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Stop dilution of the RTI Act

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Through a Office Memorandum dated 10th Dec 2010, the Government of India seeks to dilute the Right to Information Act (http://persmin.gov.in/WriteReadData/RTI/RTI_rules_01122010-1.pdf) significantly. In the proposed amendment, the text of an RTI application will have to be limited to 250 words. Moreover, applicant will have to bear the cost of providing the information (cost of the paper, hiring of equipment, CDs or discs and even for searching through the records). We see it as another attempt by the GOI to dilute the RTI act which is on the path to becoming a potent tool in the hands of the common public. The argument is that public offices are having to provide large volumes of information to the public. In our view, if the public offices are pro-active in providing information, are courteous and helpful to people who seek information from them and are systematic in their record-keeping, they will not face RTI applications. Their failure to do all of these cannot be a logic for diluting the RTI act. Instead of watering down the RTI act and making it more restrictive, the government should ask every public office to submit a record of the cost they incurred towards responding to RTI applications every year. A high cost will indicate a high degree of public dissatisfaction to the functioning of that office. This petition will be sent to usrti-dopt@nic.in by 27th December 2010 (the Office Memo wants our comments by then) as the common person's response to the government's plan. It will be a way to tell them that we want a stronger RTI Act, not otherwise.

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