Making RTI more expensive
The Right to Information Act is one of the three very useful progressive laws that the UPA govt. enacted in 2005. Since its enactment almost every govt. department and office has been trying to beat the other in coming up with ways to defeat its purpose and spirit. There are many cases of RTI applications not being received, of applications that have been left unanswered even after a few months, of appelate authorities using discretionary powers that are debatable at best, etc. These are violations of the letter of the law and could possibly be weeded out with better oversight. There are other ways in which the spirit of the law is defeated without violating the letter of the law.
My father Ravindra nath Guru uses RTI extensively in his attempts to get the Bangalore city administration officials to enforce the building code in the city. He was showing me how the legal cell sends copies of communications informing the concerned Assisstant Engineer of developments in a building code violation case to all AEs in the city administration. While one can see the value of horizontal information sharing, it does not add up to anything of value for the organization when each and every communique flows across swamping the limited mind space of the officials. Added to this is the cost of each of these communications being sent by courier. All these expenses get added to the budget header relating to implementing the RTI act.
We already hear ‘should officials be doing their work or answering RTI applications?’. Soon we will have ‘evidence’ being presented on how RTI has made governance more expensive and the amount that could be ‘saved’ by watering down the act. As far as I can see, the only way one can counter it is by auditing the accounts to identify justified expenses and the wasteful ones. I really hope someone is doing something like this somewhere in the country. I have not heard of one, do send me pointers / contacts if you know of someone.