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Frustrated by India's Broken Right to Information (RTI) Portal

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RTI was not gifted by any political party or any government in India. In fact, majority of the politicians and political parties silently opposed, disrupted and delayed RTI implementation.

The government has always tried to misinform or hide facts and figures from the citizens. Citizens fought a long battle with the government and finally the government agreed to introduce and bring RTI.

Without informed citizens there is no democracy, hence RTI came as a great tool in the hands of the Indian citizens. The government has been consistently frugal when it comes to revealing/sharing actual information with the citizens. Thanks to the government for providing broken RTI portal www.rtionline.gov.in that is yet another example of corruption in the system.

India has built numerous IT systems for small and big enterprises worldwide and has proved to be an IT leader. Is it not shameful that India is building and supporting IT work worldwide but our government IT system is broken? I agree that RTI Act is reasonable in its current form and capable of attacking the roots of corruption but how can a citizen use this tool when it is broken for many years and the government remains completely ignorant to this fact?

In today’s world, most information is available at one's fingertip because of the Internet. At present, large number of citizens from all sections of the society can handle technology effectively and are motivated to fight corruption. But when the citizens are trying to use RTI portal to seek information, they become very frustrated with likely many of them giving up because of a poorly implemented system.

My background is in IT and I spent almost two days to file RTI using the online portal. I had to eventually give up because the portal is broken. I tried using browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and also my iPhone but my attempts failed each time.

I feel the government is keeping this tool in a broken state so that technology-savvy citizens cannot file RTI application in a reasonable amount of time.

I searched Google and found that a few news agencies had covered this story in the past but they were not given much attention and were silently brushed under the carpet. Many people have written about this subject on various online forums but the government remains ignorant. I am wondering as to why honest journalists and media houses remain silent on this subject and not cover this story and do follow ups until the government wakes up.

There are hundreds of serious problems with this RTI online portal. Some of them I am listing here:

This portal says that only alphabets A-Z, a-z, numbers 0-9 and special characters, . - _ ( ) / @ : & \ % are allowed in text for RTI Request Application. The fact is that users are not able to use any of the above mentioned special characters.

It gives you option to use Master and Visa credit cards for payment. I tried using Master Card credit card but it failed with no message to the user as to why it failed. Then I tried using Visa card from Bank of America. Once again it failed without providing any feedback. I tried using my other credit cards from US but they all failed. Finally, I tried using my ICICI ATM card which also failed.

Users are not allowed to attach multiple documents. Only one document is allowed for upload that also just 1MB size. I had multiple documents but no option to attach. Being an IT expert, I was able to merge all documents in one file and then reduce the file size to 1 MB using some technology. But still I was not successful in filing online RTI. Also, many people cannot understand technology glitches and will give up after few attempts.

This is very shameful on the part of the government that online RTI tool is broken and the government continues to ignore it. The front page of RTI portal says that this portal is Designed, Developed and Hosted by National Informatics Centre, New Delhi. If this is the standard of NIC to build such a bad portal then the head of the NIC and other related authorities must be sacked. I strongly believe that the government is deliberately keeping this tool broken so the citizens could not use it as intended.

Indian IT companies are building and supporting IT works worldwide and India's RTI portal is broken and useless, is this not shame for our country? It is quite evident that NIC has done a very bad job perhaps because they are not skilled enough or perhaps the government is intentionally stopping them to do the job right. Let’s assume that the NIC has failed but there are enough people who can fix this portal problem if the government had the willingness to fix it. Personally, I can introduce many individuals or companies who can fix this portal free of cost in national interest.

Right to Information Act is as a vital tool for fight against corruption in India. But citizens have to fight one more time and force the government to fix the online RTI portal

Sanjeev Singh, MI, USA

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