Corruption and RTI are interlinked in India. Since Independence, so many corruption cases occurred and only few have been booked and convicted. In India, rampant corruption has degraded the institution established for the welfare and development of people. Before RTI, people have no or very limited access to the departmental information. After the continuous and arduous struggle of civil societies, in 2005, India got one of the most powerful weapons to combat corruption. The RTI Act empowered the activists to the grassroots level, who can now question corrupt at blocks, villages and Panchayat levels. Access to Information made possible through this act and can proceed further in unearthing the corruption cases and also file cases against the loot and plunder of public resources. At the same time, grassroots activists have been attacked and killed by mafias and corrupt elements. At times, corrupt mafias and administration have nexus and hand in gloves with the authority.
Why Whistleblower Act is important?
Activists put their life on stake to unearth and fight corrupt at grassroots level. They have been threatened mentally, physically and even kidnapped and killed. This news never came into light as it happens in every part of the country. In order to save loots at grassroots level and siphoning off fund from state exchequer, they put every effort and life at stake and but ended up losing their and their loved ones’ lives.
Many wives were turned into widows and many children became orphan. The hardship of the family and deceased cannot be expressed in words. For the sake of nation and for the interest of people they sacrificed their life. On the other hand, the government and its system protect the corrupt and powerful. These activists get killed by goons for challenging the power and powerful at the grassroots level. Laws seem to be meaningless for these victims.
Decentralization of corruption has weakened and ruined the system and welfare remains a distant dream. Government scheme appears in the paper, but hardly on the ground and the allocated money swallowed by the corrupt. It has become impossible to wipe out corruption without empowering the anti corruption institutions and in addition safeguarding, protecting and providing a safe space to activists so they can unearth the scams and loots and the corrupt can be booked and jailed. “Bharshtachar Mukht Bharat“cannot be realized if these things never happen.
Scams and the role of RTI in unearthing those
Vyapam Scam, Adarsh Scam, Srijan Scam, Chit fund Scam and many other scams unearthed due to effective use of RTI. From small to multi-crore scams, RTI has played a pivotal role in unearthing of each of those scams. RTI is one of the most important weapons used by activists to highlight financial irregularities, nepotism, unfavorable transfers and other mala-fide allocations within the governmental agencies.
Deaths of RTI activists in 2018
The activists from all across India were getting killed. Jayant Kumar, Rajendra Singh and Valmiki Yadav of Bihar were killed by the corrupt, goons and village henchmen. Rajendra Singh, an RTI activist, a resident of Rajapur Mangalpur from East Champaran in Bihar was killed in the fourth attempt. He had escaped previous three attacks, including that by a knife, an attempt to run him over with a jeep, and with an axe. And at last, the miscreants gunned him down from behind while he was riding his bike. Several other activists like Suresh Oraon from Jharkhand, Nanji Sondarva from Gujarat, Prashant Nimse from Maharashtra and Poipynhun Majaw from Meghalaya recently got killed. This type of killing is not a story of one state but the picture of the whole country. This trend is bad for the country. Instead of corrupts being punished, the honest people who are fighting against corruption are getting killed. The fight against corruption would never be won if we don’t empower these grassroots activists.
Renowned RTI Activist and Lawyer
Ashish Chaturvedi is a young RTI activist and whistleblower, hails from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. He unearthed the Vyapam Scam which is also known as Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB). He had been attacked 16 times which include kidnapping, abduction, mental and physical assaults. After each incident, he had registered FIRs but no proper action was taken instead the criminals video graphed him 24×7 for a year. He said “We are supporting system in rooting out corruption”. He also added that the government should dispose 14,000 RTI cases which are still pending in Madhya Pradesh.
The government should fix the responsibility and accountability to PIO (Public Information officer) that no information related with the informer/whistleblower should be leaked and in case of leakages the responsible may have to face legal proceedings. No information regarding appellate should come out from the concerned department. There should be an independent officer instead of an officer from the same department, as seniors will pressurize him to act accordingly.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan has said in an event that the current government is trying to destroy all anti-corruption institutions like Lok Pal, CVC, RTI and even the Judiciary. The current government wants to end every check and balance and give a free hand to the corrupt.
He also mentioned that the current government is likely to increase the retirement age of SC judges by two years which is being done with vested interest to keep the current judges in chair. He also sees increasing the age of judges as a threat to autonomy of judiciary. He also put shot on CJI Dipak Mishra and termed him as “Master of the Roster”. Dipak Mishra allegedly sends political sensitive cases to selective judges so that it can be closed immediately and he even accused the CJI of being involved in a scam related to Medical examination.
Strengthening of Anti-Corruption Institutions, Empowerment and Protection of the Activists
The increased attack on the anti-corruption institutions has created fear among concerned citizen and civil society. Now, it has become important to safeguard and strengthen these institutions. Civil societies and opposition parties should join hands to take decision and force government to deploy the WhistleBlower Act and the Lok Pal and LokAyukta Act, 2013 which was passed by Indian Parliament to fight corruption in public offices and ensure accountability on the part of public officials, including Prime Minister. The selection and appointment should be done as early as possible. If not implemented then civil societies, activists and academicians should touch the road in order to implement this act. Any attempt to dilute this act should be fought tooth and nail in order to ensure accountability and transparency in the system.
A corruption free India can only be realized if Lok Pal, WhistleBlower Protection Act and institutions of Anti corruption strengthen, which will help in bringing transparency and accountability in the system.
Abbad Kamal is very young and budding in the field of journalism. His views are personal. If you like this piece, do not hesitate to appreciate in the comment box. If you also have a flair for writing The Morning Chronicle is a place to start with. You can write in Hindi as well. Send your articles at firstname.lastname@example.org.