Sunday evening saw an auditorium full of people with gratitude towards the Right to Information Act. There were over 300 people and each of them had something to say about how the Act helped them secure their rights and that of others.
The occasion was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Act that was aimed at promoting transparency in the governance and expose corruption in public sector.
The event, organised by Sajag Nagrik Manch, saw RTI activists, former public information officers and common citizens coming together to share their experiences with the empowerment brought by Act in their lives.
Most of them said that although they were initiated into using the Act to access information to resolve their personal issues, they later expanded the sphere to raise the voice against injustices done to others close to them and to get the issues faced by the community addressed.
For instance, Vinod Rathi,, who not only fought a successful battle against a builder who had usurped the land for a housing project under Slum Rehabilitation Agency (SRA) plan, but also helped 29 other residents of the demolished slum to get shops. Bhagwan Nivdekar, a city resident, even managed to get a a compensation under little known Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act.
Tree activist Vinod Jain narrated how he managed to save Rs 25 lakh per annum from public exchequer which was spent on “study tour aka picnic” of the politicians who were part of the Tree Authority and how he managed to get a police protection without having to pay the Rs 81,000 per month charge as demanded by the police department.
“The Act has empowered every one of us who know how to use it,” said Pushkaraj Jagtap of village Dhakale in Baramati taluka. He narrated how RTI helped their fight with powerful Baramati Municipal Council which wanted to impose a garbage depot on them.
“I filed a series of RTI pleas with Baramati Municipal Council, forest department and ground water board, which exposed how they had flouted rule to grant the permission to set up a garbage depot in our village. Once this information came to light, they had no option but to shift the depot out of the village,” said a beaming Jagtap.
Vivek Velankar, Vishwas Sahasrabuddhe and Jugal Rathi of Sajag Nagrik Manch said the event as a success.
“It’s been 10 years since the Act came into being and still there persists a perception that only a few people use it.
This is a false impression as there are many who use the Act silently. This was evident today as over 300 people had gathered and over two dozen shared their experiences with the Act. This will also serve as a motivation for many other to make best use of the weapon,” said Velankar.