Saturday, January 31, 2015

R.K. Laxman should be face of RTI stamps, say activists

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In view of a recent Central Government circular seeking people's views on inclusion of postal stamps for paying RTI fees, activists have demanded that such stamps should bear the face of legendary cartoonist R K Laxman who passed away this week.
"There should be separate RTI stamps issued by the postal department, to facilitate payment of RTI fees," Subhash Chandra Agarwal, noted RTI activist who first proposed the idea before the Chief Information Commission, told The Hindu.
"It is a lovely idea to have R K Laxman's face on those stamps. It will be a nation's homage to somebody who took the common man's issues to a new height. Mr. Laxman turned the common man into a hero," former Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.
Mr. Subhash Chandra said there were many parallels between the common man and the RTI Act. "The RTI Act is meant for the common man and R K Laxman's cartoons raised the voice of the common man," he said.
Separate RTI stamps
A few activists from western Maharashtra led by Vihar Durve recently wrote to the Department of Personnel and Training and the Prime Minister seeking issuance of separate RTI stamps in the name of Mr. Laxman who passed away this week.
At present, people filing RTI queries can make payment by four modes -- IPO, Demand Draft, Bankers Cheque and Cash against receipt. But the Central Information Commission, in its recent order passed last month, again recommended the use of ordinary postal stamps for paying RTI fees.
But the government apprehends that use of ordinary postal stamps may lead to many problems including accounting error for the postal department, misuse of ordinary stamps.
According to a circular issued by the Department of Personnel and Training on January 14, the government has formed a committee to look into these issues and to decide if postal stamps should be introduced as RTI fees. The circular seeks suggestions from the citizens.
The RTI activists have suggested that the government (postal department) issue separate RTI stamps for the purpose. "Firstly, it will be very easy for the citizens as these stamps will be freely available at all post offices," Mr Gandhi said.
"Also, these will be the most economical modes of paying RTI fees. If beautiful RTI stamps are issued, they will propagate the use of RTI. The people will be convenienced as many RTI petitioners face quite a few hurdles in paying fees," Mr Subhash Chandra said.

But Mr Gandhi pointed out a practical difficulty in implementing the measure. "At present, the revenue from the RTI fees goes to the States. But if postal stamps are introduced, the revenue will go to the Central government. Though Rs 10 crore annual revenue isn't much, the Centre will still have to convince all the States and get them on-board to implement this step," he said.

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