Right To Information (RTI) Act Monday completed eight years as it was enacted this day in 2009. The new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Khursheed Ahmad Ganie, said that their main challenges in J&K are the awareness among the officials of public authorities and the citizens about the Act.
The transparency law enacted on March 20, 2009 has managed to leave its imprint in this short period. The law has become a new weapon in the hands of people. However, according to RTI activists, there is still a lot to make this law more effective. During this period, there have been several successful stories of RTI.
Newly appointed, CIC, Khursheed Ahmad Ganie said that main challenge is awareness about the Act. "Our main challenges in J&K are awareness among the officials of public authorities and the citizens about the provisions and power of the RTI Act," Ganie told Greater Kashmir. "If we are able to do this, effective implementation will automatically follow."
As far as, CIC said, the State Commission's powers to receive complaints and hear appeals is concerned , "it will try to do a good job with its powers to contribute in the effort."
Ganie said that both the RTI activists and the Government functionaries need to help curb misuse of the RTI Act. "Bigger responsibility is on the activists. They must not support the few who are not using RTI for the right purposes," he said adding that the Commission will play its role in this regard.
Based on information obtained under the RTI Act, five complaint cases have been registered in the State Accountability Commission. The State Vigilance Commission has also registered 31 complaint cases based on the information obtained by the complainants under J&K RTI Act 2009.
However, renowned RTI activist Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat said that law has empowered the common man. "Ordinary people feel empowered. Several scams have been unearthed in RDD. Government officials were made to pay back embezzled money into Government treasuries in Chadoora and Khansahib blocks in Budgam," he said.
"Poor and deprived people sought information about CM's chopper which was not possible earlier. Candidates dropped by PSC got selected in KAS. Assets of KAS, IAS officers were made public," he added.
However, he said that some lacunae and failures are also the part of seven years achievements. "Government failed to create awareness among masses as described under section 23. Authorities failed to make voluntary disclosure of information through websites as envisaged under section 4 (1) (b) of J&K RTI Act 2009," he said.
"Secretary of SIC being transferred prematurely and this process is continuing since last eight years. Not a single Secretary was posted in SIC for 2 years," he added.
A preliminary report on the findings from rapid study of compliance of public authorities with section 4(1) (b) of J&K RTI Act was released at the event "Celebrating 13 years of Right of Information in J&K" today. This event was organized by J&K RTI Movement and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), New Delhi at the Institute of Management, Public Administration and Rural Development (IMPA), Srinagar.
Ghulam Rasool Sofi, former State Chief Information Commissioner who provided his comments on the study report, lamented the fact that there is no provision for penalizing any officer in a public authority for not complying with the proactive disclosure requirements under the RTI Act.
Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, CHRI and Co-Convenor, National Campaign for People's Right to Information, pointed out that apart from studying compliance of public authorities' vis-à-vis proactive information disclosure, the purpose of the initiative was also to show that local capacity in J&K can be harnessed to conduct fact-based hardcore research about the implementation of the RTI Act. CHRI trained the researchers during a month-long internship in February, 2017.
Celebrations in Budgam
J&K RTI Foundation and In-Minds Society organized a daylong event here at Municipal Committee Magamto celebrated 8th year of J&K RTI Act 2009 as RTI Day and create awareness among masses about various provisions of the act.The event was celebrated in presence of Hon'ble Tehsildar Magam, Naib-Tehsildar Magam, Executive Officer and employees of Municipal Committee Magam, SHO Magam, Principal Higher Secondary Magam, Media friends, students and other senior citizens.
Speaking on the occasion, Tehsildar Magam, Syed Altaf Hussain Musvi said that as human beings we need to perform our responsibilities and all PIOs should provide information to the applicant on time for its effective implementation. The Tehsildar was appreciated by the activists when he said that he provides Xerox charges of copying information from his pocket and keeps most of the information available in electronic format.
Naib-Tehsildar Magam, Abdul Majeed, on the occasion clarified people that Right to Information Act is the key to transparency but it cannot solve ones grievances all the time.