Guwahati, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
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Legislators asked to use RTI to serve people better
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, Jan 10 - Experts today called upon the State legislators to push for formulation of a three-pronged peace policy to tackle insurgency. They also urged the elected representatives to elicit information related to public interest through use of the right to information, and press the State government to prepare a development strategy by merging Nature with economics.

These suggestions were made during the sixth and final phase of the Sabal Bidhayak programme initiated by the Assam Legislative Assembly in collaboration with the Guwahati-based research institute, Centre for Development and Peace Studies.

About 30 speakers from different fields from within and outside Assam have addressed the legislators since the Sabal Bidhayak programme was launched on October 2 last year by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Addressing the gathering, that also included several civil society representatives, Chief Information Commissioner Himangshu Shekhar Das said the use of RTI as a tool to seek information in the State is very low – only about one-tenth of the national average.

He also disclosed that of the total RTI applications filed, around 80 per cent are moved by 10 to 15 individuals. Das added that very few RTI applications are filed by intellectuals, media personnel and women. He called upon the State MLAs to use RTI in a big way to seek information from government departments to serve the people better.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta, Head, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University said that the government should come up with a peace policy at three levels – macro, micro and district. The macro level, he said, should involve the Central government, the micro level should be initiated by the State government and the district level peace policy should deal with the fragmented militant groups. He emphasised the need to involve the civil society and take their views during peace negotiations and eventual signing of peace agreements.

In his address, Dr LR Bishnoi, Additional Director General of Police (BTAD and Railways) said insurgency has come down in Assam, but pointed out that militant groups from the State are active on the Myanmar-China border making it necessary for the security forces to be on guard. He said an effective counter-insurgency strategy could include, apart from consistent joint operations, use of advanced technological gadgets, breaking support network of rebel groups, joint action with neighbouring states, strengthening infrastructure and coming up with rewards and appreciation for security officers.

Making a presentation on ‘Assam, Naturenomics, Conservation and Role of Legislators’, Ranjit Barthakur, business leader and founder of Balipara Foundation, said Assam urgently needs to formulate a development plan by merging Nature and economics since the State’s biggest assets are its natural resources. Barthakur said that since six million people in Assam are directly involved in the State’s tea industry, Assam should have a tea ministry. He also cautioned that the tea industry in Assam could be adversely impacted by climate change in the next two decades.

Wrapping up the programme, CDPS executive director Wasbir Hussain thanked the legislators for their enthusiastic participation and engagement during discussions with the resource persons. He said some of the best practices suggested by various designated speakers could be replicated by the MLAs in the respective constituencies.

Principal Secretary of the Assam Assembly Mrigendra Kumar Deka, in his concluding remarks said the programme was a success and must have benefited the legislators. He thanked CDPS for designing and executing the programme in collaboration with the Assam Assembly.

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