It is a general argument with in the Government employees that the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI) takes away their more productive time on just processing the RTI applications and providing information to the applicant who has sought the information under RTI Act. Similarly no training classes of RTI conclude in the absence of such queries like “Is there any mechanism to protect the public servant from Harassment?”
In broader sense, the RTI now a day’s became a dominating pressure creating workforce in the Government functionaries but it was not so before seven years and the current scenario prevails from Oct 2005, the effective date of implementation of RTI Act 2005.
When we raise the question about “why RTI is filed in Government departments?”, the first and foremost vital answer to get is that there exists some problem. The citizen now finds filing a RTI is a simple route to resolve their problem. In some cases the general public tries to get the information through the source of RTI and approach to the other available channels to resolve their problems. In most of the cases, grievances will be redressed on receipt of RTI applications.
In the other hand, the wastage of time in dealing with RTI is mainly due to the lack of Record Management. More time were spent to trace / locate the records which were not been located due to their own poor management record policy. Now this is the time to set right the records which not only easier to locate the information now but also will be useful in the near future to furnish the same when asked in RTI in an efficient manner even after 20 years.
To overcome the stress on RTI applications, the Public Information Officer (PIO) should deal the RTI application with little care instead passing down to the lower level subordinates, as normal paper been dealt. The PIO is expected to read the application full in DAK stage itself and the information sought is not pertains to the own Public Authority these can be transferred at that stage itself. Five days time limit has been provided to transfer the RTI to another Public Authorities which could be done within two days.
The next step is to locate the desired information and also to work out the cost of the same. If any assistance required from other officers under the same Public Authority, the same could be sought immediately. While seeking assistance from other officials / offices, the PIO should seek the specific information sought by the applicant. PIO also obtain the cost of the same information in order to inform to the applicant.
Instead, most of the PIO were just forwarding the application received from the applicant for further action and in some cases the PIO’s were directing other officials to furnish the information directly to the applicant. In this scenario, the PIO’s will be liable for facing show cause notices from Central Information Commission (CIC) in the first instance which creates a panic situation in the working place. The lapses by the defaulting officials will be treated as deemed PIO which is at par with the PIO by the CIC in later stage.
It is also noticed that the PIO’s were intimating the details about the cost of information in the fag end of the stipulated period of disposal (30 days). This leads a very meager time left with for taking huge copies as required in the RTI application and the fees paid. Thus it is advisable to keep a cushion of at least week long duration in hand to take photo copies & provide the information.
The yet another question in the minds of PIO’s is that: “Why 30 Days?; Why not more?” There is no specific reasons were made available for fixation of 30 days target time over the shoulders of PIO. It can be justified with the precedence of the times specified earlier.
To view the said justification, one has to travel in a time machine and move in a backward direction up to the period where Ramayana took place. There was a board meeting going on in the monkey’s kingdom. Several crucial Management decisions were arrived in that meeting. The main agenda of the meeting was to locate Sita.
The series of Managerial activities were decided are: a. Task Definition (To search & locate Sita) b. Identify the Team Leader (Hanuman has identified as Team Leader) c. Recourses to the Team Leader (Requires resources allocated to the Team Leader to perform the Task) d. Target time ( Only 30 days allowed). The 30 days time period was thought of sufficient in that era where the whereabouts of Sita was not known. The Team Leader also not fully aware of the identity of the Task. (Source: Kamba Ramayana)
While coming back to the RTI regime, the 30 days time has been provided to locate the information which is very well within the Public Authority and the Public Authority is fully aware of whereabouts the information. Thus the 30 days provision is fully justifiable in my view.
Hope this article may help to reduce the stress over the handling of RTI applications. If you need more details feel free to contact over mail in firstname.lastname@example.org .