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Road-blocks in Implementation

Shefali Sewak

By Sudhir Naib
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 329, 795.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 12 December 2011

On August 15, 2011, while addressing India from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the problem of corruption was 'a difficultly for which no government has a magic wand'. To the extent that unclean hands include not only the greased palms in public offices but also those belonging to the citizens that do the greasing. The creation of a strong office of Ombud-sman without a simultaneous transformation in the mindset of Indian citizens to stem the flow of monetary offerings to public offices, will likely leave the task of checking corruption a near impossibility. In this context, it is heartening to know that there have been strong indications of public sentiment in favour of the drive against graft over the past several decades. The most audible of these have been the innumerable voices that have risen under the Right to Information (RTI) against not only corruption, but also negligence, inefficiency and apathy in public offices. The RTI revolution that started sweeping across India in the late 1980s and saw fruition with the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (the RTI Act), has equipped citizens with tools to secure not only transparency and accountability in governance, but also human rights and democratic participation. The Right to Information Act 2005: A Handbook is a methodical compilation of facts, figures, procedures, case laws and success stories that delineate the law under the RTI Act in India. The author, Sudhir Naib's experience with teaching a course on Right to Information in the Post Graduate Programme in Public Policy and Management at the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, and conducting RTI training programmes for govern-ment, public sector and public authority officers, is clearly reflected in this well-versed practical guide to the RTI Act. The author opens this compendium with an analysis of the common benefits of freedom of information laws as they exist around the world, the multi-jurisdictional problems faced in implementing these laws, and a comparative study of freedom of information statutes in the USA, Canada, the UK, South Africa and India. The point that he makes by highlighting the common ills plaguing each of these systems is not lost: inordinate delays in responding to requests for information and reluctance amongst public officials to transform their culture of secrecy to one of openness, are not unique to India. The origins of the RTI movement are traced through the efforts of Aruna Roy, ...

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