UPA has much to hide.
Hence it now wants to weaken RTI
It is natural that a government, like the one Manmohan Singh is heading should be wary of the Right to Information Act. After attacking the judiciary, the media, the CAG and the PAC, now the Congress is targeting the RTI.
Two central ministers, Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid have in the last one week criticised the RTI, for allegedly “hitting efficacy and efficiency” of the central government. “There is a confidential communication between a minister and the Prime Minister and there are further consultations before we bring something to the cabinet. If everything that I as a minister write to the Prime Minister comes out, then what is the point of writing to the PM confidentially?”, Union Law Minister Khurshid asks.
The minister feels that an RTI activist cannot ask for such information which will reveal the process and context of decision making. This RTI facility, according to the minister, has made the officials so cautious that they refuse to write their opinions on the files. This affects government functioning, efficiency and decision making, according to the law minister.
Earlier, similar views were expressed by Veerappa Moily He was more brutal in his diatribe against the RTI. Both the ministers like many other Congress leaders who have been publically criticising the alleged RTI misuse, want a relook at the RTI Act. Remember, earlier, when it found itself in a spot, the UPA had taken many departments including the CBI out of the purview of the RTI.
The ministers have come out in the open against the RTI in the wake of the controversy over a finance ministry note, exposing the role of Home Minister P Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum scandal, which cost the nation over Rs 1.76 lakh crore. It is widely believed that the RTI played a major role in bringing into the public domain the UPA corruption in CWG, Adarsh Housing scandal and the 2G scam. The UPA discomfiture is understandable, considering the fact that it has come to be regarded as the most corrupt regime ever in India’s history.
Despite the RTI, the UPA has been successful in keeping under wraps most of its misdeeds. It has been able to keep, the Congress party chief’s religion, citizenship status of the Congress first family members, their educational background and their business interests. But in the wake of the secret foreign visits of the Congress first family members, and the alleged spending of thousands of crores of tax payers’ money on these extravaganza, it is to be expected that the UPA will try to make the RTI a toothless instrument. For instance, according to a report, repeated RTI queries on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign visits and the expenditure incurred on them have been effectively stone walled. It was at a time when the CBI was being brazenly misused—to settle political scores and benefit the ruling party by undermining investigations on friendly political and corporate entities—that it was taken out of the RTI ambit.
There was a time in the initial stages of the UPA, when its votaries used to tout RTI as a great instrument of empowerment. It was supposed to be a privilege bestowed on the common people by the UPA. If it was such a bountiful gift from the ruler to the voter—though the fact remains that right to information is a fundamental right in a democracy—why is ruling party now trying to snatch it away? It only exposes the soft underbelly of the corrupt regime.
Manmohan government also has acquired another dubious distinction. It is utterly inefficient and governance has taken a long vacation during its tenure. To blame lack of governance and absence of efficacy on RTI is a crude joke. The real problem is that this is a government at war with itself. Look at the uninspiring, indifferent and sulking profile of the cabinet. Its ministers squabble over silly issues in public. There is no accountability. Each one is fighting to save his skin and the Prime Minister behaves as if he is not part of the cabinet. We have heard repeated denials, “I did not know”, “I was not told”, “I was not kept in the loop” on such and such issues. Where does the buck stop?
The RTI was a work in progress for many long decades. The first real step was taken under the NDA, when in 2002, Vajpayee tried to pass it in Parliament. It was then brought as an ordinance. The UPA, made certain amendments, made it more effective and showcased it as its first big achievement. The basic idea was that the ruler and the ruled are on the same side of the divide and that the people are entitled to seek and get information—that there is no secret, underhand affair in governance. Now, the ruling party is complaining about “frivolous provisions in the Act” which are causing “disruptions and inconvenience.” For a regime that has a mountain of crimes to hide, RTI has become a perpetual undoing. Now, what will the UPA say, about its earlier stand that the RTI was given to poor Indians as a boon from Sonia Gandhi? Its authors in the NAC have been tom-toming its success in drafting it. Perhaps, this is hara-kiri in its most naked form.