Voluntary disclosures under RTI yet to see light of day

Dimapur, Jan 11 (MExN): Even after more than a year since the Right to Information Act came into force in October 2005, State Chief Information Commissioner, P Talitemjen Ao disclosed that only two departments in the state have so far prepared and published Information Manuals for the public in compliance with voluntary disclosures of the department under Section 4 of the Act 

The State Chief Information Commissioner while having an interactive session with Editors and senior media representatives here at Dimapur today said that the RTI Act requires every department in the State to prepare and publish information manuals. However out of 62 State departments, only the Department of Rural Development and the Office of the Chief Election Officer have so far followed the Act’s directive. The State CIC, however, optimistically said that preparing such a manual requires time, and hoped that the other departments are preparing the information manuals for the public to see. 

Talitemjen said that the RTI Act was doing very well in states like Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka where the working of the public departments have become more transparent and accountable. He observed that the people of Nagaland are also keen to respond to the RTI Act but they do not know how to go about it yet. 

Earlier in the day, the State Information Commission had a meeting with district level officials representing various departments under Dimapur districts. Cautioning that public authorities must avoid a casual approach in implementing the Act, Talitemjen asked the officers present to make it user friendly and simple. 

It may be mentioned that a request for obtaining information, as per the provision of the Act, requires only rupees ten which can be paid by cash or through demand draft or cheque payable to the Accounts officer or Head of Department. Citizens can appeal for justice to the department concerned if a Public Information Officer (PIO) fails to provide the information required to the applicant.

Besides Government departments, Public Sector Undertakings like NIDC and Municipal Councils must also appoint their respective PIOs as they also come under the preview of the Act. Any NGO receiving regular funds from the government also comes under the preview of the Act. 

At the end of the day long interactive session with government officials and media representatives, the State CIC left no one in doubt about the importance of the RTI Act. “This Act has been tested in practice and this Act will go on’. ‘This (Act) has come to stay” Talitemjen added optimistically.

The Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur, who also attended the interactive session, while stressing the importance of the RTI Act, suggested to the State Information Commission to include a chapter on RTI Act in the syllabus of Higher Secondary classes. To this the Information Commissioners said that an agenda has been put forth to the concerned department in the past.