MUMBAI, 6th OCTOBER ’09:
Leading activist Aruna Roy expressed disgust at rampant appointment of bureaucrats as State and Central Information Commissioners (SICs and CICs) through non-transparent procedures. “It violates the principle of checks-and-balances. It is like staffing Human Rights Commission with former CBI officers!” she said. “We must agitate to ensure that no more than one-fifth of Information Commissioners are former civil servants. Also, selection procedures must be made transparent. Secondly, we must ensure stringent Section 4 implementation by every public authority. And thirdly, we must fight for substantial budget allocations for training PIOs. Please start organizing a mass agitation now,” she urged.
At an afternoon round-table meeting organized by Narayan Varma of BCAS Foundation and Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, Aruna Roy interacted with prominent Right-to-Information (RTI) activists of Mumbai on various issues.
“I meet RTI activists in every town I visit. The country has over 10 lakh RTI users and activists… but they are feeling fractured and disenchanted with Right to Information. They are not feeling united and empowered,” remarked Aruna Roy, who was in Mumbai yesterday to receive the Nani Palkhiwala Award for her work towards preserving civil liberties.
“The original forces behind the RTI Act are no longer acting in concert. RTI is truly a People’s Act – the hard-earned fruit of many agitations from 1994 to 1997, and intellectual inputs from diverse kinds of professionals, including journalists, former judges, legal brains and bureaucrats. But, after the Act was passed, we all drifted apart and followed our own individual paths,” she lamented. It was urgent to re-ignite the passion in RTI activists nationwide, including stalwarts and founding-fathers of RTI. For this, a convention lasting many days was being planned in Hyderabad towards end-November, she said.
“Every political party is doing things that the common people are opposed to, such as establishing SEZs. It is necessary to oppose those things by various means, including agitating on the streets. To make this a truly participatory democracy, we have to widen the scope of politics. We need people’s politics, and not just parliamentary politics. To build up public opinion on various issues, we need various levels of networking, from organizing street-corner meetings to setting up websites and email-forums,” she said. She urged activists to initiate and propagate such a national-level movement.
She appealed to citizens to send postcards in large numbers for protesting on public issues such as Supreme Court judges’ refusal to disclose their assets. “The postcards must ask: ‘In the land of Gandhi, how can you do this?’” she said.
Discussing the malpractice of courts indefinitely staying SIC/CIC orders against various public authorities and PIOs, Aruna Roy said, “We must move Information Commissions to appoint lawyers to have such Stay Orders vacated. For this, we may request retired judges and advocates to lend their services in public interest.”
Photos of meeting could be seen at http://www.box.net/shared/16qlhdg03v