Anil Kumar, 63 is an RTI activist. A former employee of Indian Telephone Industries in the marketing department, Kumar, today cracks open the government red tape for a better society.
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Kumar moved to Ejipura in 1994 when it had no roads, no drains and no proper electricity. He filed RTIs to find the reasons behind these pending works. The RTIs of this nature often result in work being completed, because officials were wary of explaining the reasons behind the delay.
Kumar believes that the thrust on Sec 4(1)(b) of the act i.e voluntary disclosure of information in all public offices will ensure that the information regarding public official workings will be open to all. And this in turn will reduce filing of RTI applications.
Currently, he is the treasurer of KRIA KATTE (Karnataka Rights to Information Activists’ Forum) and convenor of Ashwini Layout Residents Association. He has exposed corruption in the functioning of government on several occasions. He also helps out other people to file RTIs.
What was the impetus to be an RTI activist?
As a member of Ejipura RWA, I found that in the due course of infrastructure building, corporation people used to do something but common people would not have any clue of the work. There were lots of loopholes. Later, I found out that with RTI, we can get the details and check the details of the work done. We used RTIs to fix the water supply shortage too. I have file around 700 application till date.
Are you also a facilitator to the amateur RTI activists. How?
I conduct classes on filing RTIs for organisations. We don’t charge them. For example, In Christ college we conducted a workshop for about 100 students. I also guide people with writing the RTI applications.
Do you think RTI activists are media dependent?
I don’t think so, I have filed around 700 RTI applications but only some get reported; the sensitive ones. But sometimes if the information shows the government (officials) in a poor light, media is afraid to publish it. They think they will lose advertisements.
Give some examples of your RTI activism that have changed things in Koramangala-Ejipura?
Lot of things have changed. Earlier Ejipura was devoid of basic infrastructures, amenities etc. Through RTIs we questioned civic body’s inappropriate work. It allowed us to verify the work done by them and in turn, now, under our supervision we have a well built cemented roads here. In previous days BWSSB did not connect underground drainage to main sewer line. Due to this, during rainy season, all manholes used to overflow and flood the area. Again, through the help of RTI we have made the officials work to built a sewage well – 30 ft deep.
What are your your learnings till now?
Frame an RTI application precisely. Government officials are trained, if your query is not to the point unwanted information will flow.
Do you think RTI act, 2005 provides protection to activists. Do you think it should be amended?
I don’t think it should be amended, a separate whistleblower’s act, which protects anyone who exposes corruption should be passed. According to the whistleblower’s act, a quick police investigation will be held in case of any threats and provide security to whistle blower.
There are reports of RTI being misused for personal agenda, do you think this will lead to modifications in the RTI law?
It is the other way round. Since government records are not transparent, people misuse it. I don’t support this though. But the government should try to improve their stature in society and then they won’t be afraid of any misuse.
Do you see yourselves in politics in the future?
I don’t like to get into politics. If I am independent person, I can dig out everything, but if I join a party I have toe the party line. I wouldn’t be independent to work. I have stoutly refused to join once when asked by a political party in Bangalore in the past.
What keeps you motivated?
The joy of bringing a change keeps me on. Despite my digging up dirt, whenever I go to a government office, people still respect me a lot.
Any source of inspiration?
Arvind Kejriwal is my RTI role-model. He came to Bangalore in 2004 for a seminar in Indian Institute of Science. Since then I have followed the path of RTI activism aggressively.
Any advice to citizens.
People should keep a track of government spendings. It is taxpayers’ money. Even a poor person who buys a match box pays tax and income tax is not the only tax. Government is accountable to all these people.⊕