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Need to fine tune RTI Act stressed

Special Correspondent


“Address apathy of staff and officers in charge”


CHENNAI: While the Right to Information Act was a powerful instrument in the hands of the people, it was time the civil activists became aggressive, G. Ramakrishnan, former State Information Commissioner, said here on Saturday.

Leading a discussion on RTI, organised by non-governmental organisations Amudha Surabi Charitable Trust and The Dawn, he traced the history of the Act and explained its salient features. “The objective of the Act is to provide transparency, curb corruption and ensure accountability,” he explained.

Addressing queries from participants that ranged from refusal or delay in reply from the Public Information Officer to getting responses about private institutions affiliated to a government body,

Mr.Ramakrishnan said that there was a need to fine tune the Act and address the apathy of the staff and the officers in charge.

However, it was as yet unclear whether the proposed amendments would strengthen or weaken the Act.

Lack of methodology

General Secretary of Anti Corruption Movement, Chennai, S.M. Arasu, cited several instances of how his queries to the Information Commissioner remained unanswered and there was no methodology to ensure that answers could be obtained. He called for holding accountable the appellate authority if it do not respond to the queries within a stipulated time. P.R. Kannan, a participant, said he had to forward his query to the appellate authority in the office of the Commissioner of Police as the PIO refused to reply.

To his dismay, he found that his query was forwarded to the PIO by the appellate authority. Only 50 per cent of the activists who sought information under the RTI were successful in getting them, said K. Banukumar, executive director of Fifth Pillar. He said there was need for training the PIOs and the district administration.

The participants called for increasing manpower and training for the government staff and penalising apathetic officers.

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