Getting access to government files has now become easier in Maharashtra. The state government has passed a resolution that allows citizens to access files under the Right to Information (RTI) Act at various government offices for two hours every Monday.
Currently, citizens can file for RTI queries online, and the concerned ‘public authority’ has to answer within 30 days.
With the new initiative, citizens in Maharashtra now also have the option of getting the same files offline and free of cost.
“Residents can inspect government records in district-level offices and local bodies such as municipal corporations and councils between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm every Monday. In [the] case of a public holiday on Monday, the inspection will be allowed on the next working day,” the government resolution stated.
This “proactive disclosure” of files has been put into place to reduce the burden on the state offices that receive hundreds of RTI applications every month, according to an official.
Speaking to the Dev Discourse, he said, “The idea is to introduce ‘proactive disclosure’ of files and minutes of meetings online to bring transparency in the administration, as well as to ease the burden of applications seeking information under the RTI Act. We have begun the process of introducing this clause, providing for proactive disclosure in the rules under the RTI Act.”
The model, incidentally, is based on the approach initiated by IAS officer Mahesh Zagade who was appointed as Pune’s Municipal Commissioner in 2009.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Zagade said that Pune citizens could inspect records and seek photocopies of the information they needed, with a stamp that affirmed that it was filed under the RTI.
“Besides, an RTI library was also created [in Pune] for people to have access to the civic body’s decisions on RTI,” said the former IAS officer.
He retired in May this year, but the state government is taking his citizen-centric idea forward.
Although the model will be implemented throughout the state, there are logistical issues when it comes to opening the Mantralaya doors for this RTI provision.
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“Many departments in [the] Mantralaya don’t have adequate space, and it will be difficult to allow RTI inspections. It can be taken up later on. Except [for] 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,” the official said.
With the abundance of RTI applications filed in the country, let’s hope that this initiative brings a positive outcome to both, the government bodies and the common citizens.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)