In a jam packed hall, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi recalled his plight to fight corruption, which has been brought to the national fore by Gandhian Anna Hazare.
Gandhi had filed, as functionary of the Central Information Commission (CIC), a complaint with anti-corruption bureau of Delhi government regarding collusion between government officials and land mafia in Delhi. A year later, he is yet to receive a response. And, now he plans to file a Right To Information (RTI) application to know what the bureau did with his complaint.
"Someone told me they (officials) would have made money through my complaint," Gandhi said at a public meeting in Rohini on fighting corruption through RTI on Sunday. The meeting was held in the backdrop of the campaign against corruption started by Hazare.
Gandhi recalled his experience when number of citizens complaints said that the government officials don't act when they lodge complaints of corruption. Instead, they are harassed. An office-bearer of Jan Adhar Manch, an NGO, said he was offered Rs 20 lakh to withdraw a RTI application regarding encroachment of a public land in Prashant Vihar. He refused the bribe and finally the government removed encroachment. There were several such stories about individual efforts to fight corruption but most of the individual efforts had gone in vain.
Gandhi hoped that Lokpal Bill can help to tackle the problem of time the government enquiries take to finish. The bill has stipulated one month to finish vigilance inquiry but the first information commissioner from the civil society wants to analyise the realistic timeframe to conduct inquiries considering resources available with the government.
"Timely action against corruption can help in checking the menace," he said, when RTI has failed as an effective tool to fight corruption. He blamed senior government officials by saying that most of them don't want to provide public utiity service information to people voluntarily, a requirement under the RTI law.
Another reason Gandhi pointed out for high corruption in the government offices was inability to deliver services in an efficient manner and cited example of both municipal corporation of Delhi and Civil Supplies Corporation. More than that, he believed that the onus of checking corruption was on the people and asked them to make officials accountable to themselves.
Like many citizens Gandhi was also of the view that inefficient judicial system was aiding corrupt officials by taking years in deciding cases. Gandhi is first information commissioner to hold public meetings of efficacy of the RTI law against corruption.