It was seven year ago, that Indians got their right to information, with the implementation of Right to Information Act in 2005. While it has become well-known as a tool to uncover large scale irregularities and scmas, this act can still be used by mango people, when it comes to their money matters, which are stuck in the administrative machinery, well almost.
Here's a quick guide, on what this act is, your rights, the kind of information you can get regarding your money matters and how to file an RTI application.
Simply put, the RTI Act is a national legislation. Says Vijay Ghokle, RTI activist from Mumbai, "Under RTI, you have a right to get information from the government"
What all can you use the act for: You get the right to access information through documents and records pertaining to various departments of the government. Also, you can ask the public authorities the reason behind various administrative decisions they take. And, you can inspect government documents and request for photocopies of such documents. But certain records are not available to the public. You can't get any information which could prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security and like.
Where can RTI be in your money matters?
If the Employee Provident Funds Office has delayed releasing your EPF, you can ask for the reason for such a delay. Likewise, if you are entitled to receive an Income Tax refund from the IT department and you haven't heard from them for a long long time even after severe follow ups, you can ask as to why there might be such a delay.
You can also get information on the status of your Public Provident Fund account with India post or State Bank of India. Information as to why your insurance claim was not settled by a PUS insurance company, and also information from local development authorities and the like.
In short, information from any central and state government public authority become accessible to you. Also authorities that come directly (like RBI, IT Department, Sebi) and indirectly or funded by the government come under this act. Even various municipal corporations and Public Sector Units, like LIC, Bank of Baroda, and Bank of India, for instance.
Who can apply for an RTI: If you are a citizen of India (not applicable to J&K), you can make an RTI application. Age is not a deciding factor and even a minor has this right to make an RTI application.
No need to give a reason: Gokhale, says, "You don't need to give a reason as to why you need the information you are seeking."
Step by Step guide:
Query: Know what information you are seeking. After following it up via the designated grievance channel, and when you still haven't got a solution, you can apply for an RTI. For instance, even after applying for withdrawal of provident fund you haven't heard from them for months.
Approach the authority: Identifying the right authority is important. For an income tax related RTI application, it's the IT department. For issues with a PSU bank, it's the bank or RBI. The information about the public information officer (with whom you need to file the RTI) will be mentioned on the public authorities' website.
File the application: Next write an application addressed to the PIO, with your personal details and the details of information you are seeking, along with a fee of Rs10 through a demand draft or a bank cheque or an Indian postal order payable to the accounts officer of the public authority. You could also make a cash payment to the concerned office against a receipt. There is a good possibility that you might have to bear the photocopy charges if you've requested for such copies.
PIO: Once this is done, you will have to wait for the PIO to look into the matter. They should get back to you within 30 days from the date they receive the application. If they fail to do so, they may even be fined. If you are not satisfied by the PIO's response you can approach the First Appellate Authority or the senior officer in the PIO's department. If you are not satisfied by his reply too, you can approach the Central Information Commission.
An RTI activist we spoke to said, "RTI works in many cases, but in many cases it might not." RTI is not the first step and should be used only after you've gone through the proper channels of grievance redressal. We hope this act brings the much needed accountability in the system. If you are someone who is tired of their money being stuck in the administrative machinery, make the most of this info and make that RTI application you've been talking about. For more details, visit http://rti.gov.in