India Uncut

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Friday, October 20, 2006

The Duty to Publish

The Right to Information Act is a wonderful piece of legislation, aiming to make governments accountable to the people it is meant to serve: you and me. The section of the act that truly excites me is Section 4 of the act. (Scroll down here to read it; or you could download a PDF.)

This section sets out what some refer to as the Duty to Publish. It mandates that government departments actually have a duty to publish essential information about their departments, regardless of whether citizens ask for such information or not. It's an excellent section, but it does not include penalties for departments who fail to do what it requires -- unlike in the case of when you or I file an RTI request and someone delays it -- and is vague in some of its specifications. As a result of this, compliance hasn't been particularly high.

The Centre for Civil Society, an NGO I have great admiration for, has come out with a report that details the extent of such compliance across India's states, and the findings are depressing. The report (download a PDF here) finds that "[t]he average state education ministry discloses only 29% of the information that they are required to under the RTI Act." You can read CCS's press release here (PDF file); and here are some media reports: ToI, the Hindu.

What is heartening, though, is that all this is being reported, and that moves are being planned to strengthen that section of the act. My former quiz partner Gautam Bastian is spearheading CCS's activism on that front; more power to him, CCS and to all of us. This is important.
amit varma, 8:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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