RTI activists draw government attention for quake relief transparency

24 May, 2015 -
A group of civil society organizations and individuals working in the area of right to information has demanded the government guarantee citizens' access to information citing its importance during rescue, relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and management in the wake of devastating earthquake that rocked Nepal. The RTI activists and experts jointly submitted a 19-point memorandum to the government through National Information Commission (NIC) amid a programme at NIC this afternoon under the aegis of Citizens' Campaign for Right to Information (CCRI) and Freedom Forum. Handing over the joint memorandum to NIC Chief Commissioner Krishna Hari Baskota on behalf of the group, RTI activist Taranath Dahal said that it is the reminder for the government to take proactive measures to disclose and disseminate information on rescue, relief and reconstruction in the post-quake crisis. Among various demands put forth by the RTI practitioners are arrangement of free and objective flow of information to the quake-affected people during the state of emergency, placing measures for maximum disclosure and dissemination of information related to government\s efforts on rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction and maintaining transparency of relief package being delivered to the survivors from government and other supporters. The memo also asked the government to assign a designated officer to respond quake survivors' request to obtain any information on relief, residence and security and listen and redress their complaints and appeals from grassroots to central level and bring into operation information centres to impart government efforts, available services in the affected regions and districts. "We urge the state agencies to respect and adhere to constitutionally guaranteed citizen\s right to seek, obtain and impart information of public importance and the RTI Act-2064 BS importantly at the time of national crisis", the document reads. Receiving the memorandum, Chief Information Commissioner Baskota pledged to draw attention of the government to address the issues raised by RTI activists. Also present on the memo handing over programme were Information Commissioner duo Kiran Pokharel and Yasoda Timsina, NIC Secretary Laxman Mainali, NIC ex-secretary Shree Ram Pant, CCRI Executive Director Tanka Aryal, Freedom Forum Executive Director Krishna Sapkota, GoGo Foundation Chair Kedar Khadka, CAHURAST Chair Bishnu Pukar Shrestha and KSDF-Kalikot Chair Narayan Bhattarai. The Nepal earthquake of April 2015, with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, was the deadliest in the country’s recorded history and caused massive destruction. Around 9,000 people were killed and tens of thousands were left injured, homeless and severely traumatized.