DoPT Offers Sops to State Information Commissions, ATIs To Promote RTI, but These Stakeholders Are Not Even Aware of the Generosity!
Suddenly, the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which is the nodal agency for the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI), is enthused about loosening its purse strings to propel state information commissioners (SICs) and administrative training centres (ATIs) to 'improve transparency and accountability in government through effective implementation of RTI Act' for the year FY22-23’. However, SICs and ATIs do not seem to be aware of this generosity!
 
The funding, by the DoPT includes per event: Rs3 lakh for the RTI week celebration to mark its seventh anniversary; Rs4 lakh for innovative programmes on creating awareness; Rs1 lakh for organising seminars and workshops; Rs2.5 lakh for publication of guide weeks; Rs4 lakh for ATIs to set up RTI helplines and Rs2 lakh per annum in the subsequent years; and per participant remuneration for the training of district resource persons (DRPs) and public information officers (PIOs).
 
Rahul Singh, an information commissioner, Madhya Pradesh, stated, tongue-in-cheek, "It is indeed an irony that there is no transparency in this endeavour to promote and propagate the transparency law! This is a disappointing approach as we get maximum RTIs pertaining to the panchayat public authorities and I have been writing to the Central Information Commission (CIC), as well as directing in my orders, that district authorities should conduct training programmes for PIOs as required under Section 19 of the RTI Act to sensitise PIOs. However, the response to this order or appeal has been poor. And now, when the DoPT has chalked out a comprehensive programme for awareness with funding, I am absolutely in the dark about this circular." 
 
The DoPT circular, by the way, is addressed to all SICs and ATCs. 
 
Rahul Pande, SIC of Nagpur and with an additional charge of Aurangabad, said, "I am not at all aware of this circular. However, as a part of sensitising government officers and staff about RTI, I have had a meeting of all collectors for a workshop after the Ganesh festival. So far, we have trained education officers, headmasters, block development officers, panchayat samiti officers and forest officers. I think it is a good move by the DoPT to fund such programmes; only this communication should have reached us."
 
Moneylife tried to get in touch with Sumit Mullick, state chief information commissioner of Maharashtra, through WhatsApp messages and phone calls, but till writing this article, there was no response from him. We will update this article as and when Mr Mullick responds. 
 
YASHADA, which is the prime ATC of Maharashtra, also did not respond despite a WhatsApp message and phone calls. We will update this article as and when we receive a response from the institute.  
 
What is the use of good intention, if there is no communication, is the moot point. Agree?
 
The following is the text of the elaborate circular of DoPT floated recently: 
 
1. Awareness Generation for RTI:
 
Both Central and State Governments are obligated to create awareness about the provisions of the Act. Financial assistance under this component will be provided to supplant these efforts of State Governments:-
 
1. RTI Week Celebration: RT! Week is celebrated every year during 5th - 12'h October. SICs will be provided financial assistance of up to Rs3.00 lakh each based on their proposal, for taking up various activities which may include conducting workshops, seminars, press-meets, competition in colleges on RTI related themes, etc. Although expensive publicity through print/electronic media will not be supported. Funds may be used for displaying hoarding, etc. for publicising the RTI Act.
 
11. Innovative Awareness Generation Programmes: ATIs will be provided up to Rs4.00 lakh each, based on their proposals, for innovative awareness generation activities which may include nukkad-nataks, use of local folk troupes, development of publicity material in local languages, distance learning programmes, online certificate courses in regional languages, etc. for awareness generation regarding RTL
 
111. Organisation of Workshops/Seminars: ATIs will be provided a sum of Rs. 1.00 lakh per workshop / seminar organised on RT! related themes such as best practices and success stories on RTI, suo-motu disclosure, etc. On the basis of a proposal. The workshop may include Public Authorities of State/Centre, media persons, Civil Society Organisations, etc.
 
1v.  Publication of guidebooks: ATIs will be provided funds for getting guidebooks published in regional languages. Amount fixed (2.5 lakh) rate Rs250 per book maximum Rs1,000
 
v.    Help Line in ATIs: ATIs may set up help line for answering queries of the general public regarding RTI Act in the respective regional language. Funds would be granted to ATIs based on their respective proposal subject to a maximum ceiling of Rs4,00,000 per annum in the first year or actual whichever which would include rental charges for a telephone line, computer system for data storage, salary for the person manning the helpline and stationery, etc. The grants for the subsequent years would be restricted to Rs2,00,000 per annum. Head-wise breakup limited only for maintenance purpose Such help lines could be set up in collaboration with NGOs working in the field of RTL Helpline staff maximum 4 is admirable. Salary head 50000
 
2. Support for Capacity, building - Training of SPIOs/CPIOs and First Appellate Authority (FAA).
 
State ATIs will be supported for undertaking training of SPIOs/CPIOs and AAs in a cascade model. In the first instance, ATIs will train District Resource Persons (DRPs) who will in tum train SPIOs/CPIOs and AAs in the districts.
 
(i) Training of DRPs: This training will be organised at the ATIs. It is planned that
 
3 DRPs per district will be trained in a year. Financial assistance will be provided for these trainings up to Rs. 2000 per participant per day for a residential course. The duration of the course should be of minimum 3 days and atleast 2 nights. Selection of DRPs will be made by ATIs.
 
(ii) Training of CPIOs/SPIOs, AAs and staff of State /Central Govt. Officers: These training programmes will be conducted at the district headquarters by the DRPs under the overall supervision of the ATIs. Each course will be non­ residential and will be of 2 days duration. Financial assistance up to Rs. 1000/­ per participant per day will be provided to ATIs based on a detailed proposal. This will cover all the incidental expenses involved in the training such as on refreshments for the participants, honorarium to DRPs, hiring of audio visual equipment and other contingencies. The training programmes must also include a segment on record management.
 
(iii) Training to Nodal Officers (RTI) of State Public Authorities: ATIs shall organise one day training programme regarding for atleast 25 RTI nodal officers of public authorities in each programme regarding the implementation of DoPT guidelines dated 21st November, 2013 and 07th November, 2019 on suo­ motu disclosures, particularly on implementation of templates for disclosures at various levels. Financial assistance up to Rs. 1000/- per participant per day will be provided to ATIs.
 
(iv) ATIs may avail an additional assistance of up to Rs. 3.00 lakh for preparation of training material and for meeting administrative contingencies based on their proposal and the training load.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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