We sometimes loosely refer to the State or Central Information Commissioner’s job as a plum posting. Also, we sometimes joke that a passionate RTI activist should be made an Information Commissioner as a reward for his service to the country. But think about it seriously: is it a plum posting or reward posting?
Not if one sincerely does the job. It is NOT a ceremonial position like that of a Governor, where one sits on the dais at meetings, cuts ribbons and sips champagne at red-carpet events.
A sincere SIC or CIC goes to office every morning to face two dozen argumentative appellants, PIOs and FAAs. To prevent pendency of cases, he works 8 - 10 hours per day, six days a week, for five years. He daily reads 10 cases (i.e. a file consisting of RTI application, first appeal application, order, second appeal application or complaint), holds 10 hearings, dictates 10 well-reasoned orders, oversees a staff of a dozen employees who attend to correspondence, files and records, meets irate activist groups, deals with influential heads of public authority.
Being Information Commissioner means doing all this consistently for 280 days a year, for five years. I don’t see how this can be a reward for a good activist. I don’t think I could handle this job.
Could you? Be honest.
Also, could Kiran Bedi? Can an iconic personality handle this pressure? Maybe such people took a lot of pressure in their duty-days before the media made them celebrities, but can they do it now? And can they go the distance? (Additionally, I find myself wondering whether she — or anybody else for that matter — could do this job for five years without salary. Sounds psychologically impossible!)
CICs take home over Rs 80,000 as salary and enjoy the trappings of high office –VVIP car, government bungalow, high salary, izzat, etc. For Kiran Bedi or others who have previously wielded authority, this may not give pleasure. For activists like me, it may be a novel experience for at most a couple of months.
But after a few months, the VVIP car, personal assistants and peons etc would give no pleasure; in fact, for folks like me who enjoy sitting at the computer all day — barefoot, uncombed and unshaven, in t-shirt and shorts, the need for office discipline sounds oppressive! Activists who like to live life on their own terms, beware!
So, if you are thinking of offering yourself or nominate others as candidates, don’t do it on the basis of wishful thinking, past achievements and opinions formed on newspaper reports. Ideal candidates must be quiet, down-to-earth, altruistic people with a high tolerance for boredom and routine paperwork. They should be highly diplomatic and capable of managing people of differing opinions. It is a bit unlikely that either popular icons or activists who dream of attaining iconic status are temperamentally suited for this.
Can we set up a Citizens’ Committee for putting up suitable names to the Prime Minister’s Selection Committee? Nowhere in RTI Act 2005 does it say that the Selection Committee will only accept names from DoPT. In fact, DoPT is not mentioned in the Act; this is just a de-facto position that we have unquestioningly accepted. So, through the Citizens’ Committee, maybe we can gradually dilute DoPT’s role by putting up a growing number of good candidates every year.
Yes, this is a pipe-dream, but as I write, some activists have already started working seriously towards this goal. To empower the common man, it is necessary to dream impossible dreams, and then work towards making them a reality.
So my friends, believe! Have faith! Woh subah kabhee toh aayegee!
This is a necessary thought-process for better implementation of our sacred Right to Information. Please apply your mind positively and let me know your views.