By ASHIM SUNAM
Afroz Alam Sahil, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, India has filed more than 2000 RTI (right to information) petitions since its inception in 2005. He has seen major success through the RTI act.
The RTI Act has become a tool to curb the malpractices prevailing in the various Governmental departments. It empowers each and every citizen to get any information they want from the government, inspect their work etc.
RTI Act has proved to be an effective mace to fight corruption. As published by the Transparency International, (a global society organization leading the fight against corruption) “India’s corruption index showed a decline from 88th to 70th position”. This development credit goes to RTI Act.
A group of women in Uttar Pradesh, in India ensured that their children get free school books and uniforms under the Central Government education programme. So they filed an RTI seeking details of free books and the uniforms.
There was an instant response within a month after the RTI had been filed and every child was provided with free school books and uniforms. Several NGO’s (non-governmental organization) have been working to make people aware about the RTI Act. One such NGO is Yuva Koshish,formed in 2009. It recently also conducted RTI awareness campaign in Jamia Millia Islamia. Ali Akthar, President and Founder of Yuva Koshish said “The campaign was attended by around 1000 people per day.” He further adds, “We specially catered to the weaker section of the society and educated them about it” Ajay singh, a Cab driver attended one such campaign where he was encouraged to file RTI petition. He said “I was not aware of such kind of acts”. He had been requesting the government officials to renew his driving license but to no avail. After he attended the RTI awareness campaign, he filed RTI petition and after a month or so he received his driving license without any hassles. He says “Filing an RTI is an easy process and less time consuming, so I filed the petition which later turned out in my favour”. Ajay Singh has knowledge about the RTI Act now so he has been spreading the message around among his fellow Cab drivers.
India is a democratic country where every citizen pays tax. Even while purchasing a pack of chocolates one pays tax to the government. They deserve to know where does this money (taxes) go and other similar questions about the working of the government. Afroz, a resident of Bihar too filed RTI petition, where he requested the chief electoral officer of Bihar to provide funding details of the political parties. According to Election commission Rule 24(a), political party which has more than Rupees 20,000(US $ 445 approx) in their fund are to provide their funding details. He himself had to face some obstacles while filing the RTI petition. He says “It was at first ignored by the Chief electoral Officer of Bihar, India. I then filed a first appeal and later a second appeal to the State Information Commission (SIC)”. The SIC directed the election division of state to provide all the required information. The information provided also brought into light the political parties which were being funded by big industries and Public schools.
Raghunath Jha, a politician from Bihar had never lost during the elections. He won the MP (Member of Parliament) seat around 7 times. This made Afroz question the development taking place of those areas from where he won the Parliamentary seat. He did not see much development in those places. So he filed an RTI petition. “I received the information required through the powerful RTI Act”. The facts that Afroz had with him clearly indicated that Jha had been misusing government money. The work sanctioned had also not progressed. After the exposé it was being tracked by many media houses and people came to know about his misdeeds. This story exposed Raghunath Jha to the public eye. Hence, he lost the elections in 2009.
The RTI Act is powerful enough to change the face of the nation. Since its initiation, it has brought laurels to many sections of the society and development of the country on larger scale.