Adetailed and well laid/mapped trajectory of the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, in India, this book can be read in three parts through clustering the five detailed chapters apart from the introduction and the conclusion: the role of ideas and multi-layered process of institutional change, the complementary relationship between the state and the society along with the emergence/contributions of the epistemic community and the role of global norms and localization of the RTI in India, in other words the ‘glocalization’ of the information regime.
The first part delves into understanding the ideational churning or exchange of ideas and emerging dialogues amongst political mechanisms towards institutional change. The duality and dilemma of ‘openness’ versus ‘secrecy’ of the functioning of the state soon after India achieved Independence is sketched out with nuanced details tracing the inception in two phases, from 1947 until 1989 and the early 1990s. The twin processes of emerging ideas soon after Independence and the ideational diffusion within the state explain that the trajectory of this institutional change was path-dependent. It is in this part that the author brings in the concept of ‘layered tipping point of institutional change’ convincing the reader through the first three chapters that the case of RTI in India was an incremental and gradual process of ideas which emerged from within the state.
Beginning with debates and discussions on the ‘secrecy’ surrounding the state apparatus to the demand for greater ‘transparency’ from the state, these nascent ideas churning in the first three decades post-Independence gained momentum in the post-Janata Party government period as elucidated by the author. The idea of transparency began to be articulated as the ‘right to know’ and examples of this can be read through the Private Member’s Bills on Freedom of Information in 1983 and 1984. Both these Bills indicate the first formal legislative attempt on freedom of information in Parliament. Though the Bills lapsed due to changing political configurations at that time, the attempt itself was a great leap forward. ‘Changing State Thinking: Policy Movement towards Right to Information’ is a bridge between the crucial second phase from 1989 to 2005 when the Act comes into existence. The tables in this chapter are worth mentioning as they work like navigation pointers elucidating the political commitments by different governments and how the ‘right to know’ or access to information comes to occupy mainstream political discussions, debates, state-level meetings and policy papers. The timeline leading to the final passage of the RTI Act reflects the changing nature of the state’s policy choices and preferences moving from secrecy to transparency and willingness of the state and political executive towards access to information.