Express way to using RTI

IN Books | 08/05/2011
STUDENT RESEARCH ON THE HOOT: While it is evident that the RTI is a powerful tool in the hands of the media, only a few are making adequate use of it.
In Pune, finds LOVINA RAYMOND, Indian Express is the only English language daily to do so.
The Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 is widely recognized as being among the most powerful transparency laws in the world. As the act has been in operation for the last five years, this study is being conducted to evaluate its efficacy by looking at how three English language dailies in Pune (Indian Express, Times of India and DNA) have used the Act to get information.
The study found that Indian Express is more proactive in using RTI than the others. In a period of three months, Indian Express was found to have 10 articles related to RTI out of which 6 were investigations. DNA had three, none of which were investigations and TOI had one, which was also not an investigation.
Table of RTI Investigations carried out by Indian Express

Date of Publication
Title of Investigation
February 2
377 babies died in Sassoon, YCM hospital NICUs in year
RTI query revealed deaths of 377 babies in the neo-natal intensive care units. Major causes of death were respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, asphyxia and congenital diseases
February 8
Sassoon burns ward: 3000 women admitted in 5 years, 1900 succumbed
RTI investigation revealed Ventilators, ICU, Operation theatre missing;non-functional airconditioners, shortage of staff and medicines.
February 15
Utility buses kill 67 in 3 years, no word on contract vehicles
RTI investigation revelation:
*Sept ’07 to march ’08: 13 people died in accidents on general roads, 2 on BRTS
*April ’08 to March ’09: 13 on roads; 1(BRTS)
*April ’09 to March ’10: 5( roads) ; 1 ( BRTS)
*April ’10 to Jan ’11 : 24( roads; 8(BRTS)

Between Sept 2007 and Jan 2011, 55 people have died on roads and 12 on the Bus Rapid Transit System(BRTS)
March 1
PCMC blows Rs. 26 cr public money on office renovation
PCMC spent Rs.48,525 and Rs. 42,500 on chairs. Renovation of office cost Rs. 26 crore
March 13
RTI: 150 pregnant women died at Sassoon, YCMH in 3 years
150 pregnant women died either during delivery or after: Sassoon accounts for 102 deaths while YCMH accounts for 48
March 13
RTI: 400 government offices in district, but no PIO names
Under the RTI act, it is mandatory for all offices to display information of names prominently. Till January 2010, none of the 400 government offices ahd a board displaying the names of the Public Information Officer( PIO) or the Appelate Authority.
A year later, 240 of theses offices put up boards

Citing the reason for the proactive approach by Indian Express, Manoj More, Assistant Editor said, “RTI is very effective in civic issues and crime related issues since it gives accurate information. Also, it is company policy that RTI should be used on a regular basis as a news tool. Hence we, as journalists, are implementing the policy. ’’ Parthasarthi Biswas, Correspondent, DNA says, “I am using RTI for my stories. I am awaiting responses, since procuring information through RTI is a long procedure. Aseem Shaikh of the Times of India thinks RTI gives authentic information and since it is a written document, it cannot backfire. Responding to the fact that Times of India does not use RTI regularly, he says, “We get most of our information directly from the concerned authorities, hence there is rarely a need to use RTI, which is a long and slow process.”

To conclude, it seems that while RTI is being used passionately for news reportage, it is being done by very few media persons. There is a lot of scope for the press to exploit this tool on a larger scale. There are a host of issues that affect the common man. If the other news publications become active, there is a possibility that the pressure of accountability on public servants will be greater.

(See attached file for full report and RTI choronology)

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