Thursday, January 21, 2010

An RTI for RTI

The Right To Information (RTI) Act is something which has been looked upon as a revolutionary thing in India. This Act was perceived as the ultimate weapon for the people to fight corruption and get accountability from the government. But now it is slowly seen that this Act is also the victim of the nefarious factors that it was made to fight against.

To promote this Act among the common people, the RTI Awards were started to felicitate and recognize the work of activists done in this field. But now more and more complaints have emerged where people are alleging that these awards have become the victims of favoritism. The complaint here is that these awards are given to people who have done no special work which is recognized by people in this field, and is being randomly given away to those who are close to the organizers. This has now put a big question mark on these awards and their authenticity.

Mr. Afroz Alam Sahil, an RTI activist, has put an RTI on these awards questioning various aspects related to them. The RTI was put up to the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) which is run by well-known RTI promoter Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, and this organization runs the RTI Awards. The questions that were put up ranged from when and why was the PCRF started, the number of programmes that have been organized by them and the money spent on them, people who have been associated with this organization and the sources of funds of the same, who were nominated for these awards and on what basis, how much money being spent for these awards and in which forms, etc. There was also the question of how much money did actor Aamir Khan take or give to be a part of these awards.

Apart from Mr. Afroz, an activist from Bihar, Mr. Shivprakash, has also alleged that the awards are given away to people who are close to the organizers and have done very little or no work at all in the field of promoting the RTI Act. Here it is to be noted that the person who was nominated from Bihar for the awards is somebody who is unknown to the media as well as the other activists. And this has led to further suspicion against the awards.

Another thing to be noted is that among the organizers of these awards were also a prominent news channel and a well-known newspaper. According to Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, the entire process of organizing to distribution of the awards took a figure of Rs 50 lakhs, out of which 25 lakhs were given away by Narayan Murthy’s Infosys and Rs 25 lakhs by the Tata Foundation. A total of 1,150 nominations were filled from all over India.

But here the big question is that of transparency. And this, according to Mr. Afroz, is what the RTI seeks to achieve. The distribution procedure of the awards and the numerous complaints received after those point out that an ugly joke is being made out of the very Act that seeks to achieve transparency. But for now, the reply to the questions are being awaited.
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