RTI in schools, college syllabi will rein in misuse: Official

Panaji, Nov 4 (IANS) Misuse of the Right to Information Act can be prevented by introducing the RTI in school and college syllabi, Goa’s Chief Information Commission Prashant Tendulkar said on Friday.

The top official said that in the coastal state, officials from village panchayats and municipalities were more errant vis a vis dissemination of information sought by applicants under the aegis of the legislation.

“We are targeting for the subject (RTI) to be taught in schools and colleges because they (students) will realise the importance of the rights of citizens…,” Tendulkar told IANS on the sidelines of a media event organised by the State Information Commission in Panaji.

Asked about the misuse of the RTI act, as alleged repeatedly by ruling politicians in the state, Tendulkar said: “We don’t dispute this. There is misuse to some extent. So, therefore there should be uniform awareness among youths, so that when they grow they become informed citizens of the state.”

“They should know that finally when they are going to file an application under RTI, they are going to drain the resources of the state. They should see that the person or PIO (Public Information Officer) is not there only for the purpose of imparting information. RTI should be used in a rational way,” Tendulkar added.

The top official also announced the launch of the RTI Bharat Yatra, which will involve a specially customised vehicle, which will travel across Goa from November 5 to 18, to disseminate information about the RTI legislation and its practical uses, with the help of multi-media tools.

The vehicle has already travelled through the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir. PIOs in the state will also be trained as part of the RTI-on-wheels programme.

Tendulkar said that sometimes PIOs who are officially tasked with dissemination of information under the RTI act, withhold information on purpose. The commission should be given more powers to rein in such errant officials.

“Whether you are pressurised or not, it is the PIO who is responsible for this. If any penalty is imposed, it is imposed on you (PIO) and not on the person who is pressurising you… Sometimes PIOs are doing this purposely too. In these cases, they deserve punishment,” Tendulkar said.

“(Government) departments which are prone for this (withholding of information) are village panchayats and sometimes municipalities,” Tendulkar said.