Indian Parliament has passed the Right to Information Act 2005. The Right to Information is a fundamental right deriving from the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (a) of the constitution.
This idea was pronounced by the apex judiciary in many landmark judgments. Later on to give the status of fundamental right to the right to information, this act was enacted by the Parliament.
Rural Development in general and poverty alleviation and employment generation in particular, are the biggest challenges before the planners and policy makers of India. Despite launching numerous programmes and schemes and even by pumping crores of rupees for poverty alleviation and employment generation, the overall picture of rural Indian continues to decline.
Even the turn of the century. Rural India is marked by high incidence of poverty and considerable unemployment. Due to these two mega problems life in rural India is still miserable. We can still find there widespread disease, high number of illiterates, prevalent malnutrition among children, women and masses at large, existence of miserable rural infrastructure like roads, electricity, primary health, drinking water, lack of irrigation facilities and hell lot of socio-economic and political problems.
But if we have a bird’s eye view of the rural development in India over the last 60 years, it is pertinent to point out that the government statistics on the achievements of rural development programme look quite satisfactory, but actually things are different on ground. In such circumstances, it is being believed that the right to information can prove to be best instrument or tool in getting hold of the official records and then watching the discrepancy by comparing them with ground realities. The use of right to information can spread awareness among masses about various ingredients to developmental and welfare schemes and bring about openness and transparency in their implementation in one hand and ensure the people’s participation in other.
I personally believe that if we want to ensure the national development of India in general and 10% GDP growth in Indian economy in particular then the basic needs of more than 260 million people living below poverty line mostly in rural India, must be met. The success of all ongoing poverty alleviation programmes is being jeopardized by unawareness among masses, lawful implementation and prevalence of widespread nepotism and favoritism. The people below poverty line either do not know about the programmes or schemes or if they know, they are being put under beneficiaries only after paying bribes. The use of right to information, if done appropriately would not only bring awareness among masses about these programmers but also will be very effective in eliminating nepotism and favoritism and bring about transparency in the process of selection of beneficiaries and delivering the desired result. Provided such rate is not less than the quarter of the wage rate for the first thirty days during the financial year and not less than a half of the wage rate for the remaining period of the financial year.
This National Employment Guarantee Bill has all the potential to change the overall picture of Rural India and to bring paradigm shift in the employment opportunities available in Rural India. But the success of this mega scheme, which ahs indirectly, provided the right to work completely depends upon the wide use of right to information acts.
Hunger, malnutrition and occasional cases of saturation deaths in rural areas are causes of grave concern to any sensible individual. In order to ensure food security and to maintain the appropriate nutritional level among the population, the Government has put in place the Public Distribution System (PDS) which is supposed to make available the monthly rations to the people below poverty line. But this scheme also seems of fair price shops and the officers of food supply department. But the fact is that the use of Right to Information can change the whole PDS system. Under the provision of Right to Information Act, the authorities are supposed to make some sue motto publicity of information about various issues of public concern. During the process of ascertaining the information on various issues, the members of public are likely to suggest remedial measures and alternative policy proposals on those issues. Once this is done properly, it would provide ample opportunities to the intellectuals, civil societies and common people to contribute rich inputs to the process of policy formation, decision making and their execution.
“The vibrant Indian Economy would end the perennial problem of unemployment from India. India would become a land of opportunities and people from all over the world would come to seek employment opportunities” this is what the dream of Ex-Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for Indian Economy by 2020. But the way things are moving, it seems that with the launch of every new employment generation programmes we are moving a step backward from the dream of Kalam.
The Herculean task is to make this dream of rural development through Right to Information, truly depends mostly on popularizing the use of Right to information act. For this the Government should be made responsible to publicize the various provisions of the act. However, for effective publicity, the civil society organizations, intellectuals and experts have to give leadership to masses. The role of mass media is very important in highlighting the achievements of the use of right to information. Apart form the mainstream media, the help of traditional medias like nukkad, nataks, puppet dances, community radios, local newspapers may be taken to spread the message to every rural household. Last but not the least, no programme, movement or scheme can be successful without the active and positive participation of politician and bureaucrats So ultimately the responsibility to make the right to information as an effective instrument for rural development lies with them.
Submitted to RB by Himanshu