A True RTI Activist
Posted by JEEVA in the Chennai Edition of The New Indian Express(Feb.28,2008)
R L Saravanan (37), a resident of Pattabiram, is an RTI activist in the real sense of the word.
An advocate at the Madras High Court, he has filed around 250 applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act in various departments over the last nine months to spur officials into action. On an average, Saravanan filed at least one RTI application a day for both professional and social causes.
His first RTI application was made for a ‘process report’ to the office of the tahsildar at Poonamallee to get a patta for his client since some of the employees had demanded a bribe to do so. The application made the officials panic and they issued the patta the same day.
“I realised the power of the law only then. Now, submitting applications under the RTI Act has become a part of my routine. I used the law for several purposes like getting ration cards, passports, FIR copies and field maps,” Saravanan said.
In fact, the lawyer discovered the illegal sale of land belonging to a client carried out 13 years ago. His RTI application for a copy of the sale document with the Revenue Department helped deliver justice for his client. Another case involved officials of the Revenue Department who demanded a bribe of Rs 3,000 to provide a copy of the field map of a plot of land. However, his RTI application set things right when officials personally handed over the map the next day.
As a member of Thandurai-Pattabiram Consumer Council, Saravanan also filed many applications under the RTI Act with the municipalities of Ambattur and Avadi, inspected road works and examined official documents.
“It takes me only half an hour every day and a court fee of Rs 10 for every application. We need not even do it in person since we can send the applications by post,” the lawyer pointed out. Though the RTI Act is primarily meant to obtain information from the government, the applications can help get some work done, in most cases. Since officials usually give vague replies, one must take utmost care while forming the questionnaire, he noted.
“Almost 80 per cent of my RTI applications have been successful without filing an appeal,” Saravanan said. In fact, his familiarity with the RTI Act has turned this activist into a consultant since several people approach him for guidance on how to file such applications.
However, his RTI activism has also made Saravanan vulnerable to threats from a range of officials, starting from councillors to MLAS and MPs to withdraw his applications.
( Incidentally, Shri Saravanan, is also an active member of our portal)
Defeat is not final when you fall down. It is final when you refuse to get up.