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The Right to Information and Societal Accountability: The Case of the Delhi PDS Campaign

By: Suchi Pande

Many development scholars in India see the recently enacted the Right to Information (RTI) as a tool to ensure transparency and accountability in the day-to-day functioning of government.

On the one hand, there has been an enthusiastic portrayal of RTI as a tool to ensure accountability, not simply through the provisioning of information alone, but as precursor to supporting mechanisms like public hearings and public audits (Roy et al. 2006, 2007). On the other hand, some are increasingly questioning the portrayal of RTI as ‘a magic wand’ and the extent of success it is able to deliver.1 Others have also expressed doubts over the use of RTI by the poor and marginalised groups due to the complexity of the legal process involved.

In this article, the question I seek to answer is: How and to what extent can tools like the RTI be a means of ensuring transparency and accountability? A related question is: Does the RTI have the potential to be a tool for collective action by poor people?