Posted in Deccan Herald, Bangalore(Sunday, 21Jan.2007)

It’s not all about asking uncomfortable questions. After arming the common man with his long-due right to know, the Right To Information (RTI) Act is also fast gaining ground as a corrective tool against administrative apathy. As Dr Henrietta Decosta, an Indiranagar resident and RTI activist, has found out.

After efforts through years to bring to light building by-law violations in her residential neighbourhood, Dr Decosta has, with the help of RTI, managed to bring an illegal construction in her neighbourhood to a halt. And she calls it the first real action on ground to check building plan deviations in the area.

It was on December 14, 2006 that Dr Decosta applied under RTI to the Assistant Executive Engineer — BMP, Bharathinagar Sub-division for information on building by-law violations on two structures and one under construction building in Indiranagar I Stage — No 453, I Cross; No 902, I B Cross and No 435, II Cross. While the first two are old buildings on which allegedly illegal structural enhancements have been made, construction on the third had just started.

“The promoters had dug up space for a basement on this plot (No 435, see pic), that earlier had an old building. I applied for copies of the commencement certificate and inspection reports, while I wanted to know the extent of violation over the sanctioned plan in the other two buildings,” she told Deccan Herald.

The AEE responded on time — in what was a pleasant surprise for Dr Decosta — on January 17, 2007 saying that notices had been served on the owners of the premises.

And subsequently, construction on the third plot was stopped.

The three constructions are among the 11 in the neighbourhood that Dr Decosta had identified in her RTI-backed movement against unchecked violation of building sanction plans.

The information she has sought on the other eight constructions is stuck amid hearings at the Karnataka Information Commission. Dr Decosta’s campaign against these eight constructions had been reported in these columns recently.

“Finally, at least something seems to be happening on the ground. But the question is, how could these builders manage to get away with such blatant deviations?” Dr Decosta said. She, in association with Kriya Kathe — a group of activists — has been pushing for a check on the nexus between corrupt officials and builders.