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Celebrating right to info

Four years after Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed and transparency became a buzzword, many ordinary citizens have used the law to fight corruption and injustice.

delhi Updated: Oct 11, 2009 23:40 IST

Four years after Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed and transparency became a buzzword, many ordinary citizens have used the law to fight corruption and injustice.

Asked to pay over Rs 8 lakh for reply
H.R. Vaish (54)
Entrepreneur

H.R. Vaish has learned the hard way to extract information for the larger interest of the people using RTI.

When Vaish, an IITian, demanded a long list of information from the Haryana State Industries & Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), he was asked to pay Rs 8.27 lakh (for the cost of papers to be delivered to him).

One of his queries included the number of industrial plots allotted to the entrepreneurs in Udyog Vihar.

“The HSIIDC officials wanted to discourage me from seeking information and this is the tactic various departments use against information seekers in general. Many others would spend more than a year to deliver the information, and that too incorrect and incomplete,” said Vaish.

In another case, he created an example of sort when he approached the chief information officer of Haryana G. Madhawan when Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) made him wait a year for a reply. He had sought information on the external development charges (EDC) that HUDA had collected from plot holders in Udyog Vihar. It was on his appeal, Madhawan slapped a penalty of Rs 15,000 on a HUDA estate officer for the delay.

Father walks the hard highway to justice
K S Anand (50)
Entrepreneur

The father of a 19-year-old, who died in a car crash on Gurgaon Expressway in March this year, has used the RTI Act against the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and other agencies. In the process, he has brought to light startling facts — the number of accidents, injured and deaths on the stretch where his son died.

Anand filed more than a dozen applications under RTI Act when he was turned away by the related departments.

“I rushed from pillar to post to seek information on the safety arrangements for the commuters and who was responsible for the deaths but drew a blank. It was only the RTI reply that made the NHAI admit that more than 100 accidental deaths had taken place on the Gurgaon expressway between January 2008 and June 2009. The NHAI also admitted that 1,598 people were seriously injured in 1,696 accidents,” said Anand, who runs an international cargo clearance company.

It was also an RTI reply that exposed the fact that neither the NHAI nor the expressway’s concessionaire company, DSC, had the contact details and addresses of the people who had died or had been injured in accidents on the expressway.

Anand has filed a total of 13 RTI applications so far.

“I have received a reply in 10 cases. But generally I get either half the reply or incorrect and false facts. I then include such questions again in my application to get the correct reply.”

After Nithari
Lokesh Batra (62)
Commodore (retd.)

Commodore Lokesh Batra retired from the Navy in December 2002. Knowing the accountability of public authorities would have a direct impact on the lives of the common man, he started using the RTI tool.

After the Nithari killings came to light in 2006, Batra filed 13 RTIs with different agencies, which, he thought, could have acted more responsibly and saved many lives. But success did not arrive soon. Batra had to fight for over two years to get the desired results, and almost all of his 100 RTIs had to move to the second appeal process.

Politics for change
Rajendra Tyagi (45)
Ghaziabad Municipal Councillor

Being a Ghaziabad Municipal councillor, Rajendra Tyagi, knows how government’s development agencies function. Tyagi has used RTI in over 200 cases and exposed a number of corrupt officials.

“After the RTI Act came, I used it effectively to inform the government when multiple plots of land were allotted to MLAs. The information received was communicated to the government, forcing an intervention. Orders were passed against such practices,” Tyagi said.

Helping schools
Sachin Soni (33)
Self-employed

Sachin Soni, who runs a small automobile business in Ghaziabad, has been involved in social activities right from his college days.
He learnt the implementation of the RTI through the success stories printed in newspapers and magazines.

He chose to exercise the power of right to information when he found several primary schools near his residence had only one teacher while others had more than the required numbers.

He filed an RTI with the Basic Education Department to know the provision of the government norms in this regard.

“I received the information and got to know the norms for postings of the teachers. I wrote to the higher officials who took immediate action and thousands of young students benefited,” Soni said. "Officials don't let out information easily. They try to suppress matters,” he said.