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Accounts and Accountability: Implications of the Right-to-Information Movement in India

By: Rob Jenkins, Anne Marie Goetz

This is a journal article written for Third World Quarterly.

The work of a small and unusual activist group in the north Indian state of Rajasthan has raised a series of practical and theoretical issues concerning the best means for combating specific instances of corruption, and for promoting accountability more generally. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)Ð literally :Workers’ and Farmers’ Power Organisation has waged a campaign to secure the right of ordinary people to gain access to information held by government officials. In the process of experimenting with methods of compiling, sharing and verifying expenditure data at very local levels thus far, in the absence of a statutory entitlement to such information the MKSS has developed a radical interpretation of the notion that citizens have a right both to know how they are governed and to participate actively in the process of auditing their representatives. This article examines the process by which this campaign emerged and the means by which it pursues its goals. It then analyses the implications of the MKSS experience, and the larger movement it has spawned, for contemporary debates in three areas: human rights, participatory development and, of course, anti-corruption.