Right to Information? Wrong

DQI Bureau
New Update

On my flight back from Dubai, I met a very senior HRD executive

who was all praises for the way Indian IT industry was growing. He was flying to

take up a new assignment in Delhi to head the HR department of a start-up BPO

company. He said he was taking up this job in spite of a not so great difference

in pay packet because he was confident that working in new and emerging markets

would give him an altogether different experience. He believed that this

experience, in the long run, would more than make up for his financial

remuneration, because the big opportunities will come from emerging markets. He

said that people and companies are increasingly seeing a lot of value in getting

senior people to get a taste of working in emerging markets.


While on one hand he was so upbeat about India, on the other he

was very apprehensive about the right to information-something which he said

will, in the long run, decide how people and organizations, the world over, look

at India. While he was looking forward to taking up the new assignment, he was

not too sure if life would be easy for him outside office. His experience in

dealing with the government was bitter. On his last visit, when he came here

with his family, he could not find out why his reservation at the Government of

India run resort in Jim Corbett National Park was cancelled at the last minute,

without even informing him. The only answer that he got from the resort official

was that there were some VVIPs visiting who had to be accommodated last minute.

He was very disappointed, but he still wanted to know if it was really because

of a last minute VVIP visit or was it that the reservation clerk made some extra

money by canceling his reservation, and giving it to a more enthusiastic

tourist. Despite several follow-ups, he found no answers.


how India handles the 'right to information' that will decide

how people and organizations, the world over, look at India

This single experience is relatively insignificant in the larger

scheme of things, but it is important. As India becomes a destination for more

foreign companies and people, there will be pressure on our systems to serve

them better. One would see more such instances, of harassed citizens or

expatriates working here, asking for information. "Why did this happen,

what went wrong, whom should a person contact for his problem, how does he get

in touch with an official, and so on." Today, it is very easy for

government officials to not answer these questions, and still get away with it.

But in the days to come, if India does not gear itself up to be able to handle

these questions, there are going to be problems. And the only solution for this

is to make sure that the 'Right to Information' is actually practiced. And

all systems and processes for it put in place.


This 'Right to Information' business would go far beyond

making India conducive for foreigners and foreign companies to operate here. In

fact, the impact is going to be much bigger on Indians. For instance, if

ordinary citizens and organizations do not get basic information, which they

should, all the plans and initiatives for eGovernance become meaningless. If an

individual is not able to cross-check from the land records department what is

the status of the land he is planning to buy, or if a new factory which has

applied for a license from the environment department cannot get to know which

stage his application form is, eGovernance really looses its meaning.

Taking this a little further, absence of real 'Right to

Information' practices will mean that all the big plans that we have for Cyber

Laws will not really mean much. For instance, if I apply for a passport on-line,

and discover that in case of problems or additional info that I need, on-line

does not help me, I do not think I will be very happy.

And looking purely from a business point of view, if 'Right to

Information' is not seriously taken up, very little interest level will remain

in eGovernance. And a very hot market, which is today buying lots of IT products

and services, could turn cold. The Indian IT industry would be one of the

biggest losers if 'Right to Information' is not implemented.