Everybody’s Right To Information

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July 16 – India's bringing the best of its legal and technology sectors together – the government is considering setting up a Right to Information call centre. After the success of the Right to Information Act enforced in 2005, which gives the citizens of India access to government information, empowering them to hold the state accountable, the call center will make the act more accessable.

If all goes well, the call center will allow applicants to seek information over the phone from any of the central government departments and organizations across the country, reported the Times of India.

The call centre will save citizens the trouble not only of writing and posting the RTI applications to different public authorities but also of buying postal orders or demand drafts for paying the nominal fee of Rs 10.

All that the applicant will have to do is to make his query over the phone and the call centre will do the rest: It will convert his taped request into a written application and forward the same to the public authority concerned for providing the desired information within the provisions of the RTI Act.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT), which is the nodal agency for RTI, is holding a meeting this Friday to consider DIT's radical proposal labelled "Phone pe RTI" (RTI on the phone).

DIT has devised the technology for the call centre in such a manner that just by dialling its number and speaking into his phone, a citizen can successively file his RTI application to any public authority, the first statutory appeal before the same public authority and then the second appeal before CIC, the independent appellate body. The application fee due under the RTI Act is collected through the telephone bill.

Much as it sounds ambitious, there is a precedent to the call centre proposed at the central level. Bihar has the distinction of pioneering this concept. The RTI call centre in Bihar, which has been functioning since January 2007, is equipped to entertain verbal applications to state public authorities in English, Hindi, Maithili and Bhojpuri.

Since it does require any identity proof nor reasons for seeking any information, the RTI Act accommodates the informal approach of a government-run call centre using no more than a taped phone call as the whole basis for initiating the process of accessing information held by public authorities.