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Thread: RTI applicants under threat in Assam

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    Roadblock: RTI applicants under threat in Assam


    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's concerns about the "cancerous" spread of corruption in road construction projects seem to be especially justified in Assam, his "adopted home state" from where he was recently re-elected to Parliament.

    In fact, those who seek details of a particular road or housing project under the Right to Information (RTI) Act here often find themselves subjected to threats, anonymous calls or even assaults.

    Take Akhil Gogoi, secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) of Golaghat in Upper Assam, who claimed to have unearthed two scams running into Rs 35 lakh and Rs 25 lakh. He alleged that members of his organisation were harassed, threatened and even physically attacked, forcing many to go underground.

    "Seeking details of various schemes, we filed RTI applications in the District Rural Development Agency, Zila Parishad and Public Works Department (PWD). Initially, officers in all the three departments told us that they had never heard of such an Act," said Gogoi.

    Gogoi gave copies of the Act to the three offices but was not given any information. "The PWD and Zila Parishad staff even gave me in writing that they were not bound to disclose any information," he said.

    It was only after Gogoi approached the State Information Commission that the departments relented. The data revealed two scams under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY). Under one IAY project, Rs 35 lakh was sanctioned for construction of 140 houses in 12 panchayats.

    "We went to every village in the 12 panchayats and found that not a single IAY house had been constructed. The panchayat secretaries gave us in writing that they were given only Rs 18,000-20,000 each, but were made to sign statements saying they had received Rs 1 lakh each," Gogoi said.

    In another case, Gogoi said it was found that Rs 25 lakh was paid to a fictitious firm for purchase of muster-roll registers and measurement books.

    As KMSS members intensified their RTI campaign, they were reportedly threatened. "Our members have been threatened, beaten up, and even arrested on false charges. I have been underground, but my wife gets anonymous calls every night," said Gogoi. He has sent copies of his findings to the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and State Vigilance Commissioner too.

    In a similar case, Namita Subedi, president of the Teliagaon Mahila Samiti in Sonitpur district, also complained of threats after she exposed corruption in a road repair project.

    "The contractor warned me that I would have to pay a high price for picking a fight with him," she said. According to Subedi, Rs 30 lakh was allotted for the repair work, but the contractor had not even spent Rs 5 lakh.

    Reports of RTI applicants being threatened and assaulted have also come in from Udalguri district.

    Source: Indian Express news report from yahoo:Roadblock: RTI applicants under threat in Assam


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    RTI applicants under threat in Assam


    More than a year ago, Akhil Gogoi exercised his right to know the status of rural schemes in central Assam’s Golaghat district. He is on the run today for he knew too much.
    Gogoi has been leading a land right movement for some 1.60 lakh settlers in Doyang and Nambor reserve forests in Golaghat district since 2002. These people had been displaced by flood and erosion in Majuli (island), Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and other parts of eastern Assam from 1905 onwards.
    The 35-year-old Gogoi has been spearheading the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) for the rights of farmers. If the land
    right movement made him a “troublemaker”, moving the Right to Information (RTI) Act on behalf of farmers on March 2 last year made him a fugitive.
    “For eight months, the Golaghat District Rural Development Authority (DRDA), Public Works Department (Roads) and Zilla Parishad sat on my multiple applications under RTI for an update on schemes such as Indira Awas Yojna (IAY), Individual Beneficiary Scheme and Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY),” Gogoi told HT somewhere in an adjoining district. The departments concerned opened the files only after KMSS approached chief information commissioner RS Mooshahary. “The order to provide the information to KMSS was given on November 1 last year,” Mooshahary said.
    Inspection of muster roll register and cheque release register that the DRDA provided, revealed Rs 35 lakh had been paid to
    12 panchayats for 140 IAY houses that did not exist. Similar documents for SGRY showed payment to a fictitious agency for stationery worth Rs 25 lakh. Moreover, Rs 52 lakh “spent” on transporting PDS rice that never reached the beneficiaries.
    “In fact, the PDS rice used to vanish midway between the Food Corporation of India and DRDA godowns. A trader, Bikash Mour, would buy rice at Rs 9 per kg (government rate Rs 8) for sale,” Gogoi said.
    The information proved costly for Gogoi and KMSS. The panchayat members often targeted them. On December 9 last year, district Youth Congress members and the police reportedly assaulted KMSS members, who had protested corruption in government schemes.

    RTI mover on the run after multi-scam bust- Hindustan Times

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    Re: RTI mover on the run after multi-scam bust


    RTI impact: top officer arrested



    In November last year, a pro-peasant activist named Akhil Gogoi rode the Right To Information (RTI) Act to unearth a series of rural scams in central Assam’s Golaghat district. Seven months later, the law caught up with the man purportedly behind those scams.The Golaghat police on Friday arrested Jagyeswar Nath, deputy secretary in the Assam Accord Implementation department, on charges of embezzlement in rural developmental schemes. Nath was the Golaghat DRDA project director from January-November last year, the period during which Rs 1.12 crore was spent on non-existent or fictitious beneficiaries.
    “Nath was arrested and produced before the chief judicial magistrate here today,” superintendent of police Rana Bhuyan told HT from district headquarters Golaghat. He added that the ex-DRDA officer was picked up from Guwahati on Thursday.
    Nath’s arrest followed the dismissal of a DRDA employee named Tarun Bora, also involved in the scams pertaining to Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Individual Beneficiery Scheme and Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY).
    Notably, Gogoi and his organization Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) had invoked the RTI to discover the scams.
    Inspection of relevant papers revealed that Rs 35 had been paid to 12 panchayats for 140 non-existent IAY houses while Rs 25 lakh was disbursed to fictitious agencies for purchase of stationery items under SGRY. Moreover, Rs 52 lakh was “spent” on transporting PDS rice that never reached the beneficiaries.
    Gogoi and other members of the KMSS had to bear the brunt of district officials, panchayat members as well as Youth Congress leaders allegedly involved in the scams. While Gogoi was forced to go underground, others were thrashed and even imprisoned.
    HT had earlier this week run a report on how Gogoi and others of his ilk using RTI for an update on various developmental schemes were being victimized in Assam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s adopted home.
    “The arrest of the former Golaghat DRDA project officer shows there is still some justice left in this country,” said KMSS advisor Padmalochan Nath. “We hope the others involved in usurping money meant for villagers would also be punished.”
    Meanwhile, Assam Information Commissioner RS Mooshahary slapped a fine of Rs 250 per day on former senior superintendent of police SN Singh for refusing to provide information to a petitioner under RTI. A similar punishment was meted out to the Nagaon district SP.

    RTI impact: top officer arrested- Hindustan Times

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    Re: Roadblock: RTI applicants under threat in Assam



    RTI impact: top officer arrested



    In November last year, a pro-peasant activist named Akhil Gogoi rode the Right To Information (RTI) Act to unearth a series of rural scams in central Assam’s Golaghat district. Seven months later, the law caught up with the man purportedly behind those scams. The Golaghat police on Friday arrested Jagyeswar Nath, deputy secretary in the Assam Accord Implementation department, on charges of embezzlement in rural developmental schemes. Nath was the Golaghat DRDA project director from January-November last year, the period during which Rs 1.12 crore was spent on non-existent or fictitious beneficiaries.
    “Nath was arrested and produced before the chief judicial magistrate here today,” superintendent of police Rana Bhuyan told HT from district headquarters Golaghat. He added that the ex-DRDA officer was picked up from Guwahati on Thursday.
    Nath’s arrest followed the dismissal of a DRDA employee named Tarun Bora, also involved in the scams pertaining to Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Individual Beneficiery Scheme and Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY).
    Notably, Gogoi and his organization Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) had invoked the RTI to discover the scams.
    Inspection of relevant papers revealed that Rs 35 had been paid to 12 panchayats for 140 non-existent IAY houses while Rs 25 lakh was disbursed to fictitious agencies for purchase of stationery items under SGRY. Moreover, Rs 52 lakh was “spent” on transporting PDS rice that never reached the beneficiaries.
    Gogoi and other members of the KMSS had to bear the brunt of district officials, panchayat members as well as Youth Congress leaders allegedly involved in the scams. While Gogoi was forced to go underground, others were thrashed and even imprisoned.
    HT had earlier this week run a report on how Gogoi and others of his ilk using RTI for an update on various developmental schemes were being victimized in Assam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s adopted home.
    “The arrest of the former Golaghat DRDA project officer shows there is still some justice left in this country,” said KMSS advisor Padmalochan Nath. “We hope the others involved in usurping money meant for villagers would also be punished.”
    Meanwhile, Assam Information Commissioner RS Mooshahary slapped a fine of Rs 250 per day on former senior superintendent of police SN Singh for refusing to provide information to a petitioner under RTI. A similar punishment was meted out to the Nagaon district SP.

    RTI impact: top officer arrested- Hindustan Times



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