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Aug 20, 2006
RTI - a tactical retreat by the government

So when the move to amend the Act became known, all hell broke loose. Aruna Roy, a slightly built lady, went on national TV, all clenched fist and steely jawed, saying she will not let it pass. Within 24 hours there was an online petition that people could sign. In under three weeks 5,600 people signed it. Over 80,000 people signed NDTV’s petitions. Aid-India, an organisation of young influential Indians in America bristled with anger. They targeted to raise $25,000 to beat back the amendments. With typical savvy of the young in America they issued a campaign kit detailing how to fax- and mail- bomb politicians, how to call the Prime Minister and officials, what were the talking points, what could be a good letter to the press and so on. In india, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Sailesh Gandhi, Shekar Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, Sandeep Pandey and most importantly Anna Hazare stepped out to take on the government. Delightfully, many serving civil servants spoke against the amendments because their own honest notings would be buried with the dishonest ones.

Throughout the campaign, GoodNewsIndia carried the following message at the top of its home-page

The Empire Strikes Back

In mere six months, the Right to Information Act has gone from a child that’d grow to clear oppression and extortion in the land, to a captive about to be strangulated.

The Evil Empire that lurks behind the Constitution, has awakened to the threat to its well-being. Just as tyrants in mythology sought to destroy children of promise, the Union Cabinet has chosen to disallow file notings from being revealed. The amendment will cripple or kill this Act.

If you love your India, be prepared to join kindred spirits to march in the streets to save the Act. For now, click this link to sign a petition.

August 9 was designated the day to begin a global relay fast by Indians; in the US in front of the Indian embassy. Anna Hazare threatened to return the national honour conferred upon him. He began a fast unto death in Maharashtra and Sandeep Pandey, likewise in Delhi. Seeing the overwhelming support to the campaign, politicians began to step out and speak against the amendments. By Aug 18, it was clear to the government that its sly move had been frustrated: it just couldn’t muster enough political support to carry the amendments in the Parliament.

Yesterday, it threw in the towel and said it would not try to amend the Act, ‘for now’. So perhaps it’s a victory: though the Evil Empire only retreats to fight another day, the next time around more formidable forces will be arrayed against it.

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