Hindustan Times, February 18, 2008

By Veer Sain

IN RURAL Rajasthan, 60 percent of the ordinary citizens have heard of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, but only 15 percent have some sort of understanding about the clauses of the Act and were capable of filling an RTI application without help.

This was revealed by a survey conducted by a non-government organization, CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART). It also revealed that 80 percent of government officials are aware of the act, but only 35 percent knew about its provision.

For implementation of the RTI Act, a single window system which existed only in Bhilwara district, was an ideal model and could be replicated in other districts. Capacity of the information providers needed to be enhanced so that they could handle increasing number of applications.

The report further recommended that government departments needed to work proactively. The government needs to show a positive attitude towards information seekers and put in place an easy process for filling of application.

The survey was part of a project called “Combating Corruption in Rajasthan by Applying RTI Act as a Tool”, implemented in two divisions of Rajasthan, Jaipur and Ajmer in association with an organization Partnership with an organization Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF).

Results of the study were based on the data collected from two districts, one each from the two targets divisions, an official from CUTS CART said. He added that the results might not be applicable to entire state, but were estimates.

During the one-year observation period, against a target of 500 applications to be filed, total of 737 applications were actually submitted. Through these applications information regarding the schemes and programmes meant for the poor in the rural areas were sought.

Declining to comment on the results, Chief Information Commission of the state MD Korani said more awareness among general public and the government officials was required. The Additional Chief Secretary of the State Government, AK Pandey, however, said that the RTI Act had come ahead of time.