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RTI mover on the run after multi-scam bust

Akhil Gogoi exercised his right to know the status of rural schemes. He is on the run today for he knew too much, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: May 26, 2007 04:09 IST

More than a year ago, Akhil Gogoi exercised his right to know the status of rural schemes in central Assam’s Golaghat district. He is on the run today for he knew too much.

Gogoi has been leading a land right movement for some 1.60 lakh settlers in Doyang and Nambor reserve forests in Golaghat district since 2002. These people had been displaced by flood and erosion in Majuli (island), Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and other parts of eastern Assam from 1905 onwards.

The 35-year-old Gogoi has been spearheading the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) for the rights of farmers. If the land
right movement made him a “troublemaker”, moving the Right to Information (RTI) Act on behalf of farmers on March 2 last year made him a fugitive.

“For eight months, the Golaghat District Rural Development Authority (DRDA), Public Works Department (Roads) and Zilla Parishad sat on my multiple applications under RTI for an update on schemes such as Indira Awas Yojna (IAY), Individual Beneficiary Scheme and Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY),” Gogoi told HT somewhere in an adjoining district. The departments concerned opened the files only after KMSS approached chief information commissioner RS Mooshahary. “The order to provide the information to KMSS was given on November 1 last year,” Mooshahary said.

Inspection of muster roll register and cheque release register that the DRDA provided, revealed Rs 35 lakh had been paid to
12 panchayats for 140 IAY houses that did not exist. Similar documents for SGRY showed payment to a fictitious agency for stationery worth Rs 25 lakh. Moreover, Rs 52 lakh “spent” on transporting PDS rice that never reached the beneficiaries.

“In fact, the PDS rice used to vanish midway between the Food Corporation of India and DRDA godowns. A trader, Bikash Mour, would buy rice at Rs 9 per kg (government rate Rs 8) for sale,” Gogoi said.

The information proved costly for Gogoi and KMSS. The panchayat members often targeted them. On December 9 last year, district Youth Congress members and the police reportedly assaulted KMSS members, who had protested corruption in government schemes.

First Published: May 26, 2007 03:55 IST