Rama Krishna Sangem
Telangana State Right To Information (RTI) Chief Commissioner Buddha Murali has said that there was a need to check misuse of the right by some vested interests. “The RTI Act is a wonderful tool to protect the interests of poor and needy. People living in villages find RTI useful to protect their other rights. But, unfortunately, some persons motivated by selfish interests are taking advantage of this Act,” he said, in an exclusive interview to Excel India.
Murali became a commissioner of RTI on September 25, 2017 and assumed charge as CIC on August 24, 2020 . Coming from a journalistic background, he knows the importance of information from government establishments. “All these years of my reporting background, I gathered information from the official sources, now I am sitting on the other side of the fence,” he said, talking to me, in his chamber at RTI office in MJ Market in Hyderabad.
In about 9 weeks he would be retiring from the post. As per RTI law, he cannot get any extension. It is useful to know the experience of a practicing journalist to head as CIC the RTI commission. Telangana State RTI body was first formed on September 25, 2017. Currently, the commission has a CIC (Chief Information Commissioner) and five members. Two of them are from journalism background, while others from public service.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
How is your experience at RTI as commissioner and CIC?
It has been a great journey and I have the satisfaction of serving people though this innovative Act. RTI empowers people, especially the voice-less and rural people. On an average in a year we are receiving 6,000-7,000 petitions from the public. In the past, each case used to take at least two years in pending. But, now we are solving all cases in maximum six months.
How is the public awareness about RTI?
The awareness is very good. When the commission was formed, the number of cases from Telangana stood around 6,625. But,in the last five years, we have received as many as 30,332 petitions from the public. The total number was 37,157 cases. We have solved 26,874 cases in the last five years. As on June 21, 2022, we have another 9,155 cases pending before us. By July this number is around 8,000.
Do you suggest any changes to tone up the functioning of the commission?
Some people are deliberately misusing the RTI Act. They file bulk petitions, taking away most of our time. Such petitions are motivated by various factors. These motivated petitioners are indirectly harming the pleas of genuine petitioners, whose cases are delayed. We need to bring further awareness among rural people about RTI. For example, a villager can find how his land is changed hands without his knowledge.
Most of the revenue disputes are arsing out of unfair methods of transfer of land rights of the rightful owners. Some officials are overnight changing the ownership of the villagers. These people have no means to check how their lands got transferred to others. Through RTI they can find out the file movements and the exact process behind the changes. By curbing the misuse of the act we can help such genuine petitioners more.