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India's law to promote access to political information has sad downside.
December 27, 2010 12:13 PM   Subscribe


 
"It was a total paradigm shift from a regime of secrecy to one of transparency," the law minister, Veerappa Moily, said in an interview in Delhi. "It has changed the entire culture of governance."

That last line sounds like it was meant to be optimistic, but considering the subject of the article, it could be taken much more darkly.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like Mr. Mishra most likely would have been killed for asking questions without an RTI law and India needs a LOT more than just Freedom of Information.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 PM on December 27, 2010


Freedom to anonymously request information would be nice.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:26 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Turns out he was killed by the clerk who had to process all of those applications.

Freedom to anonymously request information would be nice.

I suppose it would, but you still have to do something with the information, and that's when your name will come out in the papers or in court. It would be a good idea to work through an organization, though; crooks might be less likely to kill you if you were just one of a number of people working on the same things.
posted by pracowity at 1:43 PM on December 27, 2010


Rather than send out goon squads, why can't the corrupt ones deny or lose the requests? Clearly, this would make a great task to outsource to America.
posted by dr_dank at 1:53 PM on December 27, 2010


ironically, this is why organizations like Wikileaks are needed. the system won't grant due process to whistleblowers. hence the killing of transparency champions in India and the torturing of Bradley Manning in the US.
posted by liza at 3:34 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rather than send out goon squads, why can't the corrupt ones deny or lose the requests?

The power of the law is such that they can't usually deny these requests. They're processed through an independent commissioner for one (although lately even this is showing problems)

ironically, this is why organizations like Wikileaks are needed. the system won't grant due process to whistleblowers.

The people killed here weren't whistleblowers; they were asking for information from corrupt officials. I'm not sure how much help Wikileaks can be in situations like this; even if there are potential whistleblowers (the piece seems to suggest otherwise) details on, say, power usage in rural Bihar and so on aren't really readily available for anonymous uploads.
posted by the cydonian at 5:49 PM on December 27, 2010


"Freedom to anonymously request information would be nice."

You've never worked in a bureaucracy have you? At least in the US, responses to FOIA requests are often time consuming, expensive, and a pain in the ass to produce. All the Andrew Breitbarts of the world, as well as assorted other crooks and extortioners, would need to do to shut down essential services is ask about a large number of hard to document things in detail. Imagine a bottled water seller becoming interested in corruption in the local water treatment plant. So interested in fact that they demand copies of all of the phone records, processing data, flow output records, and employee emails.

If you ever want to see bitter madness in the eyes of an idealist, go to your local liberal arts college, find its FOIA officer and ask them over a beer how large their pile of completed reports that arn't picked up much less read is.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


India obviously has different problems than the US. If there were a mechanism to pay a larger fee for anonymity I think it'd work out better.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:37 PM on December 27, 2010


Depressing to read about this ("Local police denied Mishra was an activist and said they no longer had possession of the investigation file opened on his death"... oh the irony the file goes missing...) but heartening in a way to see that citizens are empowered to find out all of this information.

Blasedelb, great description about the FOIA officer. I have some experience with records management, and like to keep track of the trends with FOI requests and government records. Not sure if it's an accurate measurement of a democracy or how that country operates for the level of corruption and such, but interesting as a rough barometer I believe. While FOI requests are time consuming, it's a way to keep accountability in a system. History isn't just written by the victors - it's written by those who hold those records, and in the age where we overprioritize the digital over the paper version, it's good to see who keeps the papers.
posted by rmm at 6:20 AM on December 28, 2010


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