A short update on the implementation of RTI Acts in India & Bangladesh
March 18, 2012, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In India Right to Information Act (RTI) was enacted in 2005. Two interesting websites are relevant on the issue of implementation of RTI in India since 2005: (Central Information Commission, under the Chief Information Commissioner) and (under the Department of personnel and Training – DOPT – of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions). These websites, although very important, contain until now no information on how RTI affects the issue of growing awareness of the vast majority of the people (of India) about the relevance of “information” for their daily, material life. Actually CIC, journalists, researchers, lawyers, human right activists mainly think about intellectual / elite need for information from government, but vast majority of population also has eagerness to get information from the government. Chief of RTI – section of National Archives of India (NAI), Uday Shankar, points at the problem that the Public records Act or the RTI – Act should provide in the adequate care of Archival documents, where RTI is leading to more intense use of archives. Applicants based on RTI act are now visiting NAI for doing their research. Section RTI of NAI was established December 2005, according to the rule in RTI act 2005 that all preparations for implementation should be completed six months after issuing the Act.

In Bangladesh provisions for implementation of RTI Act (enacted in 2009) to be completed within six months, were not taken. National Archives of Bangladesh (NAB) started facing RTI Act and consequences only after 2010. In Bangladesh too the aim enlarging “information sensitivity” among illiterate people is a core business related to RTI. This became clear in the Round Table of 26 February at BRAC center Mohakali on RTI, organized by Development Research Network Bangladesh (D – Net), where this issue was discussed in connection with the Slum Development program of 35 Paurashava’s. Florus Geraedts, Dutch archivist, was present on this occasion and reported on this. In this line the Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCC’s) of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) are for 12 years doing this work, which now is resulting in a Citizens Charter.

Related to this the need is felt for development of training courses on Archives and Records Management (ARM) in Bangladesh in a more permanent setting. Bangladesh Archives and Records Management Society is working on this together with partners D – Net, the International Centre For Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), the Institute of Informatics and Development (IID) and Information Science and Library Management Department of Dhaka University. The ARM training centre can be hosted by D – Net / IDD and  facilities can be used from ICDDR,B and NAB. Practical classes can be given in the repository of NAB. A first course on ARM will start in April and for this the Short Course of NAI School of Archival Studies (SAS) will be used.


Bangladesh report 22 January 2012 – 4 February 2012, by Sigfried Janzing, director of Regional Archives Gouda, The Netherlands
March 11, 2012, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a summary of my activities during my second visit to Bangladesh from 22-01-2012 till 04-02-2012


22 January (arrival)

My arrival at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Dhaka, is scheduled for 10.00 AM and so Emirates flight EK 582 correctly touches down at that hour, but border police let me and other passengers wait for 3 more hours to enter Bangladesh! Md. Aliakbar, archivist at National Archives Bangladesh, is waiting for me from 10.00 AM till 1.00 PM at the exit, and is happy to welcome me in Bangladesh. A nice reunion after one year! After some bargaining for a taxi we drive into Dhaka city, up to Ambala Inn, road no. 2 Dhanmondi, just half an hour driving from the airport. After a short lunch, Aliakbar helps me with buying a cell phone, giving me most wanted cellphone numbers. More or less 6 PM I’m left on my own, installing myself in the hotel room and going upstairs for diner.

23 January

At 10.00 o’clock in the morning I have my first appointment. Md Mezbah-ul-Islam, associate professor at Information Science and Library Management Department (ISLM), Dhaka University, is waiting for me in his office to prepare the presentation of Information Literacy (IL) Program for the afternoon meeting of Rotary Club Eskathon Dhaka. He is searching for financial support for this Program because IL is a critical life skill for all students, to empower them to make effective use of the Right To Information Act (2009) that helps establishing a corruption free society. IL is jointly organized by United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Dhaka, and Centre of Information Studies Bangladesh (CIS,B). Several schools have been visited by staff members of UNIC and CIS,B to give the program. At 6.00 PM we are welcomed by Hafiz U. Biplob, actual president of RC Eskathon, to give our presentation in short after which a second appointment is made for further talking about support for IL on Saturday 28 of January. See for IL visits around the country during the last year. In the evening I meet with Md. Lutful Haq, board member of BARMS, and Dutch colleague Florus Geraedts for diner.

24 – 26 January

These three days are fixed for the program on Conservation and Preservation at National Archives of Bangladesh jointly organized by Bangladesh Archives and Records Management Society (BARMS) and National Archives Bangladesh (NAB). The three days program consists of the following parts:

24 January

10.00 – 10.40 am: Opening Ceremony by Jalal Ahmed ( BARMS)

10.40 – 11.00 am: Tea break

11.00 – 12.00 am: Archives and Records Management Education in Bangladesh by  Associate Professor Dr. Mesbah-ul-Islam (ISLM Dhaka University)

12.00 – 01.00 pm: Causes of deterioration of Records and methods of control by Mr. Sigfried Janzing (Archivist from the Netherlands)

01.00 – 02.00 pm: Lunch

02.00 – 03.00 pm: Planning a Preservation Program by Mr. Sigfried Janzing

03.00 – 04.00 pm: Lecture on Archival Law by Professor Dr. Mahbubur Rahman (History Department RU)

25 January

10.00 – 11.00 am: Preservation of Archival Materials by Mr. Florus Geraedts (Archivist from the Netherlands)

11.00 – 11.15 am: Tea break

11.15 – 12.00 am: Lecture on BARMS by Professor Dr. Sharif uddin Ahmed (BARMS)

12.00 – 01.00 pm: Making a physical environment survey (30 minutes practical, 30 minutes discussion about the results) by Mr. Sigfried Janzing

01.00 – 02.00 pm: Lunch

02.00 – 03.00 pm: Closing, Boxing and Labeling of files for permanent preservation (theory and practice in repository) by Mr. Florus Geraedts and Mr. Sigfried Janzing

03.00 – 03.30 pm: Right To Information Act by Mohammad Lutful Haq (BARMS)

03.30 – 04.00 pm: Making an archival preservation survey by Mr. Sigfried Janzing

Trainees making a physical environment survey

26 January

10.00 – 10.45 am: Preservation in International Centre of Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) by Md. Nazim Uddin (ICDDR,B)

10.45 – 11.00 am: Tea break

11.00 –  01.00 am: presentation and registration of surveys (environment and preservation) by trainees and Film on preservation

01.00 – 02.00 pm: Lunch

02.00 – 02.30 pm: presentation of results and priorities on preservation in presence of director NAB by Mr. Sigfried Janzing and Florus Geraedts

02.30 – 03.00 pm: Archival History of Bangladesh and role of NAB in Bangladesh by Md. Elias Miah (NAB)

03.00 – 03.30 pm: Inspection function and actual examples inspections in government institutions by Md. Ali Akbar (NAB)

03.30 – 04.00 pm: Closing Ceremony by Professor Dr. Sharif uddin Ahmed

The presentation of results and priorities on preservation are compiled in a power point presentation for NAB.

Trainees with Sharif uddin Ahmed, president of BARMS, Florus and me

25 January

After finishing the second day of the training program Md Lutful Huq takes us for a visit to Development Research Network, D – Net. D – Net is a non-profit organization (NGO) founded in 2001, which envisages to use information and communication technology (ICT) for economic development in Bangladesh. As part of its work D – Net has focused on strengthening the use of the Right to Information Act in Bangladesh. This makes D – Net an interesting partner for BARMS to develop a professional training course in Bangladesh on Archives and Records Management. D – Net too is searching for opportunities to develop a ARM training course. At the same time we are interested in the implementation of the RTI Act in Bangladesh. What is the actual status of this process? For this interesting visit Lutful drives us to D – Nets office in Humayun Road, Mohammadpur, where we are welcomed by Mrs. Afrina Tanzin, sr. assistant director, director Ananya Raihan and Syeed Ahamed, ceo of the Institute of Informatics and Development (IID). It appears that D – Net indeed is willing to participate in the development of this ARM training with partners ICDDRB,B, UNIC Dhaka, ISLM Department of Dhaka University besides BARMS. A second informal meeting on this issue will therefore be planned by BARMS (Md. Lutful Haque) on 24 February. On the issue of implementation of RTI Act in Bangladesh D – Net organizes a meeting for me with Mohammed Iftekher Hussain (Shuvro), deputy manager – RTI at Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), which is an NGO established with the aim to carry forth human rights and good governance in Bangladesh. As such MJF spearheaded the NGO movement in demanding the RTI Act in Bangladesh. Meeting eventually takes place on the 4th of February.

26 January

In the evening, after finishing the training program at NAB, I visit the renowned International Centre For Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) with Md. Nazim Uddin. He’s the senior manager of Library & Information Services Unit (LISU). Nazim Uddin participated in the training at NAB and gave a lecture on Preservation at ICDDR,B. Connections with ICDDR,B go back to 2006, when Florus Geraedts met Talut Solaiman, who was enthousiastic in helping to set up ARM training facilities (Archival School). LISU of ICDDR,B has a modern reading room, a big collection of medical literature, high level of ICT facilities and a well trained staff.

Nazzim Uddin writing down in my diary some of ICDDR,B´s supporting organizations (Ford Foundation, USAID, CIDA, GOB, etc.)

27 January

Shahid Rahman, who I met in 2011 on my return from Rajshahi to Dhaka by train, accompanies me through the city this day. Travelling by rickshaw all to Kamlapur, Montijheel Paurashava and to Gulshan. Shahid tells me his father is an electrical engineer who actually is working in Quatar at the National Cement Company Qatar. He’s the only son still living in Bangladesh. He has two uncles, both of them working at the Land Records Office, one as surveyor in Dhaka, the other as settlement officer in Bogra. Both are of interest for BARMS. In the evening, at 6 pm, we meet Dick ter Steege at the airport. Dick is heritage expert, who has finished his research on Boro Kuthi, Dutch Silk Factory, in Rajshahi. He worked for two weeks in Rajshahi on this Heritage site on invitation of mayor Khairuzzaman Liton. Before starting on his way back to The Netherlands he wants to hand over to me the interim report on Boro Kuthi which he wrote for Rajshahi City Corporation. After meeting Dick and after saying farewell Shahid and me continue for Dhanmondi to take diner. This day I took some pictures of a rally of the Communist Party of Bangladesh which happened at Kamlapur Railway Station at 2.00 PM. Lucky me for getting this unique opportunity to see something more of the political landscape of Bangladesh.

Supporters of the Bangladesh Communist Party at Kamlapur Railway Station

28 January

Only one short meeting today, the follow up with RC Eskathon and Mezbah-ul-Islam on Information Literacy in Ambala Inn. On which occasion board members of Rotary Club Eskathon Dhaka, Shafique U. Ahmed, Hafiz U. Biplob and Shafiqur Rahman, decide to support IL program of CIS,B and UNIC Dhaka. International rotary cooperation (matching grants) is a second step for the future when it comes to purchase of computers, cell phones or other media for students in line with this program.

29 January

My second week starts with the trip to Rajshahi to meet professor Mahbubur Rahman of Rajshahi University. He invited Florus and me to give lectures at Pabna Edward College (Pabna) and Begum Rokeya University (Rangpur) besides participation of us in the first meeting of the board of Heritage Archives Bangladesh Trust (HABT). Before starting the bus trip to Rajshahi, accompanied by Florus, for this four-days program, I have an appointment with staff members of United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Dhaka. I meet with Kazi Ali Reza, officer-in-charge, M. Moniruzzaman, knowledge management officer, and Nurul Alam (participant of training at NAB), Library and IT assistant. I recognize Kazi Ali Reza and Moniruzzaman immediately from pictures I posted on our Bangladesh blog about Information Literacy program. I am interested in getting acquainted with staff members of UNIC who are linked with RTI Act in Bangladesh. I learn that Moniruzzaman is secretary of UN Library Network Bangladesh, a network which can be very useful for BARMS. They are very positive to participate in the informal meeting of February 24 with D – Net, ICDDRB,B, BARMS and ISLM for the development of ARM training. After the meeting with lunch, Nurul Alam brings me to the bus terminal on Mirpur Road where I meet with Florus. In an airco bus we travel to Rajshahi where we arrive at 10.00 PM.

Moniruzzaman, Kazi Ali Reza and me at UNIC

30 January

First when in Rajshahi we bring a visit to Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton of Rajshahi City Corporation in the morning for follow up about Boro Kuthi development. Present too are mr. Ashraful Haque, chief engineer RCC, and mr. Anarul Haque, chief PR RCC. They worked intensively with mr. Dick ter Steege. We evaluate research on Boro Kuthi by Dick ter Steege. It became evident that the building is originally Dutch, reconstructed through time by the British. Dick ter Steege confirmes this by mail when arrived in The Netherlands. As follow up, besides recommendations of Dick in his report, we advise Mayor to make interviews with old people still living in the surroundings of Boro Kuthi (f.e. Ibn Golam Samad), for stories can enrich the historical site of Boro Kuthi. Furthermore to incorporate University in the development of the building and “Boro Kuthi Park”. It comes up that there is still no Memory Of Understanding with Rajshahi University, University board seeing itself as the owner of the building. RU can have its place in the building and at the same time tourism can develop alongside. Mayor invites us to have lunch with him next day. After the meeting with Khairuzzaman we start for a visit of the Boro Kuthi site along beautiful Padma river but before that we are interviewed by Shahidul Islam of Bangladesh Television in front of RCC building. Arriving at the heritage site we see a lot of reconstruction work has been done in 2011.

Meeting with Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton of Rajshahi City Corporation

In the afternoon we visit Divisional Commissioner’s Record Room (DCRR) at the other side of Rajshahi, on the way passing a violent rally between groups of Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and Rapid Action Batallion (RAB) and Police. In the evening we hear two people are killed during the protests. This year there is a lot of political disturbance and killing in the whole country as a result of juridical processes against war criminals of the Liberation War of 1971.

Repository DCRR is not that different from other record rooms we have seen: lots of dust, storage of objects out of use, no security, garbage, etc. are the landscape. We have a short introduction talking with Divisional Commissioner Abdul Mamman and Joint Secretary and Additional Divisional Commissioner Swapan Kumar Roy.

31 January

On the first annual meeting of the Advisory Council of Heritage Archives Bangladesh Trust at Heritage building, Florus and me are announced as honourable guests of the meeting. Both of us are asked to give a 10 minutes presentation to tell something about our background, our visits to Bangladesh and our commitment to BARMS and actual activities. After our presentations meeting continues for some two hours after which we meet with some interesting people as for example professor M. Shamser Ali, Department of History Rajshahi University (RU), dr. Md. Hashibul Alam Prodhar, associate professor Department of Law and Justice RU, mrs. Laila Anjuman Banu, associate professor of Chemistry Department RU, dr. Muhammad Anwar Hossain, controller of examinations of RU and dr. Kazi Md. Mostafizur Rahman, professor and chairman of Department of Islamic History & Culture. I have the honour having met Muhammad Anwar Hossain at his office in 2011, during my first visit to Bangladesh and I’m happy to meet him again. After the meeting we take an early diner at Mahbubur’s house, for next day plans are to start early in the morning for Rangpur.

01 February

From 11.30 AM – 1.30 PM we are expected to be present at the International Seminar on Bangladesh Archives organized by the Department of History & Archaeology, Begum Rokeya University (BRUR), Rangpur. So we start for an early trip from Rajshahi to Rangpur, which is a 5 hour drive, on our way picking up Ibrahim Khalil, associate professor, Department of Sociology RU. Khalil is a young professor actually doing research on the cyclone impact on Bangladesh society. We stop for breakfast in Natore and then a short stop at Bogra. At 11.00 am we arrive at BRUR where we’re welcomed by professor dr. Jalil Miah, vice-chancellor. Venue is at Seminar Room, Academic Building – 3. Walking to the building we see lots of construction activities, for this is a university in full development. At the entrance of the Academic Building we are welcomed by young lecturers as Md. Harun – Or – Rosid (accounting), Md. Golam Rabbani (History & Archaeology), Ana Tanzia (History & Archaeology), Md. Shahzalal (Marketing) etc. Program is as follows:

–          Opening speech                                                           Professor dr. Md. Mahbubur Rahman (RU)

–          Lecture Archives & Good Governance                    Drs. Florus Geraedts (Dutch archivist)

–          Lecture Archives & Right to Information              Drs. Sigfried Janzing (Dutch archivist)

–          Open discussion

–          Address by the Special Guest                                   Md. Morhed Hossain (Dean, BRUR)

–          Address by the Chief Guest                                      Professor dr. M.A. Jalil Miah (VC, BRUR)

–          Speech of the Chairperson                                        Dr. Abu Md. Iqbal Rumi Shah, Dean, BRUR)

After lunch in a Chinese restaurant at the outskirts of Rangpur with staff of BRUR we start on our way back to Rajshahi where we arrive at 10.00 PM. For me this is a beautiful new experience, which I remember dearly. I think the young lecturers are very important for the development of BARMS, good governance en RTI.

Harun – Or – Rosid, Md. Golam Rabbani and Ana Tanzia

02 February

Before my trip back to Dhaka, I meet former professor of RU Ibn Golam Samad, now in his mid-eighties. I have an interview with this unique man who was professor of Botany, History and Archaeology at RU. He has a unique knowledge of the Dutch in Bengal, knowing all about Boro Kuthi where he played during boyhood, the graveyard at the west side of Bor Kuthi, the map of Van den Broucke and VOC. A man of knowledge, fragile, not sure of surviving next year, he makes a deep impression on me. He’s history in person. On my visit to Ibn Golam Samad I’m accompanied by Anarul Haque from RCC and Mahbub Siddiqui, President of Heritage Rajshahi. The visit finishes with some photo shoots of me with Ibn Golam Samad. I only can say that my hope is to see Ibn Golam again next year.

With Ibn Golam Samad and Mahbub Siddiqui

My trip back to Dhaka is my first trip alone by bus in Bangladesh. Bus employees don’t speak English. After eight hours travel, due to strong traffic yam at the outskirts of Dhaka, I meet Aliakbar, who’s deeply worried of me and a little angry for he thinks this is a little irresponsible to travel at Thursday evening, the start of the weekend. That’s traffic yam time in Bangladesh and very difficult to travel. Anyway, he’s happy to deliver me at Ambala Inn after yet another hour with a taxi.

03 February

With Aliakbar and his son Labib I visit old Dhaka and Ahsan Manzil Museum, which was the residential palace and Sadar Kachery of the Nawabs of Dhaka. A big red building constructed from 1859 – 1869. We meet with dr. Mohammad Alamgir, actual director of the museum who gives me a little booklet about the museum written by him. Old Dhaka is a dark part of the city with lots of narrow streets, full of people, little shops and businesses, shrines of pirs, mosques, where you’re easily lost. Don’t go there alone. After visiting the banks of the Buriganga river, a river full of traffic and movement, we drive by rickshaw through the narrow streets back to Dhanmondi.

Burigana river

04 February (departure)

Today at 10.00 am I give a lecture on Right to Information and Records Management for students of associate professor Mezbah – ul – Islam at ISLM Department. A nice experience with students listening to me with interest, especially interested in the Dutch ARM situation. After lecture they ask me lots of questions and besides this they give me information on the specific Bangladesh University system (actually there are two groups of students “competing” with each other: English and Bengali speaking students).

Answering questions after the lecture

After lecture I meet Samsur Rahman (Tuhin), ISLM student who now has a job at National TV, and could not make that much time as he did in 2011. His role at BARMS now is taken over by Aliakbar. With president of BARMS Sharif uddin Ahmed, Mezbah and Aliakbar we drink tea in the teacher’s room of university as a departure meeting. Mezbah walks with me along the campus to the exit expressing his gratitude for my lecture and asking to do my best in The Netherlands to search for students exchange opportunities and conference opportunities. For there is big need for knowledge in Bangladesh. After saying good bye I start for my walk back to the Hotel for a last meeting with Mohammed Iftekher Hussain (Shuvro) of Manusher Jonno Foundation. This meeting is after all only a first step getting acquainted with each other and exchange of information for a strong headache forces him to leave after some 30 minutes. We change mail addresses, facebook accounts a.s.o.

Then it’s departure time. Aliakbar arrives with his other son Mahadee at 04.00 pm and together we head for Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport where my plane departs at 09.15 pm. At the airport Shaid Rahman too waits for me to say good bye.

And to Florus I say: see you in March!

Florus in the streets of Rajshahi