Indian citizens living abroad have kicked off a signature campaign demanding that they be able to access information through the Right to Information Act. The campaign has already attracted about 145 signatures in just four days from people of Indian citizenship residing in the US, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and Dubai among other countries.
The appeal -- addressed to PM Manmohan Singh -- urges that Indians living abroad be allowed to have a voice in governance. This has been a long-standing demand of Indian citizens but in the absence of procedure or rules, there has been no effective implementation of the legislation.
While Indian missions are authorised to accept RTI pleas, there is a lacuna on the payment of fees. Comm Lokesh Batra (retd) -- who has been campaigning for the issue -- said, "There is no clear method of payment. We would like the government to appoint a nodal officer who can facilitate the process and deposit the RTI fees with the public authority." The appeal suggests that missions could accept RTI fees from applicants also.
The demand is that the legislation should not apply only to NRIs but also to citizens residing abroad for a short time or travelling for education or job purposes, and even officials posted in Indian missions or on deputation to international bodies.
Among the signatories of the campaign is Richa Mathur from Sydney, who said, "We seek our right to participate in governance."
Major Satish Khanna from Switzerland said, "It should be a simple process to resolve this minor issue. Payments should be accepted by Indian embassies overseas in local currencies."
Bala Janakiraman from US added, "I was taught in school that all Indians are equal. With the way the RTI Act has been implemented, I am learning you are less equal if you are part of the great Indian diaspora living outside. This has to be fixed. Now."