SHILLONG, March 12 � Going with its slogan: �Our money our right,� the Shillong declaration of the 3rd National Right to Information Convention today resolved that the Central Government must subject �all public expenditure under social audit.�
It was by far one of the most crucial of the other 11 resolutions passed in the Shillong Declaration and was only included after the strong insistence of RTI activist, Aruna Roy. She was amply supported by some of the country�s prominent figures in the field of judiciary, media and bureaucracy.
Initially, it was decided that just ten resolutions would be passed and those were read out and adopted. But Roy in the end intervened and strongly advocated that the social audit of all public expenditure must be included in the list of resolutions.
�It is important, we are here to fight corruption...If the government can have social auditing in the case of NREGA then why not for all other programmes,� she reasoned. Eventually, the resolution was adopted.
Apart from, the social audit, some other very crucial resolutions were passed having direct bearing on the northeast.
One of them being security and intelligence forces must not be exempted from scrutiny under Section 24 of the RTI Act and this exemption must be removed immediately so that these agencies fall directly under the purview of RTI. �It is irrational to exempt security and intelligence agencies under section 24 of the Act. This is not in the interest of national security,� said the speaker while announcing the resolutions.
Another vital piece of resolution was that there must be transparency in religious institutions and they must also be brought under the purview of RTI on how they use �public money.�
It goes without saying that many religious institutions have kept their accounts under a strict code of secrecy and many feel they are not used for the purpose they are meant for, hence the resolution.
The other important resolution includes bringing banks, international financial agencies, private sectors, NGOs under the RTI. The resolution also said all private-public-partnership and public-private projects must be brought under the Act.
Setting up of a Right to Information Council to better implement the Act, circulation of draft legislations for wider consultations, transparency in the appointment of State and Central Information Commissioners, protection of RTI applicants and activists, creation of anti-corruption commission like Lokpal, Autonomous Councils under RTI and suo moto disclosure of government schemes and programmes were the other resolutions adopted after the deliberations.