In Public Administration in India Standards Sings The demand for transparency In the functioning of government agencies Is a popular and democratic reaction to the arbitrariness and secrecy that surround the working of most government offices. Traditionally, a citizen aggrieved by the decision of a government servant either approaches a senior controlling officer of the civil servant or a public representative to get a redress of his grievance. If the latter shows indifference or fails in his efforts to help the citizen, he has no alternative but to sulk
In helplessness. If a law Is enacted to enable a citizen to demand details of the decision making process, he can seek legal redress of his grievance In case injustice has been done to him. The information will relieve his feeling of helplessness . The consciousness that a civil servant has to furnish the information on the basis of which decision is taken will always keep him on his toes and he will not knowingly invite trouble by taking partisan decisions or violate the established procedures.
Freedom of Information Is, thus, an effective antidote to the arbitrariness of the overspent agencies and a powerful weapon In the hands of enlightened citizens to protect their rights. Democratic spirit can flourish only in an environment of openness and trust. Every citizen should know what the administrators, working under the overall control of people’s representatives, are doing. Since administration in a democracy serves the public interest, there is no need or Justification for hiding the decision making process from the public scrutiny.
The citizen client should know the stages of decision making and the names of the officials entrusted with susceptibilities of various level of decision making. Whenever they come across any delay in the disposal of or settlement of their case, they should be immediately told the progress of their case and the reason of the delay. They will instantly know which official is delaying his case and can take remedial measure either by approaching the immediate official superior of the official or the public representatives.
Transparency in public administration will bring about a fundamental change in the attitude of people. Traditionally, they have looked upon call servants as masters or “mailbag” ND have received everything from them as a favor even when they have a right to get that thing according to law or the policy of the government. Tenets of transparency will require the civil servants to publicly display the names of beneficiaries of a development scheme along with selection criteria and the procedure for making the selection.
The requirement for public disclosure will ensure that civil servants take correct and defensible decisions. They will, henceforth treat all the citizens as their masters and they will have to keep them In good humor if they have to retain their jobs and privileges. Civil servants will become servants of the public and would no longer be able to adopt an attitude of arrogance and superciliousness towards the citizen-clients. Government agencies are financed by taxes and levies imposed on citizens. They are, therefore, answerable and accountable to the public for their acts of omission and commission.
The public servants are supposed to act In a way that serves the maximum public Interest at the way an informal social audit. Pressure of watchful eyes of the public will prevent even crafty civil servants from throwing caution to the winds or indulging in arbitrary session making. Freedom of Information Act will put premium on probity and integrity in the functioning of the civil servants. Since all their activities subvert the public interest they have nothing to hide. They will readily supply all the information about government policies and decisions to the people whenever approached by them.
People will then give them respect and recognition that they rightly deserve. It is only the dishonest and the devious that would be hard pressed to hide their partisan decisions. In a modern welfare and development administration, the overspent provides a large number of services to the citizens. If these services are indifferently or inefficiently performed, people can rightfully protest and complain. They can insist on optimum utilization of the taxes and service charges paid by them to finance the civic services like water supply, power supply, sanitation and public health care.
Dereliction of duty by public servants will be immediately detected and publicized and criticized by the public. It will put a tremendous pressure on the civil servants to perform or lose their face or even their Jobs. While many government departments are unwilling to open up and shed the veil of secrecy which has preserved and consolidated their power in the eyes of the public, some enlightened civil servants manning development departments are ready to usher in freedom of information regime.
They are formulating citizen charters listing out the functioning of their respective agencies, their procedures and the relevant right s of citizens to demand services from their agencies. Food and Civil Supplies Department, Tourism Department and many other departments in the central and state governments have analyzed Citizens’ Charters and are now interacting very freely with the citizen clients. This has led to a vast improvement in the functioning of these agencies and enhancement of public satisfaction.
The advancement of Information technology is very much conducive to the successful implementation of the Right to Information if enacted by the government now. The storage, retrieval and dissemination of vast amount of information have been greatly facilitated by the successive improvement in computers. There is a progressive computerizing in government agencies enhancing the speed of decision making. Information stored in computers can be quickly retrieved and provided to public on demand for a nominal fee. The rationale of decision, when known to the citizen will calm down the resentment of many who have received an adverse decision . T will establish the bonfires of government agencies in minds of the citizens who will thenceforth willingly co-operate with them enhancing effectiveness of government programmer and policies. Internet has provided almost unlimited access to the public to the policies, programs and reoccurred of government agencies who have their own web page. Depending on the strategy of the agencies, important matters requiring immediate attention of citizen clients or target groups can be put on the web page and the people can have instant access to the same.
This is the most cost-effective method of communication between an agency and its clients. Some parts of India have already started making use of the Internet in a big way. 36 villages of Maharajah’s have been provided Internet services under a project sanctioned by Prime Minister’s Task Force on Information information on services and facilities provided but them. Moreover, they are connected with the entire world and can access any site to further their knowledge and economic interest.
Ideally speaking, the government in a democracy has no justification for hiding anything from the public . Len practice; however, no government ever provides equal treatment to all its citizens. It will always support the sections on whose support it depends for acquiring and retaining power. Since the enforcement of Right to Information requires an enabling Freedom of Information Act, the existing overspent can always formulate the provisions of the Act in such a way as to leave for the government sufficient leeway to conceal many decisions or decision making processes from public scrutiny.
The Freedom of Information Bill, which has been presented to the Parliament, has a very long list of exceptional situations wherein it is not incumbent upon the government agencies to part with information. It is, however, expected that once the people get used to obtain information contained in the government files, their appetite for information will be whetted and they will ask for more information.