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Why I Think The Recent RTI Amendment Will Only Strengthen The Indian Democracy

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In my opinion, the Right To Information Act (Amendment) Bill emboldens the Indian democracy. It is an absurd proposition which is being spread out in the public domain. The basic question which I ask to the people opposing this is, how can a lawfully passed act by the temple of democracy be an infringement of Indian democracy?

Parliament is the house which has the power to legislate on issues. Under the Concurrent List, the amendment of an act is within the domain of parliament and thus, we cannot say that the amendment was an undemocratic move by parliament.

A vital question to ponder regarding the present issue is: what is really a democracy? It is described as a ‘golden triangle of three Ds – discussion, debate and dissent. Before passing the amendment, the parliament of India has done all three of them, then how can this be an infringement of democracy? Rather it is an emboldening action which is strengthening the roots of democracy; the edifice of Indian democracy stands on discussion, debate and dissent. It is an issue of pride for the largest democracy of the world that the procedure established by law allows separate legislature from the executive and judiciary, it provides them their areas of operation but also allows them to have a system of checks and balances among them so that no arbitrary powers can be exercised by any single one.

The Right To Information Amendment has no relation in curbing the freedom of speech and expression, which was expounded in the landmark case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain in 1975 which provided the Right To Know under Article 19(A). It is not against the fundamental right of free speech and expression or the basic structure of the constitution and therefore it is not an insult to parliament and judiciary.

Only the parliament has the right to legislate for its people. A democratically elected house which is performing its constitutional obligation of amending an act can never be undemocratic. The people who are raising an eye over it are blatantly disregarding the public mandate and legislative functions of parliament.

This amendment doesn’t hamper anyone’s right to information at all. The right is there, was there and shall be there under the sun. With the advancement of technology, the right to information is available online just few clicks away from your phone.

This amendment is just an enabling bill which is not encroaching on the powers of the Central Information Commission. It seeks to amend Section 27 which shall now provide rule-making power and Section 13 and 16 which deal with term of office and salaries of State Information Commissioners and Chief Information Commissioner.

The people who believe it to be an encroachment on the autonomy of this body, I would like to remove their delusion as the matter of autonomy which is explicitly provided under Section 12(4), is left untouched. How can one say it’s not independent?

The Supreme Court in 2013’s Rajeev Garg v. Union of India opined for uniformity in services and specially with reference to this body, and the current amendment upholds this mandate. As far as the contention regarding disturbing checks and balances is concerned, it is pivotal to note that the Constitution of India doesn’t prescribe such powers to the Central Information Commission. The Constitution of India provides checks and balances between the three organs of the state only – the judiciary legislature and executive – so from where does the CIC come into the picture?

A great lacunae in the pre-amendment bill was that there were no rules attached to the act. How is it possible that you make an act, but don’t grant the power to formulate rules? This is against the basic notion of delegated legislation in administrative law. Rules shall only be formulated by executives who are professionals and know the knighty gritty of laws dealing with their fields.

The Chief Information Commissioner has equal footing to the Chief Justice of India but their decisions can be impugned under the jurisdiction of any High Court. How can one justify such disparity in position and powers? Thus, it was vital to remove disparities and bring a uniformity in powers and position.

The flaw which needs to be corrected in this law is that it provides equal status to the CIC with respect to constitutional post of a SC Judge and the CEC, but the CIC itself is not a constitutional post, it’s merely a legislative one. According to me, to amend such a transgression of Constitution, it is pivotal to amend it according to law.

At last I would like to state that change is the only constant. Even water stinks if it doesn’t move. Evolution is the only way forward, then why is such a change being opposed? Why can’t we correct mistakes? Is it wrong to ratify the lacunae of any law? How strange that something that should be welcomed and applauded is being questioned and opposed.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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