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Taking RTI lessons from Mexico

There has been a growing concern in India regarding the abuse of RTI Act. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the annual convention of Information Commissioners said that a citizen’s right to know should “definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy”. Where to draw the line is the complication.

The RTI Act has an exemption clause that says private information cannot be shared with the applicant unless the public information officer or appellate authority decides that disclosure can serve the larger public interest.

In the midst of all these issues we must look at Mexico, where a phone call is all it takes for anyone in the world to know about the utilisation of funds that a politician in Mexico gets from the government there to contest an election or to know anything else possible from the Mexico Information Commission under the Right to Information law. The time required by the commission in Mexico to provide information sought by an applicant is just five days. It does not cost a penny for an applicant to file a query, which could be registered on phone from 9 am to 6 pm or be put on the internet or put in through a simple hand-written application.

The provisions are very simple and easy, that is the reason Mexico City Information Institute receives an average of around 40,000 applications a year. In India, an RTI application is rejected or information is not revealed without citing any reasons. The application fees in the form of postal order is Rs 10 at the central level and at the state level it is Rs 50- Rs 300.

KUSH KALRA, Saharanpur (UP)


The Right to Information Act was introduced with much hope and enthusiasm. A few years down the line, it seems to be losing steam. There is hardly an information officer who provides the requisite complete information. Most of the time, the information provided is incomplete, vague and controversial. Due to long pendency of appeals with the Chief Information Commissioner, interested citizens do not like to proceed further as the purpose is already defeated. He gets final orders from the Chief Information Commissioner sometimes over a period of over two years. Besides, even the genuine cases are treated as an unnecessary burden on the concerned office from the top to bottom in the government machinery. Unfortunately, the Act is getting ‘sick’ and needs treatment before it is too late.


Social evolution

The greatest bottleneck in our socio-political system is the pessimistic public itself (editorial Nailing RapistsOctober 20).  We keep on criticising the politicians and wasting our inherent energy in meaningless activities. 

If we become reasonable, dedicated and desirably effective, then the politicians, the judiciary and the police machinery will automatically become subservient to the public.  The politicians, judges and policemen come from within us and are a part of us. 



I fully support the thoughtful view that the “justice system must be made to deliver”. In most of the rape cases, the victim seems to be too much beleaguered and harassed because of protracted legal battles. She is forced to become unnecessarily stigmatised and pathetically defensive for no fault of hers. It is our social and cultural backwardness that the “social wolves” (rapists) also sometimes happen to get sympathy or support on the grounds of class, caste and creed. We must not forget that a criminal is a criminal and he deserve not deserve any sympathy.


Who is unclean? 

Wonder why there is so much clamour for overt cleanliness when it is at odds with the attitude we exhibit towards workers engaged in cleaning activity, like utensils cleaners at dhabas, maid servants, car cleaners, sweepers,etc. They are contemptuously shunned.

Why does a civilised activity like cleaning arouse such disdain among people, while those engaged in unclean activities like corruption have complete immunity from disapprobation? My month-long tenure as a utensil cleaner in a dhaba owing to unemployment evoked much amazement, considerable regret and only a little praise from certain quarters when I came back to my village. I realised there is hypocrisy linked to doing a menial job even if it is in a state of joblessness.

AKHILESH, Hoshiarpur 



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