Edit/Op-Ed

Is RTI a Thorn in Flesh of Team Anna Too?

Afroz Alam Sahil, BeyondHeadlines

India is talking about transparency at every level; luckily we also have national movements against corruption leading lakhs of Indians to streets to pressurize government to be more transparent and accountable to citizens of country.

But transparency seems to be a distant thing, at least answers to RTI’s filed to the flagship organizations of India Against Corruption movement suggest this.

Right to Information, the path breaking law to transparency, is no doubt a thorn in flesh of the UPA government. But more surprising is that it is equally painful for those who talk about transparency and responsibility all day and night.

Beyond Headlines filed petitions under Right to Information Act to organizations of Shri Anna Hazare (Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas), Shri Arvind Kejriwal (Public Cause Research Foundation) and Shri Manish Sisodia (Kabir). Although these non-government organizations do not come under the scanner of RTI act, as they do not take funds from the government, but we expected them to reply to the queries to maintain transparency in their movement.

Earlier RTIs of BeyondHeadlines have revealed that Kabir and PCRF get funds from many foreign sources, including dubious Ford Foundations. But this time Kabir and Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas did not bother to reply to the RTI. PCRF gave a half hearted reply saying the information requested is already available on the website.

In our RTI we have requested information about funds, donations, expenditure and balance sheets of these organizations.

They also said that the information requested is posted on the website and organization is doing a special audit for expenditure on India Against Corruption Movement, which will be soon posted on the website.

The website nowhere has detailed information about expenditures of the movement. All it has to say is that the total donations received amount to 8287668 rupees including donations of Rupees 25 lakhs from Jindal Aluminium, 1 lakh from HDFC bank limited, 1 lakh from Safexpress Ltd. and from various other organizations and individuals. The website nowhere gives details of expenditure.

Ironically, Kejriwal and Anna Hazare have themselves worked in the enactment of the Right to Information Act. Their negligence of the RTI’s seeking information about their own organizations suggests that talking about transparency is different and being transparent is different.

Now a serious question rises, that when the flag bearers of the Right to Information Act find it difficult to provide info about their own organizations, how we can expect info from corrupt bureaucrats and government officials?

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