State information commissioners, who say their functioning is hobbled by a thrifty approach to their funding by state governments, have suggested their budgets be administered by the Union government to restore the autonomy of these institutions.
The potency of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has taken a hit in many states across the country as local governments starve the commissions of funds and facilities, in turn making them dependent on the administrations, thus undermining the autonomy of the bodies.
This was one of the observations that more than 50 state information commissioners attending a national conference agreed upon here on Wednesday. “Many commissioners (during the discussions) spoke about how difficult it was to get basic infrastructure set up to run a commission. We have to request the state governments for assistance for every need,” said an information commissioner who requested anonymity. “You can imagine how (difficult) it must be for us to summon the very same officers to hear RTI applications.”
In a report submitted to the minister of state for personnel, public grievance and pension Suresh Pachouri, the state information commissioners and members of the Central Information Commission (CIC) said the spending under the centrally-administered budget could be set off against the allocated budget of each state.
The information commissioners also suggested the RTI Act should be included in high school and college syllabi and that all departments and ministries including those under state governments computerize all possible documents.
Separately, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said a committee of information commissioners from across India would soon be constituted to promote the Act to ensure that the RTI filings are more widely used in the country.