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Students put govt on the mat at RTI forum workshop

PANAJI: The Right to Information (RTI) forum workshop held for students to encourage transparency and youth participation on Tuesday, took an interesting twist when some of the students, keen on knowing the ground realities of accessing all the state government websites came up with many questions putting the government in an embarrassing situation.

They questioned why the government was not making the officers concerned accountable for not updating official websites or giving incomplete information. Ridiculing the government, some of them even asked why e-governance has not reached the panchayat level, leave alone at the doorsteps of people living in the villages.

The questions were shot at the director of information technology Nilesh Fal Dessai, who was the main speaker at the programme.

Dessai, who was presenting a slide show about the exercising of the state government portals and websites at the workshop amidst college students and faculty across Goa, talked about a report, which is to be submitted online every month, which was not done.

He said, "It is mandatory for all government departments to submit a report online on the fifth day of every month, confirming that the site is up-to-date. I agree that we don't get a report from most of the departments, but we will try to change it".

Reacting to the statement made by the director, a student from the audience questioned if this would make the government sites answerable to an authority and failing which, now the sites are not answerable to anyone on the proper functioning of the websites.

Dessai said that the government is working on an alternative model called as the extended service outlet under which 30 villages are selected and around 10 common services like issuing of residential certificate, birth certificate, income certificate and certain transaction-based services are identified.

"The government is planning to roll out these services in 30 village panchayats in the first phase depending on which, it will expand," he added. The RTI forum has launched a portal for college students called LUDIPS, where students can sign up and log in to make groups and voice their opinions and be familiar to RTI. The registration will be open till August 31. RTI forum secretary Shrikant Barve and RTI activist Rajan Ghate organized the workshop to make the youth familiar with the RTI Act.

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