A Right To Information (RTI) appeal proved costly for Tukaram Bansode, a disability activist. While he went on a hunger strike for one day, he was jailed for 24 hours and was slapped a fine of Rs 3000 on the New Year’s day. Bansode’s two-month long battle to seek information on various projects in the disability sector under RTI Act came to a boil last week when he approached the Disability Commissioner, RK Gaikwad.

Seeing no action was being taken to provide him with the required information, Bansode went on dharna and hunger strike on December 29. Later some skirmishes with the commissioner on December 31 led him to be arrested for causing “public nuisance”.

After spending the last day of 2007 in the lock-up, Bansode walked out on Tuesday after paying a fine of Rs 3000. Now, Bansode is back at the commissioner’s office and is determined to get the information. “I will not give up and will continue to agitate although it may cause a threat to my life,’’ said the activist, who is disabled and is associated with the Latur-based Maharashtra Apang Vikas Manch.

From pending sanctioned funds for his institution, to the question on the number of institutions having got recognition and the staff provided for them, debate on the school code for the disabled, number of recognised workshops, number of adequate staff trained available formed his RTI appeal which he had submitted to the Social Justice department on November 23 - these are some of the issues on which Bansode sought information under RTI.

With the normal procedure being that the department concerned having to revert with the requisite details in a month’s time, Bansode said that when he approached the department last month they just gave assurances and nothing more. “They told me that it would take time and I should have patience,’’ said Bansode who then decided to hold a “peaceful agitation” before the department.

However on Monday some officers from the Social Justice department told him that the commissioner wanted to meet him. “However, when I went to meet him the staff stopped me and following this there were skirmishes.

The commissioner called up police and I was arrested,’’ he said.
When contacted Gaikwad said Bansode had demanded answers to 73 questions. “As that will take time I requested him to give more time. He went on a dharna and then he and some people also caused some damage to my car tyres. Realising that it was causing public nuisance, I called the police. But I will be looking up the issue,’’ he said.

The State Information Commission officers, when contacted said that Bansode can now approach the appellate authority and if it does not respond then the commission can take up the case. If the information is still not provided, a fine could beimposed on the commissioner. “He can be asked to cough up a fine of up to Rs 25,000 for not providing information,’’ said one of the officers.

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