The RTI Tangle

For those of us who (despite the complete failing of the Duty To Publish aspect of the Right To Information Act) believed that the coming of the RTI was the most progressive move India has made in a long time– it is time to be despondent again.

You could say that we could fight back. Sure we can– but the fact that an amendment of the RTI, was ever considered, tells us one thing for sure. Real democracy has a long way to go in this country. What the RTI in its original form was meant to do was to make information freely available to anyone who wanted it. It is this fact, simple as it may seem which the Indian government finds scary.

The proposed amendment makes ‘file notings” inaccessible to the public. Why is this a bad thing? Two reasons: 1) File notings by individual officers are dead giveaways as to who has made what change and therefore allows for the gulity to be traced. Secondly file notings reflect a governmentt thought process, which is a valuable source of information and a valuable process to critique as well.

Its worth thinking- Without this is the RTI of any use any longer?  

9 thoughts on “The RTI Tangle

  1. No I read it on occasion, though of late I’m doing more blog reading than is good for me. Yes its been a while – I’m still in Delhi, still in TERI.

    Yes its been a while – though I messaged you some days ago, dont know if you got it. Where are you? In Delhi? India?

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  2. Hi Anant,

    I didn’t know you read my blog. Hmmm…. Anyway. I don’t quite agree with you. I don’t have a problem with the ‘govt’ being concerned about file notings. What I have do have a problem with is the idea that file notings are to be kept secret. Its rather easy to distinguish between file nothings that are ‘doubts’ or ‘opinions’ expressed in passing or to tell if as they often are direct orders to take a particular course of actions, very often necessarily in public interest. Sure file notings will eb attacked if public, but then they should be. That is the point of public accountability. I think ‘ill feelings’ are hardly a strong enough argument to keep people in the dark. Especially because we’re discussing public administration, policy and such.

    On a side note: How and where are you? Long time no hear….

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  3. Actually I don’t really agree. Whether or not file notings should be included is debatable….maybe they should on balance. The point is there are clear issues involved and its unfair to argue that a government (or rather bureaucracy) concerned about them is necessarily being undemocratic.

    File notings are a place where, as you point out, thought processes and opinions are put down. While it is true that it tells you how people think, it is also the case that during a process of deliberation not every remark or opinion can be expected to stand up to scrutiny. A government officer expressing doubts, misgivings, ‘intuition’ and all the other things we all do when deciding something doesnt necessarily want his every thought revealed. Its unfair because they are very often preliminary and easily attacked. And there is no question they would be attacked.

    Secondly theres a ton of RTI requests made by current and past members of civil services trying to find out reasons for promotions, decisions and so on. File notings tell them who said what or did what. Its hardly unlikely that you could get a lot of ill feeling as a consequence. Fair enough for those who run the administrative machinery to be worried.

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