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These 6 Changes To The RTI Act Can Turn It Into Another Toothless Legislation

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The Right to Information (RTI) Act – one of the most used transparency legislation of modern times – is on the verge of becoming yet another toothless legislation. Both UPA and NDA governments have been guilty of trying to weaken the existing RTI Act.

One after another, there have been many attempts to tweak the Act and to reduce the transparency and accountability of the government to the civil societies and to citizens. After a vociferous protest against the draft of RTI rules, 2017, the Modi government released a revised draft, sharing it on the website of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

This piece will try to analyse the new proposed changes, its impact, criticism and suggestions associated with it.

Proposed Rules:

1. Erratic RTI Fees:

Under the provision of section 27 of the RTI Act, it intends to increase the RTI filing fees from ₹10 to ₹50 through notification from time to time as notified by the Central government.

Objection by civil societies:

This provision will provide the government with a chance to increase the RTI fees as per their whims and fancies. Also, as per provisions of the RTI Act, it is illegal and illegitimate to increase the fees through notification by the Central government.

2. Stipulating Time Frame For A Complaint

Rule 12 (iv) of the RTI rules, 2017 states that a complaint/appeal with the CIC can be filled within a stipulated time duration of 90 days.

If a complainant is aggrieved for (unsatisfactory or no reply), they must file an appeal within a stipulated period of 90 days.

Objections by stakeholders:

Section 18 of RTI Act does not mention any time duration. There is no legal basis to introduce the time limit.

3. Absolute Power to CIC:

A new rule which comes into force after deleting Rule 10 (1) is empowering the CIC alone to decide on the merit of the complaint. The complaint can be dismissed if CIC is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter.

Objections by stakeholders:

This rule will allow CIC to dismiss the complaint without giving the opportunity to the complainant to present or argue his case.

4. Failure In Compliance With The Orders Of The CIC:

As per the revised draft of RTI rules of 2017, the government has further diluted the power of the CIC to penalise the government agencies in case of non-compliance of its orders.

The CIC has to communicate the non-compliance of its order to the government agencies within a time duration of three months, in case they want to penalise it.

Objections by stakeholders:

The CIC can impose penalties, awards and compensation under the RTI Act. Introducing any restriction like time duration will amount to diluting the powers of the CIC.

5. Withdrawal/Abetment of Appeal:

One of the most criticised points in the draft of RTI rules, 2017 is rule 12 which introduces a provision to allow the appellant to withdraw the application and secondly if, during the pendency of the appeal with CIC an RTI activist died, the matter would be closed.

Why has this provision been introduced? It raises suspicion in the minds of civil societies and RTI activists.

But after protests, this rule was deleted by the government keeping in mind the arguments raised by stakeholders.

6. Rule 8 (3) Of Draft RTI rules, 2017

It is being made mandatory for the appellant to serve the copy of the appeal to the respondent, before submitting an appeal to the commission.

Suggestion: It should not be made mandatory for the appellant to serve the copy of the appeal to respondent, keeping in mind the safety and well being of the appellant as well as the sensitive nature of the information being sought.

Since most of the times, the information sought is related to governance, corruption matters and allegations of bribery, it is in the best interests of RTI seekers to not provide a copy of the appeal to the respondent.

Overall, political parties are trying their best to dilute the 2012 rules so that they could make access to information even more tedious. The revised draft will clearly lead to the weakening of the RTI Act.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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