Starting November 19, you can call on a national RTI helpline to get answers to all your doubts on how to use the sunshine law. The launch coincides with the first death anniversary of murdered Indian Oil Corporation sales manager Manjunath Shanmugam.
The helpline is the brainchild of the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust and most of its members are IIM-alumni like Manjunath.
The 27 year-old engineer was murdered allegedly for cracking down on adulteration by petrol pumps in Lakhimpur Khiri in Uttar Pradesh.
Trustee Anjali Mullatti said the helpline would advance the trust’s larger aim of improving governance in public life. “We want to propagate the use of RTI. We want to tell people that Manjunath made honesty his responsibility, you must too.”
The helpline will be formally launched in a Gurgaon call centre — Infosys chief Narayana Murthy and IPS officer Kiran Bedi will be its first callers.
Ten call centre employees — to be trained by RTI activist and Magsasay award winner Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO Parivartan — will handle your questions ranging from what the law’s provisions are, how you can use it when faced with corruption or an opaque government department, and also what you must do if your RTI application isn’t yielding information.
Parivartan’s Manish Sisodia said: “It is not a typical helpline, so we must first convince the employees themselves of the power of an RTI application.” He added, “Ideally, the government should be doing something like this to propagate the act.”
“The helpline will initially operate in English, Hindi and Tamil, through the week from 8 am to 4 pm,” said Mullatti. “We hope to add more languages and resources as time goes.”
The helpline will cost Rs 3 lakh each month and Mullatti says finding funds is an ongoing task: “But we plan to keep it going for at least a year.”
The launch of the helpline will be accompanied by the Manjunath Memorial Award. This will honour an individual or group who have contributed to further honesty and justice, altering public life.