According to a government resolution passed by the government of Maharashtra, the Residents of Maharashtra can inspect government records in district-level offices and local bodies under the Right to Information (RTI) Act for two hours every Monday.
The General Administration Department officials said that this step was implemented to bring about transparency in the functioning of the government and to decrease the RTI applications and appeals.
A senior official explained last Tuesday that “The citizens can directly enter the offices and carry out an inspection of the records, they won’t have to file RTI applications or pay any money.”
Each district-level office and the local bodies like Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils and Zilla Parishads among others have been asked to permit inspection from 3 pm to 5 pm every Monday. Another chief official stated that “If a public holiday falls on Monday, then it must be without fail allowed on the next working day”.
Official sources state that the resolution of November 26 would not be applicable in case of Mantralaya, the state secretariat. In spite of all logistical hurdles, Maharashtra allows its citizens to inspect the government records under RTI.
“Most of the departments in Manatralaya don’t have proper space, because of which it will be hard to permit RTI inspections, hence in Mantralaya the inspection process can be proceeded with later on,” said an official.
Other than Mantralaya, it covers every other office across the state. So, all the HOD’s in district level offices and local bodies have been requested to implement it.
The crucial decision to open government offices for the citizens to examine files under RTI is based on an identical model started way back in 2009 in the Pune Municipal Corporation by then Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade. This year when Mr Zagade was posted as Principal Secretary at GAD in March this year, he helped move a file to imitate the Pune Civic Body’s decision across the state, but the formal order was officially issued on the 26th of November, 2018.
Before retiring in May, Zagade said that “in the Pune Civic body, people could examine records and get the photocopies, which would be given back to them with a stamp saying that the information had been given under RTI. Along with that, a Right To Information library was also created in Pune for the common people to have access to the civic body’s decisions on RTI,”.
The RTI activists have warmheartedly welcomed the government’s decision. “The triumph of this decision depends on its extensive usage by people and it must not remain on paper,” said former Central Information Commissioner Chief, Mr Shailesh Gandhi.
In Pune, there doesn’t exist a high demand for this model, hence Vivek Velankar, an RTI activist from Pune ended up stating that, “ There is a need to generate awareness amongst the people to use it extensively and it is also the government’s duty to publicise this decision and sensitise officials about it so that a huge number of citizens can easily access the information.”