Hemanta Kumar Nath is a correspondent and photojournalist based in Assam, India, who reports on local news in Assam, the north east Indian state.

Guwahati, October 7: Access to the Right to Information must be assured for people at all levels of society, including the deprived and marginalized, and their muted voices must be heard loud and clear, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said this week.

The Chief Minister inaugurated a one-day Regional Workshop on the Right to Information Act 2005 at Assam’s Administrative Staff College at Khanapara. He said the Right to Information can be made an effective tool by ensuring that the voices of the deprived and marginalized segments of society are heard loud and clear, at the same level as the powerful.

The Assam Administrative Staff College collaborated with Assam State Information Commission to organize the one-day regional workshop.

“Assam is one of the pioneer States which introduced the Right to Information by a separate State Act in 2002,” Gogoi said.

Gogoi said protection extends to those public servants who work with good intention and not those with vested interests.

“Public servants who serve the people with good faith and intention must be protected unlike those who have malafide intention and are in nexus with vested circles. Those who take risks and take hard decisions without fear or favour for the common good must be given protection,” Gogoi said. The Chief Minister wants to stop favouritism, nepotism and corruption, and to ensure transparency and accountability in governance. These things are vital to strengthen the roots of democracy, he said.

Gogoi underscored the need to involve civil society and Non Governmental Organisations to remove the lacunae in implementation of the RTI Act. He also said he wants to plug any inadequacies found in the RTI Act, to make the law more effective, and civil society and NGOs must play a role to ensure that happens.

Attributing the assertiveness of the people about their rights as a healthy sign of democracy, the Assam CM said, “More and more people are coming forward to assert their rights and dues and this is definitely a healthy sign of democracy. The RTI Act can play a pivotal role in making people aware of their rights by creating awareness.”

Earlier, State Chief Information Commissioner, HS Das noted the 2005 RTI Act completed its 10th year anniversary. He said the good practices adopted by various States together with the problems confronting the States in implementing the RTI Act would be deliberated upon and the vital feedback would be taken to the National Convention on October 16 and 17 in New Delhi.

In attendance were Central Chief Information Commissioner, Vijai Sharma, Central Information Commissioner, Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu, Chief Secretary, Assam, VK Pipersenia, Chief Information Commissioners of Meghalaya and Manipur, State Information Commissioners of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, Additional Chief Secretary, Assam, Subhas Chandra Das and civil society members, RTI activists, NGOs and SPIOs of a number of departments.