Those applying for information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the state will henceforth have to limit their queries to 150 words,as per an amendment in the Act by the state government in January.
Also,as per the amendment,the questions can pertain to only one subject per application. Activists across the city,who were unaware of the change till a few days ago, expressed their unhappiness at the government taking the decision without any discussion with the stakeholders.
This notification has been brought out by the state governments general administration department. However,the activists allege the decision was taken in an undemocratic way,without inviting suggestions from citizens.
As per the notification by secretary to the government,Nandkumar Jantre,A request in writing for information under Section 6 of the Act shall relate to one subject matter and it shall not ordinarily exceed 150 words. If an applicant wishes to seek information on more than one subject matter,he shall make separate applications.
Activist Vivek Velankar of Sajag Nagrik Manch said,Fixing a word limit for RTI applications will hamper the entire process. The step was taken probably because there were complaints about applications reading like essays. However,150 words is too less. Also,the government took the decision without consulting the public.
Shivaji Raut,a Satara-based activist,said making such changes would defeat the purpose of the Act. An amendment like this from a government which calls itself progressive is surprising. None of us knew about these changes. There is a need for the government to take into consideration the views and suggestions of citizens. If they had to limit the words,they could have kept it at a more agreeable number,such as 500. We plan to protest against this amendment.
While most say the word limit will hamper applicants from adequately expressing their queries,some feel the bigger issue is the way the amendment was brought about. The amendment in itself is not a big deal. However,the government took this step without any consultation with the stakeholders. Tomorrow,they might show the same attitude towards bigger issues. This is typical bureaucratic behavior and rather than concentrating on issues such as this,the government should make sure that the aim of the Act,that of bringing about transparency in governance,is met, said Maj Gen (Retd) SCN Jatar.