Friday, November 09, 2012

Vinod Rai and Aruna Roy

An Outlook article says The Comptroller and Auditor General, Vinod Rai is once again in the bad books of the government for having held a mirror to the malaise in governance. Speaking at the World Economic forum in Delhi earlier this week, Rai said that RTI has succeeded in making politicians and bureaucrats more accountable and helped to reduce 'brazen' policy decisions.'"
in a wide ranging n interview Aruna Roy describes the beginning of  RTI  in India:
" a movement has to evolve from a group process and thought, it can’t just come from anywhere. Many of us felt that secrecy was terrible – we have something called the Official Secrets Act in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, wherever the British ruled. They’ve left that great gift to us, the Official Secrets Act. So every time you asked for information from the government you came up against this block. So we were all aware that that Act needed to be set aside in order for more transparency. In fact the VP Singh government had tried to enact a RTI law. So there is a history.
But what actually sharpened this was the struggle for minimum wages that MKSS was organising and fighting in rural Rajasthan. Time and again, people were told that they were liars, and the official records became terribly important both to prove their integrity, and to get a right to a livelihood, or a right to a wage, which meant food, which meant staving off hunger, which meant living a reasonable life. So at that point it became a critical issue.
But the definition of the movement actually came from many people. I’d like to refer to Sushila here. Sushila really defined it in 1996 after a forty day strike – a sit-down strike in Bijabar. We had formed the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. We went to Delhi for a press conference, and Sushila was asked, ‘What are you doing here? You’ve only passed your fourth class, you don’t know anything about academics. It’s a big intellectual question. We’re talking about freedom of expression and Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.’ But she said to them, ‘Look, when I send my son with 10 rupees to the market place, when he comes back I ask for accounts. The government spends billions of rupees in my name. Shouldn’t I ask for my accounts?’ And she said in Hindi, ‘Hamara paisa, hamara hisab.’ So she said, ‘It’s our money, our accounts.’
So it is the simple, common-sense logic that actually defined the Right to Information movement. Then it acquired all the other various layers of the legislation, and an understanding which spread further, which spread to every aspect of governance. Today, RTI is one of the best used laws in India. But it grew from a common-sense perception of peoplehood."

No comments: