It would appear that Americans are not the only ones wanting to know the “who, what, when and where” of information these days. The people of India – all 1.2 billion of them – now have a Right to Know leg of law to stand upon. Since 2005, Indians are using that leg to kick back at the world’s largest democracy that has become a powerful, unaccountable governing body. Gosh, does that sound familiar?!
The FCC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted in 1966 by the American Congress to give us greater public access to the Federal Government’s documents. This was expanded in 1996 to encompass electronic records and recently in 2005 by creating “electronic reading rooms.”
The proof that many of us are taking advantage of our rights to certain documents has resulted in a request out of Washington, D.C. recently for more time to answer FOIA requests. Currently, the District has fifteen days to respond to request, and the Federal Government allows twenty days. You can read the full story here from the Washington Post article.
This “Right to Know” Law that is sweeping through India these days has made it possible for India’s poor to take advantage of pushing back at bureaucrats that are running the government. It has become “powerful and wildly popular” according to the New York Times. The Right to Know or RTI (Right to Information) Law is enabling Indians to seek information regarding land grants and loans such as those that enable India’s poorest to build their own homes.
We once requested information under the FOIA and paid our $25 research fee. Yup, this is not a free service. It took the Internal Revenue Service three weeks to respond and then, they requested an additional ten days citing “unforeseen circumstances.” To date, we have still not received the requested information but receive the obligatory “Update” letters on time, every two weeks or so. It would appear that some government agencies can find ways to skirt the laws within the framework upon which they have been written. Isn’t that always the way?
In fact, the “fee schedule” for the FOIA can be determined by the level of the GS employee that will be researching your inquiry. The schedule is as follows:
GS Salary Level of
The reproduction fees are $0.10 per page
So, there you have it folks. Whether you live in the U.S.A. or India – you have a Right to Know.
Be prepared, because here in the States all of that information could be costly.