Social activist Anna Hazare has criticised the Centre for amending the Right to Information Act, saying it was akin to deceiving Indians, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, seeks to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners. The Centre has said it is fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the Central Information Commission.

“Introducing amendments like controlling the appointment of information commissioners will only lead to a dictatorship,” Hazare said in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district on Tuesday. “I am at a loss to fathom why the RTI amendments were introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha.”

The activist’s statement came on a day United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi accused the Centre of attempting to subverting the law.

Hazare said it was expected that the government would take the opinion of citizens while drafting a piece of legislation, reported PTI. “If the draft and the Act are both made only by the government, then it is not a democracy but a dictatorship,” he said. “India got the RTI Act in 2005, but with this amendment in the RTI Act, the government is betraying the people of this country.”

Hazare said the Narendra Modi government was doing good work, but added that he did not understand why the Centre was bent on introducing changes to the RTI Act that would weaken democratic institutions and people’s rights.

“Eleven days after I sat on a hunger strike [in August 2006], Dr. [Manmohan] Singh, through Prithviraj Chavan, who was then Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office, had sent me a written assurance that he would not effect any changes in the RTI Act,” Hazare said, recalling the protest against proposed amendments. “So why is the Modi government now taking such a step without taking the people of the country into confidence?” Hazare said he would write to Modi on the matter.

When asked if he would lead a protest against the amendment Bill, Hazare said at 82 he did not have the strength to lead a protest. “However, if the youth and citizens take the lead, I will participate in such a demonstration against the weakening of the RTI Act.”

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