Several RTI activists will boycott the inaugural session of the national convention on the completion of 10 years of the Right to Information (RTI) transparency law at Vigyan Bhavan today.
The Information Commission which is hosting the programme has invited only 10 activists and many activists have said that they will not attend the inaugural session.
While activists led by Aruna Roy have said that this is happening under the “control” and not “influence” of the government, Chief Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma has said that there is nothing unusual about it. “We did not invite them last year as well. This year we have only invited experts.” While activists have alleged that the intelligence bureau has been to their homes asking questions of the activists who have been invited, government sources said that this was just a verification carried out as part of security arrangements since Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be inaugurating the convention.
However, some sources in the information commission and the government concede that due to this “mismanagement” the government is facing criticism which was avoidable.
While activists have alleged that the government is behind this move, one of the Information Commissioners told The Indian Express that, “The government has nothing to do with it. The government has extended full support. It has sanctioned Rs. 45 lakh to hold the convention.”
At all previous annual conventions except last year when there was a meeting of only former and serving commissioners since there was no Chief Information Commissioner at the time, activists had been invited. The conventions went off well barring the first annual convention in 2006.
Then, some activists had entered the venue wearing T-shirts painted with slogans. When then president APJ Abdul Kalam was delivering his lecture, those activists stripped their shirts off and exposed their T-shirts painted with slogans like “President we want to speak for 2 minutes with you,” “CIC has killed RTI,” “Sack CIC (Wajahat Habibullah), Save RTI”, etc.
The UPA government was embarrassed but that did not stop the government and CIC from inviting activists to further conclaves.
This year, it seems, the CIC is being extra cautious in order to prevent any embarrassing situation for the PM. This has created a storm among the activists who are already criticsing the government for weakening RTI.