The story of filing online RTI is only getting happier

After several weeks of disgust over political parties trying to slip out of the RTI Act, good news beckons for citizens in India and abroad who want to file RTI online

Do you want to seek information under Right to Information (RTI) about public distribution of grains or demand a copy of your answer sheet in your Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination or seek details about a water conservation project of a gram panchayat, at the click of the mouse? Now, the Department of Food Supplies and Distribution, UPSC and the Ministry of Panchayati Raj—in fact 37 ministries or departments of the central government—have opened up the facility to file RTI online (see PDF at end of this piece for the list of the 37 ministries/ departments). The circular issued by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, on 30 July 2013, had claimed that by August 2013, all ministries and central government departments would have the online RTI filing facility. But that is yet to materialise. Despite this convenience that will further strengthen and make the use of RTI easy, there has been no awareness of the programs by the government.
 

In order that the Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and Appellate Authorities (AA) who are the first contact points for RTI applicants, the circular recommended that, “It is again requested that training to all the CPIOs and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) may be provided by the concerned Ministry/ Department, through the officials trained by DoPT or National Informatics Centre (NIC). If required, further training can be provided by DoPT or NIC, on the request of the concerned Ministry/ Department. User name/ password to all the CPIOs and FAAs are to be provided by RTI Nodal Officers of the concerned Ministry/ Department. It is imperative that the RTI Nodal Officers update the details of CPIOs/ FAAs in the system and issue user name and password to them at the earliest.’’
 

As for Indians residing abroad, thanks to the persistent efforts of noted RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd.) since last five years, now 2,639 public authorities in Indian missions abroad, are open for online RTI applications along with fees via e-IPO. They cover various central government departments and ministries. Batra is also campaigning for availability of e-IPO facility for those residing in India too.
 

States Batra, “I sent 130 emails to Indian Missions  between 19th to 24th August by searching their email ids in this link. As on 24 August 2013; I found 37 of the total 125 Missions (30%) have indicated e-IPO information on their website. During this process, I noticed the poor quality of information posted on RTI links on websites of majority of Missions. While many others have done a good job, searching RTI link within the website of Missions is itself is a job. I feel all of them should display the RTI link on HOME page of each Mission's website.’’
 

Following is a sample of the emails Batra sent, reflecting his relentless efforts towards making use of RTI, cyber savvy. This one is to the deputy chief of mission, Vietnam and crisply contains the backdrop of his campaign and its fruition:
 

From: Lokesh Batra [email protected]

To: Vietnam- Deputy Chief of Mission ; HOC ; Counsellor [email protected]

Cc: "[email protected]"

Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 10:01 PM

Subject: Fm.Commodore Lokesh Batra: Creating awareness among ‘Indian Citizens’ abroad’ regarding facility of eIPO Payment of RTI Fee in FE, under RTI Act, 2005

 23 August 2013

 To,

The Central Public information Officers (CPIOs)

Indian Missions / Posts

 

 Sub: Creating awareness among ‘Indian Citizens’ abroad’ regarding facility of eIPO for Payment of RTI Fee in FE, under RTI Act, 2005

 

 Dear Madam/Sir,

 1. I am writing to draw your attention to the MOIA and MEA circular letters on the subject “Creating awareness among ‘Indian Citizens’ abroad’ regarding facility of eIPO for payment of RTI Fee in FE, under RTI Act, 2005”.

2. The details of two circular letters are as follow:

(a) MOIA circular letter F.NO.OI.11016/22/2013-FS dated 23 July 2013 and

(b) MEA circular letter No.RTI/558/01/2012 dated 02 August 2013.

3. The Government of India on 22 March 2013 had launched ‘Electronic Indian Postal Order’ (more known as e-IPO) to facilitate payment of RTI fee from abroad in FE by the Indian Citizens’ abroad.

4. Though it has been 05 months since the government facilitated e-IPO as mode of payment of RTI Fee by ‘Indian Citizens’ abroad’; I have not seen this information being disseminated on your mission’s website.

5. The website of Indian Embassy in Moscow has already included this information in their RTI link as below: http://www.indianembassy.ru/index.php/en/embassy/right-to-information  

6. I humbly request you to implement the directions contained in the MOIA and MEA circulars respectively, in letter and spirit. MOIA & MEA letters attached.

 

Yours’ Sincerely,

[Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd.)]

Social & RTI Activist

BringChangeNow

H-02, Sector-25, Jalvayu Vihar, Noida-201301, INDIA

 

Steered by Batra, hundreds of Indians living abroad had joined in his campaign. Unarguably, efforts for online RTI application and payment have been achieved single-handedly by Batra. For earlier stories, see these links:

2013 wakes up to online payment of RTI applications for Indians abroad

Near victory for Indians abroad for filing online RTI applications

 


 

SrNo

Mission

eIPO link

Remarks

1

Afghanistan

No

 

2

Algiers

No

 

3

Angola

No

 

4

Argentina

No

 

5

Armenia

No

 

6

Australia

No

 

7

Austria

No

 

8

Azerbaijan

Yes

(But no RTI Link)

9

Bahrain

No

 

10

Bangladesh

No

 

11

Belarus

No

 

12

Belgium

Yes

 

13

Bhutan

Yes

 

14

Botswana

 

No RTI Link seen

15

Brazil

No

 

16

Brunei Darussalam

No

 

17

Bulgaria

Yes

 

18

Cambodia

No

 

19

Canada

Yes

 

20

Chile

Yes

 

21

China

Yes

 

22

Colombia

Yes

 

23

Congo

No

 

24

Ivory Coast

No

No RTI Link seen

25

Croatia

Yes

 

26

Cuba

No

 

27

Cyprus

Yes

 

28

Czech Republic

Yes

 

29

Denmark

No

 

30

Egypt

 

Website not opening

31

Ethiopia

No

 

32

Fiji

No

 

33

Finland

 

RTI link: Blank

34

France

Yes

 

35

Germany

Yes

 

36

Ghana

No

eIPO info under announcement

37

Greece

No

 

38

Guatemala

No

 

39

Guyana

No

 

40

Hungary

No

No RTI Link seen

41

Iceland

Yes

 

42

Indonesia

No

 

43

Iran

No

 

44

Iraq

 

Web Site link not available

45

Ireland

Yes

 

46

Israel

 

Website not opening

47

Italy

No

 

48

Jamaica

No

 

49

Japan

Yes

 

50

Jordan

No

 

51

Kazakhstan

No

 

52

Kenya

No

 

53

Korea (DPR)

 

Web Site link not available

54

Korea (ROK) Seoul

No

 

55

Kuwait

Yes

 

56

Kyrgyzstan

No

 

57

Laos

Yes

 

58

Lebanon

No

 

59

Libya

No

 

60

Madagascar

 

RTI Link still under construction

61

Malaysia

Yes

 

62

Maldives

Yes

 

63

Mali

Yes

 

64

Mauritius

No

 

65

Mexico

No

 

66

Mongolia

No

 

67

Morocco

No

 

68

Mozambique

No

 

69

Myanmar

No

 

70

Namibia

No

 

71

Nepal

No

No RTI Link seen

72

Netherlands

No

 

73

New Zealand

Yes

 

74

Niger

 

RTI Link has no Info

75

Nigeria

No

 

76

Norway

No

 

77

Oman

Yes

 

78

Pakistan

No

 

79

Palestine

No

 

80

Panama

No

 

81

Papua New Guinea

No

 

82

Peru

No

 

83

Philippines

No

 

84

Poland

No

 

85

Portugal

No

 

86

Qatar

No

 

87

Romania

Yes

 

88

Russia

Yes

 

89

Saudi Arabia

Yes

 

90

Senegal

 

Website not opening

91

Serbia

Yes

 

92

Seychelles

No

 

93

Singapore

Yes

 

94

Slovak Republic

Yes

At the bottom of RTI Link

95

Slovenia

No

 

96

South Africa

No

 

97

South Sudan

 

Web Site link not available

98

Spain

Yes

 

99

Sri Lanka

Yes

 

100

Sudan

No

 

101

Suriname

No

 

102

Sweden

Yes

 

103

Switzerland

 

Website not opening

104

Syria

No

 

105

Tajikistan

No

 

106

Tanzania

No

 

107

Thailand

Yes

 

108

Trinidad & Tobago

No

 

109

Tunisia

Yes

 

110

Turkey

Yes

 

111

Turkmenistan

 

Web Site link not available

112

Uganda

No

 

113

Ukraine

No

 

114

United Arab Emirates

No

 

115

United Kingdom

Yes

 

116

United States of America

Yes

 

117

UN-PMI (CD) Geneva

No

 

118

UN-PMI (Geneva)

No

 

119

UN-PMI (New York)

No

 

120

Uzbekistan

No

 

121

Venezuela

No

 

122

Vietnam

No

 

123

Yemen

No

No RTI Link seen

124

Zambia

No

No RTI Link seen

125

Zimbabwe

No

No RTI Link seen (Only RTI Act Link available)

Compiled by: Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.)

 

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and 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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    User 

    COMMENTS

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    Thanks Vinita for this vital piece of information that will go to make RTI applications much more simpler for the common man.
    Sending the amendment to a Select Committee is just another way of putting it on the back burner - an exercise not to antagonize the educated voter who has been fed the info that RTI is a 'aam admi ke sath, congress ka hath' phenomenon!

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    Thanks Vinita for this vital piece of information that will go to make RTI applications much more simpler for the common man.
    Sending the amendment to a Select Committee is just another way of putting it on the back burner - an exercise not to antagonize the educated voter who has been fed the info that RTI is a 'aam admi ke sath, congress ka hath' phenomenon!

    1st step of citizen's victory in RTI battle: Politicians compelled to bow to public pressure

    Adamant until the last few days to quickly pass the RTI Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha, on Wednesday, political parties instead decided to send it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for further discussion and public consultation

    Hurrah to activists, citizens, the print, electronic and social media across the country, who by constantly hammering through petitions, protests, articles, tweets and Facebook postings, were able to disable the might of the political parties united-ly determined to slip out of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It almost seemed as if the voices of several young Parliamentarians, urging their senior leaders to be receptive to the sane voices of RTI activists and citizens, were to vanish in thin air.

     

    However, on 5th September, which is celebrated as Teacher’s Day, citizens taught a lesson to Parliamentarians in participative and pro-active democracy. The political class relented. Instead of passing the RTI Amendment Bill, which would have, very smoothly, put the political parties out of the RTI ambit, V Narayanaswamy, minister of state for personnel, who had introduced the bill for discussion in the Lok Sabha, said that the government has decided to refer the RTI [Amendment] Bill, 2013, to the standing committee of Parliament. He said that the Central Information Commission (CIC) decision of 3rd July, which had ordered that political parties are public authorities, needs elaborate study.

     

    This is the first step of citizen victory though it does not mean that the Standing Committee’s report will be pro-citizen. This means that the Amendment Bill will be open to discussions and scrutiny not only by the political class but by the citizenry as well.

     

    Noted RTI activist Maj Gen SCN Jatar (retd) states sceptically, “I hope the referral to the Standing Committee is not just a delaying tactic. I hope the Committee rejects the amendment. Even if it does, the government is not bound to accept the Standing Committee recommendations. This is clear from the affidavit of the government in the matter of UID where the Committee did not recommend UID (Aadhaar), in fact, strongly opposed it. However, the government has gone ahead with it. What is the objective that we are aiming at and how feasible is it?’’

     

    Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, though, is optimistic and states, “…But for today let us celebrate the success of democracy. This is the way to go. Citizens and politicians engaging in discussions and the politicians showing they are sensitive to our voices. Can there be a better proof that democracy works? A victory for RTI and democracy?”

     

    Gandhi further states, “The referral of the RTI amendment to the Standing Committee is a great step for democracy. When political parties first spoke about getting an ordinance to amend the Act, many citizens across the country protested and the media drew attention to the issue. The political class then said they would bring a Bill in Parliament. Petitions, emails letters and ballots were used to counter this. Citizens called up MPs on phone and in person. Social media was used very actively. Meetings and protests were held at various places. Citizens used reason to persuade.”

     

    However, Gandhi cautions that the citizens will have to continue their effort of engaging with the political class.

     

    Leading the campaign were Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shailesh Gandhi, who inspired activists across the country to make visible protests, sign online petitions and make use of the social media.

     

    Venkatesh Nayak, through his scholarly approach, did a study on 40 countries, including small nations around us—Nepal and Bhutan—where political parties are public authorities and citizens have right to access their finances. The press release issued by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), of which Nayak is in-charge of Information Access programme, states, “CHRI thanks the 20,500+ signatories who endorsed the online petition to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha demanding that the RTI (Amendment) Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for widespread public consultation. This petition was jointly sponsored by CHRI, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), Satark Nagrik Sangathan, RTI Calla—a—Thon volunteers and academics of Indian origin based abroad. Change.org facilitated this petition.’’

     

    Explaining the module of the campaign, the release says, “CHRI contributed to this campaign in three ways. First, we floated in the public domain crucial strands of thought that wove the public argument demanding greater public consultation on the amendment proposal by linking it to the issues of constitutionality and contradictions with principles already approved in other accountability—related legislation pending in Parliament. Second, we disseminated our findings about international best practices regarding transparency in the organisation, working and finances of political parties to show that openness does not adversely affect their fortunes. Third, we collaborated with other advocators to mobilise public opinion through online petitions to demand the opening up of an opportunity for people and civil society to voice their views on the amendment proposal.”

     

    “The tide began to turn in favour of the advocacy campaign with individual members of Parliament belonging to opposition parties and the ruling coalition publicly expressing misgivings about the Government's attempts to rush the amendments through Parliament. Concerns were also expressed about the constitutionality of the proposed amendments. The efforts of these progressive MPs appears to have influenced a change of thinking in the minds of their party leaders resulting in critical pressure being exerted on the Government to accept the option of public consultation instead of a hasty vote on the Bill,’’ said the release.

     

    Here is the RTI (Amendment) Bill sent to Parliamentary Standing Committee
     

     

    (Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and 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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    User 

    COMMENTS

    S V TANEJA

    7 years ago

    The credit goes to the Campaign which voiced the concern of the general public. However, the young Parliamentarian also played a vital role in making the seniors realise that mass public opinion should not be ignored.

    RTI Amendment Bill referred to Standing Committee

    MPs Baijayant Panda, Ajoy Kumar, Dinesh Trivedi and Omar Abdullah, along with several prominent activists have opposed the amendment in RTI Act to keep political parties out of gambit of the law

    Finally a better sense prevailed in the Parliament and the Right to Information (RTI) Amendment Bill, which aims to keep the political parties out of the ambit of the transparency law, was on Thursday referred to the Standing Committee for further consideration.

     

    Several members of Parliament (MPs), including Dinesh Trivedi, former minister for railways and TMC leader, Baijayant Panda of the Biju Janata Dal (BJU), Ajoy Kumar of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVP), and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent MP, along with RTI activists have been demanding the Amendment Bill to be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee to facilitate public consultation.

     

    V Narayanasamy, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, said, "The government has decided that there should be more discussion on this Bill. We will bring this Bill in Parliament in the Winter Session."

     

    The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced on August 12 in the Lok Sabha by Narayanasamy but could not be discussed amid repeated adjournments in Parliament.

     

    The Union Cabinet had last month cleared a proposal to amend the RTI Act to give immunity to political parties and negate a Central Information Commission (CIC) order to this effect. The government has proposed an amendment in Section 2 of the act, which defines public authority, to shield the political parties.

     

    The amendment to the RTI bill was necessitated following a 3rd June order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) stating that six national political parties, All India Congress Committee, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP, would be brought under the RTI Act as they were public authorities.

     

    Many RTI activists have opposed the proposed amendments. Aruna Roy, a former member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) and met the PM in this regard. Sources say the Congress president changed her mind after Roy's comments and said there should be more consideration. There were also, reportedly, multiple views within the Congress party.

  • User 

    COMMENTS

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    Thanks to the concerted efforts of the activists the RTI Amendment has been consigned to the back burner awaiting the new govt. in 2014!

    hasmukh

    7 years ago

    Various RTI activists need to be complemented for halting the amendment. Most of the political leaders (all parties) are shameless and do not respect views and feelings of the Public, who have elected them.

    nagesh kini

    7 years ago

    If only the UPA2 in whatever wisdom is left with them has sincerely taken the Opposition and the aam janata on board instead of adopting a confronting attitude our GDP would have attained double digit much earlier.
    The DTC that has cleared all the Select Committee with the last one with recommendations from former FM Yashwant Sinha who came out with extremely valuable suggestions, is still hanging fire. Now that another vital enactment the Cos. Bill is at last signed, sealed and delivered for God's sake the DTC needs to be enacted here and now.

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