India no longer 'highly corrupt'

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Pune, Apr 8: Corruption has reduced by 15-20 per cent in the country due to implementation of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, Prof M M Ansari, Commissioner of Central Information Commission (CIC) said today while quoting a study of Transperancy International.

Talking to reporters here after the fourth meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Right to Information here today to discuss measures for improving free flow of information to the public, Prof Ansari said this was a 'perception' as per the study of 'Transperancy Interational' that corruption level has reduced by 15-20 per cent in government departments and agencies.

One of the reasons, he said, is the feedback form that is given to people wanting assistance. They are asked whether there is a demand for some financial considerations to get their work done, or whether the attitude and behaviour of the officer concerned is positive.

''These are the sort of measures that are beginning to show some results, although much more needs to be done,'' he said and cited an example of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He said for the first time, the information on 40 lakh people on the muster rolls of NREGS is in the public domain. The RTI has met its objective, as perviously these were fictitious rolls, he informed.

When pointed out that India was still high on the corruption index, Prof Ansari said this was due to the fact that other countries like China were also improving and putting their systems in place speedily.

There is an urgent need to access knowledge for which a wide scale computerisation programme has to be undertaken to upgrade the utilisation of the RTI. The available knowledge would guide State Information Centres for good governance, he said.

Prof Ansari said the RTI policy has been constantly upgraded nationally and in states as well.

''It is the vehicle to speed up administrative reforms and the efficiency of that has to be measured by the speed with which queries are attended. If by 30 minutes, the answer for a query is not forthcoming, then the answer doesn't exist,'' he said.

The intention of the National Coordination Committee's Meet here was to recommend more response from stakeholders. The public, media, individuals, institutions and organisations have been invited to give their suggestions for the RTI regime in India via e-mail at mm.ansari@nic.in.

He said more grants would be asked from the government for Pune based YASHADA as it is the nodal agency and the foremost National Implementing Agency for RTI. The Committee has asked YASHADA to take up a national level programme for training and spreading public awareness to upgrade arrangements in all the States in the country.

The Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad has submitted a report for establishing a National Resource Centre for all matters relating to the RTI within the next three months to coordinate all activities and initiatives within the purview of the Central Information Commission and the State Information Centres. The Committee would submit its final report before June.

When asked about the number of complaints and cases and appeals in States, Prof Ansari said Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh had higher number of cases, while states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the RTI has still got to reach out to the public for which programmes and trainings had to be carried out, he said.

Maharashtra CIC Suresh Joshi said the state has the highest number of complaints and equally high rate of disposals. There are nearly 300 complaints received on an average monthly basis. So far, there are 13,000 cases registered in the state, Andhra Pradesh of the 13,500 cases nearly 12,500 have been disposed, while in Punjab 4,800 cases were registered of which 4,200 have been disposed. In Karnataka, of the 8,000 appeals, nearly 6,000 were disposed. The pendency was not more than three months, he informed.

When asked about the average of first and second time appeals, Mr Joshi said nearly 89 per cent do not return but of the remaining 11 per cent around 6 per cent do approach the appellate authority.

UNI

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