Making RTI commission functional should be prioritized

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Defunct Right to Information (RTI) Commission does raise questions on seriousness of state government in fighting against the menace of corruption in the state. It virtually betrays the wide gap between the ground reality and state government’s stated commitment to bring the Right to Information Act in Jammu and Kashmir at par with rest of the country.

Though the much needed amendments have already been made to J&K RTI Act, it is the implementation of the same that is in a sorry state of affairs. The problem exists not because the people are not much aware about their right to know the matters of public dealing. It is because the government functionaries work with a mindset that stonewalls any move for accountability.

The Right to Information Act is an important instrument for introducing transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government and enables people to voice their concerns and bring to public domain irregularities on anything from appointments to development works. It is thus shame that a commission whose strengthening and empowerment should have been priority of the state government is facing serious neglect.

The lone man who has kept the commission functional is a retired Chief Engineer. There is no move on the part of the government to make this commission a powerful anti-corruption weapon. It is widely believed that a vast section of the state administrative hierarchy, at various levels, has developed a vested interest to subvert implementation of the RTI which can keep a check on their acts of omission and commission by bringing to light all kinds of documents and details in the public domain.

Such is the callousness that despite the amendments in the original J&K RTI Act, the persistence of old unnecessary formalities in their departments. The problem becomes more acute owing to the fact that the two vital posts of Information Commissioner (IC) as well as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) are lying vacant while the state government is unable to find suitable persons for these two posts. None knows how long the wait for filling up these posts will be.

RTI crusaders who are working overtime to ensure that RTI brings much needed transparency and accountability in the system are peeved over the fact that government continues to be non-serious towards this vital commission. They are yet to see the crusader approach that they anticipated this new PDP-BJP government will have towards eradicating the menace of corruption from the state. They are yet to feel the change that all believed would take effect after Mehbooba Mufti takes over as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

Not only RTI activists but public in general wished to see a new Jammu and Kashmir but they all are disappointed since things have not moved beyond lip-service. And now, till the time these posts are filled, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who has already made enough vocal commitments about making RTI Act effective, should take personal initiative to ensure that the RTI activism that has begun to grow in various parts of the state is not crushed. She should not waste time in discussions and debates over selection of suitable candidates for heading this prestigious commission but take effective steps for making this commission fully functional.

 

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