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Press Release

With the exception of CPI, none of other six political parties declared as Public Authority were willing to dialogue with over 500 RTI activists at the Jan Manch Delhi, 6 August, 2013: Raising the bar of protest, the Jan Manch of over 500 people strongly condemned the proposed move by all political parties to amend the RTI Act. Taking forward her vehement criticism of the undue haste with which all major political parties are seeking to amend the RTI Act without any consultation and dialogue with the people, Aruna Roy, leading RTI activist, emphasized that this anti-people move which has sparked protests in different parts of the country will soon explode into a nation-wide mass protest. The on-line campaign supported by the website Change.Org has within a few hours got nearly 25000 people signing the petition against the RTI amendment. The protests have gone global and viral with NRIs in Washington demonstrating and from 30 cities calling up Members of Parliament and urging them to not push this amendment without due consultation with the people It is significant that out of all the six parties that have been declared by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to be public authorities under the RTI Act, with the exception of the CPI, all others stayed away from the Jan Manch, organised by the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information (NCPRI). Explaining the party position on this issue, Shri D. Raja, Rajya Sabha MP stated that while opposing the CICs declaration that six political parties who were privy to government funding should be declared as Public Authority, they agree with the RTI activists that transparency and accountability of political parties is necessary. Elaborating on this, D. Raja stated that during elections given the unholy nexus between the capitalists and political parties there is no doubt that RTI is an invaluable weapon to fight fraudulent and corrupt practices and went on to add that the left parties have in the past always opposed all amendments to the RTI Act. Braving the rain, grassroots activists from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat Bihar, U.P., Haryana other than Delhi poured into the capital to not only protests against RTI amendments but to also demonstrate the growing groundswell for the antiamendment protest. From Gujarat alone over hundred thousand signatures protesting against the RTI amendments have been sent to the President. Rahul Ram of the Indian Ocean band extended his support to the cause and performed several songs at the Jan Manch. The protesters found strong allies in small and just emerging parties such as Aam Aadmi Party, Loksatta and Loktantra Bachhao Morcha. Speaking on behalf of Aam Aadmi Party, Yogendra Yadav exhorted all political parties irrespective of whether they got funding from the government or not, to voluntarily function like a Public Authority. Agreeing that political parties had some genuine concerns which needed to be looked into, he strongly opposed any blanket exemption of parties and in particular urged CPI to revert to its earlier position of welcoming the CICs move and break away from the pack so to speak so that we restore the ethical foundation of politics. Welcoming the decision of Loksatta Party to go as far as to appoint PIOs to give information to the public, Nikhil Dey, pointed out that given the overwhelming reluctance of political

parties to dialogue on this issue, all RTI activists will have to hereafter start looking at their accounts, receipts and track the election expenditure. Speaking on behalf of Loktantra Bachao Morcha, a coalition of seven to eight parties, Govindacharya, extended wholehearted support to the Jan Manch and assured them that there were many political leaders of different hues that were as much as opposed to this amendment as RTI activists. Lamenting the anti-democratic attitude of the parties, Anjali Bhardwaj commented that by choosing to amend the Act the parties are becoming the judge, court and petitioner in their own case. Wide-spread protests against the amendments have been held across the country. Public protests have been organised in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Haryana. In Ajmer three hundred people signed a petition to oppose the RTI amendments and submitted it to the collector. In the neighbouring town of Kishangarh three hundred people rallied shouting slogans demanding accountability and transparency of political parties. Similarly in Hyderabad approximately two hundred people people from different walks of life (NGOs, Software employees, political parties like Loksatta, concerned citizens and activists) participated in the protest and demanded that the Government take back the amendments to the RTI act excluding political parties from the ambit of the RTI act. In various states, people visited the state offices of Congress and the BJP, staged protest and personally submitted a representation asking the parties to reject amendments to the RTI act. In Patna three hundred people gathered at Gandhi Maidan and protested against the proposed amendments. People formed a human chain and shouted slogans asking for signatures, from interested passers-by, in support of their demand.
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