The Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (IIJNM) organised a Right To Information (RTI) workshop, ‘State of the RTI’, on 14th August, at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore.
Guest speaker, Dr Shekhar Singh of the National Coalition for People’s Right to Information talked about safeguarding RTI and described how the law was drafted to catch corrupt officials in government departments. He presented the findings of a recent, nationwide survey conducted by his group. The survey tested the knowledge and use of the RTI by more than 35,000 citizens across 10 states. The survey found out that more than 800 RTI requests were filed to determine government responsiveness. Singh also added that students should make use of the RTI.
Several panelists discussed the state of the RTI. Virupakshaiah, Commissioner, Karnataka Information Commission, whose responsibility is to handle citizen’s RTI appeals and complaints, pointed out that the state has only three Information Commissioners.
“With the number of cases pending in the files, we need more infrastructure and more people to handle it,” he added. He said that almost 6000 cases were still pending. The BBMP and the BDA had the maximum cases filed against them.
Parvathi Menon, Bureau chief of The Hindu, Bangalore, talked about the role of media in the context of spreading RTI awareness.
"The media today needs to change its mindset,” she said, adding that daily deadline pressures left little space for long-format investigative stories.
Y G Murlidharan, Consumer Advocate, Director, Consumer Rights Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT) shed some light on the efforts of bringing about some transparency at the village-level by two model villages.
Pointing out to the statistics that showed how the english language media was more active in propagating RTI then the vernacular media, another panelist, historian Theodore Bhaskaran, mentioned it took two years to get the Tamil version of the RTI act.
"One has to fight for their right to get information at every step, you just can’t give up at any point", asserted Jayashree JN, Founder of "Fight Corruption Now", who made use of RTI to root out corrupt officials in the administrative offices.
Students from various colleges in the city also attended the seminar.
IIJNM alumni who had produced investigative stories using the RTI talked about their experiences of using the Act. The seminar was moderated by IIJNM Visiting Professor and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Ralph Frammolino.