Grassroots voices from Jharkhand: Bring political parties within the purview of RTI

Callers in the districts of Jharkhand demand against the RTI amendment bill, as shared in the Mobile Vaani platform.


Last week, The Alternative hosted a Google hangout with Jay Panda (Member of Indian Parliament from Kendrapara, Odisha), members of National Council for People’s Right to Information and RTI activists on saving RTI from the proposed amendments. In the Google hangout, Rakesh Reddy mentioned how RTI was not just an important tool for urban and educated citizens but also rural community. Bhanupriya Rao, who moderated the discussion, said we especially owe it to the class of daily wage labourers who gave up a day of their income to push for the RTI bill to come in place.

Pic: Gram Vaani

Gram Vaani, through their Mobile Vaani platform, asked their callers and listeners in the districts of Jharkhand to share their views on the current RTI amendment bill.

If people can be taxed then why should politicians escape transparency, says RTI activist 

In an interesting interview with Umesh Kumar Turi, Sonu Raj Mehda, an RTI activist from Hazaribagh, explains the act along with detailing out how and why it can be used by common people. He explains with an example where any student before applying to a particular course of any specific college or institution could know about the ranking of the college along with the specifications of degree he or she will attain upon completion of the course. Mr. Mehda stressed that in today’s context where management colleges are cropping up like mushrooms, it is imperative for the students to know before hand what they are going in for.

He, further, explained what in India comes under the RTI act, and which institutions and bodies are kept out of its jurisdictions. Bodies like BCCI, posts like the President of India, the Supreme court of India, and any political parties and politicians, do not come under the RTI act, which means none of these bodies and posts are answerable under the RTI act. Upon asking whether according to him this makes sense, he answered that while honourable President can still be kept be outside this, but political parties and politicians should be brought under the RTI act. He further added that people have every right to seek information about the funds like MLA/MP fund that is being given to the MP and MLAs for local development. Common citizens do not stand a chance to know where these funds are spent. He stated that many political parties distribute alcohol, clothes and even hard cash during election. People should know from where they are spending these amounts. He mentioned that the promises the political parties make before election should be directly related to the funds available to them and hence its a pre-requisite for common people to know how much of the promises made by the parties even stand a chance to be fulfilled and how much of them are void to its core.

He said that every individual in the service-sector in India not only pays up to thirty percent of their hard earned money but they indirectly contribute to the nations earning even when they buy a match-box. So the people have every right to ask where their money is getting spent. He expressed that implementation of RTI could be one of first step towards understanding the level of corruption and hence conceptualizing ways to tackle it. If we come to know about the flow of cash to any institution, parties etc., along with the spending or even estimation of probable spending on specific heads then transparency and accountability can be rendered to the whole process. He mentions if we, people who have a job, do not have a way to even escape tax deduction from our salary then why certain people, institutions are so shamelessly kept out of it, where people do not come to know how much of the cost is going to construct the road in front of your own house, what is the amount of the tender. He, therefore, strongly urged the citizens to be aware of the fact that they should make the government and it’s machinery accountable for the money that is the citizens’ money.

Why is the Government trying to safeguard politicians’ interests? 

Baijnath Mahto from Topchanchi block of Dhanbad district expressed his views on RTI through Jharkhand Mobile Vaani. He expressed that the Central Government’s decision of keeping politicians out of the frame of RTI, is like severing the head from the body. He added that It is disheartening to know that the government which brought RTI, is today trying to safeguard the politicians by keeping them away from RTI. All political parties are being run by the money of common people. So any common person has the right to know how their money is being used by the politicians. People have right to ask about the promises made to them by the politicians and the political parties. So if the government decides that RTI will not be applicable on the political leaders then they will have to face strong protest by the people of this country.

People have a right to know how are politicians spending funds for developmental projects and plans

Lakhshman Ram from Bengabad block of Giridih district shared his thoughts on RTI and gave his comment through Jharkhand Mobile Vaani. He opined that RTI should be implemented on everyone including politicians and political parties and government administrative bodies. He questioned that when the politicians are elected by the people as a representative for their development, then why the people are not supposed to ask the politicians about progress made on the developmental projects and plans. He mentioned that because there is no such provision, most of the fund for the development of the people is being misused by politicians and government administrative bodies. He mentioned that while the people are suffering in their day to day life and struggling to make two ends meet because of poverty and lack of basic amenities, the politicians never seemed to share the same fate. Hence, according to him, bringing political parties and politicians in the helm of RTI will be crucial to keep a track of the development projects, along with giving a credential of the person who presents himself/ herself for being elected by the people, as their representative.

Politicians should face the common people’s demand for transparency and accountability  

Janardan Mahto from Baghmara block of Dhanbad district, contributing to the debate whether political parties and politicians should be brought under the purview of RTI told Jharkhand Mobile Vaani that according to him RTI should be applicable for all the politicians and political parties. He mentioned that often the common people are kept guessing about the source that funds the grand shows put up by the political parties and politicians during elections. Everyone would like to know whether the money spent on the rallies and the election showbiz are funds that are meant for development of the citizens or not? He stressed that if the politicians are made to disclose their properties and belongings before election, then why should they be afraid to face the common people’s demand for transparency and accountability? He said, its a right that should be given to the citizen where they can ask for the information of the funds and finances and their implementation, which is crucial to the development propaganda that all the political parties resort to during electoral publicity.

You can watch the Google hangout with Jay Panda on our Youtube channel.

Also read:

Grassroots Voices from Jharkhand: Where are the free medicines?

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gram Vaani Community Media develops communication platforms that give a greater voice to the people at the grassroots level. Visit them at http://www.gramvaani.org/ more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gram Vaani Community Media develops communication platforms that give a greater voice to the people at the grassroots level. Visit them at http://www.gramvaani.org/ more

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