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Rights-based Approach to Poverty Alleviation: Use of RTI for Ensuring Effective Delivery of Services Prof. M. M. Ansari Information Commissioner Central Information Commission August Kranti Bhawan New Delhi
The combination of the National Rural Employment Guarantee and the RTI Acts provides a very potent base for expanding the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the state in ensuring equity and social justice. . . we have put in place a framework which makes it possible as never before in India’s history to implement rights approach to the realisation of basic human rights. ” Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India Address on the National Legal Literacy Day, November 9, 2006
Challenge of Poverty • The guiding principles of our development process have been to ensure a decent standard of life to all • Yet, the results so far fall far short of desired goals. • One third of our people continue to suffer from all forms of deprivation • Reason: lack of people’s participation in designing and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes and corruption.
Citizen-Government partnership • People’s participation in decision making process is essence of democracy. • Rights-based approach provides legal guarantee for realizing entitlements and ensures empowerment of people. • RTI provides a framework for promoting Citizen. Government participation in development process.
Major Objectives of paper are to assess: • The impact of RTI on good governance and development; • The outcome of use of RTI by the poor for realizing their entitlements, under the flagship programmes; and • To suggest ways and measures for ensuring effective use of RTI for rapid poverty reduction.
2. Link between RTI and Elements of Good Governance • The preamble of the Act states that: Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;
Major elements of good governance: • • Greater Transparency Improvement in accountability Citizens and the Government partnership, and Reduction in corruption
2. 1 Greater Transparency • A public authority is expected to • `maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under the Act’. • ‘provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communication. • Provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons
Greater Transparency… Contd. . • A citizen has the right to observe as to what is going on inside an organization. • The Information Commissions have ordered for disclosure of vital documents pertaining to decision-making processes, namely ‘file noting, cabinet papers, records of recruitment, finalization of tenders, lists of beneficiaries of subsidized services and utilization of funds. This demonstrates unprecedented degree of openness.
2. 2 Greater Accountability • Due to effective implementation of the flagship programmes rural to urban migration has, of late, decelerated • TI-CMC study reveals that in the opinions of 40 per cent of BPL respondents Corruption and mal -practices have declined • RTI route has been followed for resolving disputes and to redress grievances on account of settlement of pension and post-retirement benefits, insurance claims, IT refunds, payment of dues of contractors, etc.
Greater Accountability…Contd. . • In particular, the aspects of good governance are reflected from the disclosure of information relating to: i) attendance of staff in schools has helped in checking teachers’ absenteeism and students’ drop out; ii) attendance of doctors and nurses at primary health centres has led to improvement in health care facilities; iii) the details of supplies and distribution of food grains through ration shops has assured the reach of entitlements to the beneficiaries;
Greater Accountability…Contd. . • the supply and demand for petroleum products, such as, domestic gas has reduced black marketing; • muster rolls and beneficiary of employment guarantee schemes has exposed corruption and ensured effective delivery of services to the poor; and • allotment of retail outlets and LPG agencies These evidences indicate improvements in accountability of service providers
2. 3 Promotion of Citizen-Government Partnership • The principle of partnership is derived from the fact that people are not only the ultimate beneficiaries of development, but also the agents of development and change. • Citizens’ participation has been promoted through (a) access to information and involvement of affected groups in design and implementation of projects; and (b) empowerment of local bodies at village level
Promotion of Citizen-Government Partnership…Contd. . • People are, in effect, empowered with knowledge and information to claim for their entitlements through legal rights. • RTI has thus instilled a wider sense of ownership in the development activities. • Information obtained in respect of utilization of funds allocated under rural employment guarantee scheme, MLA/MP local area development fund, etc. has been used by NGOs for political campaigns against the wrong doers.
2. 4 Reduction in Corruption The culture of secrecy breeds corruption, which results in lower investments due to misuse of power and diversion of funds for private purposes. Ø Ø The Transparency International (TI) has reported that perceived corruption in India has declined The corruption reduction score of 3. 4 (out of 10) in 2008, after an initial rise of 3. 5 in 2007, compared to 2. 99 in 2006, which indicate a decline in corruption to the extent of 15%.
Reduction in Corruption…Contd. . Ø According to the TI-CMS survey study 40 per cent of the respondents have reported decline in corruption. Ø Wherever NGOs are actively involved in the development activities, the perceived corruption is abysmally low. The key to contain corruption is with the members of Civil Society
3. Use of RTI by the Poor for Realizing Entitlements • Right to information is harnessed as a tool for promoting participatory development, strengthening democratic governance and facilitating effective delivery of socio-economic services. • At least 20 per cent of the information seekers are BPL cardholder. • They have sought to know the reasons as to why the services meant for them are not reaching them. • The poor persons are increasingly involved in designing and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes
3. 1 Guarantee of Income and Food Security • The benefits of the schemes hardly reached them due to inefficiency and corruption. • The adoption of rights-based approach is significant to weed out corruption and to guarantee the reach of entitlements of poor persons. • The poverty alleviation programmes are designed such that a citizen can observe and scrutinize the public activities
Implementation of NREGA • Work opportunity on demand for at least 100 days in a year and to secure livelihood of people in rural areas • In effect, annual income of a rural job card holder has thus risen by Rs. 6, 000/- (100 days x Rs. 60/- per day wages), which is in addition to other income. • The development of rural infrastructure under the scheme would surely enhance productivity of various activities and augment further opportunities for employment and income.
Implementation of NREGA… Contd. . • People have sought to know the details of schemes and its relevance to the rural community, utilization of funds, and payment of wages to the target beneficiaries • The disclosure of relevant details, such as muster rolls, has helped in Ø containing corruption, Ø ensuring the reach of benefits to the target groups Ø identification of officials responsible for ineffective implementation of programmes. • For urban poor, JNNURM has been launched to provide basic services, namely, water supply and sanitation, transport, education, health care, etc.
Mid-Day Meals to School Children • A measure of food security, which not only helps in reducing nutritional deficiency among the poverty stricken children but also enhances their learning attainments due to adequate intake of balanced diets. • All the stakeholders are able to observe and monitor the service delivery system. • In effect, the scheme improves physical health and learning abilities of children.
Integrated Child Development Scheme • One of the components of this scheme is to provide nutritional support to children from poor families. • The use of RTI by the target group, including the NGOs, has ensured effective implementation of the scheme to the advantage of the poor.
Grant of Pension for the Poor Senior Citizens • With a view to providing income and human security to the poor and destitute, financial assistance to families with low means of subsistence is provided to all poor persons, above 60 years. • The grant of pension has been universalized. • The destitute are entitled for 10 Kgs of food grains per month free of cost. • Through the use of RTI, the people are accessing the benefits that have been assured by the Governments.
3. 2 Subsidized Schemes • Essential services are available to the poor at low rates. • Such items as food grains, kerosene, sugar, etc, are provided to the poor in order to alleviate costs burden on them. • Besides, subsidy is provided for housing, education and health services
Public Distribution System • The implementation of schemes like PDS has been adversely affected by unacceptably poor quality of governance at all levels of execution of the scheme, resulting in leakages and siphoning of materials to non-poor. • The beneficiaries are using RTI to seek such details as Ø the stock of supplies and distribution Ø list of beneficiaries - the disclosure of which ensures weeding out of fictitious names, Ø rate lists, etc. • It has thus been possible to curb corruption and plug loopholes in the PDS, which, in effect, has improved the delivery of services.
Shelter for the Poor: • Housing is recognized as one of the human rights since a shelter is essential asset that improves physical and mental well-being of people. • Under Indira Awaas Yojna (IAY), financial support is provided to the rural poor for construction of houses as per their choice of design and requirement. • The identified beneficiaries, having known of their entitlements, are able to create effective demand for release of funds, for construction of houses.
3. 3 Implementation of Schemes for Empowerment of Poor • Education and health care critical services for empowerment of people • The use of RTI has contributed to improvements in quality and quantity of services under the following flagship programmes.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan: • The Governments have committed to provide minimum school infrastructure for universalization of elementary education. • The citizens have raised issues pertaining to management of the schools, mainly Ø the availability of infrastructure support, Ø teachers’ attendance, Ø students’ enrolment and performance, Ø implementation of mid-day schemes, Ø utilization of funds, Ø Admissions of students from poor families. • There are signs of improvement in the schools’ performance since the school authorities are required to provide explanations in respect of all those occurrences, which are contrary to policies or people’s expectations.
National Rural Health Mission: • Healthcare services have largely remained on paper due to lack of accountability of staff. • The citizens have sought for details of primary health services. • The disclosure of such details as stock of medicines and its distribution, attendance of medical staff and number of patients treated, etc. , has resulted in better management of primary health centres. • Aam Admi insurance scheme and family benefit scheme are also effectively implemented
3. 4 Implementation of Major Flagship Programmes • An informed citizenry is putting desirable pressure on the concerned departments for effective implementation of flagship programmes like Bharat Nirman, which seeks to provide critical infrastructure like rural roads, electricity, water and sanitation for rural population. • The trend in partnership between citizen and the Government indicate that RTI regime would help create solid infrastructure required for rapid poverty reduction.
4. Concluding Remarks: Tasks Ahead • The RTI has significant bearing on good governance and implementation of flagship programmes for alleviation of poverty. • India’s economy in the last three years has grown at unprecedented high rate of about 8 per cent per annum, which also co-insides with the RTI induced good governance.
Concluding Remarks: Tasks Ahead… Contd. . • The Central and the State Information Commissions have played a major role in enforcing the provisions of the Act as well as educating the information seekers and providers. • RTI has enabled people to participate in the process of development, which has resulted in reduction of corruption.
Concluding Remarks: Tasks Ahead… Contd. . • A major challenge is to develop capacities for access to information. • The capacities of both the public authorities (i. e. the duty – bearers) and the citizens (i. e. the claim holders) may have to be enhanced • Develop a comprehensive Information Management System for storage and retrieval of data and information that may be shared with anyone who seeks it.
Concluding Remarks: Tasks Ahead… Contd. . • Awareness level among the poor is less than 10 per cent, which is a major obstacle in reaping the benefits of RTI for securing entitlements to the poor. Therefore, create mass awareness among the people • Adopt multimedia approach to educate and train people as to how to decide and select what information should be sought for and that from where and how?
Concluding Remarks: Tasks Ahead… Contd. . • Promotion of information literacy and democratization of knowledge resources, are vital for people’s empowerment and for ensuring the reach of entitlements to the beneficiaries as well as for equalizing opportunities for sharing the benefits of development.