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India’s first corporate PR ezine            Issue No 22      VOL 2 Issue 10 – Dec 07


“RTI Act has brought in more transparency and accountability”

Mr. Rajan Kashyap, presently the          ...
Thirdly, the political executive has also
to change its thinking and has to           The corporate sector is also affec...

“Extensive and intelligent use of this Act needed”

PR –e- VIEWS – Right to information Act – A case study

Poompuhar Shipping Corporation           distance and money, aft...

PR –e- STIGE – Expert views

Mr R. Desikan, Founder, Consumers Association of India and a well known
Consumer Activist ...

PR –e- STIGE – Expert views

Mr Yushau A. Shuaib, National Press Centre, Abuja, Nigeria

“Nigeria wi...

PR –e- VIEWS – Right to information Act in India

                                           What is the Application Pr...

PR –e- VIEWS – Freedom of Information Act in United Kingdom

                                         provisions of the...

PR –e- VIEWS – Freedom of Information Act in United States

Sejal Gandhi, Corporate Attorney, Chicago, IL (sejal.a.gan...

PR –e- View – Book Review – “Public Relations in Digital Era”

                                          The author ha...

PR eTTY -     Police arrests for seeking information under RTI Act


PResenters of PReSENSE

 Interna tional Editor         Content Editor     Associate Editor and   Co-coordinator an...
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Dec 2007 issue - Right to Information Act


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Dec 2007 issue of Corporate ezine PR-e-Sense focuses on 'Right to Information Act'

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Dec 2007 issue - Right to Information Act

  1. 1. India’s first corporate PR ezine Issue No 22 VOL 2 Issue 10 – Dec 07 Published by Prime Point Foundation PR-e-FACE: From the desk of Editor in Chief “Corporate Sector – Beware and be aware of RTI Act“ The Editorial team wishes financial support and concessions from all our readers a very the Government Sector directly and Happy New Year. indirectly promising ‘sky and moon’. All along under the earlier provisions, In a civilized society, all none of their actions and contributions the citizens are entitled to were questioned or discussed. get the information from the organisations for Presently, all the citizens of India are which they become the armed with this great tool, to get such stakeholders. Right to Information Act information relating to Private Sector 2005 has started bringing Corporates, from the Government transparency in the administration and Departments. While the Government accountability in the Government Sector is moving towards transparent Sectors. regime, it is time for the Private Sector Corporates too, to become more and Though the RTI Act has exposed more transparent. information from the ‘secret regime’, the awareness level has not yet If the Indian Corporates and improved amongst the general public. Multinationals operating in India do Presently, consumer organizations not realise this urgently, they may have started using this Act for getting land themselves in deep crisis in the transparent information. days to come. The Corporates in Government Sector are covered by this Act. Corporates in Private Sectors are under the wrong impression that they are not covered by this Act. Many Corporates enjoy PR-e-CISE – Inside this ezine • • Exclusive interview with Mr Rajan Expert views from Mr Desikan, Kashyap, CIC of Govt. of Punjab Consumer Activist • • Expert views from Mr A K RTI Act at a glance • Venkatasubramanian, Former Similar acts in USA and UK. • Secretary to Government of India Book Review January 08 issue Theme : ABCI- A legendary organisation Guest Editor : Mr Yogesh Joshi, President, ABCI
  2. 2. 2 PR-eXCLUSIVE “RTI Act has brought in more transparency and accountability” Mr. Rajan Kashyap, presently the Now in India we have the biggest body Chief Information Commissioner of of trained manpower in information Govt. of Punjab technology, and we are serving rest of has also been the world but in our own governance appointed as we are yet to use the information the Convener of technology effectively. the 9-member National Another major hurdle has been the Coordination preparation time. The President of Committee to India signed the Act on 15th of June evaluate and 2005, and only four months were recommend given to streamline all the records, further and the RTI Act became effective from improvements 12th October 2005. In UK it took 5 in the RTI Act. years for freedom of information act to Mr C J Singh, CEO, Core PR, come into force. It was promulgated in Chandigarh interviewed him on behalf 2000 and was put into operation only of PR-e-Sense. Excerpts: in 2005, so that all officials could prepare themselves for this, but here How has the RTI Act brought in India we got just four months, transformation in India? which is one of the difficulties. RTI Act has ensured transparency in Another biggest challenge before us is working of the government, and made as to how the record management can the officials handling the file be made scientific and professional so accountable. Now these officials that people do not have to demand cannot take shelter behind the secrecy information. act and anyone can have access to the official information. And the most How has the bureaucracy been important aspect of RTI Act is the reacting to the Act? empowerment of the common man and the public. The Act makes a change in the approach of many stakeholders; first is What are the greatest challenges, the bureaucracy which has to reform according to you in itself, and the official staff has to be implementation of RTI Act? trained so that they deal with people properly who approach them for The difficulty in implementation is to information. change the mindset of the person who is seeking information and the one Secondly, the political executive has to who has to give the information. On change its thinking. if it has done both sides, the Act enjoins that some good work it likes to blow up its systems should be made more own trumpet, but the RTI Act gives the systematic, since the Act requires that opportunity to the people to talk about all government records should be put the facts, i.e. how many roads have on computers, and people should not been built; or how many hospitals, have to ask public functionaries; it schools, or how many people are should be automatically available on getting educated. their respective official website.
  3. 3. 3 Thirdly, the political executive has also to change its thinking and has to The corporate sector is also affected reduce its dependence on by RTI because the government has to bureaucracy. Tomorrow anyone can give transparent, fair and objective ask that if minister or the chief linkage. You cannot take decision minister overrules a bureaucrat, it has favouring one industry, and RTI has to be for a cogent reason, since now created level playing field for the anyone can ask for the file notings. industry by the corporate governance since the government's decision can Many of the people are not aware that be questioned through this Act. under the RTI Act you can ask for the file notings. There was a conflict Is the Information Commission sometime back and the government more people-friendly? wanted to remove file notings from the purview of RTI Act and the Cabinet What we have done is that we have had also passed a resolution to that brought up procedures so that people effect but there was so much public have minimal procedures which are outcry against that they never placed prevalent in courts. For example we do the amendment to the Act in the not give adjournments; we do not Parliament, and as a consequence, the insist on lawyers and people can apply file notings are also to be made themselves; and open hearings are available. held as far as possible. We dictate the orders in the presence of litigants of Now, as I said, RTI Act affects both parties; quite often we have to everybody, the bureaucracy, the summon government officials and we political executive, and also the media. do not want repeated appearance by Media is responsible for the origin of senior officials. To that extent it helps the freedom of information in all the both sides and when they realise that countries, including UK, or USA. It they are getting justice without delay used to be said that the censorship of so automatically they do not go for the government by the press is professional lawyers. preferable to the censorship of the press by the government; which is the So promptness in disposal is essential. origin of RTI Act, and this is what the We have 3500 cases registered as of founding fathers of American 1st December 2007 and out of these Constitution brought up. 2900 cases have been disposed of; more than 80 percent have been Sweden was the first country in the disposed of and we try to dispose world to bring in 1776 the freedom of them within 2/3 hearings. information act, but most of others came around in late 20s and it was Other things in which we are little part of UN declaration of human different in Punjab, we do not close rights. So the right to information is the case unless compliance of orders is considered a fundamental right and reported to us. We found earlier that RTI Act has been brought under Article the people got back to us that the 19 of the Constitution, which pertains orders were not being complied with. to the fundamental right to freedom of Now we ensure that the orders get expression. implemented.
  4. 4. 4 PR-eXCLUSIVE “Extensive and intelligent use of this Act needed” Government or Government bodies are also brought under this purview. This Excerpts from the exclusive interview can be in kind also like getting lands at of Mr. A K Venkatasubramanian, concessional rate or getting tax Former Secretary concessions. to Government of India and • ‘Substantial’ is subjective. It has presently a citizen not yet been tested in any Court of activist: (Please Law. listen to the full interview in the • Transparency and Truth are good podcast – link for every one whether private sector given below) or public sector. • RTI Act is being extensively used in • More awareness needs to be States like Tamilnadu, Delhi, created amongst Public and Public Karnataka and Maharashtra. Authorities. • Freedom of expression is provided • Public should know what in Indian Constitution and RTI Act is information to be asked. It should be only an extension of this provision used for some action in the interest of the general public. • Citizen Centres run by us sought information on the tax collected by the • Some of the Agencies say Municipalities for the purpose of ‘information not available’. Citizen elementary education. Municipalities cannot prove whether it is available or collect this tax along with property not. Information Commissioners tax. We found that in 16 should have more power to direct the Municipalities, the tax amount Public Authorities to provide the collected for elementary education was information, if it is required in public not utilized for this purpose. If the interest. amounts are used properly, the Schools run by these Municipalities will • Presently, Information be better than private schools. We Commissioners can only pass orders. have now taken up the matter with the In reality, how many orders are respective Municipalities. We could executed? Fortunately, somebody has get these information, only because of sought this information from RTI act. Tamilnadu Information Commissioner. • RTI Act provides that even Non • Success of this Act depends on Government organizations who receive extensive and intelligent utilization by substantial funding directly and the general public. indirectly from the appropriate Please listen to the full interview in audio podcast – click here or from To contact Mr A K Venkatasubramanian
  5. 5. 5 PR –e- VIEWS – Right to information Act – A case study Poompuhar Shipping Corporation distance and money, after the Sethu Limited is a fully owned Company of Canal Project was commissioned. Government of Tamilnadu. They own three ships of 40 thousand DWT. The Public Information Officer of the 10th These ships are being used to Corporation responded on transport coal from eastern harbours December 2007, stating that such to Tuticorin. information was not available in their records. (See picture below) Now the Government of India and Government of Tamilnadu, while Mr Venkatasubramanian appealed to promoting the controversial Sethu the Chairman and Managing Director of the Corporation, on 15th Dec 07, as Samudram Canal Project (SSCP) (now popularly known as Ramar per the provisions of RTI Act, seeking Sethu issue) have declared that this the information. The Chairman of the project would help the ships to save Corporation reiterated the earlier stand vide his letter dated 18th Dec lot of fuel and time. They have also been promoting that these ships, 2007 and again confirmed that such which are presently taking circuitous information was not available with and long route around Sri Lanka, them. would be in a position to travel through the Sethu Canal. As such, Mr Venkatasubramanian expressed Poompuhar shipping Corporation surprise and shock over the reluctance should derive maximum advantage out of Poompuhar Shipping Corporation, of this project. who was supposed to derive the maximum advantage of Sethu Canal Mr A K Venkatasubramanian, IAS Project, to furnish the information. (Retd) and a Citizen activist filed an application under RTI Act on 20th November 2007 with Poompuhar Dinamalar (Tamil) 30th Dec Source: Shipping Corporation seeking 2007 information as to how much they would save in terms of fuel, time, Copy of the letter dt. 10th Dec 07 from Poompuhar Shipping Corporation Ltd
  6. 6. 6 PR –e- STIGE – Expert views Mr R. Desikan, Founder, Consumers Association of India and a well known Consumer Activist “You can demand the concessions enjoyed by Corporates through RTI” RTI is perhaps EXEMPTIONS, (Which really is from the second best the taxes of common people) I'LL legislation in BRING TECHONOLOGY, WE WILL India next only TOGETHER START THE INDUSTRY AND to Consumer I MAKE ALL THE MONEY.quot; Protection Act of India. It should One can ask the Government for be used by every information on these. The Govt cannot citizen to make sure that accurate refuse. (eg) You can ask the information is provided to the Citizens department of land revenue as to how of India. The scope for using it is many acres of land was given to enormous. It will definitely reduce company A, and what is its guideline corruption throughout the system, if value. Similarly, you can ask what are all the commissioners follow the law the concessions on tax that were given and their conscience. to a company and what is the expected non-revenue on that. There At the moment RTI does not cover are so many ways to get information. Corporates. BASICALLY THEY BEHAVE It is a question of what you wish to AS THOUGH THEY ARE DOING US A know. You can even ask after company FAVOUR WHEN THEY SET UP AN or industry starts functioning-- what INDUSTRY. THE VERY OLD SAYING IN was the estimate the company gave to TAMIL-- quot;YOU BRING RICE FLAKES, I the Government on the quot;localsquot; to be WLL BRING RICE HUSK, WE WILL MIX employed by the company and how THEM, BLOW OUT THE HUSK AND many are really working for the SHARE THE FLAKES.quot; company. etc etc IN CORPORATE TERMS IT WILL MEAN YOU GIVE THE LAND, LOANS, TAX Indian Prime Minister Dr It is the common man or common Manmohan woman who is the fulcrum of our Singh, on 11th democratic system as on observer, as May 2005, during the seeker of information , as the one the Parliamentary who asks relevant questions, as the debate on RTI Act analyst and as the final judge of our said: performance. quot;The key to the successful functioning Our Civil Servants should see the bill of any democratic polity is the ability in a positive spirit and not as a of a citizen to observe and evaluate draconian law for paralyzing the functioning of elected Government, but as an instrument for representative and make an informed improving Government – Citizen judgment of their performance. This interface, resulting in a friendly, caring evaluation is predicated on the early and effective Government functioning availability of the necessary for the good of our people * information for a citizen to arrive at an assessment.
  7. 7. 7 PR –e- STIGE – Expert views Mr Yushau A. Shuaib, National Press Centre, Abuja, Nigeria “Nigeria will have Freedom of Information laws soon” It is an undeniable fact that Africa as a These are apart from the Declaration continent is lagging of Principles on Freedom of Expression behind in the global in Africa, issued by the African movement towards Commission on Human and Peoples’ the adoption of Rights, which affirms that “public Freedom of bodies hold information not for Information Laws. themselves but as custodians of the This should not be so public good and everyone has a right because there exists regional and to access this information”. Others are international instruments that the Commonwealth Freedom of emphasis the need for such legislation. Information Principles; the UN’s Principles on Freedom of Information; In fact there exist the African Union and Articles 10 and 13 of the UN Convention on Preventing and Convention against Corruption. Combating Corruption, which requires States Parties to adopt measures that The prayers in every lip in Nigeria is guarantee access to information and that with the interest shown by the also the Treaty of ECOWAS, which present administration of President encourages the free flow of Umaru Yar’Adua who came to power in information within national borders as May 29, 2007 on the FOI, the Act will well as regional cooperation in the be in place by 2008 area of information. PR – e- Groups – Have you joined Corporate discussion groups? Image Management Group – Second largest yahoo group on PR with nearly 1550 global members. Click here PRpoint Group - The largest Indian group for PR/CorpComm /academic professionals with 780 plus members. Click here New Media Forum Group – A group for Indian journalists with around 350 members. Click here India Vision Group – A group for Indian youth on India Vision 2020 with around 1500 members. Click here Subscribe to this ezine PR-e-Sense – Click here
  8. 8. 8 PR –e- VIEWS – Right to information Act in India What is the Application Procedure for requesting information? • Apply in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, to the PIO, specifying the particulars of the information sought for. What does information mean? • Reason for seeking information are not required to be given; Information means any material in any • Pay fees as may be prescribed form including records, documents, (if not belonging to the below memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, poverty line category). press releases, circulars, orders, • Some categories of documents logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, are exempted under this Act – samples, models, data material held in not open for disclosure any electronic form and information • Certain departments like relating to any private body which can Intelligence Bureau, Defence, be accessed by a public authority etc. are excluded from the under any other law for the time being purview in force[S.2(f)]. What is the time limit to get the information? What does Right to Information mean? • 30 days from the date of application • It includes the right to - • 48 hours for information • Inspect works, documents, concerning the life and liberty records. of a person • take notes, extracts or certified • 5 days shall be added to the copies of documents or records. above response time, in case • take certified samples of the application for information material. is given to Assistant Public • obtain information in form of Information Officer. printouts, diskettes, floppies, • If the interests of a third party tapes, video cassettes or in any are involved then time limit will other electronic mode or be 40 days (maximum period + through printouts.[S.2(j)] time given to the party to make representation). • Failure to provide information within the specified period is a deemed refusal. For more details about Indian RTI Act visit and
  9. 9. 9 PR –e- VIEWS – Freedom of Information Act in United Kingdom provisions of the act came into force on 1 January 2005. The Act is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department (now renamed the Ministry of Justice). The Office of the Information Commissioner oversees the operation The Freedom of Information Act 2000 of the Act. (2000 c. 36) is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in In 2007, the Freedom of Information the United Kingdom on a national (Amendment) Bill was introduced as a level, with the exception of Scottish private members bill to the House of bodies, which are covered by the Commons. If passed into law, the bill Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act will exempt Members of Parliament 2002 (2002 asp. 13). (MP) and Peers from the provisions of the 2000 act, amongst other things. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (2000 c. 36) is the implementation of The Freedom of Information Act has freedom of information legislation in been used by news organisations to the United Kingdom on a national generate news stories. level. It is an Act of Parliament that introduces a public quot;right to knowquot; in The Act affects over 100,000 public relation to public bodies. The Act bodies including government implements a manifesto commitment departments, schools and councils. of the Labour Party in the 1997 The Act came into force in phases, general election. The final version of with the final quot;general right of accessquot; the Act is believed to have been to public information under the Act diluted from that proposed while coming into force on the 1 January Labour was in opposition. The full 2005. For more details please visit Public Relations Council of India (PRCI) inaugurated their Jaipur Chapter on 23rd November 2007. They also held a one-day convention with the theme “Brand is the Image of the Company” on the next day. Many eminent professionals participated and shared their views (Photo) PRCI has also inaugurated their Mysore Chapter on 15th December 2007. With this, PRCI has established 15 Chapters in India.
  10. 10. 1 PR –e- VIEWS – Freedom of Information Act in United States Sejal Gandhi, Corporate Attorney, Chicago, IL ( ) educational institutions, and non- commercial organizations often receive fee waivers or pay reduced fees. Any person or group can make a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, and educational The Freedom of Information Act (5 institutions. The procedure for making U.S.C 552) facilitates public access to FOIA requests varies for each certain U.S. government documents particular federal agency, corporation, and records. President Johnson signed or branch, though typically, an the Act into legislation and it became individual or organization must send a effective in 1967. The Freedom of written request to the agency, Information Act (commonly referred to specifying the exact information as FOIA) is of particular importance in required. the United States, since the American Constitution and government were The Freedom of Information Act is formed on the principle that the subject to several restrictions and government functions for the benefit exemptions. For example, the federal of its citizens, and that consequently, courts and Congress are not covered the public has the “right” to access by FOIA and therefore are under no government information. obligation to comply with public requests for information. Additionally, FOIA exclusively applies to federal federal agencies and corporations government agencies and which are required to disclose their corporations, which are legally records to the public may deny a FOIA required to comply with reasonable request if the information requested requests from the public for deals with: national security; internal information. The Freedom of personnel regulations; legally exempt Information Act covers an extremely information; communications subject broad range of information, such as a to litigation or other privileges; federal agency’s emails, print and personal privacy; Law Enforcement electronic documents, letters, records; Financial Institutions; or, photographs, and videos. The cost of Geographical Information. making a FOIA request is typically nominal; news media outlets, For more information about The Freedom of Information Act, visit: Sources:
  11. 11. 1 PR –e- View – Book Review – “Public Relations in Digital Era” The author has done an excellent job of bringing together all the functions related to PR activities from Advertising to Marketing, Sales to Media Relations and the functions of PR personnel in various levels of organizations. PR IN THE DIGITAL ERA definitely comes as a handbook to the students of management and PR. It also covers the industry expectations from a PR person. The Indian scenario of the PR industry has been highlighted. Theories and models as an added bonus, the book can be considered as a good guide for professors in the field of PR and Marketing. In the last section of the book, the author has brought into light the most powerful medium of communication widely used in this digitized world, i.e. Internet. The author has covered many Dos and Don’ts for an ideal website. All the new technological Mr.K.M.Shrivastava, a media tools, like CD ROMs, mobile, professional and a Professor at the audio/video usage, monitoring services Indian Institute of Mass etc. have been given adequate Communication, Delhi, in his book importance. For any reader, this book “Public Relations In the Digital Era” will be of great use. has successfully covered all the important aspects of Public Relations, Pages 385 Price Indian Rs.300/- and the way it has revolutionized and Publisher: Pilgrims Publishing, got digitized over the years. He has Varanasi, India also given the most needed Indian feel with brilliant examples extracted from Contact: Mahitosh Verma the Indian Politics, Indian history and the government. For Book reviews (English) (only on PR and Corpcom) Authors and Publishers may contact
  12. 12. 1 PR eTTY - Police arrests for seeking information under RTI Act Awareness and Environment Protection Society said he sought information under the RTI Act about the waiver of loans by a cooperative society in his village. Following this, he was abused and attacked by two persons, whom he identified, in front of his house on November 22. Following a complaint by one of the assailants with the Malliakkarai police station, he was taken to the police station where officials told him to withdraw the application. Mr. Annamalai said on November 24 he was assaulted by another person near the Chokkanathapuram bus stand. A.K.Venkatasubramanian, trustee, has written to the Chief Secretary about the incident, with copies to the Secretary to the Chief Minister, State An incident of a 67-year-old consumer Chief Information Commissioner, activist who was assaulted by some Director-General of Police (DGP) and persons for seeking information under the Salem District Collector. the newly enacted Right to Information Act (RTI) has come to light. The DGP, D. Mukherjee, said he had not received the letter. The In his letter to the Catalyst Trust here, Superintendent of Police, Salem, A. Annamalai of Chokkanathapuram in N.Bhaskaran, said he was not aware of Salem district who was the district any such incident, had not received coordinator, FEDCOT, Pondicherry and any complaint from Mr. Annamalai, but Tamil Nadu and Secretary of would look into the matter. Chokkanathapuram Consumer Source : Subscribe free to unique PodMagazine PodUniversal (one stop shop for podcasts on all subjects) To know more about Corporate Podcast, visit If you are in look out for Corporate professional speakers, Visit To study the ‘hidden perception’ of your employees, visit
  13. 13. 1 PResenters of PReSENSE Interna tional Editor Content Editor Associate Editor and Co-coordinator and Subha Ganesh P A Narrendiran, PodJockey PodJockey Search Marketing Blue Lotus PR Veena Vinod Shvetha Sridhar Consultan t Good Relations PR PR Executive London Rediffusion DYR Publisher and Chief Editor K. Srinivasan (Prime Point Foundation) Feedback and contributions to: All the earlier issues may be downloaded from or Listen to India’s first pod-magazine one stop shop for podcasts on all subjects Do you want to subscribe to this ezine. Please click