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The Grand Right to Information Research - 64% Chief Information Commissions didn't respond, rest just deflected.

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What is Right

What is Right to Information Act 2005

RTI act 2005 guarantees every Indian with a right to information. It empowers every citizen of the country to seek information from the government and promotes transparency and accountability in the working of the government. It also mandates the timely response to citizen requests for government information. It followed a big movement ranging decades with activists and experts working for the enactment of this law.

RTI act came in existence in the year 2005 and since then there is very little that has changed in its mechanism. With over 10 years of its enactment it has not provided a definite framework for effective, consistent, hassle free, reliable and analyzable information dissemination.

Considering an applicant’s view, presently RTI system has several gaps that need to be filled for smooth and efficient flow of information between the applicant and the responder. Filling an RTI is an exasperating work and it also doesn’t bring the surety of getting answered as the system doesn’t have a tracing mechanism. Few RTIs get rejected as they had in-consistent fees or format, or some RTI are never answered. This creates a large information barrier, climbing which is difficult even for a few determined.

Getting your RTI answered with the sought information requires patience and persistence. In this time when the government is hailing the idea of digital India, system of RTI is barely functional through manually received and responded posts.

The process of filing RTI and awaiting reply is time consuming and takes ample efforts. Usually filling an RTI requires 2 days effort. As we had evaluated the assumptious cost of filing RTI considering the effort, time and material required, it came as

Rs 3115 per RTI (taking Rs 1494 avg. per day income and approx. Rs 130 cost of application).

What is the cost to GDP or productivity cost attached to this inefficiency?

News media had reported that during 2013-14 that 50 lakh RTI requests were filed across central and state departments. Therefore, the total monetary effort comes to astonishing Rs. 1557 crores cost on GDP due to a broken system of filing state RTIs (without looking at feedback mechanism, information quality etc.), that too on a very conservative basis.

The above cost equals 50% the overall budget of Kendriya Vidyalayas in India, means we could operate KV schools for one year for close to 5 lacs more kids in India with these kinds of funds (1174819 kids were enrolled into KV system in 2014 with Rs. 3000 Cr yearly budget).

As per CIC (Central Information Commission) data, the number of fresh RTI’s filed and carried over RTI’s (from previous years) has steadily increased over the years and is increasing every year. We consider the numbers would only increase with the increase in awareness of the empowerment that RTI Act provides the people.

64% of our requests were not answered, rest were inadequate.

It has been more than 10 years and yet state CICs have not been able to provide convenient, easy, transparent and hassle free standardized electronic system of RTI. When we contacted state CICs of 28 states of the country filing RTI to enquire about their plans to use electronic or digital platform for information dissemination, 18 out of 28 either rejected or didn’t answer the application. i.e. 64% RTI were not answered. And out of those responded either asked for the nationality proof to render information or indicated insufficient documents. Manipur, Haryana, Chattisgarh and Nagaland are of few who responded fairly and quickly.

What kind of losses we are looking at in future?

Let us consider this, at the least, if 1% of the population (more than 1 crore) uses the RTI facility in near future to procure information from government agencies. Taking this case, does our system looks capable of managing such large volume? Does it have clear information regarding the application process regarding document enclosures, fees and CIC heads? As the machinery seems awfully unprepared to handle such volumes and possibly the inefficiencies would further increase, the total monetary burden in terms of productive GDP days lost and unnecessary resource wastage will take humongous proportions.

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