The public sector bank grants loans to big businessmen and these loans are written off. They are willful defaulters. “Do people have no right to know as to who are these people fleeing after taking our money?” asks Anjali Bhardwaj, a prominent rights activist
NEW DELHI — Prominent activists have raised concerns over amendment in the Right to Information Act (RTI) through the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill (DPDPB) 2023 set to be introduced in the ongoing session of the parliament.
“The bill says that Section 8 of the RTI Act will be amended. It will keep all private information out of the RTI ambit,” said Anjali Bhardwaj, a prominent rights activist, in a video statement on Thursday.
According to The Hindu, the DPDPB 2023 has a section that would eliminate a majority of Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI 2005 law.
According to this section, “personal information cannot be disclosed under the RIT Act which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless…the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information”. The DPDPB would do away with all these caveats which prohibit government agencies from sharing private information of any kind, regardless of the public interest it may entail.
Bhardwaj said that people have used RTI Act to hold the government accountable for the last 17 years. The public sector bank grants loans to big businessmen and these loans are written off. They are willful defaulters. “Do people have no right to know as to who are these people fleeing after taking our money,” she said.
Bhardwaj cited several examples such as voters’ lists, ration cards, tenders, and MNAREGA in which private information was necessary to spot wrongs and corruption. “The government is trying to keep this information out of the RTI ambit. This would make a negative impact on our democratic rights. We can’t hold government accountable unless we have information,” she said.
Nikhil Dey, the founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghthan (MKSS), raised objections that the draft of DPDPB has not been put out yet. “The present draft of the bill is deeply problematic. Firstly, it destroys the RTI. It is not an amendment but almost like a repeal of the RTI,” he said.
Opposition MPs took strong objection to finalising the report without going through the Bill which was cleared recently by the Union Cabinet after changes.
A draft report was circulated among members of the parliamentary standing committee on communications and information technology before the meeting but Opposition members later said that the adoption of such a report would have been a violation of existing rules and also an impropriety since the committee was not privy to the final bill approved by the Cabinet earlier this month.