When RTI met Gandhigiri
When RTI met Gandhigiri
This GenNext has used the RTI power to bring babus down on their knees, reports Ankur Jain...
For over a week, nearly 60 letters adorned with flowers and signed off with a ‘get well soon’ — clearly inspired by Bollywood blockbuster Munnabhai MBBS’ — flooded the office of the central public information officer (CPIO) at the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi daily.
The letters, queering the CPIO about his schooling background and questioning his powers, soon became a big pain in the neck for South Block babus, who were forced to hastily convene a series of meetings to get to the bottom of the issue.
They soon found that these letters were pouring in from Ahmedabad and resorting to this unique form of Gandhigiri and the Right to Information (RTI) Act were students of the M a h at ma Gandhi International School.
The students, after attending a few RTI workshops, had decided to shoot letters to the MEA to demand an explanation on the grounds their teachers were denied visas by the Indian embassy in France.
Soon not only was the government forced to grant visas to their teachers, all Indian embassies around the world were asked to appoint PIOs. Points out standard IX student Sharmeen Attarwala, “It felt great when we won visas for our teachers using RTI. And most of us, who had had no experience of knocking government doors learnt how to fight for one’s rights.”
The experience also motivated many MGIS students to help neighbours and domestic help file RTI applications to find out the status of their election cards and ration cards.
The RTI vision
She may not be blessed with eyesight, but she’s proving to babus that they better not turn a blind eye to problems of citizens. Meet 32-year-old Ranjan Vaghela, nemesis of government officials who take citizens’ rights for granted. Her secret weapon: the RTI Act. Ranjan, who works for an Anandbased non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is working with physically challenged persons, has already taken many babus to task by filing RTI applications to find out how much money has been allocated for the disabled after the Disability Act was passed in 1995 and the extent of work done by the government since then. “Initially, PIOs refused take my applications, but I stuck to my guns and contacted Gujarat Information Commission officials in Gandhinagar,” says Ranjan, who is also busy creating awareness among the physically challenged about their fundamental rights. “Society has for long snubbed people with diabilities like me. The only option then for us is to use the power of RTI to empower them,” says the gritty Ranjan, whose mission now is to travel to various villages in Anand district and create awarenss about RTI.
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