Exercising right to information : Teething problem stretching too long, The Daily Star, February 08, 2014
EVEN after a little more than four years since the eagerly awaited RTI Act came into being, its implementation has remained sluggish. The exercise of the right by the citizens and the compliance status as far as most government and non-government authorities are concerned leave much to be desired.
Professionals point out that the demand for information is miniscule because there is hardly any awareness of the benefits that RTI Act can deliver to the users. The Stakeholders Perception Survey 2013 on Information Commission Bangladesh reveals the weak areas. Awareness will have to be raised around three major shortcomings at the potential user level: 1) A vast majority will have to be made aware of the existence of the Act and what it offers through a countrywide popularisation campaign. 2) They are to be the acquainted with procedures for seeking the information like filling in prescribed forms. 3) Informal way of gathering information needs to be discouraged since records are key to enforcing compliance.
At the level of information givers, there should be exclusive designated points in every office and institution to furnish information in terms of the Act.
The need for breaking mental barriers both at the level of information-seekers and disseminators is great. This requires modifying archaic laws like the Official Secrets Act 1923, penalisation for non-compliance with a legitimate request for information have to be stringent. Decentralisation of the Information Commission down to division level has been suggested but it should not be mere addition of a structure without well-defined field of competence.
08 February, 2014