Saturday, March 18, 2017

Low awareness level hits mass use of RTI Act in Assam

The Sentinel: Guwahati: Saturday, March 18, 2017.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has come as a boon for Indian citizens, giving them rights to access information and services they need from public offices. If effectively implemented, RTI can bring in openness and transparency between public authorities and people. But this very potent tool to keep the government in check is yet to be used by the people of Assam widely. The main reason is lack of public awareness.
Even in an educationally and financially progressive district like Dibrugarh, awareness of people about RTI is very poor. Many RTI complainants in the State don’t even know how to file appeals and complaints regarding non-receipt of RTI replies from the authorities concerned. This was revealed by the Assam Information Commission in its Annual Report for the year 2015-16.
According to the report, there were 2,385 appeal cases and 443 complaint cases pending with the Assam Information Commission for the year 2015-16.
The district-wise data revealed that maximum number of appeal cases and complaint cases were received by the Commission from Kamrup (M) district in the same period. During 2015-16, 1,089 appeal cases and 24 complaint cases were received by the Commission from Kamrup (M) district alone. At the end of 2015-16, the Commission had balance 1,075 appeal cases and 96 complaint cases, including previous year’s balance cases, from Kamrup (M) district, added the report.
It appears that Kamrup (M) district alone constitutes 52.32 per cent of the total RTI cases generated in the State during 2015-16. Few RTI complaints were received by the Commission in 2015-16 from Baksa, Dima Hasao and Dibrugarh districts. During 2015-16, the Assam Information Commission received 18 appeal and 4 complaint cases from Baksa district; 14 appeal and 4 complaint cases from Dibrugarh district; and 18 appeal and 4 complaint cases from Dima Hasao district. “This indicates that awareness level about the RTI Act in these districts is very low. The deputy commissioners of these districts should focus on implementation of the RTI Act in their respective districts urgently and should take corrective measures accordingly,” stated the report.
The report further said: “During 2015-16, a total of 807 cases had to be returned to the petitioners for not filing the same as per provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and rules there under. There is an urgent need to educate the people about the provisions of law so that they can file appeal and complaint cases correctly.”
The erstwhile Congress government in Assam didn’t put stress on spreading awareness about RTI Act among the masses. The present BJP-led coalition government at Dispur, which came to power by promising transparent governance, should take measures to popularize the use of RTI Act among the common people.