After decades of hectic lobbying, the efforts of civil society for getting the Right to Information law in place bore fruit on 15 June 2005 when the President of India gave assent to the Right to Information Act 2005. But over the years however the greater challenge has been the actual implementation of the Act. Unless the RTI Act is further strengthened Good Governance, Transparency in the Administration and Zero Tolerance to Corruption will never be a reality.
The Right to Information Act has been hailed as the hallmark of our democracy. The Act aims at making the government transparent and more accountable. The effective use of it would, in the long run, curb corruption. Right to Information Act has become a powerful tool in exposing corruption at top places in the government.
The Right to Information is derived from our fundamental right of expression under Article 19. If we do not have information on how our Government and public institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it. This has been reiterated by various Supreme Court judgments since 1977.
Bureaucrats have been conditioned to conceal and not to reveal information. They are not accustomed to providing information freely. This has all changed with the RTI Act. The ‘good’ bureaucrats, who have nothing to hide, and thus, nothing to fear, have welcomed this change. These are the good officials who are genuinely interested in the betterment of Goa. However the ‘bad’ bureaucrats, who are either corrupt, or simply have a non-cooperative attitude, are now compelled to fall in line with the RTI Act. After having been exposed by the RTI act, politicians are attempting modifying the act to escape its ambit. Any attempt to dilute the RTI Act should not be allowed and must be vehemently opposed. There is need infact to reinforce this Transparency law and bring the political parties too within its ambit.
We are all part of society and if there is something wrong we must all take responsibility. A lot of information was earlier suppressed by the Government, allowing room for corruption. The RTI Act is a tool that can be used by every individual to make an impact and bring about change. A properly worded RTI application with a 10 rupee stamp on it is all it takes. We have finally woken up to realize that Right to information is a key component in the attainment of economic, social and political rights of an individual as well as the community at large.
The RTI should give the common man a feeling of participation. A few thousand RTI applications across Goa by concerned citizens on issues concerning the public can usher in a major change in Goa. There should be a determined move towards our true liberation. There is a need to spread across every village the usage of this Act so that transparency and good governance triumphs. We now have the power; we only need to use it. The RTI Act is very simple and user friendly. It is not enough to be only a desh premi, we all need to be RTI premi too.
We all have to be ardent followers of the RTI Act. It needs to be a people’s movement for transparency, so that even if RTI activists are gunned down, the spirit of RTI and the crusade never dies.
The 37th President of the United States of America Mr. Richard Nixon had in 1972 very rightly said “When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and – eventually – incapable of determining their own destinies.”