Pankaj Sharma/ Zee Research Group
The UPA government appears to have put its most vocal campaign - the Right to Information (RTI) Act - on the silent mode. This comes in the backdrop of growing clamour within a section of the government to review the Act.
The RTI Act, which was enacted in 2005, has been the main factor behind the expose of major scams in the last couple of years.
According to official statistics tabulated by the Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension Ministry, the funds earmarked for the propagation of the RTI scheme have been grossly underutilized. With the 11th five year plan (2007-12) just five months away from termination, only 73 per cent of funds released under the RTI publicity had been utilized until 30th September this year.
An analysis of the government spends on propagating RTI showed a consistent decline. Last fiscal the actual spend as per ministry’s accounts report was 80 per cent of the allocated budget. However, in 2008-09 and 2009-10, the utilization was 94.68 per cent and 96.72 per cent, respectively. Under 11th plan total fund of Rs 24.16 crore was allocated.
This development has angered votaries of the RTI Act with the RTI management being the most vocal. Expressing his concern over under utilization of funds for propagation of RTI, Information Commissioner ML Sharma said, “After completing six years of enactment this is the most crucial time for publicizing the Act as maximum citizens are still unaware of the stipulations of this act.”
Sharma further demanded an increase in the allocation of funds for the propagation of the Act to help realize its true potential. He disclosed that because of lack of proper information on various provisions of the RTI Act, several irrelevant applications had got filed with the CIC. “Proper and sustained information on the Act and its use have to be the top priority to ensure that the Act reaches every home in the country,” he added.
Demanding more publicity for the Act RTI Activist, Subhash Chandra Agarwal said, “This (under utilization of publicity funds for RTI) is really sad and government should look into it. The propagation of RTI Act should be in the hand of Central Information Commission.”
Rather than spending on publicizing their own personalities, politicians should look for raising funds for publicity of the RTI Act, he demanded.
Interestingly, fund crunch does not appear to be the case for underutilization of RTI funds for propagation. This is because the Personnel Ministry spent almost cent per cent (99 per cent) funds earmarked for purchase of land and construction of CBI office and residential complex.