Those who have used the Right to Information Act, 2005 in Tamil Nadu are aware of its potential to yank open the normally closed doors of government. Information from State Government and Central Government departments ranging from status of applications for any number of services, to fudging of accounts by municipalities and panchayats can be obtained for ten rupees plus the postal expenditure of sending the application by registered AD.
Considering that brokers in Government offices charge a lot more in Dravida-land run by our ruthless and cash-hungry Kazhagams, this is a small amount. Yet, things are not easy unless you know the Houdini-like ability of our government servants to escape from questioning.
For a primer on where the act is today, read this story in The Hindu and an accompanying piece on How Ambattur residents used it. No newspaper feature can present all issues, despite the best intentions, and it is true of these too. Yet, it is better than nothing. To do justice to such a breathtakingly powerful law, the media should be devoting a story every week, talking to public-spirited individuals like V.Santhanam of People’s Awareness Centre, Chromepet (who has filed some 200 petitions) and sending out reporters to the State Information Commission in Chennai to see what is happening at the hearings and appeals. A simple example is to publicise the 100 cases in which, according to State Information Commissioner S.Ramakrishnan, PIO babus have been ordered to pay fine. That’s what good journalism is about and perhaps we will see something happening in that direction in coming months…
For now, we must feel happy that something has been written about the RTI Act, 2005.
At the cost of repetition, I am providing some links here to useful websites on the RTI Act. If you are still overcome by inertia, or a feeling of helplessness when dealing with government, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Right to Information Act, 2005 – The Law and Rules
State Information Commission, Chennai
Fifth Pillar – NGO that offers to help you with applications
Public Information Officers in Tamil Nadu