DailyPost 2593

Governments across the globe keep on the urging their citizens to share more and more data with the governments, most of it remains a necessity given the legal mandate on the citizen. How governments deal with that data supposedly should not be a matter of your concern for you, is what the government wants us to believe. The government logic even goes to the extent that if you don’t have anything to hide, then why should you be bothered. This is complete antithesis of the right to privacy, which has been the talk of the town for a long time. Privacy should give way to security, is by now a very well accepted presumption.

If you ever had a tryst with getting information from the government, you would understand pretty well, what I am talking about. Transparency and probity are the cornerstones of any democracy, but the challenge is, how would that be achieved, when opaqueness is in power. The tragedy of the information age, which worked on the cardinal principle of democratization of information, was failed by democratic countries as well, certainly in a very sophisticated manner. Edward Snowden’s disclosure can be treated at the extreme end of the spectrum. Most of forward-looking actions / legislations / enforcement are initiated under external or internal pressure or both.

It is for this reason, nothing much should be read into it. Whether it be a legislation on human rights, or combating corruption or right to information. Some initial flurry and then everything is back to normal, some minimal and odd actions keep happening to prove it to the contrary. We are going through the same phase with regards to right to privacy. Anything which impacts opaqueness of action or information meets the same fate. Dormancy is a better option than getting rid of it. Right to Information Act mandated public authorities to share information with citizens to bring transparency in governance, Supreme Court observed that it is fast becoming a “dead letter law.” Magsaysay Award to electoral success and accolades all were showered on the crusaders, but it is so difficult to even to maintain the semblance of the enforcement mechanism.

Nobody is even talking of the quality of governance change and its impact on the common man. Supreme Court to its surprise found that the Central Information Commission, CIC, and state ICs were plagued with vacancies and were unable to decide on public complaints. Still, nearly every day we hear of law taking its own course discourse by one government functionary or the other. Its 7 out 11 posts are vacant in CIC, Jharkhand Information Commission stopped functioning in May 2020, as all 11 posts are vacant. Telangana IC has not been functioning since February and Tripura since July 2021. Collated information for the country on the vacancies and number of pending complaints are now to be provided to the Supreme Court. Transparency leads to accountability, and no noble soul is interested in it. Open Data Policy is not even at the imaginary level. If it happens, it would bring about transformative change. But the same was said about RTI too.

Sanjay Sahay

Have a nice evening.

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