| Arvind Kejriwal on Right
“Right to Information Act is a bill legislated in 2005 that allows
any citizen to get any information from any government ministry/department,
at cost of few rupees through questions asked through an application.
RTI is being very widely used in the nation. It is estimated that
30 lakh RTI applications are filed annually. Of these 30 lakh applications,
6 lakh RTI applications are filed with Central Government Ministries
and Departments and remaining are filed with State Government Ministries
and Departments. Information Commissions are corrupt Information
Commissions are populated by political appointees. The appellate
process is very cumbersome and enervating. Information is often
not provided even after Information Commission ordering so. Anti
Corruption Machinery is rotten and under control of political masters.
Hence corruption is difficult to control despite RTI.”
VoiceOfBharat.org had talked to Arvind Kerjriwal in year
2010. This interview is reproduced here.
Overview of RTI origin and status
India has got the best law in the world i.e. Right to Information
2005. It has spread very well in all parts of the country. No other
law other than RTI has been successful in generating interest across
the spectrum. Even though the period of five years is very short
for evaluating the law, it has created outstanding impact and also
played a good role in creating awareness among the people regarding
its effective utilization.
Still there are many systemic problems preventing people in getting
justice through the instrument of RTI. Bureaucracy is the key factor
for its poor implementation across the nation. It also has political
barriers. This law has come because of people’s movement and
it can sustain as long as people are active and keep demanding.
In the last five years, government has tried to amend and cut down
the ways of its implementation, but has failed doing the same due
to people’s strong reactions & resistance.
Present Status of RTI implementation
There are no statistics available about number of RTI applications
filled across the country. Only few statistics are available for
some states. RTI has been widely utilized in both rural as well
as urban areas.
Challenges in RTI implementation
Functioning of Information Commission at central and state
level is itself an obstacle to RTI implementation. People who have
been appointed on these official bodies are not the right kind of
people for the job. They lack commitment towards RTI and its implications.
And pending RTI applications are reason for the same. Majority of
them are loyalist to the present political establishments and are
been appointed due their political interest. This is the biggest
challenge for RTI.
Changes required in law and institutional practices
No major changes are required after taking overall overview of the
law. However if we talk in details, we can come up with some changes
that might be required at regional or local level. Strong political
will is required to implement the law.
For instance, in Uttar Pradesh Mr. Mulayamsingh Yadav had appointed
five Information Commissioner in the state. All of them were his
loyalist. Chief Information Commissioner appointed by him was subsequently
dismissed by Ms. Mayavati due to charges of corruption. And now,
Chief Commissioner appointed by Mayavati has also got legal sentence
from the High Court due to corruption charges on him.
Hence, if our political leaders appoint Information Commissioners
who have the history of corruption, then no justice we can expect
from these people.
RTI has now become only a PR exercise. No any political party and
bureaucratic people have deployed the power of information to ordinary
citizen of this country. They still want to keep power with themselves.
So, in my opinion enactment of RTI Act will not give any information.
Role of Corporates in RTI
Corporate should first adopt practices of transparency
and accountability. Before demanding transparency from government,
they should first implement the same through their documents and
other available ways.
There are many corporates who does implementation of transparency.
But the percentage of such corporates should be raised.
Role of NGOs in RTI
Likewise, corporate NGOs also should start assuring transparency
in their functioning. Otherwise they will not have an authority
to do that. This law is not dependent upon the corporates and NGOs,
rather it is dependent upon the strength of individual and citizens
of this country.
NGOs should first analyze their strengths before working on RTI.
When NGO use RTI, it challenges many wasted interests. NGO need
to get involved in the developmental politics. It is non-electoral
and non-party politics but this can drive any NGO from very hard
core developmental political efforts. NGO should first refer to
their capacities whether they can do it and are able to fight with
local resistance. So, NGOs can do awareness and RTI literacy campaigns.
Since many NGOs have their own limitations, people’s movements
will have that capacity to influence the system through effective
utilization of RTI.
There are common people who have brought this law and they are
one who will keep this law in to proper action.
Role of Media in RTI
Media has played a very good role in RTI advocacy. Initially
role of media was limited to reporting about RTI, afterwards it
started adopting campaigns on RTI. Media has led a very positive
role in local and national level campaigns on RTI.
Many journalists also have started using RTI effectively. RTI has
been used by them as an effective tool to get information and doing
stories on it. Now, media has actually become a part of the movement.
Appeal for listeners
Do not give up even if you come across many difficulties
while utilizing the law.
It’s a beginning of struggle and it has a long way to go.
As long as you are there, government will implement this law, the
day you loose your grip on the advocacy for proper implementation
of law, government will remove this law from the regime.
I would appeal to people to get engaged in politics. Citizen should
get engaged in the entire democratic set up without which democracy
can not play an active role in socio-developmental picture of India.
For example, when UPA Government was about to fall and there was
a no-confidence motion against them in the parliament. We saw that
MPs were openly sold out and purchased for the support. Our media
showcased the same to entire India, leaving our country men shocked.
Tomorrow US also can try to purchase our MPs. So, in this difficult
time, democracy comes in question and they do not belong to parliament.
People of this country did not undertake any protest against this
business of MPs. There was not a single activity against it in any
part of the country.
So, people in this country should not sleep. They should play an
active role in keeping the balance in democratic practices which
subsequently goes to put an impact on our socio-developmental portrait.
Profile of Arvind Kejriwal in Business Today
In February 2002, Parivartan started a campaign against large-scale
theft of foodgrains in ration shops; using the RTI applications,
it found that more than 90 per cent of foodgrains in about 25 shops
it examined was being siphoned off by licensed dealers. The campaign,
which resulted in violent attacks on Kejriwal and his team (including
one in which dealers slit the throat of Santosh, a young female
activist; she survived the attack) compelled the Delhi government
to allow public scrutiny of ration records. Parivartan also got
the courts to require private schools, which had received public
land at concessionary prices, to admit more than 700 poor kids without
Magsaysay : CITATION for Arvind Kejriwal
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 2006, Manila, Philippines
The brazen corruption of the high and the mighty may grab headlines,
but for ordinary people it is the ubiquity of everyday corruption
that weighs heaviest. And that demoralizes. Arvind Kejriwal, founder
of India’s Parivartan, understands this, which is why his
campaign for change begins with the small things.
As a tax officer with the Indian Revenue Service, Arvind Kejriwal
became aware of the many powers that tax officials held over private
citizens and how easily these powers could be abused. Indeed, at
the tax department, one expected to pay bribes as a matter of course.
With a few kindred spirits, Kejriwal began to strategize about how
to bring an end to this. In 2000, he founded Parivartan, meaning
"change." Parivartan appealed to the tax commissioner
to make the tax department more transparent and less capricious.
When this failed, it filed Public Interest Litigation directing
the department to implement a five-point transparency plan. Eventually,
Parivartan held a nonviolent protest, or satyagraha, outside the
chief commissioner’s office. Threat of another protest with
the press on hand convinced the tax chief to implement the reforms.
Meanwhile, on leave from his job, Kejriwal stationed himself with
other Parivartan members outside the electricity department. There
they exhorted visitors not to pay bribes and offered to facilitate
their dealings with the department for free. Since then, Parivartan
has settled 2,500 grievances with the electricity department on
behalf of individuals. Some seven hundred more have benefited from
the group’s "Don’t pay bribes!" campaign at
the tax department.
Under the Delhi Right to Information Act of 2001, every citizen
possesses the right to inspect government documents. Kejriwal put
the new law to use in Sundernagari, a New Delhi slum where Parivartan
was working among the poor. First, the group obtained official reports
on all recent public-works projects in the area. Next, it led residents
in a "social audit" of sixty-eight projects, stirring
the community to action with neighborhood meetings and street plays.
Then, in a large public hearing, the residents presented their findings
and exposed misappropriations in sixty-four of the projects?embezzlement
to the tune of seven million rupees! Today, in Sundernagari, local
committees monitor public-works projects block by block, and no
project may begin until the details of the contract have been made
The Indian government provides subsidized rations of wheat and
rice to poor people through neighborhood ration shops. Records acquired
by Kejriwal for Sundernagari revealed high levels of theft in the
system. In one area, over 90 percent of the grain ration was being
skimmed off by shopkeepers in collusion with certain food department
officials. When Parivartan investigated this, one of its team members
was savagely attacked. In protest, more than five thousand residents
of the community held a monthlong "rations fast." This
and a mass rally riveted public attention, and foot-dragging officials
finally moved to clean up the system.
Now in its seventh year, Parivartan has only ten full-time members.
Although Kejriwal sometimes takes on larger issues?such as the successful
2005 campaign challenging a water-privatization plan for New Delhi?he
has no plans to expand. He prefers to coordinate Parivartan’s
efforts with other like-minded NGOs across India.
Thirty-eight-year-old Kejriwal reminds Indians that the boons of
collective action, such as the honest delivery of services, have
already been paid for through taxes. Citizens are entitled to them.
The spirit of his movement was aptly captured by the women of Sundernagari
as they rallied to protest cheating in neighborhood ration shops:
"We are not begging from anyone!" they chanted. "We
are demanding our rights."
In electing Arvind Kejriwal to receive the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay
Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes
his activating India’s right-to-information movement at the
grassroots, empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight
corruption by holding government answerable to the people.