While political parties have rejected the move to bring them under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the city BJP unit has some advice for RTI activists. “Why don’t they make RTI applicable to the defence sector? Defence spending is around Rs two lakh crore. We are not saying sensitive defence documents or information related to national security should be revealed. But information on their regular expenditure should be made public,” said BJP city unit chief Vikas Matkari.
Matkari said this is specially necessary in the wake of scams such as Bofors and the recent TetraPak scam. “The TetraPak scandal came to light through an an internal audit report of the Defence Ministry. It reportedly detected a loss of over Rs 100 crore in spending by six army commanders between 2009 and 2011. Defence Minister A K Antony was forced to order strict checks and balances on expenditure,” said Matkari, stressing that RTI would help in curbing unnecessary defence expenditure.
On the demand for transparency in functioning of political parties, Matkari said, “The functioning of political parties is more than transparent. We invite journalists to our press conferences, meetings, seminar and brief them about our functioning. Besides, some disgruntled partymen reveal inside information to journalists. Also, the Election Commission has made it mandatory to file day-to-day expenditure of candidates.”
Maj Gen (Retd) S C N Jatar, however, had a different take. “RTI is indeed applicable to expenditure. Defence spending is a public document. But information on top-secret weapons is out of bounds for the public.”
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said under Schedule 2 of the RTI Act, key sectors such as defence enjoy immunity. “However, if there is corruption in purchases or human rights violations, they come under RTI.”
Jatar said political parties were “afraid” of coming under RTI. “Also, there are some parties that have absolutely no representation or just one elected candidate. These are set up just to gain various benefits such as donations.”
The Shiv Sena, however, said it did not care whether it was brought under RTI or not. “We have nothing to hide. Our functioning is transparent and clean,” said Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Babar. Claiming that the Congress would have a “huge problem” if parties are brought under RTI Act, Babar said, “Since Independence, the Congress has been getting funds from industries and different sources. Janata Party chief Subramaniam Swamy has already exposed the Congress.