narendra Modi slant, who have decided to hold demonstrations and dharna against the Government of India order. “Such elements should understand that in order to make the government transparent, allowing applications and replies to be put online is a good step”, Jog says. “These activists’ reactions seem to be extremely immature.” Of course, she adds, the provision of not allowing personal details to be put on the web would also mean that cases of misdeeds by IAS officials are not disclosed. Also, property documents of public figures may not be disclosed on the web.”

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.