iconimg Friday, August 28, 2015

Rajeev Mullick, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, July 31, 2013
Public information officers (PIOs) in government departments are in for a tough time.
Two days after they were made aware of the power of the right to information (RTI) Act, students of St Francis College have filed over 1000 applications seeking information on utilisation of public welfare fund in last 4-5 years.

Majority of these application are targeted at Lucknow Municipal Corporation, Jal Sansthan and LESA.

Raja John Bunch, a working committee member of national campaign for people’s right to information, had conducted an awareness workshop for these kids.

“I cannot vote but at least I can participate in the government functioning by seeking information,” said Pawan Deep Singh, a student of Class 8, who attended the meet.

“I am feeling empowered,” said Utkarsh Pandey, another Class 8 student.

“Henceforth, instead of wasting time, I would rather file an RTI application and try to expose the corrupt government officials,” he said even as his classmate Aditya Kumar forwards a plea to Jal Sansthan.

RTI experts find it an encouraging trend. “If young minds are taking these initiatives on their own, it is certainly a success story for the Act.

Their queries will not have vested interests at least,” said Bunch while advising the students to be careful in drafting queries.

“It could be complicated for a newcomer, but they would learn it only by filing more and more pleas,” he said.

Bunch has taken up the responsibility to sensitize the young minds so that they may realize the importance of RTI and play a role in fixing accountability.

Buoyed with the success of two-day workshop at St Francis College, Bunch now plans to hold similar sessions in other educational institutions and degree colleges of the state capital.

“I’m doing these workshops for free and interested students may contact me if they wish to hold RTI session in their schools,” he said. Principal Fr Denis Naresh Lobo too is elated.

“It is good to see the students of Class 8 being exposed to outer world,” he said.

“By questioning the accountability of public servants, the students will feel empowered,” said Deep Bunch, another teacher.