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Saturday, June 6, 2009

President's Address: RTI Ambit to be Broadened

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jun 5, 2009; Section: Times Nation; Page: 21
RTI great, but more transparency coming

New Delhi: A recurrent theme in the President’s address to Parliament on Thursday was transparency. The Right to Information (RTI) Act is clearly something the UPA sees as a significant achievement of its first tenure and it appears the government will seek to push the envelope further in this direction in its second stint. 

    Some of what the President said on the subject was not too specific, for instance the assurance about suitably amending the law to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas. But there were also concrete promises. A key example of the latter was the assurance that transparency in the flagship rural employment (NREGA) programme would be enhanced by enforcing social audit and setting up an independent grievance redressal mechanism at the district level in the form of an ombudsman. There were also specific commitments on the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office at an arms length from the government, which would work with social science research organisations to evaluate flagship schemes and place the findings in the public domain. Also, the government promised it would come out with annual reports on five key areas education, health, employment, environment and infrastructure. 

    Similarly, a Delivery Monitoring Unit in the PMO would monitor all flagship programmes and iconic projects and report on their status publicly, while ministers from the relevant ministries would publicly report on progress under Bharat Nirman every quarter. A public data policy is to be drawn up to place all non-strategic information in the public domain to help citizens challenge the data and engage directly in governance reforms.

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