RTI activists continue to live in fear

Even seven years after the people-friendly Right-To-Information (RTI) Act was passed by Parliament around this time in 2005, people who use this legislation to expose corruption continue to live with fear of being threatened, thrashed and throttled to death in Gujarat.

By Mahesh Trivedi (Gujarat?Goings-on)

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Published: Sat 30 Jun 2012, 11:24 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:46 AM

That the road to accessing information from government is still arduous in the Bharatiya Janata party-ruled state became evident once again earlier this week when an RTI activist of Amreli district was beaten black and blue by hangers-on of a powerful minister elected from there.

Farmer Natha Sukhadia (38), who has been using the RTI Act to raise the curtain on irregularities committed by agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani and his accomplices in the region, was attacked with iron rods and baseball bats at his farm on June 25.

In his police complaint, the anti-graft campaigner said that the six assailants had told him that Sanghani had ordered his murder after he started making RTI enquiries about his family’s wealth since he became a minister. Surprisingly, the police sub-inspector who registered his grievance was transferred within hours of filing of the complaint.

Hundreds of Sukhadia’s supporters in Amreli took out a rally to the collector’s office on Wednesday demanding the minister’s resignation and a thorough probe even as the whistle-blower was battling death in hospital on Thursday.

Indeed, ever since the RTI Act, an effective tool to make the government accountable and transparent, and curb corruption, was fully implemented in October 2005 in Gujarat, four RTI crusaders have been liquidated, nine seriously injured in blood-thirsty assaults, seven threatened with ‘dire consequences’ and 90 others forced to give up their campaign against greedy government officials.

While Amit Jethwa who ran a green brigade around the Gir lion sanctuary to stop illegal mining was shot dead in 2010, Bhagu Dewani, a 70-year-old advocate, was brutally beaten up in June last for seeking information on unauthorised constructions in Porbandar.

Slow disposal of RTI queries, half-baked replies, intimidation by powerful people as well as shortage of staff in the Gujarat Information Commission have all thrown cold water on the enthusiasm of the activists what with some 8,000 applicants waiting in the wings for satisfactory replies for the past three years and at least 50 appeals and complaints being filed every day.


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