Even as Anna Hazare’s fast caused nationwide awareness about corruption, RTI activists in different states of the Northeastern region continue to face harassment and threats.
Seventeen families from Meghalaya filed an FIR against the village council for denying foodgrains supplied by the government. An RTI application filed by them revealed that while the government had supplied foodgrains for BPL families in Dongrum in East Khasi Hills district, the families had not received them for 72 months. An inquiry was instituted after the harassed families lodged a complaint.
This is the second incident of villagers being ostracised in Meghalaya for asking questions through RTI. Last year, three women of Jongksha village were ostracised for bringing to light anomalies in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act through RTI. The State Women’s Commission had to intervene to restore their social rights.
In February, Bobby Basaiawaomoit, a resident of Mairangbah in West Khasi Hills district, had lodged a complaint saying the village council had threatened to impose a fine and ostracise him for ‘creating trouble’ in the village by using RTI.
Sanjit Das and his family were attacked on August 14 for seeking information through RTI about foodgrain supply under PDS in Sonitpur district. Das was seriously injured and is currently hospitalised. He was also assaulted a few months ago for exposing PDS anomalies, causing arrest of several fair price shop owners.
“Seeking information under the RTI Act has become a risky affair in Assam and other Northeastern states. In most cases, the anomalies are committed by a nexus involving officials and contractors, who engage miscreants to threaten and attack the applicants,” said Saito Basumatary of People’s Rights Forum, a Guwahati-based platform of RTI activists.
In Manipur, people asking questions under the RTI Act formed a platform to put up a united fight against harassment and delays in getting replies from authorities.
“While officials often deny or cause delay in giving information, threats and attacks on applicants have become commonplace,” said W Joykumar, convenor of RTI activist platform Transparency Initiatives, Manipur.