DATA STORY: India's most populous state is least aware of its Right to Information
In Haryana, which is India's 17th most populous state, 93 percent of citizens are knowledgeable about RTI, up from just 3 percent in 2007.
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state, but most of its citizens are unaware of the Right to Information Act, the landmark legislation introduced in 2005 to make governance more transparent and give citizens greater access to information.
Data shows that this trend is visible in other heavily populated states as well apart from Maharashtra. On the other hand, the least populated states appear to be more aware of their right to information.
(Source: Census 2011)
A recent study by CMS India indicated that Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh - all heavily populated states - were least aware of RTI.
In Haryana, which is India's 17th most populous state, 93 percent of citizens are knowledgeable about RTI, up from just 3 percent in 2007. Punjab (84 percent) and Odisha (83 percent) are also well aware of the legislation.
Despite the lack of awareness, the situation has significantly improved since 2007. While just 2 percent of Uttar Pradesh citizens were aware of RTI in 2005, the number has improved to 18 percent in 2017.
Between 2005 and 2016, about 2.44 crore RTI applications were filed, according to a report from NGO Transparency International India. While Maharashtra filed the most number of RTIs, Uttar Pradesh lagged.
Uttar Pradesh doesn't prepare mandatory annual reports regularly, a fact that may result in the state's poor numbers on RTI applications.
Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Sikkim are also pointed to be among the states which do not maintain the annual reports. Hence, data of these states does not reflect real situations, the report said.
It would be easy to pinpoint literacy for this lack of awareness, but data shows that only 19 percent of Tamil Nadu citizens know of RTI despite the state having the most of number of diploma holders in India. The literacy rate in Uttar Pradesh is also on the rise.
(Uttar Pradesh Literacy Rate)
(Tamil Nadu has the most number of students holding a diploma)
The Right to Information Act, 2005, is a right given to every citizen to question the state and the central authorities methodologies, projects and also raise civic issues in the RTI filing. An individual can raise questions about as what the progress is of the potholes situations in their areas, the streetlight conditions, etc. If the questions are not answered or are deliberately ignored, then the authorities can be penalised.
The individuals can ask queries within a limited scope. Questions about what strategic steps the defence is about to take, confidential government operations, among others which come under the Official Secrets Act cannot be asked.
Filing an RTI application
It is simple to file an RTI application. Here are few simple steps to follow:
#First, for questions being posed to the Central Government, identify which ministry your query involves. For example, income tax queries should go to Income Tax department.
#Fill in the RTI form, which is available at the nearest post office for Rs 10. You will have to attach a court fee stamp of Rs. 10. The post office will give you an envelope and you will fill in the address.
#The address will be of that body where your query lies.#You can also file an RTI online but for this, the state should give the provision of letting its people file it online.