The introduction of the RTI Act in October 2005 came as a big relief to a lot of people. After the introduction people could request for information from Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments, and the reply had to be given expeditiously or within 30 days. The Act covers all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature.
The final report by Govt. Of India, conducted by PwC, on Understanding the “Key Issues and Constraints” in implementing the RTI Act, June 2009 concludes “Inconvenient submission channels for RTI application as a key issue… Inadequate efforts have been made to receive RTI applications through electronic means i.e. on email/ website etc, which can be done by the appropriate Government.”
By end of March, the government plans to ease the burden on submission of RTI forms by taking RTI Act online with launch of two web portals. Along with this launch the Postal Department will also be launching an e-postal service for Indians abroad enabling them to file RTI applications from foreign countries (as of now this is not possible).
Privately owned portals like Online RTI are successfully running in trial phase, but the amount of submissions received have already exceeded the current handling capacity. The website informs there will be a delay in submissions due to the large number of submissions. Another similar portal Swaraaj does online submission of RTI application for a charge of Rs 75.
An RTI portal from the government might be better at coping with these large volume of submissions than a privately run portal. Once the portal is launched an applicant can pay a fee of RS 10 using a credit or debit card and submit the application. The program initially will cover only the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) and slowly move on to the other departments. Similarly the postal department also plans to extend the e-postal service to resident Indians once the service is established for Indian abroad.
The Karnataka government had also launched Sakala, an RTI cum helpline for citizen. Similarly a lot of other states like Bihar had launched their own portals, Jaankari, for online RTI submissions. RTI via phones were launched in a few other states but the effectiveness is questionable.
With this new initiative by the Govt. Of India we hope to see the the burden of RTI submission being eased out for resident Indians as well as Indians living abroad.