Perhaps a first in India, the department of civics and politics at Mumbai University is set to start a six month certificate course on RTI Act, to empower those struggling to learn its use. The course, likely to start from January 2015, aims at targeting social activists, journalists, bureaucrats and members of civil society, to ensure more effective use of the tool.
"The idea has been conceived recently and we are still working on its extensive details. An expert committee will soon be formed to workout the syllabus and other details of the course," said Dr Surrendra Jondhale, HoD of civics and politics, Mumbai University.
The department in collaboration with NGOs like Mahiti Adhikar Manch is organising a convention, "Western India Convention on Right to Information" on June 7 and 8.
The convention aims at discussing every aspect related to the Act. "In the past eight years ever since the inception of the RTI Act, 40 RTI activists have been killed and 150 injured. We have been demanding a need for a special fast-track court for all such individuals, who were attacked or killed for raising their voice. At the end of this convention, we want to finalise a list of resolutions and demands that will strengthen the use of this Act," said Bhaskar Prabhu, convener of Mahiti Adhikar Manch.
Speaking on the alleged "misuse" of the Act by some, noted RTI activist and former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, said a recent survey has found the claims to be misleading. "We have recently conducted a survey that confirmed that barely two per cent of the activists were found to be misusing the tool while 98 per cent used it for rightful purposes. We have the data that we would be sharing at the convention," he added.
Former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Riberio, who is also a part of the convention emphasised on the need for strengthening the underused Right to Service Act, along with the RTI.
Some of the themes for the convention:-
Role of information commissions to strengthen the RTI
Effect of judicial pronouncement on RTI
Use of technology to facilitate RTI
RTI advocacy-Role of media
Supporting RTI with other legislation - whistle blower, grievances Right to Hearing etc
Criminilisation of Governance and RTI
Role of training in RTI strengthening