As a realty agent, Anand manages to find the right people who want to buy or sell properties while he juggles with the information that he can glean from the market. When he applied the learnings in his personal life, the results left more than a few jaws dropped.
Sometime in late 2013 and early 2014, Anand wanted to know more about the compensation awarded by Indian Railways in cases of passengers who die in accidents. He wanted to understand the process to ensure that it was fair to the victims. As he pored through government records, he put together nine seemingly innocuous questions for Indian Railways. In March 2014, he wrote to them seeking information. The two-page request in Hindi, raised several other questions.
Between May and June 2014, hundreds of replies from different offices of Indian Railways poured in. When he submitted his claim for the record, Anand had received 311 responses. And more were coming.
“I am known in my area because my name was mentioned in the Limca Book of Records. It has given me an identity,” Anand proudly says.
Power of Right to Information
Anand had realised the importance of the RTI Act a few years earlier. In 2011, when a friend’s kid needed admission in a school in West Delhi, he was finding it extremely difficult to secure a seat at a Delhi government school. For schools, it is mandatory to admit students from economically weaker sections (EWS). The kid’s father was a driver and could not petition government authorities for help.
He consulted Anand who decided to use citizens’ right to seek information. As he wrote to the school, he got answers that appeared to be evasive without sharing all the facts. Anand refused to given in and followed up with more questions. After eight months, his friend’s son was given admission after Anand’s questions revealed that there was something amiss in the way the policy was being implemented.
Anand is a prime example of how the RTI Act has made the citizen powerful so that he can ask information from government departments. Several other institutions have also used the provisions under the act to seek information that may otherwise not be available in the public domain.
The law, which came into being in 2005, is widely recognised as giving citizens the right to question implementation of government policy. Just like Anand, citizens across the country have made full use of the power it gives them.
He realised one day that a stated policy of the Delhi government was to allow specially-abled people with small kiosks where they could run businesses. These small businesses are run to support small offices, providing photocopying, and other similar services.
The official announcement of allotting 439 kiosks to specially-abled people had been made. It was well documented in official records. But when Anand started to make inquiries, it just did not add up. Naturally, he sought more information and when the facts were made public, the findings were shocking – only seven of the kiosks had been allotted to the deserving candidates.
The new set of facts led to a series of events where changes were made in the way policy impact was reported within the government system.
Anand has made a mark in the company he works for. He has realised that the right information fetches the best prices.
Similarly, the right information benefits the people who are most deserving. Anand’s use of the RTI Act demonstrates this.