RTI: A sign of Argumentative Indian By Suditi Tandon University - G.D Goenka University Edited by Aayush Agarwal
RTI is a weapon in the hands of a common man to fight against corruption, political scandal, fraudulent misuse of funds by political parties, arbitrariness and other unethical and questionable practices and to improve and correct governance. It gives people the confidence to ask questions. It makes our political authorities and departments accountable for their actions. It is not a physical fight with the system but the power of pen or questioning. In this world's largest democracy of 1.2 billion, many decisions of our superior are arbitrary, hence this act encourages citizens to ask questions and correct a wrong that they perceive has been done to them or the society as a whole. In one way it has empowered citizens and by other it has created a tool to blackmail people and harass public officials.
One would broadly divide those who file a large number of applications in the following 4 segments:
- Those who file applications with the hope of exposing corruption or arbitrariness and to improve and correct governance.
- Those who do so to correct a wrong that they perceive has been done to them. Their basic intention is to get justice for themselves.
- Those who use the Act to blackmail people. This category largely targets illegal buildings, mining, or some other activity that runs foul of the law.
- Those who use it to harass public officials to get undue favours.
The 1st segment of people deserves to be encouraged for being active citizens and making judicious use of this tool to enable good governance. The 2nd segment of people are those who have been able to get corrective action against their grievances. The simple procedure and reasonable cost of filing an RTI is the main cause that even a lay man can file it. Thus the applicants of the 3rd and 4th segment use this as an advantage to make money or to put pressure on certain people to get undue favour.
Freedom of speech and media – which like the right to information are covered under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution – have been expanding with time. Primarily it is the work of the journalist to expose the authorities or politicians for their corrupt or unethical activities but with the help of RTI the common man can also do this just by asking questions. RTI activist, NGOs, civil societies, enlightened citizens etc are the voice of the nation to curb the menace some of our government authorities create. An RTI plea filed by Galgali had revealed that Hema Malini (Member of Parliament and Actress) was allotted a prime piece land at a rate of Rs 35 per square metre for her dance academy, Galgali claimed it to be of crores, given to her at throw-away price and he also stated that it was reserved for garden but conveniently given to her.
A bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and M.S. Sonak on October 21 disposed off a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar challenging the land allotment. In its order the bench has stated,
"So far as the stand of the state is concerned, according to the learned government advocate, the first respondent (Hema Malini) has refused to take the land in question offered by the state. In that view of the matter, nothing remains for consideration in the public interest litigation, since the very grievance of the petitioner is that the public land which was meant for grazing of cattle is being diverted for the benefit of a particular individual, which cannot be done."
RTI activist Anil Galgali, who was among the first to raise his voice against the land allotment, said he was happy with the development. "It is unfortunate that the BJP government too is involved in nepotism like the Congress-NCP combine that preceded them. Hema Malini has refused to accept the land because she knows that she would be in trouble if she continues with her plan," Galgali said.
Modi government has spent a whopping nearly Rs.3,755 crore till October 2017 on its publicity such as hoardings, posters, calendar, SMS and digital cinema revealed an RTI in December 2017 according to the reply by Information & Broadcasting Ministry. The amount spent on publicity blitz is more than the yearly budget allocated to some key ministries and government flagship programmes. The major scams like CWG, 2G, Adarsh society all were exposed by RTI applications. This act is the only tool to break the bureaucratic stonewalling and corrupt practices. If used judiciously and with proper awareness, this act can cause a transformative revolution in India. The late Prabhash Joshi highlighted a slogan in his editorial in the Jansatta in 1996, “hum janenge, hum jiyenge (the right to know, the right to live)”. RTI: A sign of Argumentative Indian, is one who wont stop speaking the truth and who cannot and will not be gagged!
Lastly I would like to quote, “ A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.” - James Madison
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article or any other publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of sadvidya or its members