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Parivartan agitates for the Right to Information[continued]

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The Right desire:

Over a decade before Kejriwal, Aruna Roy too had quit the civil services realising, "the biggest crisis we face today is dwindling participation of people in the democratic framework and a system of governance cloaked in secrecy and devoid of accountability to the people. The right to information would give big leverage to the people." He considers her his hero and her campaign for a true RTI law with sincerity and teeth, his own ultimate goal.

It's an indication of the power of information that the bureaucracy has fought on every front to deny it to the people. However,since a democracy forces public positions, politicians have had to offer mealy mouthed support; they then quickly turn to bureaucrats to draft toothless policies. Thus the much celebrated Freedom of Information Bill, 2003 was a still born baby, which did not even come into force. Nevertheless, some states have, under duress, enacted reasonable laws which citizens can use. Not content with them,India's several activists have come together to fight for citizens' right to information; they have formed an umbrella organisation called the National Campaign for People's Right to Information [NCPRI].

Using Delhi's basic RTI law, Parivartan took on the electricity board -Delhi Vidyut Board- and the public food distribution system [PDS] for the poor. Borrowing from Aruna Roy's jansunwai [public hearing] model, Parivartan worked Sundernagari's streets to expose cover-ups by contractors and collusion by elected officials. They began to get people's mind share and asked them to use the RTI law to file queries.

Making do and biting through:

There is a trick to the way these queries must be framed, if they are not to be rejected on first reading. Diminutive Santosh strode the narrow streets and helped fill hundreds of RTI applications on behalf of consumers denied rations. The focus was on raising awareness and increasing participation. Parivartan also collaborated with the Indian Express in Delhi to awaken citizens to the rights they had.

Delhi's PDS is a 3000 shop network through which enormous public money is looted by diverting subsidised food stocks to commercial interests. People had no means of verifying the flow of stocks. Parivartan's street plays, awareness camps and corner meetings caused a barrage of applications for information to be made under Delhi's RTI law.

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