Activists Campaign Against Weakening India’s Right to Information Act

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
August 19, 2013 Updated: August 19, 2013

Activists in India and abroad have started a campaign call-a-thon to request Members of Indian Parliament (MP) to save the country’s Right to Information Act (RTI) from dilution.

RTI, like the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, gives citizens the power to request information from the government, providing more transparency. The Act, which was passed in 2005, is now facing a change to “exclude the political parties from the definition of Public authority,” according to a government press release.

Ordinary citizens, activists, and organizations that support the call-a-thon are making efforts to urge Indian MPs to vote against the proposed amendment.

“Last week, a few of us decided to directly call up the MPs and personally request them to vote against the proposed amendments which could make the RTI Act virtually toothless,” Suresh Ediga, a software engineer from New Jersey and call-a-thon starter, told Indo Asian News Service (IANS).

Meanwhile in India, the National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) wrote letters urging all MPs to vote against the proposed amendment.

The letter said, “By not supporting this bill, you will be supporting the citizens of the country, and will become an advocate of transparency and accountability.” The letter continued, “Bringing political parties under the purview of the RTI Act is merely a step forward in the same direction to ensure accountability by all political platforms to the citizens of India.”

Veeresh Bellur, an RTI activist from Bangalore, India, is concerned about the Bill calling it a “helpless situation” because “hardly one percent of the citizens of India are aware about it.” And when the Bill was introduced on 13 August, “none of the MPs spoke against it.”

Bellur hopes to add significance to 15 August’s celebration of India’s 67th Independence Day: “We celebrated India’s Independence Day as a black day because we oppose any amendment to RTI, any amendment will weaken it. An amendment to keep political parties out of the Act is not in the interest of the public. It’s undemocratic.”

Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.