MUMBAI: When Vineet Shah, an RTI activist from Bhayander, sought details of educational institutes in the region from the civic education department, little did he know that school and college officials would come knocking on his door with files containing the information he had asked for.
On May 15, Shah made an application to the public information officer (PIO) of the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC), education officer Anil Bagle, seeking the number of educational institutions that had government recognition, whether the schools and colleges had obtained a fire brigade NOC and the last inspection conducted by the education department, among other things.
The PIO directed his five group heads to gather details from the educational institutions in the region. Insteadof gathering information from schools and colleges, the group heads wrote to the educational institutions to pass on the details directly to the RTI applicant.
"From July 10, I started getting calls from schools and colleges, asking if I had filed an RTI application," said Shah. However, what took him by surprise was that school clerks and officials landed up at his house with files that necessarily did not contain what he had sought.
The education department had sent a list of 166 government -recognized schools and colleges to Shah, but now he is worried that all the institutes may come knocking on his door. Shah claimed as the MBMC had revealed his identity, it had caused him immense harassment. Schools and colleges had been expressing displeasure at his information gathering, he said.
RTI activists in the region claimed that revealing names of information seekers had become a practice for PIOs of various departments of the municipality. An RTI activist from Mira Road, who had sought information about road contracts, said he was threatened by alleged contractors for digging into their records. The contractors had landed up at his house unannounced. "My family was shattered when unknown people landed up at my house and demanded to know why I was interested in the information."
Another Mira Road activist, who had sought information about permissions to residential buildings, said even before the detail gathering process began, he started getting calls to back out and agree on a settlement.