National Convention on RTI and NREGA opens in Lucknow

National Convention on RTI and NREGA opens in Lucknow

A two day convention on Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) began today at Gandhi Bhawan, Lucknow under the aegis of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). Activists and common citizens who have used the RTI Act to access information came to attend this convention from all over UP, as well as, from other parts of the country like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Delhi. More than five hundred participants were present. They shared their experiences with using this Act.

The highlight of the convention was the active participation by the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), UP, Mr Ranjit Singh Pankaj and Information Commissioner, Mr Virendra Saxena. It is noteworthy that any Information Commissioner in UP has come out after a gap of two years to interact with people on an open platform. Activist groups have been trying to engage the Information Commission as well as the administration to ensure proper implementation of the RTI Act, as well as, effective coordination between the Information Commission and the public at large. However, the administration had chosen not to participate in the past.

The issues raised by activists and citizens include: no response from Public Information Officers (PIOs) within the stipulated 30 days, lack of proper information and training at the level of PIOs, inactive role played by First Appeal Authority, First Appeal Authorities tend to protect the PIOs of their department, harassment of applicants at the level of PIOs sometimes leading to registration of criminal cases against them, large pendency in Information Commission, applicants have to make a number of visits to the Commission, PIOs not penalized under Section 20 of the Act which is mandatory and even if they are penalized the fine is not realized, non-compliance of Section 4(1)(b) by various departments. The inefficient functioning at the levels of PIOs and First Appeal Authority creates huge volume of complaints and appeals at the level of the Information Commission.

The CIC agreed that applicants should not be harassed by the PIOs and should not avoid fulfilling their responsibility by giving lame excuses. People also lamented the fact the PIOs come to the Commission at government’s expense whereas the applicants have to bear the expenses from their pockets.

Shri Pankaj, the CIC, assured that he would streamline the working of the Commission and would solve all the problems faced by applicants in the next 6 months.

Tomorrow, former IAS officer, Magsaysay Awardee and a noted social activist Aruna Roy and senior social activist Nikhil De will participate in this convention and give a boost to people’s campaign to ensure the effective implementation of the two Acts - RTI and NREGA. Commissioner, Rural Development, Mr Manoj Kumar Singh, will also attend the NREGA session in the afternoon to interact with labourers and activists.

Former IPS officer and vice president of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) SR Darapuri, noted author of books on RTI Dr Niraj Kumar, Izhar Ansari, Devdutt Sharma, journalist Akhilesh Saxena, Bahnu Pratap Dwivedi, noted RTI activist Urvashi Sharma, social activist Chunnilal, and Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and national convener of NAPM - Dr Sandeep Pandey had chaired the sessions of the first day of the two days convention.

- National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI)

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