A.Low public awareness.
Section 26 of the RTI Act states that the concerned Government may develop and organize educational programs to advance the understanding of the public, especially disadvantaged communities, regarding how to exercise the rights contemplated under the Act.
- However, as per the survey it was revealed that only 15% of the respondents were aware of the RTI Act. During the awareness survey, it was also observed that the major sources of this awareness were mass media channels like television channels, newspapers etc. & word of mouth.
- It was further observed that awareness level is low among the disadvantaged communities like women, rural population & socially backward caste like SC/ST/OBCs.
The efforts made by appropriate Governments and Public Authorities have been restricted to publishing of rules and FAQs on websites. These efforts have not been helpful in generating mass awareness of the RTI Act. As compared to RTI Act, the common citizens (and disadvantaged communities) are significantly more aware of other Government schemes focused on socio-economic development.
B.Constraints or complications in filing complaints
- Non- “availability” of User Guides for information seekers: 52% of the citizens surveyed requested availability of a user guide/manual at all the Public Authorities.
Lack of user guides results in substantial efforts on the part of the information seeker to gather knowledge about the process for submitting an RTI request. This often sends them away from making use of their right to information.
- Inconvenient payment channels for offline RTI application submission:
- It was found in the survey that in the absence of clear guidelines and instructions, public authorities have chosen a subset of the allowed payment channels.
- It was noted in the survey, that majority of PIOs used cash and demand drafts, which causes inconvenience to citizens. Further, collection of fees through cash necessitates the presence of the applicant in the State, whereas the Act does not provide for any such
- Also, survey revealed that submission of applications through the PIO’s office is the most prevalent submission channel, therefore “proper signage” with the location details and availability time of the PIOs is crucial.
- However, 85% of the information seekers said that no signage was present to locate the concerned PIO. It leads to multiple visits to be made to the PIO office for submission of an RTI application.
C.Lack of assistance in filing the application by the PIOs- In a country where literacy rate is as low as 77%, it is imperative for the authorities to assist people in exercising their right but that is not the case as found by the survey.
- This reveals that process of RTI application submission has not been designed keeping in view the needs and convenience of the citizens.
D.Standard forms for RTI application & PIO’s Replies- While the Act does not necessitate having a standard application form, there are significant advantages of using a standard form for an RTI application:
- The standard form helps in getting basic information which helps the PIOs (Public Information Officer) in providing the requisite information and contacting the applicant for communication required.
- If basic information is available, it is helpful for the Public Authority to identify the nature of frequent information requests so that it can be provided as a Suo-moto disclosure
- Only 2 states i.e. Maharashtra & Orissa have prescribed a standard form.
E.Issues related to information being provided.
- Poor quality of information provided: Majority of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with the quality of information, being provided in response to their application which is most of the times incomplete & inaccurate.
- Some applications require the PIOs to do a collation and analysis of data for past 10 years or more. However, 89% of the PIOs said that they did not use the provision for inspection of records.
- Failure to provide information within 30 days due to inadequate record management procedures with the Public Authorities. This situation is further aggravated due to non-availability of trained PIOs and the enabling infrastructure (computers, scanners, internet connectivity, photocopiers).
- There is lack of any electronic document management system in any of the Departments. Majority of the PIOs surveyed do not even maintain the list of RTI applications electronically.
- Low Motivation Levels among PIOs