Tuesday, June 09, 2009

RTI empowering differently abled citizens

We are typically more sympathetic to the concerns and feelings of differently abled people (or who used to be called as handicapped people), and one expects that Government departments, who act as enablers for providing support and services to the citizenry of this country, would also act the same way for differently abled citizens. However, it is no surprise that Government departments are as unconcerned to these special citizens as they are towards normal citizens. But now, citizens have a weapon to get what they want, and that is using the power of RTI. The RTI Act enables citizens to get information on many aspects of the workings of the Government, and this includes the status of any item pending with the Government, and so it was in this particular case when the citizen used RTI to get the required action (link to article):

For almost a year, Rudrakshi Pandya, a differently-abled was pushed around when she demanded her right to a family pension after her father, a retired headmaster of a city-based school, died few years ago. Rudrakshi, was entitled by the government for a pension, under Gujarat civil services (pension) rules as she was unable to fend for herself. Interestingly, pension department had all the requisite documents, including Rudrakshi's medical certificate and even the clearance from the district education office.
It was here that Rudrakshi's mentor, Falguni Mehta, filed an RTI application under Section 7(1) of the RTI Act, which pertains to information being provided within 48 hours of the application with the pensions department. Mehta wanted to know reasons why Rudrakshi's pension was delayed, officers responsible for the delay, the grounds on which pensions for the differently-abled were rejected since 1980 and what punitive actions would be taken if the officers were found guilty. The case finally came up for hearing before state information commission. State chief information commissioner RN Das ruled in Rudrakshi's favour and directed pensions department to provide information within 48 hours.

One wishes that cases like not come up, since they show the bureaucracy in pretty bad light; however, this is also another depiction of the power of the RTI Act in getting the concerned Government departments to act. Also, recent punishments against officials for denying or delaying information should also act as a warning to Government officials in this regard.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:38 AM