While many activists have been lamenting the lack of seriousness about making Right to Information (RTI) effective, here is some good news for activists and those passionate about the extraordinary empowerment that this statute has provided.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has invited applications for field research on compliance of Section-4 by Public Authority, study of effectiveness of First Appeal Process and providing policy based on the contents of RTI applications and First Appeals. The idea is to understand the success or constraints of implementation of the RTI Act. Hopefully, this detailed research, which is done with the benefit of a government grant will help activists advocate improvement in the implementation of the act ver the long run.
The RTI Fellowship 2016 is open for researchers in the field of media, journalism, civil society organisations and RTI trainers. The last date of application is 8th of November and the age limits is 40 years. The fellowships are for the the duration of three months from 15th December, 2016 to 15th March, 2017.
This is not the first time that such fellowships have been offered. In 2011, RTI Fellows - Shobha S V, Shibani Ghosh, Sowmya Sivakumar and Nishikanta Mohapatra had submitted a detailed report in the level of awareness of the people on RTI in the rural areas. The study researched the achievements of the people through the use of RTI with a focus on how women have used RTI in rural and urban areas. Their study also covered the role of Information Commissions in implementation of the RTI Act. An important conclusion, from my point of view was this: `` The proper implementation of the RTI Act is dependent on several factors – training and generation of awareness about the Act and its ambit in government officials and amongst citizens; change in the mindset of the ‘information-holders’; increased suo moto disclosure of information; resources to respond to information requests in a timely fashion; strict action for violation of the provisions of the Act; protection for ‘whistleblowers’; efficiency and effectiveness of the appellate mechanisms provided under the Act.’’ Unfortunately, recent attacks on whistleblowers are proof that the findings have yet to be acted upon by the government.
Activists intersted in reading the detailed report can access it here
. This will also help potential applicants to understand what is required from fellows who are selected under the grant.
Expectations from the applicant:
The DoPT circular states: ``The proposal should clearly indicate the output that will be delivered at the end of the fellowship. It could be in the nature of a monograph of say 10,000 words which is ready for publication or features /news stories /investigative stories that could be printed / published as a journalistic piece in national / international media or in the case of professionals from the field of audio-video media, it could even be short video films or stories. The copyright of the research output will vest in Government of India who may publish the research output and /or may use it in any other way for the purpose of strengthening the working of the RTI regime in the country. GOI may, however, upon request, permit the Fellow to use the output for publication etc., if government itself does not publish / make use of the output within one year.The research fellow is expected to
Details of the four Fellowships:
Suggested Areas of Study and Research Output: RTI fellowships would be granted for researching any of following three themes relating to RTI with the objective of contributing towards better understanding of the successes of RTI and/ or constraints in its implementation and how implementation of the Act could be strengthened?
(I) Study of compliance of Section-4 by Public Authority (1 Fellowship to be awarded)
(II) Study of effectiveness of First Appeal Process (1 Fellowship to be awarded); and
(III) Providing policy addressing based on the contents of RTI applications/ft appeals (2 Fellowships to be awarded)
Each selected Fellow will receive a total stipend of Rs2.00 lakh (subject to tax deduction at source) including a grant of upto Rs50,000 for books, research material, travel, printing, production of creatives etc on production of actual bills. No other remuneration including stay/ accommodation will be admissible.
The applications may be submitted as per the guidelines for RTI fellowship, 2016 (copy enclosed) at the following address; Room No.281, Under Secretary (IR), DOPT, North Block, New Delhi-110001 3. The last date for receiving fellowship applications is 7thNovember, 2016. Applications received upto 5:30 PM, 7 th November, 2016 only will be considered. Five sets of the application with enclosures in the enclosed proforma may be sent by post to Under Secretary (IR), Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, North Block, New Delhi- 110001.
It will be good if meritorious candidates apply for this fellowship in order that the reality check of RTI Act is more comprehensive and credible.