I am the power….
Being a student at IIT for the last 4 years now there have been many occasions where the topic of ‘The authority’ came up. The authority was something that we (student population) just addressed mails to :).. I wonder whether they even read those mails. Besides they were not required to respond to emails. How could I get to know what decisions are being made which are going to affect me and the environment around me? How can I keep a watch on whether things are going on well or not? Thats where RTI starts making a lot of sense.
The basic motivation for doing this is the idea of a change maker. The idea goes something like this.
Do I see something around me that I feel should not happen…. Is there something around me that I would like to change?.... then what am I waiting for…. Wake up and do something about it.
Around mid of January, many trees were cut behind my hostel. A large part of the IIT campus has good tree cover and these are forest kind of trees. There was just news in the air that a new hostel wing is going to be constructed. However there was no official information transfer to the students about it. Since I do not hold any institute post such as General Secretary I am not in direct contact with people who are responsible for activities such as planning, construction. So I did not have direct access to the correct information. So this was where an act like the RTI is of relevance.
- Correct, official, reproducible information
Using the RTI I can get the correct information from the official sources. It is the purest version of the information. This information has value because it is in written form and it can be reproduced wherever required.
When I filed for information, through many discussions with friends a point came up that why am I filing for information in this way? Why don’t I just ask our hostel General Secretary, if he does not know then the Hall Manager, further the warden and so on. What I feel is that all these people may have the information but it could be in diluted form. Besides they might not have the correct facts for e.g. the exact number of trees felled. Also none of these downstream people are responsible for the activities and will not give me in writing.
- Not the last option, its the first option
RTI is not the last option. It is not something we resort to if all other options of talking with relevant authority fail then we file for RTI. It is the first and the easiest option to get information. I feel this paradigm shift is essential so that we will rid ourselves from the fear of filing an RTI.
What came as a big surprise to me was that the process was one of the simplest things I have ever done in life. From the IIT Bombay website, I had already found out who the Public Information Officer in IIT is. Besides the application is addressed to the Information Officer. Its not necessary to know who exactly that person is. All I did was wrote the following letter.
APPLICATION UNDER RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT 2005
Respected Information Officer,
Powai, Mumbai, 400076.
1 Name of Applicant: Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe
2 Address: Room No. C309, Hostel 13, IIT
3 Required Information and it nature in question form:
2. How many more trees are going to be felled in next 1 year?
3. What is the purpose of felling of these trees at the different locations?
4. Is their any plan for planting more trees to compensate for the felling. If yes, where, when? Who is responsible for this? Is any money allocated for this? What type of trees are going to be planted?
5. For the buildings that are being constructed in these places, what steps are taken to make them energy efficient, environment friendly?
6. Who is designing these buildings?
7. Was any alternate solution discussed which would not require felling of trees? If yes, why was that solution not implemented?
8. Has any committee been formed for the above activities? How many members are there and what are their names?
9. Which department is responsible for looking after the trees in IIT Bombay?
10. Whose permission needs to be taken, before felling of trees in IIT Bombay?
11. What is done to the wood after these trees are felled?
12. Give details of the name of officers who have been appointed as information officers and appellant officer as per RTI Act in IIT Bombay.
13. Is there any separate ministerial body under Human Resource Department, which governs IITs? If yes give details.
Signature of Applicant
Went to the office, asked whom to give the application to and went and gave it. The lady at the table wrote a receipt of 10 Rupees which I paid in cash which is a fee for the process. I had a copy of the application on which she wrote Original Copy and signed it. That’s it!!!!
So all you people out there who feel that filing an RTI will require some complicated forms or help from a lawyer (I had the same impression) etc. that is not the case. Its one of the easiest things to do and anyone of us can do it.
Finally information is our ‘RIGHT’. RTI has empowered us immensely. Who ever thought of this Act was a real genius. If all of us exercised this right, I feel many things around will start changing for the better.
For a follow up of the response click here!!