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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Where is my goodluck bro? Black truth of RTI in Mumbai.

Last week news came that a RTI activist was murdered by a village head whose several scams the activist had exposed. This is not the first case where such an activist has been killed for the kind of information which he sought. Although, RTI to a large extent has helped in limiting corruption in government offices, the activist applying this law to seek information have been victims of violence. Obviously, such incidents are terrorizing & discouraging activists…but there is another section of RTI activists which is very different from this. They have a different face which I want to introduce readers today. This face of RTI activists is especially seen in Mumbai.

Almost, all builders in Mumbai maintain a secret register. This register consists name of those people whom the builder has to pay money as bribes while working on a building construction project. In this register there is a list of local politicians which includes local corporator, MLA & local office bearers of major parties. Another list is of policemen which includes cops from the rank of beat marshalls upto the DCP. There is also a list of BMC officials, fire brigade officials, local journalists & street goons whom the builders use to threaten or evict somebody. A friend residing in south Mumbai who is also an associate of a builder informed me that city builders also maintain a list of RTI activists. Every builder has a list of around 15 RTI activists whom he has to pay from Rs 5000 upto 25000 depending upon the size of his project. Once the builder starts his work, these activists get a whiff of it & approach the builder to demand their share of “Goodluck”. The builder has to present them cash packed envelopes, else, his "goodluck" can turn into “badluck”. If the activists don’t get money, they use RTI & ask such questions to  BMC, Fire Brigade & police officials which could invite trouble for them. For instance, if a building is having more than 7 floors then it is mandatory for the builder to provide a fire rescue assembly area, but many builders don’t do that. In such a case RTI activists may ask BMC & fire brigade, how the permission was given to the builder to start the project? In such cases the officials advise the builders to pay up RTI activists so that they keep their mouth shut. Many a times rival builders use RTI activists against each other.

It is easy to use RTI act. You just have to understand the process once. You need not be highly educated to use it. This is the reason why that a drug addict residing in your neighborhood who was struggling to meet his daily dose few years back by borrowing or stealing now travels in a high end car, wears clothes of expensive brands & is loaded with gold jewelry & calls himself a RTI activists. I know few RTI activists who have criminal records & have spent days in prison. Now they have formed a small gang & train youngsters on how to extort using RTI act.

 Mumbai has been home of several genuine RTI activists like Sameer Zaveri, Chetan Kothari, Krishna Rao, Anil Galgali & Suleman Bhimani but as it happens with any good initiative in our country, RTI act has also become a victim of mockery. A law which was enacted with pure intent & hope of positive change has become an instrument of criminals & extortionists. If this continues, the act will become toothless & genuine activists using it will loose their respect. These so called RTI activists should stop getting their “goodlucks”, else the country will have to forfeit its goodluck.

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