While the RTI Act promises accountability and easy access to information; redtapism and lack of transparency at NIT Warangal is driving applicants away
Corruption and the high crime rate are the first words that ring in your head when you think about Bihar. However, unknown to most is the rapid strides the BIMARU state has made in the implementation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Innovative reforms have made it possible for the public to file RTI applications by a phone call.
On the other hand, in Andhra Pradesh, its much touted IT prowess that’s supposed to usher in an era of transparency is being used to stonewall request for information. National Institute of Technology Warangal (NITW), regarded as one of the top institutes in India, has serious transparency issues. The implementation of RTI is plagued by redtapism and ‘firewalls’ that scare away applicants — efforts of students and RTI activists to get this rectified have gone in vain.
The basic problem begins with asking personal questions in the application form, which is technically not required. According to the Section 61A of the Act, an applicant making a request for information is not required to give any reason for the request, or personal details except those for contact.
“In the NIT application form, they have asked questions like applicant’s name, father’s name, date of birth, phone number, permanent address and email, which according the Act is not required. The students are now scared to apply as all their personal information is there in the form. The management is trying to stonewall the students from filing applications,” says Rakesh Dubbudu, alumnus of the college and RTI activist.Secondly, the professors of the institute double up as RTI administrators. This is a hindrance as students worry that when their personal information being disclosed, professors might hold grudges against them.
Apart from this, RTI activists in the State believe that these professors are not well trained to handle the applications. There is a serious a lack of awareness about the RTI act itself.
According to Section 41B of the Act, basic information about the institution like rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records used by employees for discharging functions, a statement of the boards, councils, committees and the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public and this basic information should also be updated on the website. However, none of these happens here.“They are not aware and don’t know what to do. Hence I prepared a five-page document for them, even though it was not our job. Yet they have not updated anything on the website. I am an alumnus of the college and I am doing this to remove the negative air around the college. But the management does not want transparency.
“Being one of the top institutions in the country, what message do they want to send across by not being transparent and carrying out various processes of administration within the four walls,” he says.It has been more than seven years since RTI has come into force. Even today RTI implementation at NIT Warangal is given the least preference. Students have formed a group to fight against this but there is no respite yet.
“Since the last one year we have been fighting to implement Section 41B which includes the need to disclose important details on the website, but they pay no attention to us. We have been filing RTI applications but have not got satisfactory results. For example, we have asked for details of our mess caution deposit but they have not replied.
“When I asked about what equipments we have in the mechanical and biotechnology lab they gave an answer but without intricate details.“For scholarship students, their money gets deposited in the bank. When we asked for a detailed division we didn’t get a reply,” complains Satish Reddy, a final year student.