(A Study in Amritsar District)
Information access is necessary for any democratic set-up especially when we talk about participatory democracy. In our country, getting information is not a problem because now we have the Right to Know, but the problem is how to get information? Not everyone in India is aware of the procedure of getting information and that’s why they lag behind in participation.
Right to Information has completed ten years of its existence. It becomes important to study how far it is being used by the people. In the last ten years, how much they made themselves aware of this Act. The right to Information is linked with the media so it is known as a tool for journalists. Due to its close link, it is also expected from the media to give appropriate space and time to stories related to the Right to Information Act.
This research paper critically analyzes and tries to shed light on the awareness of RTI among the urban and rural people and the use of media by the people for getting awareness about RTI after it has completed ten years.
Information access is necessary for any democratic setup especially when we talk about participatory democracy. To solve any issue or problem in society, access to information is very essential so that an informed citizen can participate in the functioning of good governance. (Civil Service India, n.d.)
It is said that free flow of information and its utilization improves the condition of the nation and public life becomes more comfortable. In the Indian democratic social structure, freedom of information is the basic requirement of overall development due to its inherent power.
In our country getting information is not a problem because now we have Right to Know but problem is How to get information? Not everyone in India is aware about the procedure of getting information and that’s why they lag behind in participation. For getting information it is very much necessary for citizens to be aware of certain things.
In India, it is not only religion, caste, creed, crops, cultures, and weather that are diverse from one region to another region but also ‘awareness’ in the people towards their rights and duties.
Awareness is not a constant constraints in society. Awareness is defined as the ability to understand the basics and to be conscious about the events. The level of awareness, however, depends on many factors like the conscious level, education level, the surroundings etc. And whenever we talk about awareness it becomes very much necessary to mention what kind of awareness we are talking about. In simple words, we can say that the definition and meaning of awareness differ in different conditions.
Awareness of any issue can vary between urban and rural people, for example urban people can be more aware of the tax issues whereas rural may be more aware of the agricultural related issues, rise and fall in Minimum Support Price (MSP) of any particular crop. There are certain areas where urban people are more aware about like the rights, laws, and governance issues etc. in comparison to rural masses and to some extent they also know how to get the issue resolved.
The RTI act was one of the first Acts that followed a strong awareness campaign by government and non-government bodies. Non-government Organizations’ like Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) have played a major role not only in formulating a strong Right to Information Act but also organized awareness campaign to make common masses aware of it. Interestingly, the campaign has its roots in the rural areas of Rajasthan.
It has been ten years of implementation of RTI. The Act was passed after many efforts and initially it was used by the people. We have witnessed many RTI activists, related federations and organizations. They have put efforts in introducing and implementing the Act. However, after ten years of its implementation it is interesting to know about the use of RTI by the masses and how they are using media to increase their awareness in both urban and rural India.
According to the Survey of India Census (2011) urban area constitutes of statutory towns, census towns and outgrowths. All places with municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee etc. are known as statutory town. All other places which satisfied the following criteria: A minimum population of 5000, at least 75 per cent of the male main workers engaged in non-agricultural pursuits and a density of population of at least 400 per sq. km. All areas which are not categorized as urban area are considered as Rural Area.
It is a general perception that urban people are more aware of their rights and duties than their rural counterparts. So, same could be perceived about the RTI Act. Most of the Urbanites are exposed to resources like media. The internet facility has changed the scenario by infusing them with unlimited information.
According to the report “India on the Go- Mobile Internet Vision Report 2017” there will be 236 million internet users by 2016 and 314 million by 2017. By 2017, all internet users including mobile will hit 500 million. As of 2014, the Active Internet User (AIU) base in rural India was 6.7% of the overall rural population of 905 million and accounted for 61 million users. 4.4% of the total rural population used a mobile device to access the Internet; a figure that stood at a meager 0.4% in the year 2012.
On the other hand, the very first impression of RTI Act is that one must be able to write a letter to get the information under RTI. According to 2011 census, literacy rate in India is 74.04% and if go by male vs. female literacy rate there is a difference as the female literacy rate is 65.46% in comparison to male literacy rate is 80%. India has currently the largest illiterate population in the world. In Punjab the literacy rate is 76.68% which means still 23.32% are illiterate. In Punjab, male literacy rate is 80.23% and female literacy rate is 68.36%. With 25.6 % of population illiterate, it was interesting to discover how many people will are aware of the Oral RTI.
Sometimes RTI information can be too costly to get due to its detailed size. But how many people really know that you can sit in the government office and have a detailed look of the government record if you do not need to buy that information in the form of record. It has become a problem that many appeals are pending with the appellate authorities. But how many of us know that consumer courts could be a very good choice to get the RTI reply as early as possible.
The main focus of the research paper is that if such information is not available with the people then how they are using media to get the information.
The importance of awareness of the Right to Information Act has been discussed in a research paper ‘Level of Awareness about the Right to Information Act, 2005, Among Beneficiaries in Selected Districts of Rajasthan’ (2012) by Harendra Singh, Dr. S.S. Chouhan and Dr. Sonia Dutt Sharma, it has been discussed that the Right to Information is considered to be the most vital for all nations, irrespective of their socio-economic-political structure. Why Right to Information is potent among all fundamental rights? It is only because the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution: “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nation is consecrated.” This means in every democratic country this right to information is an effective tool that gives power to put knowledge in the hands of the common man and a reflection of a liberal country. (Singh, Chouhan, Sharma, 2012)
The Right to Information Act (RTI Act), which was implemented in 2005, has become more popular than the Indian Constitution, stated the Central Information Commissioner (CIC), M Sridhar Acharyulu. However, during the last one decade a mere two per cent of the country’s population has made use of the Act to seek information on government functioning. The success of any legislation depends on how the public and the officials concerned employ it, the CIC said while giving examples. (Only 2% of Indians used RTI, 2015)
Access to information is vital for any democratic society. Public is free to get information from the government with which they can participate in the decision making process. The more flexible the laws the more participation will be there from public and interest groups to check the functioning of bureaucracy. Therefore, democracy demands public participation and participation can only be ensured through the information access. Subsequently, access to information becomes vital and right to information requires studies related to this law. (Mansell & Ang, 2014)
- To find out the differences in the level of awareness of RTI among rural and urban masses.
- To identify which media is most used for getting information about RTI.
- To critically evaluate the use and effect of media for RTI awareness.
- To know the use of media by people to solve the RTI related grievances.
- The awareness of the Right to Information Act increases with the increase in the level of educational qualification.
- Urban people are more aware in comparison to rural.
- Traditional media is the most informative medium in comparison to the internet.
This research paper critically analyses and tries to shed light on the awareness of RTI among the urban and rural people and how they use media. More importantly to know how people are using media to raise the awareness level and in other matters. The study is quantitative in nature. The method selected for research is survey method. A sample size of 100 respondents was selected by stratified random sampling and a questionnaire has been formulated including objective type and dichotomous questions. For rural area researcher has used schedule and for urban area questionnaire was distributed. The respondents were divided into rural and urban groups. The study area of research is Amritsar district.
Data Interpretation and Discussion
Media usage by respondents
The use of media resources was one variable to know which type of media is preferred by respondents. It shows that among the rural population television is more popular than any other form of media and in urban areas the internet is the more popular medium. Newspaper is in the second position after television among rural respondents and among urban after the internet, television is more popular. Radio is the least popular. And there are very few respondents who use more than one media resource.
Based on the education level
Response regarding awareness of RTI among Rural
Response regarding awareness of RTI among Urban
The above graph depicts that with the increase in the level of education the level of awareness also increases. However, in a rural area, the responses are mixed kind. But in the urban area, it is very much clear that the more educated people are the more they become aware of.
Based on male/female
The awareness level was analyzed based on two variables one is male-female and another is education level. The following results are based on the male-female variable.
From the above chart, it is clear that males are more aware than females. However, among males, only 32% are aware of the RTI and 38% of males are not aware of the RTI at all. Among females, 14% are aware of RTI and 16% are not aware of RTI. In overall results, 54% of respondents are not aware of the Right to Information Act and 46% of the respondents are aware of RTI. Thus, we can say the awareness level of respondents is below average.
Awareness level of RTI in an urban area
From the above pie chart, it can be said that 83% of the respondents are aware of the RTI Act and only 17% are not aware of the Act. Among males, 50% can be categorized as being aware and 10% are in the non-aware category. Among females, 26% know about the RTI Act and 14% don’t have any idea about it.
Thus, if we compare the results of both urban and rural areas it can be easily said that urban people are more aware of the Act in comparison to rural areas.
The other results are also evidentiary in knowing the answers to the objectives. In a rural area, only 32% of the respondents are aware of the procedure of filing RTI and 68% of the respondents do not have any idea about it. Only 24% of the males are aware and 8% of the females are aware; 46% of the male respondents and 22% of the female respondents do not know the procedure of filing RTI. In urban areas, 48% of the respondents know the procedure of filing RTI and 52% of the respondents do not know the procedure. Among them, 40% of the male respondents and 8% of the female respondents know the procedure of filing RTI. Along with it, 20% of the male respondents and 32% of the female respondents do not know the procedure of filing under the RTI Act.
Again, urban areas are better than the rural areas; 48% of respondents in the urban area are aware in comparison to 32% in rural areas.
Very few respondents have filed RTI ever in rural areas where 90% of the respondents have not filed RTI and only 10% have utilized this Act. In urban areas also results are poor because only 14% of the respondents have filed RTI and 86% didn’t use this Act ever. Other questions like the knowledge about filing RTI in online mode, the days required by authorities to give an answer, approaching consumer courts if not getting a reply to any RTI, filing online RTI, about attending workshops and seminars do not provide satisfactory results as most of the respondents are not aware of the above-mentioned questions. The rural area is as expected poorer than the urban area in the level of awareness.
Questions were asked to know the use of media by the people to get information about the Right to Information Act. Respondents were asked through which mode they became aware. The options given were: through articles and news items, public service advertisements in radio and Doordarshan, from the internet, through seminars and workshops, and word of mouth publicity. In response, 58% of the respondents in rural areas said that they became aware through word of mouth publicity, 24% through articles, 12% through public service advertisements, 6% through the internet, and none had attended any seminar or workshop on RTI. In an urban area, 28% of the respondents became aware through word of mouth publicity, 30% through public service advertisements, 20% through articles, 14% through the internet, and 8% through seminars and workshops. Thus, word of mouth is the mode which is common through which respondents became aware of the RTI Act.
In response to a question as to which is the most informative medium to get information about RTI, 56% of the respondents in rural areas said that it is a TV and 26% said that newspaper is the most informative medium, 18% for the internet, and radio scored 0%. In urban areas also 48% of the respondents agreed that TV is the most informative medium for getting information on RTI, 24% spoke for newspapers, 18% for the internet, and here also radio scored 0%. Thus, according to the masses, radio is the least informative medium and TV is the most informative medium in both rural and urban areas.
If people were not using media for awareness about RTI it was necessary to know the reason. A question was asked as to how much they are attracted to stories in the media. In rural areas 44% of the respondents said yes they are attracted to stories published or covered in media; 40% said ‘No’ and 16% said to some extent they are attracted to these stories. So, if we can say that yes 60% of the respondents are attracted to media stories. In urban areas 50% were positive in their response 18% were totally negative and 32% said that to some extent they are attracted to the media stories. Here also it can be said that 82% are attracted to stories related to RTI.
Thus, they are interested in the stories but there are reasons why they are less aware. In response to a question, 48% of rural respondents said that non-availability of the resources is the reason and 52% of the respondents said they are not interested in the details of the Act. In urban areas 40% of the respondents said that non-availability of resources is one of the reasons, 44% said they are interested and 16% gave other reasons which include sufficient knowledge about it or that they are already aware of the Act.
Therefore, it can be said that people are not using RTI much, they are not using media for that reason and there is a lack of interest in knowing the right to information act details.
- Awareness of the Right to Information Act indeed increases with the increase in the level of educational qualification.
- People are not aware of the details of the Act as they are not interested to know the details but only the basic information.
- Urban areas are more aware in comparison to the rural because of higher rate of literacy and access to resources.
- Television is popular in rural areas in comparison to the radio and the internet.
- In urban areas, the internet is more popular in comparison to television and newspaper.
- Newspaper is more popular in rural areas compared to urban.
- Mansell, R. & Ang, P.W. (Eds.). (2014). The International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication and Society. (Vols. 1-3). Willy-Blackwell.
- Singh H., Chouhan S.S., Sharma S. D. (2012). Level of Awareness on the Right to Information Act, 2005 Among Beneficiaries in Selected Districts of Rajasthan. Indian Journal of Applied Research, 2(1), 118-120. Retrieved from http://www.worldwidejournals.com/ijar/file.php?val=October_2012_1356964628_f9c75_42.pdf
- Civil Services India. (n.d.). Awareness of Right to Information. Retrieved from http://www.civilserviceindia.com/current-affairs/articles/awareness-of-right-to-information.html
- Only 2% of Indians used the RTI Act in 10 years: CIC. (2015, December 5). The Hans India. Retrieved from http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/2015-12-05/Only-2-of-Indians-used-RTI-Act-in-10-years-CIC–191162
- Literav Literacy in India. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.census2011.co.in/literacy.php
- Indian net users set to cross half-billion in 3 years. (2015, July 21). Retrieved from http://www.indiatechonline.com/viewimage.php?id=937
*Head, Dept. of Journalism and Creative Writing and **Research Scholar, Dept. of Journalism and Creative Writing, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh