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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Armed with RTI, blind man shows way

Despite the fact he cannot see, Ratnaji has shown the way to hundreds in his Gujarat village. Availing the RTI, he fought corruption and worked for peoples’ prosperity. Chetan Chauhan tells more.......

delhi Updated: Sep 08, 2008 00:00 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

Despite the fact he cannot see, Ratnaji has shown the way to hundreds in his Gujarat village. Availing the Right to Information (RTI), he fought corruption and worked for peoples’ prosperity and the village’s development.

A BPL resident of Rangaru village in Rajkot district, Ratnaji secured documents using RTI to expose corruption. The documents showed that many works registered as completed were actually never taken up and remain incomplete.

With official details in their hands, the villagers have launched a movement to force babus to complete the works.

It is one of the many examples where RTI applications have made government authorities act in several parts of the country. However Ratnaji’s story is different. What stirred him to file an application was the ridicule he faced for being blind at a village panchayat meeting when he wanted to know the progress of development works.

“They told me, you are blind and burden on the village. You cannot contribute to it. Stay home and the village will feed you,” Ratnaji told HT over phone.

The insult triggered a passion in Ratnaji: to prove his worth before village folks. For that, he had to expose corruption in village development works. He had no clue how to achieve it until his brother suggested the way out — the RTI.

“They (Ratnaji and his brother) came to us and asked whether RTI can help them expose corruption. We told them yes, it can,” said Pankaj Jog of RTI helpline at Rajkot.

An insensitive bureaucracy didn’t make it any easier. In the meantime, panchayat members learnt about his efforts and started pressurising his family to make him withdraw the plea. But Ratnaji stood his ground.

“Nobody understood how I felt when I was insulted for being blind. I had to generate a lot of courage to take on powerful people,” he said.

When the district office provided him information that exposed the corruption in village works, Ratnaji proved his worth to his detractors. “On paper, the village had a tube-well, drainage and proper lighting. But, in reality, no such work was carried out,” Jog said.

Ratnaji was joyous and more so, because his RTI application had turned the one-man battle into a mass movement. The villagers were now standing with Ratnaji asking questions from the panchayat members. “Now, the work that was shown as completed is being done in your village,” Ratnaji said.