Reaching out to the people, with RTI telephone help line

Pune, November 23 “I am a school principal. Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, parents of some school children have sought the details of teachers’ duties and their timetable. However, the chairman of the school is not allowing me to divulge the information. What should I do in this case?”

Queries like this began poring in through a telephone help line dedicated to RTI queries, initiated by the RTI cell of Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), from October 30. Nagesh Jadhav, a young member of PCGT and a postgraduate in social work from Karve Institute of Social Services, has been guiding the inquisitive callers. The help line has been started with an intention to clear up the layman’s doubts regarding RTI.

The help line (64005613), which operates between 3 pm and 5 pm from Monday to Friday, has received around 50 calls till date, not only from Pune, but also from other parts of the state like Ahmednagar, Kolhapur, Nashik and the coastal part of the state- Konkan.

“The help line is available on weekdays and we receive about four calls on an average every day. While a major chunk of the queries are regarding how to file an RTI application, some others are issue-based. There is a welcome trend visible, as out of the total calls received till date, nearly 30 per cent were from young people showing concern for social welfare,” said Jadhav.

Pallavi Keluskar, an advisory committee member of the RTI cell of PCGT said the members of the trust thought it insufficient and hence decided to start something practically useful to people. “Therefore, we initiated a help line dedicated to solving the RTI queries. Even though we have started getting a good response, public memory is short, which is why we are planning to advertise about it on local cable channels.”

Mangesh Borkar, a caller from Kalyan, who sought information using the help line, said that he got to know about the facility through a newspaper. “I wanted to get a certificate from Nagpur Municipal Corporation, for which I needed information under RTI. I called up the help line and got to know how I should apply and get information under RTI,” he said.

Jaadhav added, “I did a lot of reading on the subject and attended a lot of RTI workshops. Yet, if there are queries that I think I cannot deal with properly, I forward it to the more experienced people or activists.

Operating on a help line is a challenge as sometimes people get emotional and you need to extend moral support to them. That’s where my background in social work comes helps me.”
Now, the PCGT is planning to install an answering machine, so that even if people call up with queries during the weekend, they get their answers over the next few days.

Reaching out to the people, with RTI telephone help line