Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday claimed that the low number of Right to Information applications indicated that there was a transparent system of governance in place, reported PTI. “We want to introduce a system where people do not feel the need to file an RTI application to get information,” he said while addressing the 14th annual convention of the Central Information Commission in New Delhi.
His statement came at a time when activists have been criticising the government for amendments to the RTI Act. In July, the Parliament passed the amendments that give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners.
United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had said that the RTI Act was on the “brink of extinction” after the amendments were passed in the Lok Sabha. Social activist Anna Hazare also opposed the amendments, saying they will lead to dictatorship. Former officials of the Central Information Commission had also criticised the government’s move to amend the Right to Information Act.
Shah, however, on Saturday called the RTI Act a “milestone in India’s democratic journey”, and said it was a major grievance redressal tool. “When I studied the Act in 2016, I too felt that RTI could be misused,” said Shah, according to The Indian Express. “But today we can say that there has been very little misuse and a lot of benefits of the Act.”
The home minister said the fundamental thought behind the RTI Act was to build the trust of the public in the system. “During the last 14 years, we have been able to fill gap of mistrust using the RTI,” he said. “The trust of the people in the administration and the system has awakened,” he said.
He praised the dashboard system introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adding that it ensured everyone got information about the ongoing schemes online without filing RTI applications. “Through the use of dashboard, we began a new transparent era,” said Shah. “One can go to the dashboard and see how many toilets have been built. Using the dashboard, one can check when one will get electricity connection under the Saubhagya Yojna. Any illiterate woman can click the dashboard and get to know when she will get a cooking gas cylinder.”
He asked the CIC to not only dispose of RTI applications but also inform people about the steps taken by the government to ensure transparency. “Low number of RTI applications in spite of convenient avenues to file them means the government’s work is satisfactory,” said the home minister. “Large number of RTI applications does not represent the government’s success. The government has made the administration’s work so transparent that there is minimum requirement to file RTI applications. The system should function in a way that we don’t need to file RTI applications.”
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