Rajasthan has launched the first-ever Jan soochna portal on 13 September, 14 years after the implementation of RTI Act, to provide information about government authorities and departments suo motu to the public in the true spirit of the RTI Act, especially Section 4 of the RTI Act that deals with proactive disclosure of information.
Example of transparency accompanied by accountability
- The portal has brought yet another distinction to Rajasthan, where the RTI movement had started in the 1990s.
STATIC Key features of the Jan Soochna Portal
- National Judicial Data Grid was launched on a pilot basis in the financial year 2013-14.
- The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) is a part of the on-going e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project.
- It works as a monitoring tool to identify, manage & reduce pendency of cases
- A year-wise breakup of pending cases given in the grid showed that more than 70,000 cases were pending for over 30 years.
- Based on these figures, the justice delivery system was asked to account for the enormous delay in such a large number of cases.
- Now, many courts have begun to concentrate on the disposal of old cases with considerable success.
- This is a good example of transparency accompanied by accountability brought about by civil society.
The need for platforms like Jan soochna portal
- The State government has collaborated with the civil society groups to develop the portal.
- The portal will initially give information pertaining to 13 departments- the employment guarantee program, sanitation, public distribution system, etc.
- Along with explaining the schemes, the portal also gives real time information about the beneficiaries, authorities in charge, progress, etc.
- The information provided is in-depth, covering all districts, blocks, and panchayats.
- The portal will be hosted in decentralized locations, right down to the municipal ward and panchayat levels, free of cost on the internet.
- The portal also gives the details of every farmer in every bank branch whose loans have been waived, along with the amounts.
- This portal will also provide a list of mines in every district with geographical coordinates and the area where mining has been permitted, including the land deed identifiers. This will help in controlling the prevalent illegal mining in the state.
- It also provides details about pollution and environment clearances.
- Details of production and royalties and taxes paid will also be given on the website.
- This kind of information can facilitate a progressive relationship between government and citizens for a cleaner society.
- With the use of technology and digitization of records and information, a tremendous amount of information available on the files of the government of Rajasthan that could only have been accessed through the filing of RTI applications will be now made freely available on the JSP.
Key challenges and solutions
- On one hand the RTI filings have increased with RTI-activism becoming a part and parcel of today’s civil society, but on the other hand, there have been dilutions in the Act like the appointment of information commissioners, therefore impinging on their autonomy.
- Adding to people’s frustration, the response rate to RTI requests has also slowed down recently.
- Also, Section 4(2) of the Act, which calls upon public authorities to publish information proactively, has not been implemented in its true spirit.
- Many government departments under the garb of e-governance often display information which is outdated, incomplete and difficult to understand.
- Even the better maintained central websites that display “dashboard” information don’t display effective real-time information.
- As a comprehensive platform for public information on government programs, the JSP, therefore, can advance the objective of transparency.
- There are huge challenges with regard to maintenance issues and ensuring that there is no slow down in the availability of information.
- But draft guidelines have been framed for the development and maintenance of the JSP to handle that. Once implemented, this will ensure that the information system continues uninterrupted.
- The Department of Information Technology will serve as the nodal department for the development, operationalization, and maintenance of the JSP.
- This department will ensure adherence to the norms and standards laid down by a digital dialogue advisory group.
- To ensure that the responsibilities are carried out, the advisory group will be the monitoring agency.
- Grievance redressal officers will be appointed so that citizens can make the State government truly accountable.
- Steps have been taken to train citizens of Rajasthan so that they are aware of the facilities available.
Also read: Supreme Court Deadline On Judicial Vacancies Privacy no Longer Supreme
- All other State governments should follow the Rajasthan government’s initiative, which aims to make people, including the marginalized sections, a part of the governance process.