Skip to main content

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.
Pointing towards instances of undermining transparency, such as amendment to the RTI Act, electoral bonds, bank frauds, NPAs and unemployment data, in a joint statement, they say, "Subsequent to the abrogation of Article 35A and the dismemberment of Article 370 of the Constitution, the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Reorganisation Act, 2019, repeals the J&K RTI Act. The transparency law in the state was repealed without any transparency in the process itself!"

Text:

October 12, 2019, marked 14 years of implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in India. The law has empowered millions of people across the country to exercise their fundamental right to seek information and hold the government accountable.
Never has the government’s commitment to transparency been as questionable as it is today, on the 14th anniversary of the RTI law -- information of critical national and public importance continues to be denied and the Act itself was weakened through amendments.
A convention was organized by the Central Information Commission, the first since the RTI Amendment Act 2019 was passed by Parliament, which dealt a serious blow to the law. Despite protests across the country and opposition from several political parties, the BJP government brought in amendments to the RTI Act.
There were no public consultations on the amendments and in fact even the text of the amendment Bill was not made public before being introduced in Parliament. The amendments empower the Central government to make rules regarding the tenure, salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the chief and other information commissioners of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and all state information commissions (SICs).
It has been more than two months since the amendments received the assent of the President on August 1, 2019. However, till date the Central government has not promulgated rules.
Though minister of state for personnel and training Jitendera Singh and home minister Amit Shah spoke at the inaugural session of the CIC convention, they did not make any reference to the recent amendments to the law, nor did they give any indication of the time-frame in which rules will be made.
In complete denial of the dismal reality of the implementation of the RTI law, Amit Shah claimed that this government is committed to transparency.
Subsequent to the abrogation of Article 35A and the dismemberment of Article 370 of the Constitution, the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Reorganisation Act, 2019, repeals the J&K RTI Act. The transparency law in the state was repealed without any transparency in the process itself!
There is no clarity about the status of the appeals and complaints pending before the J&K State Information Commission (SIC), as the commission was set up under the J&K RTI Act. The state Act also had some progressive provisions not contained in the Central RTI Act -- such as time-bound disposal of second appeals.
The track record of the government on openness has been questionable. For instance, the government resisted disclosure of records and deliberations regarding demonetisation. Electoral bonds were introduced as a mode of anonymous funding of political parties through an amendment to the Finance Bill.
Preposterous claims were made by the government that this was being done to bring in greater ‘transparency’. BJP was the biggest beneficiary of the electoral bond scheme launched by the government in 2017-18, bagging 94.5% of the bonds worth a little over Rs 210 crore, masking the unholy nexus between corporates and the ruling party. The government has also kept under wraps information about bank frauds and NPAs. It also tried to suppress the release of the unemployment data.
The recent Report Card of Information Commission 2018-19, brought out by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) on the functioning of information commissions across the country has found that despite the directions of the Supreme Court in February 2019 to appoint information Commissioners to the Central and State Information Commissions, many appointments have not yet been made. In fact, currently four posts of information commissioners in the CIC are vacant even as the backlog of appeals/complaints is more than 33,000.
Furthermore, scores of RTI users have been attacked and more than 84 killed in their quest for information and accountability. This month itself an RTI activist in Rajasthan was allegedly killed in police custody. Even as the attacks continue unabated, the government has failed to operationalize the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, which was passed in 2014.
To mark the anniversary of the RTI law, NCPRI members in many states held events resolving to protect RTI, increase it's usage and overcome the attempt to weaken one of the most radical freedom on information legislations in the world.
After the amendments were passed in Parliament, NCPRI launched a year long "Use RTI, Demand Accountability" campaign on August 1, 2019. To demand accountability from the government, RTI users and citizen campaigns have been filing and will continue to file RTIs on pressing issues of public interest.
Some of the RTIs already filed sought information on issues such as district mineral funds, lynching cases, Aadhaar and voter ID linkage, electoral bonds, the National Food Security Act amongst many others.

Comments

TRENDING

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release of 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).