RTI not sufficient to clear the rot: Mehendle

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 23 January 2014 19:58 IST

Franky Monteiro receiving RTI acivist award

Right to Information is not sufficient to clear the rot saturated in the government administration, feels Goa’s chief information commissioner Leena Mehendle, while appealing to the people to use the RTI tool effectively.

In her inaugural address at the second state rural RTI convention, Mehendle also appealed to the citizens to ask questions to the higher ups in the administration in order to make the heads accountable.

Though many officers in the administration want to help in effectively implementing the RTI, the CIC also cautioned that equally large number of bureaucracy is adopting arrogant approach, asking why information needs to be given.

“There is too much of rot in the administration as well as the society and mere RTI is not sufficient enough to clear this rot. We need something more than this”, said Mehendle, who retired as the additional chief secretary of Maharashtra.

Narrating her experiences since she took over as the CIC hardly three months ago, Mehendle said some departments have not even compiled the list of employees in their departments or the responsibilities allotted to them.

The only way to make them more accountable and sensible is to ask such questions which need to be answered by the departmental heads and just not the official information that could be supplied by the PIO, she felt.

Implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act, which deals with obligation of public authorities to make information available suo moto, is the prime responsibility of the HoD and not the PIO, she observed.

Though the purpose of the RTI is meant for Good Governance, Mehendle said good governance is unfortunately linked to machine-driven governance.

 

The RTI could achieve good governance only if proper infrastructure and trained manpower is built in each department, felt the CIC.

She also reminded the RTI activists gathered in the hall at Siolim about Abraham Lincoln, who not only said that democracy is by the people of the people and for the people, but had also cautioned the people to be vigilant and protect democracy.

She recalled that Babasaheb Ambedkar had also cautioned that the Constitution of India should not remain unguarded and go in bad hands.

The RTI activists thus need to utilize this tool only when it is required so that its effectivity protects our constitutional principles.

Franky Monteiro, who was awarded the first late Waman  V Kamat RTI activist award at the hands of Mehendle, told the audience how he uitlised the tool to gather actual information regarding the land allotted for SEZs that ultimately led to state-wide agitation and scrapping all the SEZs.

“Pen was always called mightier than the sword, but RTI is much mightier than the sword as well as pen”, said Monteiro.

Dr Dattaram Desai, president of the Goa RTI Forum, said that RTI should not be looked as a weapon to fight but a tool to get factual information.

“We had freedom fighters fighting for the freedom of the country. Similarly, the RTI activists are Suraj Sainik, fighting for good governance and cleansing up the administration”, he said.

While RTI has exposed several scandals in Goa as well as countrywide, Dr Desai also appealed to the activists gathered in the hall not to misuse it.

Earlier, Rajan Ghate, the organiser of the conference, welcomed the gathering. Major (retd) Venugopal Nair also spoke on the occasion. 

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