A book on the Right to Information (RTI) Act in India by UNRISD Visiting Fellow Prashant Sharma has just been published. Democracy and Transparency in the Indian State: The Making of the Right to Information Act
examines the factors underlying the enactment of the Right to Information Act and suggests that they are more complex than they seem.
The enactment of the Indian Right to Information Act in 2005 has been celebrated as an important event of the deepening of democracy in India both in terms of the process that led to its enactment (arising from a grassroots movement) and its outcome (fundamentally altering the citizen-state relationship). The book discusses how the leadership of the grassroots movement was embedded within the ruling elite and possessed the necessary resources as well as unparalleled access to spaces of power for the movement to be successful. It investigates the Indian RTI Act within the global explosion of freedom of information laws over the last two decades, and shows how international pressures had a direct and causal impact both on its content and the timing of its enactment.
Taking the production of the RTI Act as a lens, the book argues that while there is much to celebrate in the consolidation of procedural democracy in India over the last six decades, existing social and political structures may limit the extent and forms of democratic deepening occurring in the near future.
As well as being a Visiting Fellow at UNRISD, Prashant Sharma is a Global Fellow at the Open Society Foundations, New York and is currently conducting research on the accountability of public-private partnerships. He is also associated with the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP), University of Lausanne.