Ajmer Alam Wani
NEW DELHI: Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah Tuesday strongly supported the view of bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information Act adding that transparency should rule the roost in all spheres of life including politics, administration and governance.
He said when organizations, institutions and other sectors related to public and the State are transparent and accountable before the masses, the rule of law and justice will flourish and prevail.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said that Right to Information (RTI) Act is the model initiative to promote transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the functioning of a Government adding that information and knowledge sharing ensures empowerment of people and democracy. He said that he believes and supports the idea of bringing all political parties under RTI. “I also believe that political parties should have no objection in this regard”, he maintained.
Addressing the Annual National Convention on RTI Act organized by National Right to Information Commission here, the Chief Minister dwelt in detail with the enactment of National RTI Act and referred to the grass root movements taking place in the Country for this Act.
The Chief Minister said that with the implementation of the Act the people have become empowered to see, check and inspect any information which does not come under the exemption list, as such, the Government and governance have come under the scrutiny of most important stakeholder-public.
This, he said, is not the end of matter. “What is needed for the RTI Act to be more poignant and broad based is public awareness about the legislation. It will only be then the objectives to combat corruption and bring about transparency and accountability in Government functioning can be achieved”, he said.
Referring to the State Right to Information Act, the Chief Minister said that State Information Commission was fully functional by appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and the two Information Commissioners in 2011. He said adequate staff and logistic support has been provided to the Commission as per its requirements.
Omar Abdullah said that provisions of Section 4 of RTI Act, considered to be the soul of the transparency law, are being followed and almost all Administrative Departments in the State in the Civil Secretariat have launched their websites for easy dissemination of the information pertaining to these departments.
The Chief Minister said that the response of the general public seeking information under the Act has been very encouraging which is reflected in the number of applications received under the Act. “The pace with which information has been made available to the information seekers is also a matter of satisfaction for us. This can be judged by the fact that in my State 15,000 applications were received during the last year as compared to 741 in 2009-10”.
Omar Abdullah said that the implementation of RTI Act, reconstitution of Accountability Commission, constitution of Vigilance Commission and enactment of historic legislation of Public Services Guarantee Act in the State by his Government has given ample powers to the people to question the Government for all its actions and omissions. He said “we have given legal authority to people to demand listed public services within the fixed time frame besides empowering them to make queries to the Government about its functioning, delivery of services, financial transactions and other aspects of governance”. He said that under the RTI Act a common man is at par with a legislator to ask question to the Government and that too throughout the 365 days of the year.
The Chief Minister appreciated the functioning of State Information Commission and said that the Commission has strengthened the implementation of the Act and has created good public awareness about the use of RTI Act provision to seek information from the government departments.
The Chief Minister added that the critical analysis of the applications reveal that people are by and large seeking information with respect to the employment related matters, promotions and seniority issues. “Whereas, there is a need to bring transparency in the recruitments at every level, the information seekers should also focus on development activities, and issues of urgent public importance and interests. If it is done, I am sure real benefits of development will accrue to the common masses. There are hundreds of development schemes implemented by the Centre and State Governments in involving huge funds. the best way to ensure the benefits these schemes percolate to the grass root level and ensure transparency in spending, the RTI activists should work as Watch Dog”, he elaborated.
The Chief Minister said that the desired results under any Act or law cannot be achieved unless common people or aware about the legislation. “I feel people even at the National level are not fully aware of the benefits and public interest provisions of various legislations. The people living in villages, remote areas and far-flung places need to be educated properly about the RTI”, he added and underlined the need for imparting educate training to PIOs and First Appellate Authorities and others associated the implementation of the Act.
Omar Abdullah emphasized on the role of non-governmental organizations in implementing the provisions of Act and said that credible NGOs have a vital role in the implementation of the Act. The Chief Minister said that annual conventions like the one arranged by Central Information Commission are big leap towards assessment of the success and failures under the Act. He said these conventions give an opportunity to share the view points and learn from the experiences of one another.