Jean Drèze proposes three steps for transparent governance in TN

The economist has written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on creation of a citizens information portal.

Leading economist Jean Drèze has made a strong case for creation of a citizens information portal (CIS) in Tamil Nadu, saying that it would facilitate social audits and other efforts to curb corruption.

When he met Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Saturday, Mr. Drèze proposed three steps that could help Tamil Nadu to set an example of transparent governance.

Mr. Drèze, a member of the State Advisory Council, said though Tamil Nadu, like the Centre, had a user-friendly facility for online Right To Information (RTI) queries, “it was only for one department so far.” In a letter to the Chief Minister, he proposed extending the facility to all departments as the first step towards transparent governance.

He explained that the online facility of the Central government had made it possible not only to file RTI queries but also to monitor the progress of the query, pay the fee if any, file appeals etc.

Mr Drèze pointed out that though as per section 4(2) of the RTI Act, public institutions had an obligation to make information available to the public in a pro-active manner without waiting for RTI queries, the implementation of this mandate had been very poor.

He said in many states and departments, there was a growing practice of hiding information behind administration logins, depriving the public of wealth of material available in their management information system (MIS).

“Tamil Nadu should set an example of full compliance with section 4(2) of the RTI Act, with every department disclosing as much information as possible in user-friendly format,” he said as a second step.

Reiterating that user-friendly access was particularly important for welfare schemes such as the public distribution system (PDS), social security pensions, and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), he suggested the creation of a citizens information portal (CIS) as a third step to address the problem.

He said, “official websites often fail to present information in a manner that helps ordinary citizens, including those who are not familiar with online navigation.”

He said the citizen information portal would help people to find essential information related to welfare schemes.

“This would also facilitate social audits and other efforts to curb corruption. Some states have taken interesting initiatives in this regard, such as the jan soochana portal in Rajasthan. Tamil Nadu is well placed to take them further,” Mr Drèze said.

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