New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) Opposing the proposed amendments to the RTI Act and demanding operationalisation of anti-corruption laws, hundreds of activists from various parts of the country gathered here on Wednesday.
Shouting the slogan "RTI nahi toh vote nahi" (no vote without RTI), the activists took out a "Ghotala Rath Yatra" to expose the "government's double standards on issues of corruption".
"On one hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power on the plank of anti-corruption, on the other all the key laws and institutions of transparency and accountability are being systematically undermined by the government," said an activist.
RTI activists from across the country highlighted that the government is undermining the RTI Act through the proposed amendment bill and also by not appointing information commissioners.
People from 10 states, including Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, participated in the protest and "Jan Manch" -- a platform for discussion.
The Jan Manch also saw presence of opposition leaders from the Congress (MP Rajeev Gowda), CPI (D. Raja) and the RJD (MP Manoj Jha). They pledged support and assured that they will oppose the RTI amendment bill. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan also took part in the Jan Manch.
Gowda, in his address, stated that the Congress will steadfastly oppose any proposed amendments to the RTI Act.
He said that the RTI Act is crucial as it empowers people to seek information about decisions of the government.
The MP also highlighted how the government is undermining accountability by not disclosing the price of the Rafael jets in Parliament.
Jha said that his party will not allow the government to weaken the RTI Act.
D. Raja of the CPI said that the left parties had supported the passage of the RTI Act in 2005 and since then have opposed every attempt of the government to weaken the law. He said even this time, the left parties will oppose the proposed amendments.
Bhushan, in his address, said the government is interfering with every independent institution and that it is amending laws to shield the corrupt.
Sridhar Acharyulu, former Central Information Commissioner, who also took part in the Jan Manch, said the government is undermining the independence of information commissioners to prevent them from functioning properly.
The amendments seek to empower the Central government to decide the tenure and salary and allowances of Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission and also of state Information Commissions through rules, they said.
Eight out of 11 posts of commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC) are currently lying vacant, including that of the chief, they said.
There are nearly 26,500 cases now pending before the CIC and the backlog is rising at an alarming rate due to the paucity of commissioners, they added.
The rally and Jan Manch were organised by the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), in collaboration with various campaigns and groups including the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), the National Right to Food Campaign, and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).