24 November 2017

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How the PM Modi BJP government is diluting Right to information act

How the  PM Modi BJP government is diluting Right to information act

The Right to Information (RTI) Act, a landmark legislation brought in by the Congress-led UPA government and helped bring transparency to administrative functioning, is being diluted by the Narendra Modi government.

Getting Thrifty with Information

Ever since the Modi government assumed power, there has been an uptick in rejection rates of RTI applications. Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) does not buck this increasingly pervasive trend.

In 2014-15 alone, 2,781 RTI applications were denied by the PMO, the highest number of rejections by the PMO ever since the RTI Act came into force. This was in effect, a rejection of 22.10% of all RTI applications submitted in that year.

In 2015-16, the number of rejections by PMO remained quite high—2,227, to be specific. This time, it was 20.10% rejection of all RTI applications submitted that year.

To give these numbers some perspective, the previous peak, prior to the BJP coming to power at the center, stood at 1,415 rejections only.

The PMO has set the tune to 'unexplained rejection', and we can already see other government departments, ministries, and public authorities dancing to it. Figures from the RTI data filed by all other public authorities indicate that in 2015-16, 36,913 applications were rejected sans explanation—the highest ever since the implementation of the RTI Act.

Getting thrifty with information is trending with the NDA and as any student of history can tell you, is the hallmark of a budding authoritarian state.

No Money to Promote RTI Act

In the last three years alone, the NDA government has spent close to Rs. 3,500 crores in print and electronic advertisements promoting its pet schemes, that were all essentially re-branded UPA programmes.

But, when it comes to promoting the RTI Act among the people, they apparently face a severe fund crunch. Since assuming power, the Modi-led government has dramatically slashed funds that were earmarked for the promotion of the RTI.

In 2014-15, the total spend was just Rs.15 Cr; a figure that was further pared down to Rs. 5.27 Cr the subsequent year.

In comparison, during its last year in power, the UPA government spent close to Rs 18.5 Cr in the promotion of RTI.

Amendments to Dilute RTI

Earlier this year, the government proposed changes that have the potential to substantially dilute the RTI Act. If the draft RTI rules are put in place, then an appeal or complaint would lapse if the complainant dies. Activists fear this might further increase attacks on RTI applicants and is clearly a provision designed to be misused by the powers that be. Contrary to Mr. Modi’s public posturing on transparency and democracy, his government’s actions have silently chipped away at the edifice of this hallmark legislation, even at the cost of risking the lives of activists.

The substantial gains made by the UPA in the areas of transparency are being frittered away by a government that clearly, has a lot to hide. There is more than one way to crush dissent and subvert democracy, and the Modi government has clearly found a formula that works for them. For now.

Source – Inc

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Tags – Right to Information Act RTI BJP 2017