A cloth trader's Right to Information (RTI) application started a nationwide debate on the declaration of assets by judges while a professor forced the Indian Institutes of Technology to disclose the details of their selection procedure. The two are among 19 finalists shortlisted for RTI Awards in the citizens category.
The 19 were shortlisted out of a total of 1,130 nominations received in this category. Two from among the 19 would win the awards to be given away Dec 1. The first national RTI awards have been constituted by the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF).
"The RTI application of Subhash Chandra Agarwal, an old Delhi-based cloth trader, started a nationwide debate on whether Supreme Court and high court judges should reveal their assets and liabilities. This RTI eventually led to apex court justices disclosing their assets on the Supreme Court website," said a statement by PCRF.
"Similarly an RTI filed by Professor Rajeev Kumar forced the IITs to disclose the details of their selection procedure, starting off a debate on how to improve the system. Some RTI applications have had such a powerful impact so as to awaken the government from its deep slumber," the statement added.
Another example is of Prashant Kumar Dubey who used the RTI to make child malnutrition one of the most important social, political and electoral issues in Madhya Pradesh.
"Shyam Lal Yadav used the act to reveal expenditure incurred by the United Progressive Alliance government on foreign trips made by its various union ministers. The issue raised many eyebrows, eventually prompting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to write letters to his ministers asking them to curtail expenditure on foreign travel," the statement said.
However, it was not a smooth ride for all.
Assam based social activist Akhil Gogoi, one of the finalists, had exposed a Rs.1.25 crore scam in the Sampoorna Gram Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) and Rs.60 lakh scam in the Indira Awas Yojana in Gamariguri block of Golaghat district.
"This exposure had led to people's protest against the corruption in the administration on government schemes," the statement noted.
The other finalists are Ajay Dubey, Ajay Singh Rawat, Amit Kumar, Bharatsinh R. Jhala, Devashish Bhattacharya, Raaj Mangal Prasad, Rajesh Bissa, Ramesh Kumar Verma, Ravindra Singh, Sunil Kumar Mahto, Vinod Pandya and three organisations - Association for Democratic Reforms, Narmada Bachao Aandolan and Rajinder Nagar Welfare Association of Delhi.
The winners would be decided on Nov 27 by a jury consisting of Aamir Khan, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Fali S. Nariman, Justice J.S. Verma, Pullela Gopichand, Sanjay Gupta, Madhu Trehan, Mallika Sarabhai, J.M. Lyngdoh, Prannoy Roy and Santosh.
The award consists of a citation, a trophy and a cash prize of Rs.200,000.