सोमवार, 30 अगस्त 2010

Mystery shrouds RTI activist’s death in Maharashtra CM’s hometown

Monday, August 30, 2010: Ramdas Bapuji Ubale-Ghadegaonkar, an RTI activist and a Shiv Sena functionary, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Nanded in Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Forty-three-year-old Ghadegaonkar’s was found dead at Naya Monda locality of Nanded, late on Friday night, reports reaching here on Sunday said.

Ghadegaonkar, who was also the president of a Shiv Sena-sponsored district milk-sellers’ cooperative body, had left his home at 8 am on Friday. His family members were worried, as he had neither returned home until late in the evening nor were they aware of his whereabouts until his body was found. Though initial reports had suggested that Ghadegaonkar had been stoned to death, the exact cause of his death has not been established yet.

“There are no external injuries on his body. We will be able to know the exact cause of Ghadegaonkar’s death after we receive his post-mortem examination and viscera reports. As of now, we have registered a case of accidental death,” Nanded’s Superintendent of Police Sandeep Karnik told The Pioneer on Sunday.

Apart from being a political activist, Ghadegaonkar was also reportedly making use of Right to Information Act to unearth illegal dredging activity and irregularities in Public Distribution System (PDS) in the area. Queried if Ghadegaonkar was indeed an RTI activist, Karnik said: “His family members have told our officers that he used to obtain information from various Government offices using RTI. We are investigating the matter”.

Ghadegaonkar’s death created a sensation in Nanded, which incidentally is the hometown of Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. The incident has also sent shocking waves through the RTI activist circles in Maharashtra.

Reacting sharply to Ghadegaonkar’s death, Mumbai-based RTI activist Krishnaraj Rao said: “Ghadegaonkar is the fourth RTI activist to have been murdered in Maharashtra during this year. RTI activists are increasingly becoming soft targets of mafias operating in sectors of illegal economic activity like construction, dredging, mining etc”.

Earlier during the current year, as many as four RTI activists were attacked in various parts of the State. Of them, three activists — Satish Shetty (Pune), Vitthal Gite (Beed), Dattaraya Patil (Kolhapur) were killed. However, an activist from Badlapur town in Thane district Arun Sawant survived the attack.

Known for effectively using RTI Act to fight corruption, 39-year-old Shetty from Talegaon Dabhade in Pune was stabbed to death by three to four masked men with swords, when he was on a morning walk on January 13.

Gite was killed ostensibly in a group clash in a village near Parli-Vaijnath in Beed district on April 21 after he tried to expose irregularities in a local school. Patil, an RTI activist from Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district, was murdered with swords by an unidentified group of assailants on May 22.

“Time has come for the Government to set up more effective machinery than the police, Anti-Corruption Bureau and Central Vigilance Commission to deal with the confidential information provided by the whistleblowers. The authorities whom the RTI activists provide information should take care not to reveal their identities and also not to bring them face to face with the accused,” Rao said.

TN Raghunatha

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