Right to Information

Right to Information

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As a part of the People's RTI assessment 2011-13, a total of 2279 persons were individually interviewed across four states (in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Bihar) and the National Capital Region of Delhi. 2,000 people were individually interviewed (Street Corner Interviews-SCIs) in the capitals of the four sample states, and in Delhi. In addition, a total of 95 focus group discussions (FGDs) were also organized. Of these, 74 were organized in the 24 sample villages in eight districts of the four sample states (Delhi was excluded). A total of 2867 people participated in the 95 focus group discussions (FGDs).

According to the report entitled: People's Monitoring of the RTI Regime in India 2011-13 (published in October 2014), which has been prepared by RTI Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) and Samya -Centre for Equity Studies (CES) (Please click here to download):

Valuing the RTI Act

• Approximately 77% of the people interviewed through Street Corner Interviews (SCIs) thought that access to government held information could be helpful in various ways.

• Almost 58% felt that access to government held information was helpful in solving individual problems. Nearly 24% thought that it would help prevent corruption, minimize bad governance and improve government efficiency while 26% thought it would contribute to solving community and national problems

• About 83% of those who had heard of the RTI Act, in the state headquarters and in Delhi, stated that the RTI Act was relevant for them.

• Nearly 80% of respondents in rural FGDs, and 95% in urban FGDs, said that they would like to use the RTI Act to redress grievances.

Awareness of RTI Act

• Nearly 61% of the respondents in the state headquarters (including Delhi) had heard about the RTI Act.

• In nearly 38% of the urban FGDs and 36% of the village FGDs, at least one or more person had heard about the RTI Act.

• 67% of men and 54% of women interviewed in the SCIs stated that they had heard of the RTI Act. The least disparity between men and women, in terms of awareness of the RTI Act, was witnessed in Delhi where 67% men and 64% women, who were interviewed, had heard of the RTI Act. Patna (Bihar) and Jaipur (Rajasthan) were the worst performers with almost a 20% difference between men and women.

• 68% of young people (age group of 18 to 30 years), 57% of middle aged people (30 to 50 years) and 48% of people above the age of 50 years, interviewed in SCIs, stated that they had heard of the RTI Act.

• In rural areas, newspapers were the most common source of information about the RTI Act, while in urban low income settlements, television was the most common source of information about the RTI Act. Overall, newspapers were the most common source of information about the RTI Act for both rural and urban RTI applicants.

• 32% of RTI applicants interviewed in urban areas said that they learnt about the RTI Act through newspapers. 15% said that they learnt about it through friends and family, and 13% through television. Among rural RTI applicants, newspapers were the leading source of information about the RTI Act (35%) followed by books at 22% and television (14%). 13% heard about the RTI Act through family or friends while still others had heard about the Act through NGOs, internet or through public meetings.

• In 69% of rural FGDs and 83% of urban FGDs, people reported visiting government offices while trying to seeking information to resolve the problems faced by their community, underscores the importance of using government offices as a space for creating awareness about the RTI Act.

Who uses the RTI Act and for what?

• 92% of the applicants across the sample states and governments were male, and 8% were female.

• 14% of the applicants lived in rural areas, 58% in towns/cities, and 29% in metropolitan centres.

• If an estimated four million RTI applications were filed in India, in 2011-12, then this would suggest that over half a million of the applicants were from rural areas.

• 96% of the RTI applications had a single signatory, 1% had two or more signatories, and 3% of the applications were on letterheads of some organization or group.

• Only 5% of the RTI applications were from public servants seeking information about their service matters.

• A total of 67% of the information being asked for was such that it should either have already been made public pro-actively, under section 4, without being requested for (49%), or proactively supplied to the applicant without her having to file an RTI application (18%).

• The most commonly sought information related to decisions taken, action taken or proposed to be taken, norms prescribed by public authorities, basis of decisions, financial and public resources, schemes and programmes, and human resources.

• Most RTI applicants sought information in the form of a response to a query (73%) as opposed to copies of documents and records (47%), with 20% seeking both.

• 7% of the ‘applications’ were technically not RTI applications but a complaint, a grievance or a cry for help.

• At least 16% of the applicants were seeking information that was aimed at getting action on a complaint, getting a response from a public authority, or getting redress for a grievance.

Ease and Certainty of Access to Information

• The report team got 87% of the information that was requested from state and central nodal agencies, but only 45% from sample of Public Authorities (PAs) in various states and the Central Government.

• For applications filed by the report team with sample PAs, 41% of the information was received in time. A little over 50% of the information received was in time for applications filed by the RaaG team with nodal departments.

• Except for first appeals filed with the Central Government or Delhi Government, there is less than 4% chance of getting any information by filing a first appeal.

Public Authorities (PAs)

• In 65% of the PA premises inspected, no board displaying details of the Public Information Officer (PIO), fee, timings etc. could be found.

• In 59% of the PA premises inspected, no records detailing the categories of information listed under section 4 were available for inspection

• 23% of PA websites analyzed did not have a link to section 4 disclosures

• 10% of PA websites analyzed did not provide information on the name of the PIO of the PA

Public Information Officers (PIOs)

• All PIOs interviewed were aware that they were the designated PIOs.

• 91.5% PIOs stated that they were aware of the provisions of the RTI Act.

• 38% PIOs spent less than 2 hours a week on RTI related work, while 39% spent less than 5 hours a week.

• Request for voluminous information was the major difficulty faced by PIOs in responding to RTIs, followed by unclear applications.

Rural Expert

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