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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sonia wants Bihar model for RTI call centre

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 11; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1 ; Manoj Mitta | TNN

New Delhi: This is one Sonia Gandhi suggestion that may not go down well with her ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Striking a nonpartisan approach to governance, the UPA chief has called upon Congress chief ministers to adopt the model of an RTI call centre run by the NDA government in Bihar to make information more accessible to the poor and illiterate. But the UPA government seems to be weighing as to what extent it should replicate the example at the Centre.

Despite giving an “in principle” clearance to the call centre, the department of personnel and training (DoPT), the nodal agency for RTI, is unsure whether it should, following the Bihar model set up in early 2007, bear the cost of converting a phone call into an RTI application.

Personnel minister Prithviraj Chavan told TOI that what the Centre was drawing from the Bihar model was the concept of filing of RTI applications over the telephone. ‘‘We have not yet taken a call on whether the applicant should be spared the cost of the call centre,’’ he said.

If the government decides to pass the cost of the call centre to the applicant, then the charge he would have to bear, besides the regular fee of Rs 10 per RTI application, is estimated to be Rs 35. Similarly, for the two layers of appeal, which normally do not entail any fee, the RTI applicant would have to pay Rs 35 as the call centre charge for each appeal. Thus, for taking the call centre route, the amount he would end up paying for the entire RTI process is Rs 115 instead of the usual Rs 10.

If the government bears the cost of the call centre, all that it would levy through the phone bill is the RTI fee of Rs 10 and the regular call charge. This option would be in tune with the letter Gandhi wrote on April 17 to party CMs commending the Bihar model to them ‘‘for taking the RTI Act to the doorstep of poor and illiterate masses through the use of information technology’’.


Even an illiterate person can file an RTI application as one simply has to dial and say over phone what information is required

Call centre executive drafts the application on the basis of the taped phone call

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