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Thread: An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi

  1. An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi


    Shailesh Gandhi - giving us our right to know

    Thursday, March 08, 2007 9:37:50 IST

    A five-foot two-and-a-half- inch frame coupled with a smiling face belies a driving force and passion that have created a revolution in our perceptions of democracy. BIDISHA GHOSAL spoke to the man who started it all.

    RTI - if this still means only Ratan Tata Institute to you, you probably haven’t been reading the papers for the past 16 months. By now the whole of Mumbai must be aware of their right to information - their right to know, to dig out, to ferret, to investigate, to search and to research anything and everything under the Indian sun, from the BMC and the state government to any private institute within our borders.

    Shailesh Gandhi, whose expose of the doubts regarding former Forest Minister Surup Sinh Naik’s admission into JJ Hospital is the latest RTI coup.

    BG: Congratulations on the success of your RTI filed against Surup Sinh Naik.
    SG: I did not file anything against him. I don’t even know him. Up until two days back I had even forgotten what he looked like. I know he is part of the ruling coterie but besides that I don’t know which party he belongs to! RTI has nothing to do with an individual; it is about right and wrong actions. Even personally, I believe no person is good or bad; their actions are good or bad. All this is a bid to make our society a transparent society, for only a transparent society is a better society.

    BG: What was your ‘eureka’ moment? When you realised that India needs an act like the RTI?
    SG: (after thinking a while) There was no Moment. I was a process, and a long one at that. I was engaged in my industry and wanted to do something that was relevant to society, work at it full-time. During one of our citizens’ meetings at Suresh Joshi’s house, somebody mentioned that RTI would be good for the country. I became interested. He told me that the Government Printing Press will give any relevant information I would need. Y P Singh mentioned that we should do something about political interference in police transfers and that was my first RTI. It failed, but it was a beginning. Slowly I realised what a source of empowerment it was. I understood the philosophy of the law better; my thoughts became more clear. I realised why India was going wrong as a society.

    BG: So where are we going wrong?
    SG: We are not a participatory democracy. We do not recognise the individual. Western democracies do recognise the individual and that is why they are that much stronger. Here when we function in groups and institutions each individual is actually compromising in his or her respective endeavour. Thus, the whole society then becomes compromised. When the individual is empowered, he can shake things up, because he doesn’t need to compromise his stand just to let his views be heard, which would happen if he were to go through an organisation. Every citizen wants to challenge the government, but it is too time and energy-consuming to do so. The RTI makes things simpler.

    BG: So India’s RTI is not borrowed from the American Freedom of Information Act?
    SG: There is a certain commonality but no, it is not based on the American Freedom of Information Act. In fact, the first Freedom of Information was filed in Sweden in 1766. The United Nations’ Human Rights 1948 Declaration was a landmark because it mentioned freedom of expression in the same breath as right to information; one cannot properly function without the other for when you don’t know the real facts then how can you express freely? We have not yet consciously adopted the RTI as our birthright, for it has been so long denied to us. We weren’t aware of it, but things are changing.

    BG: It has been 16 months; how has the growth rate measured up against your expectations?
    SG: The problem is that there is no census available. The law stipulates it, but we have a culture of not following laws. As far as the whole nation is concerned, I have access to only tertiary data. And that too, last month’s data. We activists don’t have adequate feelers out there, you know. So, I can’t speak about India, but I can speak about Maharashtra. The growth has fallen just below my expectations. Not too much, but just below ... and that is also because my expectations keep moving up. It is a moving target, you see.

    BG: What can be done to encourage people to use RTI besides simply spreading information about it?
    SG: I have seen that people are taking to it very readily. I conduct 20-25 lectures and workshops a month to an audience of 40-50 people each time. I can see the glint in their eyes when I talk; I’m not saying that they go and practise their right to information the very next day but they get interested. I have seen the change in the last 16 months. Earlier only the interest was there; these days at least 20% of the times, I have had people get up in the middle of or after a lecture and say, Yes, sir I used the RTI and I got such and such result. Most of them are success stories.

    The next three to five years are crucial. Infant mortality rate is very high; this is the time to strengthen the act. There can be serious threats and it can go down under. Once this time period passes by it cannot be touched! (Emphasis is mine-Ganpat)

    Cybernoon.com



  2. #2

    Re: An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi


    "BG: What can be done to encourage people to use RTI besides simply spreading information about it?
    SG: I have seen that people are taking to it very readily. I conduct 20-25 lectures and workshops a month to an audience of 40-50 people each time. I can see the glint in their eyes when I talk; I€™m not saying that they go and practise their right to information the very next day but they get interested. I have seen the change in the last 16 months. Earlier only the interest was there; these days at least 20% of the times, I have had people get up in the middle of or after a lecture and say, Yes, sir I used the RTI and I got such and such result. Most of them are success stories."

    Can we get information on lectures?when where ?

    ManyThanks,
    Last edited by Shrawan; 21-05-08 at 06:20 PM.

  3. Re: An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi


    Quote Originally Posted by indulkarshailu View Post
    Can we get information on lectures?when where ?
    ManyThanks,
    As and when we come across such interviews/articles/lectures, our active members post them here in the forum. In respect of future events of such activities, the same are notified under "Events & Discussions" section. Please do track such postings and get benefitted.
    Defeat is not final when you fall down. It is final when you refuse to get up.



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