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Thread: Information awareness drive is on a ‘highway’... no one can stop it now’

  1. Information awareness drive is on a ‘highway’... no one can stop it now’


    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=467 border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>The Right To Information (RTI) Act has come in as the sharpest weapon to question the government as to where it spends the tax payers’ money. But how many people know about the Act? Also of those who are aware, how many use it effectively? Taking it as a challenge, Manish Sisodia, a journalist by profession, left his job and joined RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal to educate the rural folk about the Act. In a detailed conversation with expressindia correspondent, Alka S Pande, he speaks about his pursuit</TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3 height=10></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3 height=10></TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>Lucknow, December 20:

    What made you opt out of journalism to educate people about RTI?

    Dwelling the whole day over the gory details about a girl’s rape on a train or how rainfall had bought Mumbai to a standstill left me totally dissatisfied at the end of the day. Then the RTI came into being and I thought of using my understanding to educate people about it.

    How do you find the awareness level in people regarding RTI?

    The awareness is almost nil. And the biggest hurdle in this is the government. It does not want people to know about it.



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    <TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=467 border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD colSpan=3>Is it politicians or the bureaucrats, who are the real hindrance?

    Both bureaucrats and politicians work hand-in-glove. The bureaucracy runs governments and helps carry out their hidden agenda. The politicians think if they attack one government today, they may become the target of the other government tomorrow. That is the reason why no political party is using the RTI the way they should have been.

    How do you teach the villagers - who are illiterate - about RTI?

    Yes, they do not understand the Act as such. We tell them in simple language that whatever development work or schemes the government is carrying out - that is all from the tax that the public pays. The villagers do not grasp the concept of tax as well. We have prepared some charts showing various daily use products which the villagers use, like matchbox, soap etc. We use this chart to tell them how they pay taxes while paying for these products. This at least gives them a feeling of ownership on development projects and welfare schemes.

    Does this enhance their understanding?

    We explain all this by simple logic in Hindi - like telling the villagers that bureaucrats and politicians are public servants and public representatives. They get salaries from the money collected in the form of the tax we pay. This means they are our servants and we are their masters. They are answerable to us. We have the right to ask them questions about how did they spend the money on development projects and welfare schemes. The villagers understand this concept very well. The best part is that we also tell the rural people about the negative aspect of RTI - like the influential and powerful threatening or actually manhandling the villagers. Now wherever we are working, villagers are ready to face any situation but they are pressing the government for information.

    How many villages you have covered so far in UP?

    We are not stretching too far, but are trying to create model villages. Presently, we are working in five villages - one each in Allahabad, Banda, Bahraich, Chitrakoot and Faizabad. We are carrying out this awareness programme with the help of local people and organisations which are already working in the area and are aware of the problems. After the RTI awareness workshops, the villagers themselves start coming out with issues and related questions. We only help them draft their applications.

    How is the response in these villages as some of them are quite backward?

    You may not believe this, but in 70 per cent of the applications that have been filed so far, the villagers have demanded to know about the expenditure incurred in the past. About 50-100 applications are coming from each village, in which they have asked about the future plans of the government for their respective areas. The response, in fact cannot be measured. It is like a check dam, the water starts gushing out once the channels are opened up.

    What are your future strategies?

    The awareness drive is now on a ‘highway’. It is not like walking on a backstreet. No one can stop it now. The only challenge is the proper functioning of all Information Commissions - which are the appelate authorities.

    Information awareness drive is on a ‘highway’... no one can stop it now’


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  2. Thats a noble effort. In order to reach out to masses each one of us must resolve to teach at least 10 people about RTI and they inturn will teach 10 others. Let this be a chain reaction which takes us closer to the critical mass sooner.


  3. Wish all sucess to Mr. Sisodia for his noble efforts.



  4. Very good interview. Thanks for sharing, it was really informative.



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