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From letters to RTI pleas,Walled City man writes to get his right

As he juggles between attending phone calls and giving interviews to television journalists promising to put him on prime time ‘live’ on Tuesday evening...

Written by Aanchal Bansal | New Delhi |
January 13, 2010 1:27:47 am

As he juggles between attending phone calls and giving interviews to television journalists promising to put him on prime time ‘live’ on Tuesday evening,Subhash Chand Agarwal,60,recalls a short trip on a rickety DTC bus from Mall Road to Red Fort in 1967 as a young engineering student.

“I had an ugly spat with the bus conductor who refused to give me a ticket for the 20 paise I gave him,” Agarwal recalls. “Angry and disappointed,I wrote an anonymous letter to the editor of Dainik Hindustan,a new daily,and complained about the misconduct of the conductor.”

It was the first spark,says Agarwal,whose Right To Information (RTI) application in November 2007 led to the Delhi High Court on Tuesday upholding its single-Bench order that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the RTI Act’s purview.

“I had signed simply as student of the Delhi College of Engineering,since I was scared.”

But the following day,when the letter was published,a DTC van arrived at the college campus. “I hid somewhere in the college,fearing the worst. But friends later pulled me out and said the DTC conductor had come to apologise for his misconduct. That’s when I realised the power of taking the initiative and writing.”

Since then,Agarwal has found his way to the Guinness Book of World Records for getting published the maximum number of times in the ‘letters to the editor’ columns of newspapers.

“That letter gave me a voice,” he says,“and today,the RTI Act is far more empowering. It gives a voice to the common man loud enough to have a landmark decision taken on the basis of his petition.”

Encouraged by the “success” of his first attempt,letters followed on university reforms,conduct of public servants — and even one on poll reforms,sent to former Vice President Muhammad Hidyayat Ullah.

“When last counted in January 2006,the number was 3,699 — and all letters on complaints and suggestions in public,” Agarwal says,sitting in his study surrounded by files and papers at his house in Dariba Kalan,Chandni Chowk. “I have stopped counting now,besides RTI applications are keeping me occupied now.”

Agarwal says he puts in one RTI application every day.

“Earlier,I used to write letters to newspapers about issues that bothered me; now I file RTIs.”

About his interest in the conduct of the judiciary and the present RTI petition that is being seen as a breakthrough in the attempt to bring in transparency within the judiciary,the textile businessman says a family spat that reached the courts led to his interest in the RTI Act.

When his application requesting the status of implementation of the resolution cleared by a group of apex court judges on the declaration of assets went unanswered,Agarwal was catapulted back to 1967. “I had to pursue it,as my rights were being denied. It was a long battle since November 2007 but the High Court has given a historical decision that will bring in accountability and transparency in our country.”

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