Take Oath of Transparency, not Secrecy, Mr Minister

By Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)
18 November 2014 14:11 IST

A National Press Day observed on 16 May in Goa discussed a vital issue: Transparency in Public Administration and the Role of Media. Delivering a key note address at the inaugural function, veteran Maharashtra journalist Bharatkumar Raut spoke about transparency in journalism. As he rightly pointed out, the spirit of transparency should be first imbibed among the journalists. A journalist should be transparent, clean and selfless. It would then automatically reflect in journalism.

The same law applies to transparency in public administration. The spirit of transparency needs to be imbibed among the bureaucracy, right from top to bottom. Fortunately, we have a law for transparency - the Right to Information Act, enforced at national level from 2005 while Goa was the first state in the country to enact the Act in 1997.  With RTI Act coming into force, the central government relaxed the most draconian law of British Raj – the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, hampering transparency in the administration.

Even after almost a decade, effective implementation of the RTI Act is still an issue, primarily because the mindset of the whole bureaucracy has not changed yet. The bureaucrats still feel that government information is ‘secret’ and the common man cannot have access to it. And the heads of the bureaucracy, the ministers, still attain the office after taking ‘oath of secrecy,’ in violation of the spirit of transparency the Indian Constitution stands for.

Part II of the defined ‘oath of secrecy’ states: “I, ………, do solemnly affirm (or swear in the name of God) that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as a Minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such Minister.” The prime stress in this oath is on secrecy. Transparency comes as an exception.

This needs to be reversed. The ministers in our Democratic Republic should now take ‘oath of transparency,’ in tune with the spirit of Right to Information, for transparent administration. Secrecy, as defined in the RTI Act, should be maintained regarding the exceptional matters. These are well defined under section 8 of the RTI Act.

And the same oath should also be extended to the whole bureaucracy, from top to bottom. The country needs to decide a day – a Transparency Day, when the head of each and every government department and its branches spread all over, administers ‘oath of transparency’ to all the government employees. This may not be the ultimate solution of bring transparency in the administration. But it could impact the individuals, as we all believe in oath. It could be a beginning to change the change the age-old mindset of secrecy. For violations of the RTI Act, there is an act to take care of it.

Goa could take a forging step in this regard, for the simple reason that Goa had also taken a pioneering step in enacting the Right to Information Act, almost 17 years ago, eight years before the country followed the footsteps of this tiny state. 18th December 1997 was the historic day, when Goa Assembly finally passed the RTI bill, by deleting the obnoxious clauses which were opposed by the bodies of Journalists and the Editors. In fact the struggle for India’s first RTI Act was led by the Goan media. The Goa Government could thus observe 18th December as the Transparency Day. And then celebrate the next day, the Goa Liberation Day! A liberation from Secrecy!!

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)

Sandesh Prabhudesai is the Editor of goanews.com. He has been earlier the Editor of Sunaparant (Konkani daily) and Editor-in-Chief of Pruden (TV channel). His collection of selective editorials of Sunaparant has been published as 'Goff'. He writes brief thoughts as EdiThought for goanews.com, but not on regular basis.

Drop a comment

Enter The Code Displayed hereRefresh Image


Previous Comments

Public Servant means Servant of Public. But they think themselves as Boss of Public. Public should teach them a big lesson by thrashing them in open space, whenever they found to be violating the Law. Public should remind them that because of Public their Family is eating and dressing, otherwise they would have found in the road begging. Government Servants should respect Public and do their work in Time bound period.

- Mathew Dias, Goa | 21 st November 2014 12:57

 

Related Blogs