Social activist Anna Hazare's call “Main bhi Anna tu bhi Anna” (I am Anna, you’re also Anna) seems to have been taken literally by some. Some Central government ministries are flooded with Right To Information (RTI) applications in the name of Hazare. Albeit, all of them misrepresenting Hazare.
A few central information officers promptly replied to the RTI questions without verifying the efficacy of the applications fearing adverse publicity. But, Central Public Information Officer of Rajya Sabha AK Singh acted differently.
A few months ago the RTI cell of the upper house received an RTI application seeking information regarding certain appointments in Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV). The questions asked were specific and that led to the suspicion. The officials wondered how Hazare knew such minute details about the appointments.
Singh’s office sent an email to Hazare asking whether he had filed any RTI with Rajya Sabha. And, as suspected the reply was in negative. And, discreet inquiries revealed that the RTI was filed by somebody from Rajya Sabha.
The syndrome is not restricted to Rajya Sabha. A few months back a similar RTI application was received in the Environment ministry in name of Hazare, seeking information about a particular project. The application was rejected on the ground of the information being sought was regarding third party and cannot be provided.
“Many ministries have received RTI applications in name of Hazare,” said a Public Information Officer of a key social ministry, who was not willing to be named. “His name has helped in speeding up the process to provide information”.
Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal or Prashant Bhushan were not available for comments. However, another member of the team said the information officers should seek clarification from Hazare’s office before processing the application.
RTI activist Subhash Aggarwal, whose name has also been used to seek information through RTI, said the prominent names help in getting even sensitive information. “In one case a person filed a second appeal in my name with the Central Information Commission and got a favourable order,” he told HT.
A few other RTI activists to whom HT spoke admitted that they have received information from the government which they never sought.
A Rajya Sabha official said they are now asking for identity details of the person filing an application in case of doubt.