Resolutions passed at the Fourth National RTI Convention as below:
I. Workshop Theme: Proactive disclosure on Section 4
Resolutions: Implementation of Section 4 of RTI Act
- DoPT, GOI must accept and publish the Task Force Report and recommendations made within it and issue proper guidelines for ensuring voluntary disclosures and dissemination.
- Government should formulate templates, modules, audio-video presentations for voluntary disclosures, according to the recommendations of the task force. This can then be forwarded to the states.
- Voluntary disclosures should be made available at local levels and in the form that can be understood by common citizen. Government must ensure that Information as per manual 11, 12, 13 of 4(1) b of RTI act, must be painted on the walls of the public authorities at village level in next 6 months. Specifically, at Panchayat, Primary Health Centers, Anganwadis, Schools and PDS shops.
- Having MNREGA MIS available in the public domain has lead to transparency and accountability. Central government should have pre-conditions of disclosures of information in other programmes like NRHM NRLM, SSA, Housing and Social Security Schemes.
- Non-compliance of voluntary disclosures is denial of information and therefore violation of RTI Act. As per section 25(1) of RTI act, Information Commission should ensure implementation of provisions of RTI Act. Thus State and Central Information Commissions should issue letters to the Public Authorities to ensure compliance. Punitive actions should be taken for violations, non-compliance.
- Some of the best practices across country for voluntary disclosures like paining land records (PAHANI) on the wall in the village in Warangal district of AP, or disclosures of waiting list of Indira Awas, beneficiaries under JSY, and RGVVY, MGNREGA in Rajasthan, PDS information on Walls in Panchmahals in Gujarat, or use of IT in Chhattisgarh about PDS quota released to the FP shop dealers etc need to documented and replicated. Information dissemination need to be linked with use of IT like mobile, SMS, local and print media in addition to wall paintings.
- As per section 4(1)c call for the public consultations while formulating important policies and also there should be announcement of such policies on regular basis. However many of the public authorities and commissions perceive that “Public consultation is not necessary”, which eliminates opportunity for people’s participation in policy making. Task force on RTI has given detailed recommendation on implementation of this provision. Government should implement it without further delay.
- Section 4(1) d calls for government to give reasons for administrative and procedural decisions. It is not observed by any public authority. Like road widening, Deviation of CPR, Government land to private companies, Land acquisition for SIR, SEZ and mega projects, issuing mining leases to MNCs etc. Implementation of 4(1) d will lead to accountability of actions, and transparency in decisions. Government should issue mandatory directions to the public authorities for implementing this provision in letter and spirit.
- Government use print and electronic media for advertisement which do not furnish concrete information most of the times. As per provisions of RTI act, government must do wider dissemination of information. Thus Information dissemination about public funds, programmes should be done by use of print, electronic media, radio, TV, other modes of information dissemination
- As per section 4(1) a indexing and cataloging is compulsory every State and central Government must ensure indexing and categorized all records, computerized in a specify time frame.
II. Workshop Theme: Information Commission
Need to address these issue areas regarding staff and officer of the Commission:
- Requirement of junior staff in Commission.
- Training of officer and staff of the Commission.
- Standard norms for receipts, register and pendency under section 4 (1) (b).
- Appointment of grievance redressal officer and vigilance officer in the Commission.
- Rotation of the staff of the Commission.
- Time limit for sending decision and uploading them in website after the decision is announced.
- There should be priority hearing for senior citizens, physically challenged and in matters of larger public interest.
- Commissions should be given the power to appoint staff and officers.
- Transparency in functioning of the commission –
- Transparency in office processes.
- Transparency in listing of cases.
- Transparency in cause list/list of hearings.
10. Disposal rates –
- Working hours of the Commissioner
- No. of cases heard per day
- No. of days hearing take place
11. Appointment of Commissioner –
- Before any appointment study of the pendency of cases in the Commission there should be advertisment for filling up of post.
- Formation of panels.
- Transparency in shortlist and meeting of the selection Committee.
- Role of Governor – whether proper methods can be devised for governor to make a decision – utilise his constitutional authority.
- inviting objection from public.
- background check by intelligence agency and police.
12. Problems faced by applicants –
- proper interpretation of section 18 of the RTI.
- show cause notice, penalty
- Frequent meetings between appellants/activists/commissioners for mental understandings.
- presence of applicants in the case of penal proceedings.
Resolution is to resolve all these issues currently faced by applicants.
It was felt by group that if the latest Supreme Court judgement is implemented in total then
- RTI Act will lose common man flavour.
- The process will become legalistic.
- New commissioners will replicate old bureaucratic habits.
So these issues need to be resolved.
III. Workshop Theme: BASIC SERVICES
1. There needs to be complete transparency in the delivery of basic services and entitlements. Transparency is required in terms of:-
• Rights and entitlements of people in terms of basic services.
• Criteria for deciding beneficiaries.
• Rights of beneficiaries – scale, frequency, etc.
• List of documents maintained by the public authority.
• Grievance redressal mechanism of the public authority including competent authority, time-frame, penalties.
• Information should be demystified and easy to understand.
2. Transparency has to be ensured through various means including through:
• Wall painting
• Boards – Reading out records at collective gatherings – ward/gram sabha.
Disclosure only through websites violates the spirit and letter of section 4 of the RTI Act.
3. Complete transparency in deciding criteria for choosing beneficiaries is required. Further, the criteria must be decided in a participatory manner to ensure that the criteria reflects ground realities.
4. Technology is important to improve transparency in basic services. However, technology should not violate people’s right to privacy of people should not become a means to deny people their rights. Technology should be people friendly, accessible and used in a relevant manner which enables people to access their basic services.
5. To move from transparency towards accountability in a basic services, we immediately need:
• A time-bound, effective and transparent Grievance Redressal mechanism which goes down to the panchayat and ward level.
• Right to hearing for individual and collective complaints related to basic services.
6. On a designated day in each week, all public authorities should open all documents for inspection. Grievances or problems arising from these inspections should be resolved on the spot.
7. Ensure basic services for nomadic tribes and migrants. Access to services should not be linked to having a permanent residence.
8. If a number of people complain about a service, then a mandatory audit should be instituted. This should include the complainants and beneficiaries to make it effective.
9. RTI and other transparency and accountability legislations should mandatorily apply to any private entity (CSR + charitable trusts) & PPPs which provide basic services.
10. To tackle the issue of threats and intimidation of people seeking information on basic services. The following are necessary:
• If an applicant is threatened, then the information sought by that person should be immediately made public via websites, boards, etc.
• Strengthen implementation section 4.
• Ensure immediate action against officials who intimidate/threaten applicants action by Police + Dept.
11. Large-scale corruption in basic services i sbeing used as a justification to bring in UID. We firmly believe that corruption can only be addressed by ensuring transparency and accountability towards people.
IV. Workshop Theme: What after RTI? Lokpal, Grievance Redressal and Whistleblower Protection
1. A strong and effective Lokpal/Lokayukta Bill is necessary with special focus on time bound disposal of investigation.
2. Lokpal/Lokayukta should be independent from government
3. Effective police reforms are necessary, with special focus on implementing supreme court guidelines
4. Lokpal/Lokayukta must not have concentrated powers of investigation against all three branches of government (legislative, judiciary, executive). There is a need for separate laws, mechanisms and bodies
5. Lokpal/Lokayukta must be transparent, accountable, people-friendly
6. Lokayukta at the state level must follow the same model as the Lokpal at the centre
7. Proper judicial standards are necessary and there is a need for an independent body to examine judicial corruption
8. A law for a proper grievance redressal mechanism is necessary which would be decentralized, effective and time bound. There must be independent grievance redress authorities at the district and state level. Each department must put in place a well publicized citizen strata and statement of obligations. There must be adequate powers of penalties and compensation and all such penalties must be recorded in the ACR.
9. There is a need for public audit and participation as well as the Right to Hearing
10. A strong and effective law on whistleblower protection must be passed immediately by parliament
11. If the Information Commission is notified that an RTI applicant is threatened, then the information that the applicant had sought must immediately be released by the IC into the public domain
12. If any RTI applicant faces threat of physical violence, the police must promptly take down their complaint, and take preventive action for the protection of the concerned application
13. The NCPRI must form a coalition of people who will stand together for the cause of Whistleblower Protection.
V. Workshop Theme: Electoral Transparency
• The Income Tax Department, Election Commission and the Political Parties must ensure that the annual reports about the finances of political parties along with source of funds, list of donors and the use of such funds.
• There must be full compliance with the Supreme Court’s order about declaration of the market value of the assets as on the date of declaration disclosed in the electoral affidavits of candidates.
• EC must set aside the election of candidates who have made false declarations of electoral expenses. Electoral candidates must be held criminally liable for submitting false declarations of their assets and liabilities. People must collect documentary evidence of electoral expenses incurred by candidates to verify their claims.
• Candidates who bribe voters during elections must be disqualified.
• Election Observers’ reports must be shared with the public. People may seek this information through RTI.
• Electoral laws must be amended to include all expenses incurred on behalf of a candidate by third parties in the total campaign expenditure of a candidate like in the UK (with the written consent of the candidate). State funding of election expenses must be seriously considered.
• Candidates who pay the media for new coverage must be disqualified and the appropriate mechanisms must be used to hold media persons accountable for paid news.
• RTI activists should through a campaign educate people not to vote for candidates who bribe voters.
• Many MPs do not file asset returns to the Chair of the House. This must become regular practice and the declarations must be made public along with source(s) of income.
VI. Workshop Theme: RTI and Public Private Partnership
1. All PPP projects and entities running them should be covered by RTI and audited by the C&AG.
2. Wherever public resources are transferred to a private entity or where public services are provided by a private entity, all related information must be available under RTI.
3. All information about proposals and decisions of privatization must be disclosed proactively under section 4 (1) C and D of RTI Act. Any change in the original PPP/ privatization contract/agreement must also be subject to full disclosure under RTI.
4. Basic services must not be privatized without obtaining informed consent of people through effective process of consultation.
5. Criminal and financial liability of the private/PPP entity should be fixed for violating the terms of the original contract/agreement.
6. All information about foreign loans and Free Trade Agreements and international treaties must be proactively disclosed at all stages.
7. All PPPs, trade agreements, foreign loans and international treaties must be assessed for their overall impact before signing/accepting, during implementation and at the end through a social audit process.
VII. Workshop Theme: Human rights in Conflict areas
1. In conflicted areas, the functioning of public institutions must be strengthened. Poor governance is primarily because such institutions have been destroyed by the wrong choice of functionaries
2. The term ‘national interest’ must be demystified and clearly defined in the RTI act. This term has been misused to deny information in many cases where human rights have been violated in conflicted areas.
3. The North East, J&K and other disturbed areas in India receive additional grants and funds (such as the BRGF) from time to time. It is unknown how these funds are utilized. There is a great danger that these funds are being utilized to strengthen policing mechanisms and anti-people activities. We therefore demand that this information be immediately put into public domain.
4. RTI applications often do not get registered at all in conflicted areas. Information Commissions are non-functional. This must be immediately rectified.
5. The immunity enjoyed by the armed forces and other law enforcing agencies from RTI must be brought to an end.
6. The appeal structure must be shortened at once where the RTI application concerns the life and liberty of an individual.
7. Misinformation is commonly observed in conflicted areas especially as the voices of the people are not heard, and only one side of the story is reported. Who sponsors advertisements and who owns media houses in conflicted areas must be disclosed
8. Information Commissions should compulsorily attend public hearings, and be proactive with information related to the subject
9. In disturbed areas, massive numbers of people are picked up for interrogation or simply go missing. Government must proactively put up information on number of jails, details of prisoners, time since when jailed, name of the village he/she belongs to. Often it has been found that the state is not even aware of who the prisoners are. This situation needs urgent correction.
10. When arrests are made or persons are taken into custody for interrogation, the relatives of such persons must compulsorily be informed.
11. Details of mineral wealth in tribal belts must be made publicly available.
12. Fact finding teams should be constituted in conflicted areas so that correct information is disseminated from these areas.
13. Reports of inquiry committees set up from time to time to look into human rights violations must be published and be made available at once
14. The state of women is particularly adverse in conflicted areas. Their exact suffering is often not fully known or understood. Fact finding committees must be constituted to study their state and to evolve measures to end their suffering.
VIII. Workshop Theme: RTI, agriculture and natural resources
1. To train marginal farmers and other marginalized communities to file RTIs to get information on
a. field trials of GM crops
b. biosafety data related to GM crops
c. subsidies given – how much and to whom
d. finding out buyers and sellers of banned agrochemicals in the country
e. diversion of irrigation water for non-agricultural purposes
2. stopping legislations that override RTI
3. lobbying for issual of annual data on homelessness and landlessness into the public domain by the Commissioner of Land Records
4. Advocacy for a transparent and accountable regulatory mechanism for GMOs through public consultation
IX. Workshop Theme: Social Audit
1. Social audits must be extended to every sphere of government expenditure both rural and urban.
2. The social audit agency must be independent of any department yet carry the authority of government like the audit department and CAG.
3. The department of rural development complete the process of strengthening and making effective the rural development social audit unit but also suggest that broad-based group to mentor the process.
X. Resolutions: Media and the RTI
1. The rapid growth of the media in the last two decades of liberalisation and globalisation has been driven mainly by advertising which caters to upper income strata. Socially and economically disadvantaged are increasingly being left out of the media dialogue.
2. The media industry is not subject to any statutory rules of disclosure despite its influence over daily lives. Concentration in the media industry has been growing.
3. There has been no credible policy intervention to regulate the media in the public interest. Cross-media ownership norms have been proposed at various times to check media monopolies. These have never been enforced.
4. “Paid news” and other such abuses have contributed to a growing crisis of credibility of the media.
5. Methods of enforcing public accountability on the media industry need to be explored, which are not coercive and which do not threaten article 19 guarantees of the Constitution on freedom of expression.
6. Media regulation needs to target greater inclusion and the possibility of giving voice to the socially and economically disadvantaged as a priority.
7. The value of information lies in its circulation. The right to information remains incomplete unless the right to communicate and the right to be heard are also recognised as a basic entitlement of all.
8. This is part of the process of ensuring that transparency is transformed into accountability.
9. Reclaiming the air-waves: The clear mandate of the Supreme Court judgments in the airwaves judgment of 1995 and the 2G judgment of 2012 should be implemented.
10. Policy should be based on the social value of the spectrum rather than the market determined value.
11. Low cost access to the broadcast and communications spectrum will enable low-cost methods of bridging the digital divide.
12. The free to air analogue terrestrial television spectrum which is highly under-utilised at this time should be opened up to community use. There is a 2005 recommendation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to this effect.
13. Liberalisation of community radio policy: the prohibition on news and current affairs broadcasts through community radio should be lifted. CR licences should be granted with process of licensing should be transparent and
14. Conversion of state-owned media into public service institutions, with decentralised and autonomous management structures.
15. Until a judicial ruling on the issue, there be an embargo on use of section 66A of the IT Act which provides sweeping powers to the State to block internet content and apprehend individual users.
16. Media governments should be required to appoint ombudsmen that would address public grievances.
17. Existing media regulatory bodies, such as the Press Council of India, should have their mandates reviewed to reflect the changed media landscape. Procedures for constituting these bodies should be made more transparent and representative of the public interest.
XI. Workshop theme: RTI & CHILDREN
1. We demand that Information regarding our rights under the RTI itself be made known to aall children of India in regional languages and through child friendly media. We demand that the RTI filing process and information about the RTI itself be included into the mainstream syllabi/curriculum latest by the start of the academic years beginning in 2014.
2. While we would ideally like to access information directly from the public authorities by our own accord, but we seek systems and facility within our schools as it may help the process particularly when access to the RTI is difficult for children.
3. We would like our school syllabus to include information regarding all our rights our entitlements and the respective relevant public authorities responsible for delivering and protecting these rights.
4. We demand that children applying for information under the RTI Act which is related to our rights and our experiences be taken as seriously as that of any other citizen of India and children’s RTI application fee be exempt.
XII. Workshop theme: UID, Privacy and Security Agencies
The issues identified include:
- UID is a threat to privacy, civil liberties, federalism, national security, sovereignty and Constitution.
- It is without democratic, parliamentary, legal and constitutional sanction
- It facilitates emergence of a Database, Surveillance State and Property based Democracy
- It is anti-poor and anti-citizen as it dismantles Public Distribution System and other existing social security entitlements like PF.
- It promotes outsourcing of governance by making voluntary UID mandatory.
- It is fraught with dangers of genocide and communal crisis.
- It is guided by undemocratic international financial institutions and defence policies of other nuclear weapon holding countries.
- The collection of biometric data is an act violation of human rights and turns citizens into subjects and treats them worse than prisoners.
- There is an imminent danger from biometric technology companies indiscriminately collecting biometric data like finger print, iris scan, voiceprint and DNA profile.
- It compromises citizens’ rights of present and future generations.
- It is a boondoggle, an unnecessary and wasteful project for citizens as it transfers public money to private parties as private companies with public purpose and with profit making as the motive but not profit maximising.
We demand immediate audit of the activities of the UID Authority of India since January 2009 till date;
We recommend to all the State governments, government departments and voluntary organisations to boycott the UID related projects with immediate effect.
XIII. Workshop theme: RTI and Youth
- Rights-based legislation curriculum should be introduced through a consultative process at the school and college level.
- In every state, NCPRI and affiliated civil society members should file RTI’s to see the allocation and expenditure for RTI community outreach.
- There should be an indexed RTI portal of information gathered through RTI. This could be an offshoot of the current RTI homepage or the NCPRI website or independent.
- Encourage other states to introduce and participate in social audits in their particular community and state
- Trainings and awareness program to youth cells in political parties, universities, Vishwa Yuvak Kendra’s and other social movements
- We urgently need a youth-wing within NCPRI to acknowledge, assess and evaluate youth issues from a RTI perspective
- Connect various RTI legal cells, with human-rights initiatives and movements to ensure safeguards for wrongly-convicted activists
- Forming collectives around themes, for examples – education, police atrocities, to address both transparency and grievance redressal issues
- Using the power of social media and online forums to connect people such as RTI warriors
XIV. Workshop theme: Local Andhra issues
- Need to find a lawyer (individual or group) who can take up the UFRTI cases on RTI issues in High Court of Andhra Pradesh
- Endowment Department Memo : All the RTI activists have decided to write letter to Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh , requesting her to clarify on this issue and ensure the Memo is only with respect to a particular temple.
- As per the G.O Review meeting’s should be held by District SP and Collector once in a month if there are attack cases on RTI activist. Now RTI activist have decided to file RTi in their respective districts to find the number of Such meetings held and MOM copies.
- Public Interests 2nd Appeal should be taken on top priority by the AP Information Commission. All the RTI activists have decided to write letter to AP CIC Mr. Janat Hussain on this proposal.
- All the RTI activists wanted to make them part of the First Appeal hearings, for which we decided to make a point in our first appeal and request the Apellate Authority to allow us during the First Appeal hearing
- Regarding 4(1)(b) : We decided to focus on the 4(1)(b) on the departments/Govt.Office which are closely connected and accessible to common people. So the RTI activist will focus on them to ensure they are implemented.
- Awareness of RTI act : Through Videos, Posters and choosing innovative methonds
- PIO Boards : All the RTI activists will paint the boards with the permission of the PIO wherever the boards are not put up with our own money. Even if required we will take them in printed flex posters.
- Wherever Public Interest exists, the RTI activists and RTI applicants need to mention the need of the public interest in the RTI application itself.
XV. Workshop theme: RTI and discrimination – Women, Dalits and minority
- It was strongly felt that issues relating to the marginalised, the discriminated must be looked upon as urgent and falling in the right to life and liberty category, therefore this dimension had to be built into our discourse on RTI and the marginalised. It was also suggested that for full citizenship of these communities the use of RTI was an important tool as through it they could legitimately ask information of the system on which they were at the margins. This law is more empowering for this group which in any case has been denied the right to ask questions.
- The NCPRI must urgently hold TOT on how to use the RTI Act for women, dalits, members of the minority community, disabled persons, Tribals and those who work with them on issues relating to violence against women/dalits ets, security issues, health, use of public funds which are in the name of the vulnerable and marginalised communities.
- Kavita, Falguni, Kuldeep, Rukmani, Ankita, Asha, Jyoti, Samta, Annie offered to initiate this process for the NCPRI.
- On priority the training modules and manuals should be prepared in order to make all dimensions of the criminal justice system ( which includes the police, the judiciary, the legal services authority, the police, civil and judicial administration) transparent and in order to facilitate people to seek information from them. I
- All Police Stations, Educational Institutions, Railways, Transport facilities Medical Institutions, All obssrvation and homes run by the Government for women, children, juvenile delinquents, jails must have painted on their walls. information about who they can complain to incase they have a complaint, names of members of the sexual harassment committees, as well as who the PIOs so that they can file RTIs.
- In conflict areas there is a complete denial of information of those arrested, those killed in encounters, regarding the status of the cases of the people among other things, which puts at risk the lives of a large number women and dalits and tribals in areas where there is conflict with Maoists and in Kashmir and north east. There has to be a special focus of the NCPRI in these areas so that the Government is not allowed to get away with opaqueness regarding the life and liberty of people and are at risk.
- Since there was some kind of risk involved in particular for women, dalits, tribals when they file RTIs it was felt that collectives should be promoted so that they can support each other when they pressurised to withdraw. Similarly it was felt that RTI users must also learn how to carry out sting operations as they are often threatened or tempted with bribes.
- It was also strongly felt that Commissions should travel to districts and further to blocks, especially where the appeals are of the disabled, women, tribals and dalits. As this community of RTI users cannot reach the state level for the various hearings of the commissions. Also it was f elt that TA should be provided to this community if they have to reach the State level for hearings, otherwise they may never be able to pursue their appeals.
- Under proactive disclosure there should be special effort made by the Government to publicise all schemes for the development and welfare of dalits, tribals, minorities, disabled and women. These schemes should be painted on all walls of the Government buildings, panchayats, schools as well as publicised through the newspapers, Radio, TV and the web.
- A suggestion was made that after we return from Hyderabad we must file with the concerned PIOs regarding information related to all schemes for women, dalits, tribals, minorites and the disabled.
- RTIs should also be filed regarding knowing what are the schemes for the safe guard sn security of women in all public places. Boards should be painted in all public places disclosing the safeguard mechanism for women, as well as regarding who to complain to, helpline numbers.
- It was felt that applications must be filed with the Chief Secretary at the state level and the collector at the District level, so that the application can be sent to all the concerned authorities by these two.
- It was also felt that increasingly a large number of children inparticular “girl” babies were being abandoned outside fondling homes, there was a fear that these girls could well be sold, if there was no transparency on what was happening in these homes and there was no public disclosure of the costs incurred on these children.
- Impunity of the PIOs and other authorities with regard to denial, delay and inaccuracy of information. It was felt that information regarding the security of women, dalits, tribals must be treated as a life and liberty issue and therefore any flouting of norms should be treated strictly. Commissions need to be shown this dimension when appeals are heard by them.
- It was also felt that it was not merely information that had to be sought but how to use the information to make that section accountable so that the situation can change. Thus it was important to hold workshops on use of information to bring in accountability.
- The website of the NCPRI must have a section on resources addressing some of these issues.