Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was once a Right to Information (RTI) activist, is doing next to nothing to promote transparency in different Delhi government departments. Many RTI activists feel that the Delhi government has not done anything in terms of transparency or adherence to RTI and there is a lack of commitment towards RTI. In fact, the online RTI system is not operational in Delhi. The Delhi High Court, on a writ petition filed by Rajeev Agarwal, recently asked the state government to consider the demand for an online RTI mechanism. Agarwal has been fighting for the creation of a centralised RTI website, where RTI requests and the subsequent first appeal can be submitted online and the fees for the same could be paid.
“Though I do not reside in Delhi, I often talk to many RTI activists. And I am told that there is not much transparency in the Delhi government. Since Kejriwal was an RTI activist himself, we were expecting that there would be a tangible improvement in RTI and subsequently greater transparency will be achieved. But this has not happened. There appears to be a lack of basic commitment towards RTI,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, while speaking to this newspaper.
He also pointed out that as per Section 4 of the RTI Act, the government is required to provide information on a regular basis on the internet so that the concerned information officer can provide printouts of the information to the petitioner. “But that too has not happened. The government should make the working completely digital and put up all files on the internet each day,” he added.
Another RTI activist, Gopal Prasad, in April, approached the Chief Minister’s Office to know the details of the steps, if any, taken to generate awareness about RTI and also the money spent by the government in this regard. Prasad also sought details of the complaint lodged by “Maulik Bharat” regarding the address on the voter I-card and its follow-up.
However, to his utter shock, the CMO, in its reply, told Prasad that the information sought was not of “specific” nature but of “detailed” nature and, therefore, it cannot be provided. Prasad has filed a first appeal against the reply.
“We had expected there would be greater transparency under the Kejriwal regime. However, the Delhi government machinery is doing just the opposite. Information on public issues is not provided to citizens,” said Prasad, who has also sought details of the complaints of irregularities/corruption against ministers, MLAs and officials, besides many other information in his petition.
Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyaya said Kejriwal used the RTI as a tool to grab power and is now crushing it. “His government has not taken any initiative to promote the use of RTI to bring in transparency in the government. He knows that his government will be exposed if he promotes the use of RTI,” he added.