The Maharashtra government has issued a government resolution allowing citizens to inspect records in district-level offices and local bodies across the state under the Right To Information (RTI) for two hours every Monday.
Officials from the General Administration Department (GAD) said the move was aimed at bringing transparency in the functioning of the government and to reduce RTI applications and appeals.
“Citizens will not need to file RTI applications or pay any fee. They can directly go to the offices and carry out an inspection of the records,” explained a senior official.
All district-level offices and local bodies such as municipal corporations and councils, zilla parishads, among others, have been asked to allow inspection from 3 pm to 5 pm every Monday. If a public holiday falls on Monday, then it should be allowed on the next working day,” said another official.
The official said the resolution of November 26 would, however, not be applicable to Mantralaya, the state secretariat, Maharashtra allows citizens to inspect govt records under RTI yet due to logistical hurdles.
“Many departments in Mantralaya don’t have adequate space and it will be difficult to allow RTI inspections. It can be taken up later on,” said an official. “Except Mantralaya, it covers all other offices across the state. So, all the heads of departments in district-level offices and local bodies have been asked to implement it.”
An official said the decision to open government offices for people to check files under RTI is based on a similar model started in 2009 in the Pune Municipal Corporation by then Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade. When Zagade was posted as Principal Secretary in GAD in March this year, he moved a file to replicate the Pune civic body’s decision across the state. But the formal order was issued on November 26, the official added.
Zagade said that in the Pune civic body, people could inspect records and seek photocopies, which would be given with a stamp stating that the information had been given under RTI. “Besides, an RTI library was also created (in Pune) for people to have access to the civic body’s decisions on RTI,” said Zagade, who retired in May.
RTI activists have welcomed the government’s decision. “The success of this decision depends on its extensive use by citizens and it should not remain on paper,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner.
Vivek Velankar, an RTI activist from Pune, said that in Pune, there weren’t too many takers for the model. “So there is need to create awareness among the people to use it extensively. Also, the government must publicise this decision and sensitise officials about it so that a large number of citizens can access the information easily,” he said.