It is said that people deserve the government that they get. We are not suppressed by the politicians and bureaucrats; we are suppressing ourselves, and allowing corruption to prevail.
Our mindset is: “I shall criticize the driver, but I shall never take the driving seat.”
After losing a second appeal hearing, we come out of the information commissioner’s office cursing his ignorance of RTI, and his biased mindset. We blame him for being pro-PIO, because he is a former bureaucrat or a politician’s chamcha. We say that he is insensitive to the plight of the struggling RTI activist. We say that the only way things can only change if civil society members, and not bureaucrats, start becoming information commissioners.
But, now that Govt. of India has called civil society candidates to apply for the post of Central Information Commissioner (last date to apply is 18 November), what happens? Are we applying? Or are we encouraging others, whom we consider knowledgeable and intelligent, to apply?
A BIG NO! Everybody is thanda! I spoke to a number of RTI activists in many states a couple of days ago, and what did I hear?
MOST COMMON REPLIES:
1) “Information commissioner? Who me? No way! I will do a better job staying outside the system and being an RTI activist.”
(Translated, this means: “I will always criticize the cooking, but never go into the kitchen and try preparing anything myself.”)
2) “It is an honorary position, and I can’t afford to move to Delhi and do an honorary job.”
(Hey hello!!! Sir! Madam! The job of CIC is NOT AN HONORARY POSITION. It carries a very respectable pay packet of about Rs 1.3 lakh per month, plus benefits. A CIC is directly appointed by President of India after selection by a three-member selection committee chaired by Prime Minister. I am not saying you should apply because of the money or the prestige, but please be aware of what you are so casually turning down!)
3) “My business/profession/present lifestyle is too important. I can’t leave it and go to Delhi.”
(Is this what I hear from the CEO of some big company? No, I hear it from normal, middle-class guys like you and me — who may be earning Rs 30-40,000 per month. Maybe a lot less. Have we collectively lost it?!)
4) “We should motivate some good and intelligent persons to apply.”
(To which I reply, “Very good, Sir. Please name one such good and intelligent person, and let us talk to him”. And they are like, “Uh… uh… I can’t think of anybody in my circle. Maybe somebody outside my circle… someone unknown to me… maybe.” So it appears that we RTI activists don’t keep very good company!)
5) “The post is only for great and important people. I am a very ordinary man.”
(Yeah… as if the information commissions are all full of “great people”. At this point, we conveniently forget that we regularly call CICs complete idiots and spineless chamchas. Now that we are asked to apply for the job, we suddenly get an inferiority complex, and these idiots suddenly become “great people”!)
6) “Become an information commissioner? Why bother? It will fail anyway. Instead, we should file a PIL against the corrupt government and make it clean. Otherwise, nothing will happen, and things will go on like this.”
(Translation: “Why attempt to reform the system little by little? Why should you and I do all that hard work? Let us instead think about a great big pie-in-the-sky and feel happy. Or better still, let us depend on someone like Anna Hazare to drop down from the heavens and reform the system all at once!”)
7) “I don’t run after power and position. I am a humble person, and a quiet worker.”
(This reply implies that anybody who applies for the position of information commissioner is running after power and position… and therefore, he is an greedy person. I am speechless before this reply, because if I say that I will apply, I will be considered a bad person too!)
But thank God, I heard positive replies from some people, and these replies lifted my spirits. Some good people said that they had already applied, and a couple of them had received email confirmation from DoPT.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS:
A. If WE don’t apply, we are leaving the field open for political appointments and nepotism. It is necessary for large numbers of us to apply, so that proper eligibility criteria and selection procedure is put in place.
B. We should not have an inferiority complex before bureaucrats. Many of us in civil society are at least as competent as ex-IAS officers. There is a joke among bureaucrats that an IAS officer loses one vertebra per year of service; so, after 33 years of service, he becomes completely spineless, and is able to bend in whichever direction his political masters want him to. Presumably, we civil-society-wallahs have a backbone… or do we?
C. There are about 11 posts of Central Information Commissioners (including the chief). Even if only one third are filled by civil society members, that means CIVIL SOCIETY MUST PUT UP AT LEAST 3-4 REALLY GOOD CANDIDATES EVERY FIVE YEARS FOR CIC’S POST. And if we can’t even do this, shame on us!
D. To extend the same logic to State Information Commissions, there should be about 150 State Information Commissioners in 28 states to avoid buildup of pendency. (There are currently around 80, but there were 106 in 2009-10.) RTI implementation will improve if even one-third of these are from civil society. This means each state information commission requires at least 1-2 good quality civil society candidates every 5 years. SO WE NEED 40-50 CIVIL SOCIETY CANDIDATES FOR THE STATE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER’S POST EVERY FIVE YEARS.
Please apply for CIC’s post now. This is an opportunity for you to show the babus how administration should be done. ALSO, THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO GENUINELY SERVE 10-15 RTI ACTIVISTS & WHISTLE-BLOWERS EVERY WORKING DAY FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. Do you think you can achieve this by being an RTI activist?
If you don’t apply, political cronies who have no love for RTI activists will be appointed as CICs. They will disappoint and frustrate thousands of RTI activists and information seekers, and they will diminish people’s faith in Right to Information for the next five years. Please don’t let this happen. Believe in yourself and do your best.
Email the completed forms to firstname.lastname@example.org before November 18. Preferably, do it today. I promise you, I will!