Anonymity and community in the age of RTI

(Draft under work.)

  The year 2005 was a significant event in the history of India, as it
  saw the introduction of bill for Right to Information. Under this
  act any person could request data from government departments
  pertaining to issues of interest. This was seen as first step
  towards transparency of government of India, and indeed it was. The
  RTI act was a weapon in hands of activists, who could now get the
  required information officially. What was important also was that
  there was a timeline which had to be adhered to while replying to
  the RTI query. The information gathered from the various RTI queries
  which individuals across the country empowered the citizens about
  their rights regarding many issues. Also equally importantly RTI was
  a tool for exposing the corruption running rampant in various
  government departments. A RTI query could expose the irregularities
  and bypassing of rules and regulations, leading to
  corruption. There are many famous cases for their expose of big
  names and massive corruption which were brought to light. (Some
  examples?)

  Some people became what are now known as RTI activists. The RTI
  activists were whistleblowers of the RTI age. These activists
  exposed many scams at local and national levels. Such expose make
  the people involved very uncomfortable. And as it happens in many
  cases the people involved are very powerful and would not stop at
  anything to attain their goals. In many such cases the RTI activists
  were “easy” targets. By using the four-fold approach of /saam/,
  /daam/, /dand/ and finally /bhed/ those in trouble try to stop the RTI
  activists. Unfortunately in many cases, it turns out the activists
  were killed as a result of their whistleblowing acts. (Give
  examples)

  What the RTI activists in various parts lack is a safety net, by
  this I mean they lack support from people with similar
  interests. They also lack, in a sense, a feeling of community who
  will stand by them in case of such bad incidents. What can be done
  for them? What kind of mechanism can result in their protection?
  There was a proposed whistleblower bill, which if enacted will
  provide security to such people. But the bill was not passed. Is
  there any other option? Is there a way in which people can still ask
  for information under RTI, without revealing their identity, so that
  they cannot be “targetted” as whistleblowers. Is there a way in
  which despite being anonymous there is a sense of community among
  the activists of the RTI? It seems there can be an alternative way in
  which we the people can provide a sense of anonymity and at the same
  time that of a community to the RTI activists. What follows is
  such a proposal which will try to cover these fundamental issues.

  The proposal is to setup a front, which for lack of a name I would
  call a /collective/ for now, which will mask those requesting RTI
  from various government departments. The activists can send their
  queries to the government departments through this collective. This
  collective will in a sense create a buffer between activists and the
  respective government departments, and associated problematic
  elements. Since the RTI queries will be sent through this
  collective, there will be sense of anonymity for the RTI activists,
  as their names wouldn’t come under spotlight as in the earlier
  case. One can also have a way in which the activist need not reveal
  their identity to collective, that is we should also allow for
  anonymous requests for queries. Some may point out that this might
  be abused, but we have to give in this possibility hoping that pros
  will outnumber the cons. Thus at no point we would have any data
  regarding the identity of the applicant, hence we will not be able
  to reveal it, when asked. This as will be pointed out can be abused,
  but Thus the collective will form a mask for all the RTI
  requests. Of coure people who want their name displayed for their
  work, will be proud public faces of the collective. It would be much
  more difficult to subdue or silence or attack the collective as it
  would not be single point contact, but rather a distributed system.

  So what do the activists gain by submitting to the collective,
  apart from the anonymity. The collective will have a policy that
  all the data that it receives from these RTI queries, will be put
  up in public domain. This will in turn create a public archive of
  information which will be accessible to anyone. Such a archive will
  address many issues, like redundancy in filing of RTI queries, or
  making the future RTI queries much more pointed and making material
  available for researchers.

  Such is a very rough proposal for the formation of the
  collective. Suggestions and refinements in the proposal and
  possible way of execution of this collective are needed.

 
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About The Mitr

I am The Mitr, The Friend
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