RTI: Knowledge, information…and violence

This post relates to a recent story titled: “CIC orders publication of PDS details

The Indian government runs one of the largest Public Distribution Systems (PDS) giving subsidised food and other essential commodities for the lower-income groups in the country.  Even if just those Below Poverty Line (BPL) are taken into account roughly 25 crore (250 million) people are entitled to some benefits or the other under the PDS scheme.

At various points of time, there have been allegations of large-scale corruption in the identification of the poor (which would entitle the poor to subsidised commodities), in the amount of food grains supplied (i.e. large-scale fraud), etc.

Recently, based on a Right to Information application filed by an NGO in Delhi, the Chief Information Commissioner has ordered the Delhi Food & Supply Department to submit the following information:

  • Entitlement of essential commodities for all type of Ration Cards.
  • Scale of issue of each essential commodity for all types of ration cards.
  • Retail price of each essential commodity for all types of ration cards.
  • Working hours of Fair Price Shops.
  • Stock of essential items received during the month.
  • Opening and closing stock of essential commodities.
  • Name, designation and contact numbers of officials for redressal of grievances with respect to quality and quantity of essential commodities.
  • Daily updating of stock position information.
  • Information about inspection of records by any citizen on every Saturday except for second Saturday as per the PDS Control Order 15/06/06.
  • Display of samples of food grains being supplied through Fair Price Shops.

Based on this order of the CIC, the Department has already put up some of the above-mentioned information on its website.

Though this instance is just a minor example of how the RTI is being used to make government more transparent, in a recent case Satish Shetty, who had been invoking the Right to Information Act to wage a lonely battle against the land mafia in the Maval area of Pune district, was hacked to death.

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