His weapon is information and both as a seeker and provider of it, Ram Samar Singh has scored many a hit.
In his two-year stint as the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), Singh, 56, handled 26 Right to Information applications. Only two of them were appealed against. He has been nominated for the national RTI award under the PIO category.
Delhi-based NISTADS is one 38 institutes/labs of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the country’s premiere state-funded research and development institute.
As PIO, Singh also provided information about the administrative decisions of his boss, which even earned the institute a rebuke.
But, Singh knew the RTI Act well. While seeking information from other officials, he would apprise them of the powers and responsibilities under the Act.
“In this role (as a PIO or any official custodian of information), we are not even answerable to the director of NISTADS or director-general of CSIR,” he used to tell them.
“The CSIR is unfortunately a closed system that allows little flow of information,” said Vajendra Joshi, librarian with NISTADS. It, too, has its share of manipulation of rules and arbitrariness, particularly in recruitments and promotions, he said. “As a conscientious PIO, Singh has been able to make some serious dents into this culture of manipulation and secrecy.”
Singh turned an applicant to ensure water supply to his house and neighbourhood. He asked the Delhi Jal Board, the Capital’s water supply utility, why water was not being supplied to the 40-house neighbourhood in Uttam Nagar.
His efforts of two years paid off in July 2006. The water utility launched a Rs 37 lakh borewell project to supply water. It also agreed to send water tankers to the neighbourhood and promised supply from the mainline at the earliest.