If you have a grievance with a government department or ministry, here is how to file a complaint which does not require much effort skill and can be effective too
As an early adopter and practitioner of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, I have watched with some dismay as it became diluted and more complicated over the last few years. In addition, with the passage of time, there have been many issues which have diluted its efficacy, or made it difficult for the applicant to get the sought information. Why do people file for information? To seek information and find a resolution to some form of injustice or non-delivery of service from a government office. The RTI experience has been soured by the following factors:
• Many amendments and rules that have been made which make matters even more complicated
• The amount of paperwork and filing that a typical RTI application is required
• The great difficulty in many cases to simply pay the Rs10 as RTI fee to the Public Information Officers (PIOs) or Public Authority
• The large number of ‘internal’ RTI applications clogging up the pipeline and diverting resources away from the general public
• The chances that, in many cases, the outcome of decisions at Information Commissions will and up in courts
• The not so subtle way in which selection of Information Commissioners is done to possibly skew matters in certain directions
• Effort required to make small payments for photo-copying charges, when postage for that is often higher
• Antipathy and aggressiveness that RTI applicants face if they meet up directly with the PIOs and Appellate Authorities (AAs)
• Wide disparity in the way the states have taken forward their responsibilities in implementing the RTI Act
• The way a whole lot of professional RTI ‘consultants’ have jumped into the fray, often on a “for profit” basis
• More importantly, when you do get the information, what do you do with it?
By contrast, the Public Grievances Portal (it can be accessed here: http://pgportal.gov.in/), or the Grievance Redress Mechanism, covering both central and state government entities, appears to be promising and in many cases better. The best part about this is that there is no application fee or subsequent fee involved, and the complete process can be kept paperless, using internet, email and SMS. Of course, if people want to go the hard copy route, then there is provision for that too.
The basic premise with the Grievance Redress Mechanism is that it addresses the very question of—what next, after you have obtained the information? And then gives you an answer as well as a solution. Also, it works for both central and state government grievances, again, without any costs involved. Of course, if you are not satisfied with the way your grievance is handled, then you can certainly file another grievance with the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances citing the reasons for your dissatisfaction. This is explained in fairly simple terms as well as in great detail if required, in this booklet available in Hindi and English.
You can download the booklet by clicking here.
It appears to have actually taken into account without mincing any words that there are government departments which, by definition, are problem areas because of their dealings with the public. Since their very existence depends on dealing with the public, these interactions can not be wished away and hence have to be made accountable.
Do give it a go, preferably online, and chances are that you will be pleasantly surprised by the results achieved.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)