RTI a powerful tool for anyone

One of the main questions around the Right to Information Act is: who can use RTI? The answer is, anyone can. RTI is for any citizen seeking any information about any public authority and/or institution.

Mazloom Nadaf, a rickshaw-puller from Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, used RTI to learn more about Indira Awas Yogana – a national housing scheme – and finally build himself a home.

On RTI India (www.rtiindia.org) we can read this heart-warming story from 2007 about this ordinary, hardworking 70-year old citizen who used RTI to better his life. Even when authorities demanded Rs 5000 to ‘process’ his application, Nadaf kept up the fight, using RTI, and finally managed to come out on top, with the help of a local NGO and RTI officers.

Hardworking citizens like Nadaf can use RTI to learn more about government schemes from which they are entitled to benefit, or to understand more about how their local government institutions function.

Another story from 2007 tells us about a visually impaired student in Bangalore, who was denied entrance into a university despite her excellent academic record. Using RTI, she made the university disclose its selection process (www.blogs.wsj.com).

Public servants themselves can use RTI to exercise their citizen’s right to information. Public servants can issue RTI applications to find out more about their own institution’s policies and processes, or to understand how funding is being spent. The Australian government’s Information Commissioner’s website informs its readers that it’s important for public servants to play an integral role in their own agency’s processes for the release of information, in order for RTI to be truly effective (www.oic.qld.gov.au).

It is the responsibility of all citizens to play a vital and dynamic role in information flows, and to exercise your right to information.