Right to information activists in the state are fighting hard to invest people with more power, but sometimes they pay the price of their daredevilry with their lives.
In order to add more muscle to their movement, activists from across the state have come together to form the Maharashtra Right to Information Council. The move aims to put an end to the complaints from activists about authorities subverting the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, as well as reduce the spate of attacks on activists.
RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, convener of the council, said: "The main aim of the council is to keep a check on the proper implementation of the act, especially by public authorities."
This comes close on the heels of a protest conducted by city activists against the appointment of the state chief information commissioner and other information commissioners. Alleging a non-transparent selection procedure, activists had demanded that the process be changed to have more accountability and public participation in the process.
Another issue on the council’s agenda is the increasing number of attacks on RTI activists.
The Hindustan Times had reported that Maharashtra had the highest number of attacks on activists. "The council will try devising a mechanism of offering protection and safeguarding activists," said Prabhu. "We will also have a coordinator and committees in every district to ensure that such objectives are met." The council has appointed 13 co-coordinators in Mumbai and a few in Pune, Nashik, and Satara
Prabhu said the council would also focus on conducting social audits of welfare schemes, especially those meant for families below poverty line. This would include the public distribution system and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.