“Corruption is a tree, whose branches are of an immeasurable length; they spread everywhere.” – Beaumont and Fletcher
Corruption is a universal phenomenon faced by people in one or the other forms. In India, it has become a part of life. It is the greatest foe of good governance and causing great harm to society and the nation. The word corruption is derived from the Latin word “corruptus,” which means “corrupted” and, in legal terms, the abuse of a trusted position in one of the branches of power (executive, legislative and judicial) or political or other organizations to obtain material benefit which is not legally justified for itself or others. Corruption is the use of Public office for private gains. Public servants, who include both the political executive and bureaucracy, are in a special position to practice corruption because of the public office they occupy.
So, to stop the chain of corruption from rising, the Right to Information was introduced as our fundamental right after the Right to information act came in place in 2005. RTI is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. It is an implied fundamental right.
The key provision of RTI
• Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo moto disclosure of information by each public authority.
• Section 8 (1) mentions exemptions against furnishing information under RTI Act.
• Section 8 (2) provides for disclosure of information exempted under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 if a larger public interest is served.
• Normally, the applicant must be informed within 30 days of receipt of the application by the authorities. If the requested information relates to a person’s life or liberty, it must be provided within the next 48 hours. If the request is forwarded through the public information sergeant or to the wrong authority. , five days are added to the thirty days or 48 hours run time.
KEY FACTORS ENCOURAGING AND PROMOTING CORRUPTION
• Lack of Transparency
• Lack of Accountability
• Lack of Institutional Machinery
• Lack of Information
RTI AS A TOOL TO TACKLE CORRUPTION
The political mobilization against corruption started with the RTI. The culture of secrecy, as known, encourages the government officials to indulge in corrupt practices, which result in lower investments due to misuse of power and diversion of funds for private purposes. As a result, the government’s social spending yields no worthwhile benefits, because, for instance, the teachers do not teach, doctors and nurses do not attend health centres, ration cardholders do not receive subsidized food grains and, thus, livelihood support is denied, and the promised jobs are not provided to the poor, who are assured of income support. The Right to Information Act 2005 has provided us with the right to get information from the government. Besides these, information can be sought on the following:
(1) You can demand samples of materials used for the construction of roads, drains and buildings etc. (2)You can demand an inspection of any social development work, work in progress or information related to any completed work.
(3)You can demand an inspection of government documents, maps for the construction, registers and records.
(4)You can demand information related to the progress made on any complaint filed by you in the recent past.
RTI SUCCESS STORIES
1. Adarsh Society Scam: The applications filed by RTI activists like Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were instrumental in bringing to light links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-storey building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives. The scandal has already led to the resignation of Ashok Chavan, the former chief minister of Maharashtra. Other state officials are also under the scanner.
2. Public Distribution Scam in Assam: In 2007, members of an anti-corruption nongovernmental organization based in Assam, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, filed an RTI request that revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people below the poverty line. The allegations of corruption were probed and several government officials were arrested.
3. Appropriation of Relief Funds: Information obtained through an RTI application by an NGO based in Punjab, in 2008 revealed that bureaucrats heading local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society used money intended for victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills – among other things. Local courts charged the officials found responsible with fraud and the funds were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
4. IIM ‘s Admission Criteria: Vaishnavi Kasturi a visually impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes – despite her impressive score at the entrance examination. Ms Kasturi wanted to know why and wondered whether it was because of her physical disability. She filed an RTI application to request the institute to disclose its selection process. Although she failed to gain admission to the institute, her RTI application meant that IIM had to make its admission criteria public.
The significance of the RTI Act (2005) in the journey to curb the cancerous growth of corruption cannot be undermined. Without it, legislation such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and even the Lokpal and Lokayukta Acts, 2013 are nothing but toothless tigers. However, there is a need for changes in both the legislation and the mindsets of the governing class, who need to realise that transparency and accountability are inseparable parts of democracy; the fact that they are not doing a favour to the citizenry by providing information. All the three wings of the state, including the judiciary, have to embrace this idea. At the same time, the people ought to realise that this particular piece of legislation is meant for each one of us to be active participants in ridding the system of this taint and contributing to the country’s development; it is not a task to be just left to NGOs or certain whistleblowers or journalists. Effective and full use of the Act by vigilant citizens alone can root out the menace of corruption from the system.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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