Right to Information Act (RTI) came fully into force on 12 October 2005. Under this act, any citizen of India can request information from a public authority (a body of Government or instrumentality of state) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
Using RTI benefits community
The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information. In an attempt to create an awareness about the act, social activist, Natukula Srinivas Rao is organising many activities all over the Telugu states.Speaking with The Hans India, Natukula Srinivas Rao shared his role in spreading awareness on RTI.
“People are the leaders of our Indian constitution and they have all the right to know what’s happening in Government policies. Before finishing the Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar wrote a sentence ‘from now onwards, people will become owners’, but his words did not became a reality. RTI is a powerful act and one can question about the transparency of any government by filing an application. The law was enforced 12 years age, but even today, not many people are aware of its benefits or even existence,” said Srinivas Rao.
Explaining how he got involved in the RTI act for the first time, Srinivas Rao shares, “Before I turned a social activist, I was a businessman. In 2008, Kadapa police arrested me on a false case. At that time, I filed an RTI for the first time and succeeded to reveal the truth. After this incident, I came to know the power of this act and decided to spread awareness among people and in the process, did many activities through Ekalavya Foundation,”
He said that the Central and State governments are not spending money to create awareness among people about the law. Until today, Srinivas Rao encouraged people to file more than 1000 RTI files to seek information from various government departments.
“The Central and State governments are not recruiting enough CPIO’s (Central Public Information Officers) and PIO’s (Public Information Officers) for the public service. Governments are also not interested to reveal people about the importance of this law. Most of the time, people fear physical attacks if they file any RTI complaint against the government. There are strict guidelines by the law to give protection for the information seeker, but no government is following it,” he added.
Srinivas Rao opined that the protest on corruption must be organised by a group of people, not by individual. “In the history, we can observe that countless landmark movements were done by group of people and not just an individual. In a similar way, we need to strive with unity to protest corruption,” he shared.
He also informed that the ‘Whistle Blowers Protection Act-2011’ provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and protect anyone who exposes alleged wrong doing in government bodies, projects, and offices. Srinivas Rao toured all over the Telugu States and distributed pamphlets, stickers about the importance of the act.
“Even today, not many people know about their rights. If any private hospital is set up in rural areas, they must adopt two villages and provide them all kind of health-related services for free of cost for lifetime. In reality, it was not happening,” he informed.Through many RTI files, Srinivas Rao asked the State governments about the money spent for activities.
“Once, I asked AP government about where they spent money for public activities, but they said it dint come under the act. After my second appeal, the then Chief Information Commissioner, Jannat Hussain said that even CMO must answer for RTI queries,” he concluded.