Goa¿s little-noticed experiences with the Right to Information

BY Frederick Noronha| IN Media Practice | 30/08/2002
Goa¿s little-noticed experiences with the Right to Information

Goa¿s little-noticed experiences with the Right to Information


"...it is necessary that every Governmental action should be transparent to the public...
every citizen should be able to get information from the Government..."

--- The Goa Right to Information Act 1997

By Frederick Noronha

SOME SWEAR the law opened up for them vaults that hid earlier inaccessible
official ¿secrets¿. Others see it as an ineffective facade of openness for officials who dodge the citizen. But undeniably, the Goa Right to Information Act (GRIA) of 1997 has helped change things here, and gives this small state an edge as the rest of the nation continues to debate the desirability of such a law.

Legislators who pushed through the landmark law back in July 1997, would have not dreamt of its far-reaching impact. But as citizens show growing skills in harnessing the power of information, clear attempts are also underway -- by bureaucrats, politicians and others -- to belatedly put back into the bottle the genie that could empower the common man and campaign groups.

Hundreds of applications have poured in. Not just from the handful of well- organized campaign or watchdog groups active here. Such came from the common man (and often woman) in a state where widespread education and out migration by male folk has already empowered a fairly wide section, and made women cope with added responsibilities.

BOX 1: Applications filed under the Goa RtI Act
Village panchayats ... ... ... 537 applications
Police Department ... ... ... 78 applications
Municipal Councils ... ... ... 71 applications
Public Works ... ... ... 32 applications
Industries & Mines ... ... ... 28 applications
Co-operative Societies Registrar ... 24 applications
Planning & Development Auth.Vasco ... 23 applications
Directorate of Education ... ... 22 applications
Health Services ... ... ... 20 applications
Forest Department ... ... ... 19 applications
Planning & Development Auth.South Goa 17 applications
Accounts Department ... ... ... 15 applications
Goa Public Service Commission ... ... 15 applications
Department of Personnel ... ... ... 13 applications
Miscellaneous other departments ... 135 applications
TOTAL APPLICATIONS (as of 2000) 1049 applications
(Source: Director of Information, Govt of Goa.)

Some officials -- speaking off the record -- are blunt in seeing citizens¿ queries as a waste of their time. "We simply don¿t have the manpower," one argued. Seen from another side, citizens point out the law -- even costs to the exchequer -- tones up the administration precisely by exposing functioning behind red-tape to the public glare. "This is the price (one has to pay) for any open

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