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Maiden mobilisation of RTI activists in Mumbai may just be the beginning

Kavita Kanan Chandra| Mumbai 10 Jan 2011, Vol 2 Issue 1

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In a move that will help strengthen democracy and do away with corruption in society, RTI (Right to Information) activists of Mumbai and Thane came together in a show of strength and unity to express solidarity with their fellow activists, who had been attacked in the past one year.

On January 5, they came out in full force for a signature-cum-poster campaign to express their concern towards the latest victim - Yashwant Gavand, who was attacked on January 2 by a mob reportedly for exposing, through RTI, the several assets not declared to the Election Commission by a Shiv Sena Corporator, Suresh Shinde.

Krishnaraj Rao, GR Vora, Mohd. Afzal and Sunil Ahya, leading RTI activists of Mumbai have sent a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, with a copy to the Prime Minister. They bemoaned the fact that Maharashtra accounted for eleven attacks on RTI activists last year, five of them fatal, as against an all India figure of 24.

The question they have raised is: Is Maharashtra becoming the leading state for attacks on activists? They lament that all the cases relating attacks on RTI activists remain unsolved in police registers.

Vijay Kunbhar, a leading RTI activist from Pune has demanded that an Independent agency be formed free of interference from politicians, bureaucrats and police that could be approached by anyone demanding information on corruption. In the recent attack on Arun Mane in Pune (January 2), Kunbhar approached the State Information Commissioner and requested that whenever there was an attack on an RTI activist, the information sought by the activist should be given to the public immediately. He stated that out of five public authorities, three have already given information sought by Mane.

The latest victim, Yashwant Gavand’s temporal bone of the skull was fractured in the attack, but his spirit is not crushed. “An assault on an RTI activist gives knowledge of RTI Act to ten more people. If an activist is unfortunately attacked for seeking information, it proves he is right in his quest (to expose corruption),” said Gavand. He is buoyant that RTI is a weapon to start a movement against corruption.

Sanjiv Datta, another campaigner, was happy with the public response for the signature campaign they are conducting for protection of RTI activists. They have so far collected signatures from 1500 people. Sudesh Kharkar says that corruption is rampant and to fight it through RTI, the activists have to unite.

The activists demand that people at the helm need to come clean about their assets and business dealings and ensure strict compliance with RTI Act 2005.
 

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