Monday, July 23, 2012

RTI: Making it more citizen friendly

Now a days I have been filing many RTI applications with different organisations and it has been not a good experience at all so far.

Some organisations don't disclose any information citing different provisions of RTI Act even after CIC, SC, different HCs have given orders and judgments to disclose the information asked for. That shows how much respect they give to judiciary, laws. Some times they give very ambiguous answers which frustrates the applicants.

Some organisations dont accept Indian Postal Orders. If you have sent them an application with IPOs, they reply to you asking you to resend the application with DDs, or pay orders of Rs 10, or ask you to affix court fee stamps worth Rs 10. The irony is that they spend Rs 35 on sending the reply. Not just that. They spend time in typing the letter which they could have easily spent on typing the requisite info. Rules are given more importance than efficiency which is a trait of any typical sarkari organisation. And the time taken in sending this reply is nearly a month after they receive the application. Time taken to deliver the posts and replies by the postal department is more than 8 days in total. Result is delay.

There are many deficiencies in the working of RTI and there are solutions suggested by civil society, 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission. But they didn't suggest one change which I am going discuss here which is about the mode of payment and mode of sending the application.

Sending a postal mail to someone is anachronistic in the age of internet, e-mails. If RTI Act is amended to allow e-mail as one form of filing application, it will reduce the delays, reduce the costs on sending the posts. It will improve the access to netizens who feel lazy in going to post office to file the application.

Implementing this doesn't require huge resoures. Only requisite is a secure payment gateway, which is already available, already being used by different government agencies like Railway department etc. Other things like creating an email id for every PIO, a tracking system of the applications etc are simple.

This electronic communication is only to be supplementary to the main form of communication i.e postal mail. I dont know why this mode is not mentioned in the RTI Act. This can definitely make RTI Act more citizen friendly.

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