Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Right-To-Information Act (India)

The Right-To-Information Act (RTIA) was put into place in India, October of 2005. This act has helped the people of India hold bureaucrats responsible for funds directed toward building new houses and other benefits for the public. India is one of many countries that have made the right to information available to its public. Of the many reasons for the RTIA, and the most crucial we see is for people to know how their government is spending the country’s money as well as funding from other countries.

The act encourages local action groups as well as individual people to file applications requesting information from government officials. One woman living in Banta, India was able to receive funding for a new house after her request was ignored for many years. The New York Times reports that “when she heard that a government program for the poor would give her about $700 to build that house, she applied immediately.” She watched as those who were wealthier received funding while she remained living in a hut. With the help of local activists, the woman was able to file a request to find out who received the grant money. Shortly after filing the request she received the funding she wanted.

Although this is not the magnitude of change that was hoped for from the activists who helped pass the Right-To-Information Act, many have benefitted from the act. The New York Times reports that “a more responsive bureaucracy is not necessarily less corrupt.” The bill, which was hoped by many to produce a socio-economic revolution and reduce corruption in India, is gaining widespread use. At least two million applications were filed in the act’s first two and a half years of being passed. Yet, at this time only an estimated fifteen percent of the country knows of the act’s existence and ninety percent of these applicants are men. The effects of the RTIA have reduced corruption on a smaller scale, but RTIA must reach many more people to have an impact on higher government corruption. The more acts like the RTIA that are passed, the more people will respect their government for passing good laws and gain the ability to make change in their countries.

-Rachel Ulrich

SOURCE: The New York Times, Freedom Info