Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) and city-based RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi has said that his campaign, 'RTI Bachao' (Save RTI), has borne fruit as some civic bodies have responded positively and started putting the RTI information on their websites.
Miffed with rise in instances of denial of information under the Right to Information Act, Gandhi had held a meeting with fellow RTI activists from Mumbai, neighbouring Navi Mumbai and Thane on February 7, and launched the campaign.
One of the demands made by the activists who took part in the meeting was that all RTI queries and the replies to them should be made public by posting them on government websites.
The meeting was held against the backdrop of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation commissioner Ajoy Mehta's reported remarks that some RTI activists indulged in blackmail and extortion, and the BMC's blacklisting of an NGO.
"These developments were very shocking and we thought we must keep the soul of RTI alive and so we were forced to launch the RTI Bachao campaign. We want due respect for RTI users, and want RTI queries and responses displayed on the (government) website. Our plan was to get this done by contacting elected representatives and convincing them. And this experiment appears to be working," Gandhi said.
The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation has agreed to display the information sought under the RTI on its portal and so has the Thane Municipal Corporation. Thane Police Commissioner's office has sent a letter to all officers, asking them to deal with RTI users politely and with respect, he said.
"Now we aim to spread this campaign to other municipal bodies in Maharashtra," Gandhi told PTI.
Calling RTI activists blackmailers was in no way acceptable, he said.
"Municipal corporations and other government bodies must display all RTI requests and responses on their websites. This is a requirement of Section 4 of the RTI Act, which has been reiterated by a Department of Personnel and Training and a state government's resolution (GR). This will lead to better compliance and less corruption. In case there is collusive corruption (where information is sought with ulterior motive), putting the information on the website will stop it," Gandhi said.