Right to Information Act in Ramayan

[This is my article pulished in Echo of India, Port Blair, Andaman on 16th March 2013]

Transparency laws were attempted to make an entry into the Independent Indian Governance since the year 2000. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 was the first of its kind of Act in our country. It did not become popular as that of subsequent laws of similar nature. The Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act), which followed earlier laws implemented in 2005 onwardshas been considered as world’s best Transparency Law with many in-built citizen- friendly provisions in the said RTI Act.

The main objective of the RTI Act is to setting out the practicalregime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. Thus this Act serves as a bridge between the Government and common Citizen. The access to the information from the Public authorities were not only just on demand but also on proactive way to disclose the information for the benefits to the public which were uncommon in the Indian Governance scenario earlier. Section 4 of the RTI Act deals with such proactive disclosures from the Government side which is also termed as “Heart of RTI implementation”. If Section 4 of the RTI Act is vimplemented effectively, the receipt of RTI applications will bereduced considerably or handling of RTI applications will becomea tension free exercise.

Among the other features of the voluntary disclosures, every public authority shall publish certain information to the benefit of the public. The Section 4(1)(b)(vii) of the RTI Act reads “the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof”. Further every Public Authority also “to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public” [Section 4(1)(c) of RTI Act]; Also all Public Authorities bound to “provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons” [Section 4(1)(d) of RTI
Act]. Though it seems difficult to implement Section 4, it can’t be avoided since the transparency law effected seven years back.

Though these Transparency Laws appear to be new to the Indian Government, it would be surprising to see such transparency during Ramayana times while taking decisions. It struck me when I was just reading the pages of Kamba Ramayanam (a Tamil Version of Valmiki Ramayan). The situation in the hands of the Poet was whether to accept or not, the proposal on surrender of Vibheeshana by Lord Rama. As the King of those days, Lord Rama did not require to consult anyone while taking the decision. In contrast the poet shows the consultation mechanism that existed.

Even the present RTI Act provision also expects the Public Authority to provide the reason to the affected people. It is inevitable that every action being taken by the Public Authority may be beneficial to most of the people but there may be some people affected by the same action. The RTI Act was silent on taking decisions by every Public Authority on their own way and the same Act expects from the Public Authority to inform about the decision to the affected people.

Let us go deep into Ramanyan and look into the decision making process & how the then Manager Rama brought about confidence among the affected people. Who were are all with Rama? The team consisted of Rama, Lakshmana & Monkeys (the count goes approximately 2055 Lakhs Crores in numbers). But most of the decisions taken by Rama would certainly affect the Army of monkeys. The decision was supposed to be taken about the acceptance of surrender by Vibheeshana. Instead of manager taking his owndecision arbitrarily, the Management consulted with the “to be affected people”. The first chance was given to a common monkey Aymanthan to express his opinion (like common public now a days). Mayanthan was in two minds and was not in a position to decide on his own.

Next opinion was sought from Sughreevaa. He strongly objected to the proposal saying that Vibheeshana had ditched Ravan andhe may ditch Rama too. Hanuman, on the contrary, was in favour of accepting Vibheeshna into the fold. His was the only house where vegetarian food was served and no liquor was consumed, said Hanuman adding that the ladies of the house also supported Sita.

The management got three suggestions viz., either to accept or not, Strong objection and strong support. By weighing the reasons given by the “to be affected people” Manager Ram decided to take Vibheeshana in his team. This proves the existence of consultation mechanism during the problem solving process. The same was now expected in the Section 4 of RTI Act 2005. The proactive disclosures to public are not a new concept which were in our life style in early good olden days too.

[Note: Similar Management aspects in Ramayan were assembled by the author in a form of article titled “Kamban – a Management Guru” and it was accepted by Karaikudi Kamban Kazhagam and invited for presentation of his article in the International Seminor on Kamban Kazhaga Platinum Jubilee Celebration on 23, 24th of March 2013. The author also a Postgraduate in Management (HRM)] (Deputy Chief Engineer ALHW, Hut Bay)