RTI - Am I understanding it correctly ?

I follow the India Uncut blog by Amit Varma. Frankly speaking I read it for its witty humour. A recent post however started my mind to think in another direction. I have thought about it earlier too.

Right to Information Act is a tool I can use to requisite information from a government department. Using this information I can question the government and its departments over its activities. And so it happens many times. At the same time I see another way that RTI works - I file a request for information under RTI and what happens is that one of the apparatchiks from the concerned department gets back and tries to solve the problem.

I am sure many of us have read about this auxiliary (or is it one of the primary) function of RTI. The downside that I see with this approach is that erring officials are not brought to book. So RTI in this case becomes a tool for justice for an individual and not for the society. If I file a request for information asking why the road in front of my house has not been repaired, promptly the municipal authorities will run a road roller in front of my house - and so on for any other street for which an RTI request was filed. With municipalities and their limited resources, its a no-brainer to guess where all the road repair budget will go.

At this point of time, I am reminded of an article I read in India Together. It talked about this explosion in the number of RTI applications and how the number could increase more rapidly once it is possible to file one online.

My point - Is it better to ensure that RTI is used to bring systemic changes rather than used as a tool to coerce people into doing partial work.

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