The Right to Information – A bedtime story


Knock Knock. Who’s there?RTI! RTI who? Exactly who, what, why RTI? 11 years after RTI (Right to Information) became a fundamental right,  RTI still remains relatively an unknown act and the Knock Knock joke is on us.

And for those who do know the act and are using, they are either denied the information, or threatened and even worse they are killed. So to expect the govt. will do anything to promote and educate its citizens to empower themselves with RTI is only fooling ourselves. The only hope is to educate and empower ourselves to do the govt’s job.

The UPA govt. tried its best to dilute the law, but thanks to the relentless campaigns and public pressure, the law steered clear of the amendments. But the threat continues to exist, more so under the current NDA govt (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/growing-concern-over-dilution-of-rti-act/article7157044.ece)

RTI-Act

So if you can – please use RTI, please spread the word about RTI and please encourage, help others to file RTI.  Anyways, here is a story that I told my kids about RTI and why we need the RTI (Freedom Act in the US) act.

Bedtime Story:

I was at work on a conference call when my mobile started ringing. I didn’t pick up. My work phone’s second line started to blink and I still didn’t pick up. 

A few minutes later, an email popped up. It was my daughters school’s automated communication system that was attempting to notify me that my daughters report card is now available online. Yes, the school does a very good job of sending communications. My wife also received the same communications.

And this was the premise of the bed time story.

Me: So do you remember how your school keeps me and mommy informed about your progress report

D: Yes, they do it once every 4 months

S: My school doesn’t 

Me: That’s because you are still in kindergarten but your teacher still sends us all the work you do in the class. So in a way we do know how you are doing.

Me: But imagine there is no such system to inform your progress, what do you think about that. Is this good or bad?

D: It’s good and bad. Good for kids who are doing good and bad for kids who are not because the parents yell at them

S: Yelling is not good

Me: That’s right yelling is not good. Instead we the parents can try to understand if the kid is not really interested or kid needs some extra attention to help them understand, but it will give us a chance to do something about it.

D: True

Me: So even I at work have this kind of a review every so often and we call it performance reviews. So pretty much everyone has this kind of a feedback.

S: Except for mommy. 

Me: Even mommy does. Remember when she gets you a dress and you immediate say whether you like it or not or when she gives you lunch or dinner, you say whether you like it or not. 

S: yeah 

Me: But guess who doesn’t have this review.

D: The president 

Me: Yes, the president, the senators, the congress – there is no system to measure their performance. Even during elections they claim they have done many thugs but there is no proof.

D: That’s not good

S: Yeah that’s not good

Me: That’s exactly why we needed a way to ask them about their work and that’s called the freedom act in the US or the right to information act. This allows anyone to simply write a letter requesting the president, senators etc. to share information about their work, about the money they spent etc.

And now in India they are making changes to this act which would make it difficult to ask these questions. 

D: What do you mean?

Me: well imagine if the school instead of putting your progress online, asks the parents to come to the school between 1 and 2:00pm on a Tuesday afternoon. It also adds a condition that we can’t be late, how many people do you think can actually make it.

D: Very few

Me: Exactly. Instead of making things easier for everyone to participate and encourage them to ask information, they are now making it extremely difficult. 

I went on to talk a few other things only to realize my daughter was already asleep. My son however didn’t quite enjoy the discussion, he still insisted I tell a story, so I started – there was once a kid named RTI. 

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