Demand for information
Right to Information Act is available to demand information from public service institutions by the people at large. Broadly, there are two issues involved here: the first one concerns itself with generating demands for information; and the second relates to unfettered dissemination of authentic information to individuals seeking it.
The question of generating or creating demand for information arises from a number of inherent factors, the major ones of which are: high rate of illiteracy, lack of awareness of the RTI Act's provisions even among the literate, absence of designated points to seek information from and a culture of secrecy among government officials to withhold information from the public.
If people do not come forward of their own volition to obtain information relevant to their lives then they are not helping themselves. In fact, they are denying themselves of a valuable option to change their lot. In that case, they will have to be made aware of not only the need for information but also be motivated to seek it as a matter of right.
They are in acute need for data, information and counseling relevant to their livelihoods, development projects in their areas, employment opportunities, access to facilities for the ultra-poor including social safety net and various social outreach programmes. Furthermore, asking for information is basically an exercise in demanding and ensuring transparency of the public service institutions.
Keeping the entire gamut of problems impeding implementation of RTI Act in view, RTI Forum a network of civil society organisations in a seminar held on Thursday laid emphasis on 'people's participation in realising right to information'.
One would have thought that the RTI Act obliges the government to play the lead role in advancing the basic right to information by sensitising people about the efficacy of the right to information and opening outlets to provide information. Of course, the Information Commission has been set up to spearhead implementation of the RTI Act but materially there is lot more to be done at the institutional levels within the government to prioritise their obligations for information dissemination. At this stage, the NGOs' catalytic role assumes critical importance.