UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing (26-10-2022)

UPSC Mains Daily Answer Writing

Questions

Q1. Setting up of Open Government Data (OGD) Platform can potentially be a game-changer for transparency and accountability. Analyze the statement. Also, identify the challenges that remain in translating this potential into reality. (250 words)    15 marks

Q2. The Right to Information Act since its inception has produced a variety of experiences, some of which should be built upon and others of which call for actions to maintain the act's letter and spirit. Comment. (250 words)      15 marks


Want to get your daily answers evaluated?


Model Solutions

Q1. Setting up of Open Government Data (OGD) Platform can potentially be a game-changer for transparency and accountability. Analyze the statement. Also, identify the challenges that remain in translating this potential into reality. (250 words) 15 marks

Model Structure
Introduction:

  • Open Government Data is an emerging concept according to which certain data should be made freely available by the government in the public domain to be used and republished without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
  • As per National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012, open data policy calls for proactive sharing of data by different government agencies, both at the national and subnational levels, in standardized human and machine-readable formats. Under this policy an OGD platform (data.gov.in) has also been created.

Main Body:

  • OGD a game-changer for transparency and accountability
    • Open Data supports public oversight of government’s activities (e.g. budget expenditures, impact of subsidies, etc.) and helps reduce corruption.
    • It complements the envisaged goals and objectives of the Right to Information Act, making the government accountable.
    • Citizens can use Open Data to contribute to public planning, or provide feedback to government ministries on service quality.
    • OGD makes it easier and less costly for government ministries to discover and access their own data or data from other ministries, which reduces acquisition costs, redundancy and overhead.
    • It empowers citizens with the ability to alert governments to gaps in public datasets and to provide more accurate information.
    • Businesses and entrepreneurs may also use this data to better understand potential markets and build new data-driven products.
  • Challenges/barriers in transforming the potential of OGD into reality
    • A large volume of existing government data is still not accessible in digital formats.
    • Infrastructure to support efficient data collection, processing and management needs to be strengthened.
    • Issues of privacy and challenges in data anonymisation exist.
    • Lack of standardization of data collection formats that make it difficult to aggregate and present data in structured form.
    • Bringing states on the same platform in terms of infrastructure and compliance is a big challenge.
      • Only a few states (Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc.) and municipal corporations have made efforts to bring in open data policies.

Conclusion:

  • An OGD platform is an essential element to bring good governance in the country and is in consonance with the goal of Digital India.
  • The union government must build the capacities especially at the sub-national levels for the success of OGD platforms.

Q2. The Right to Information Act since its inception has produced a variety of experiences, some of which should be built upon and others of which call for actions to maintain the act's letter and spirit. Comment. (250 words) 15 marks
Model Structure
Introduction

  • Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act) was enacted to empower the citizens to seek information from Public Authorities. Thereby it promotes transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, and makes Indian democracy work for the people in real sense.
  • The Right to Information Act's 15-year history has produced a variety of experiences. On one hand there are many achievements, on the other hand, it has many limitations as well.

Main Body:

  • Major achievements of RTI Act, 2005:
    • Increased responsiveness: Greater access of the citizen to information, led to increased responsiveness of government to community needs.
      • For example, for about two years, every time, Suvarana Bhagyawant case in which she got the certificate within eight days.
    • Awareness of rights: RTI has led to awareness of rights and responsibilities as citizens among people.
      • This led to increased accountability of officials through RTI and litigation.
      • In 2007, data obtained under RTI inspired citizens to question elected representatives to stop a scam worth over Rs. 6,000 crores in the Crawford Market redevelopment issues in Mumbai.
    • Discharge of duties: Information through RTI has led to legitimate discharge of their duties by officers. It raised the standards of public services.
    • Led to Culture of obligation: RTI has developed an obligation at village, district, state or national level to disclose information to the people.
      • Thus it enhanced transparency among various government bodies at all levels of the government.
      • For e.g Villagers in Madhubani district, Bihar used RTI to expose a solar-light scam, leading to charges against 200 corrupt officials.
    • Empowered poor communities: RTI empowered poor communities to raise their voices on the basis of information and demand for their rights from the government.
      • This ensured the government being answerable to the poor.
      • It plugged the incidence of corruption and plugged leakages.
    • Proper grievance mechanism: RTI provided for Central and the State Information Commissions to hear grievances related to RTI.
    • Informed Citizenry: RTI enabled healthy democracy and also contained corruption and held Governments accountable to the people.
      • In the model district of Mocha, Chhattisgarh, people are using RTI to secure employment, scholarships and pensions for the elderly.
  • Issues which call for actions to maintain the act's letter and spirit
    • Increasing pendency of cases: This has resulted in increase in pendency as well as increase in waiting time for hearing of appeals.
    • Definition of information: An important issue is the definition of information.
      • The Supreme Court stated that ‘information’ for the purpose of this Act would mean information held by the PIO or under his control.
      • However, if the information is not held by the PIO the public authority is not under obligation to provide that information.
    • Not getting information: Of the applications filed, less than 45 per cent received the information they had sought, according to the ‘Report Card of Information Commissions in India, 2018-19’.
    • Delay in disposal of cases: The same study revealed that as of 31 March 2019, there were 2.18 lakh appeals and complaints pending before the SICs.
      • The study added that it took an average of more than a year for most SICs to dispose of complaints/appeals.
    • Not all institutions under RTI: Another issue is that some institutions are not being covered under the Act.
      • E.g. The judiciary is not under the act.
    • Lack of infrastructure: The Implementation of RTI requires the PIOs to provide information to the applicant through photocopies, soft copies etc.
      • These facilities are not available at Block and Panchayat level.
    • Low awareness level: Awareness level is low, especially among the disadvantaged communities such as women rural population, OBC/SC/ST population.
    • Constraints faced in filing applications: Under Section 26 of the RTI Act, the appropriate Government is expected to publish and distribute user guides for information seekers.
      • However Nodal Departments have not published these guides in many states.
  • Way forward:
    • Open Data Policy: Government institutions should put all disclosable information on their respective websites.
    • Compiling of Similar RTI Applications: Many RTI Applicants file multiple RTI applications on the same subject/seek the same information, which increases the burden of the information department of various public institutions.
    • Preventing Misuse of RTI: RTI misuse can be prevented by introducing the reason knowing provision for filing the petition.
    • Balancing with Privacy Right: Another right of a citizen protected under the Constitution is the right to privacy. This right is enshrined within the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution.
    • Increasing Public Awareness: This can be done by the launch of awareness campaigns through Radio, Television and Print Media various regional languages in rural areas.
      • A chapter on RTI Act, 2005 should be added in school/college curriculum.
    • Central/State Information Commissions should be provided with sufficient funds for creating awareness about RTI Act, 2005.

Conclusion:

  • Since the implementation of the RTI Act, it has established itself as an important tool in handling corruption and inefficiency in the Government. Issues and loopholes in RTI should be removed through proper amendment to further the objectives of transparency and accountability.
Previous Post

Next Post