RTI comes to the rescue of IITians
Innovation is not the only forte of IITians. Their latest experiment with the Right to Information (RTI) has helped about 1,200 IIT research scholars in matters as varied as hiking scholarships and finding out the reasons for the spurt in suicides in IIT-Kanpur as well as felling of trees in the IIT-Bombay campus.
Arvind Kejriwal, RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner, described this as the real magic of RTI. "An RTI application can provide instant solutions to problems of a large number of people if real public interest is involved," he said.
A simple RTI application of research scholars at IIT-Bombay to the HRD Ministry and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) earlier this year seeking information on the fellowship hike for M.Tech students had the HRD Ministry announcing an increase in fellowship for students who had cleared the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering last year. Before 30 days, the stipulated period for providing information under the RTI Act, the ministry released additional money to all IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to increase the stipend.
Earlier, the research scholars got the University Grants Commission and the ministry moving on an RTI application on the increase in fellowship for Ph.D scholars enrolled under the UGC programme. Within a month of receiving the application, the UGC released Rs 2.14 crore. Till then, the IIT authorities had been blaming the UGC for not paying dues for three years. The UGC said IITs had failed to submit the utilisation certificates.
IIT-Bombay student Amit Jariwala asked his institution the reasons for the delay in giving the stipend. His RTI application prompted the IIT to instal new software to ensure that the students get the stipend of Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000 per month on time.
In IIT-Kanpur, the alumni association filed an RTI application seeking the results of two girl students who had committed suicide earlier this year. The association found that they were declared failed despite having scored high marks.
An IIT-Bombay student had in his RTI application asked why trees on the campus were being felled. To his surprise, the authorities sent him a detailed reply in time.