In a pioneering step, the first-ever public information portal was launched in Rajasthan on Friday promising to provide information about government authorities and departments suo motu to the public in the true spirit of the Right To Information Act. The portal has brought yet another distinction to Rajasthan, where the RTI movement had started in 1990s.Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inaugurated the portal at B.M. Birla Auditorium here in the presence of former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Law Commission chairman Justice A.P. Shah and a galaxy of RTI activists, including Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy.The State government has collaborated with the civil society groups to develop the portal, the first of its kind in the country, initially giving information pertaining to 13 departments on a single platform. With different sections divided into districts, blocks and panchayats, the portal empowers the common people with access to useful information.In his inaugural address, Mr. Gehlot said the new web portal, named the Jan Soochna Portal-2019, would ensure compliance with Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandating the public authorities to disclose information in the public domain, so that the people need not file applications under the law to obtain information. “I have a sentimental attachment with the RTI Act… I attended the first dharna seeking this right 20 years ago,” he said.In a veiled reference to the RTI Amendment Bill passed by the Parliament recently, Mr. Gehlot said attempts to weaken the statute would only erode the resolve to bring transparency and accountability in administration. “We will not let this happen and will never allow this path-breaking law to lose its teeth. This portal displays our government’s resolve for strict enforcement of RTI Act.”Ms. Roy said the portal would eventually turn out to be an effective medium for “digital dialogue” with the people as well as a strong instrument for ensuring transparency in governance. She applauded the State government’s action to combine technology, justice and information and said the civil society would take the RTI movement to the masses.The State government will set up information kiosks in village panchayats and self-service e-mitra centres in the towns to enable the people to access the information useful for them. Initially, the information pertaining to 13 government departments — such as the number of beneficiaries of schemes, works undertaken in different areas, land records and social security pensions — will be available on the portal.A message of Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also telecast on the occasion. Ms. Gandhi praised the initiative and expressed the hope that it would strengthen the spirit of the RTI Act and inspire other States to follow suit. Caption: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inaugurating the first-ever public information portal at B.M. Birla Auditorium in Jaipur on Friday. Photo: Special arrangement.