Know the new dream heroes!
The ones who expose the chicken-hearted secrets of the high and mighty!
Subhas Chandra Agarwal, RTI activist, no, a zealot leads the way for the no lesser mortals!

Wajahat Habibullah, the Chief Information Commissioner!
Shailesh Gandhi, the Central Information Commissioner!

They, among themselves, the trio have obtained from the Central government agencies, all the high-level correspondences that touch upon very many of the points that touches our own self-dignity, self-honour and our own estimation of ourselves as proud citizens of the country.

What they have done?

They m have made the very crucial Right to Information Act to do its duty!

As a result, now we have the exchanges between Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi! They have oppositive views on amending the RTI, as the PM thinks it is irksome to give sensitive information to all and sundry requests under the RTI.

No, this refusal to part with information has been rejected by the officials, the CIC, Mr.Gandhi has given some daring judgments, the Chief Information Officer Mr.Wajahat Habibullah had also given  some courageous judgments. These judgments have turned the RTI the only hope for an arbitrary government to behave, conduct itself within the limits of the law.

So, we are now in a free country, it seems. We in India have learnt to live with the government as the all-powerful and all-knowing entity.

The government is not such an entity.

As recently as April, 30 2010, the Dept of personnel (DoPT) refused to part with the high level correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Party President. On such a vital subject like whether to amend the RTI or not. The PM is for amendments. The Party President is for just the opposite.

The RTI activists, some of the really are doing heroic service against a stone wall of a government, notorious for its secrecy and insensitivity, as though the government belongs all to the babus and the ministers who have vested interests from exposing their ridiculous conduct before the public.

The file notings too are now within the ambit of the RTI. This, the citizens of the country should know.

Now, the dept is climbing down to write letters like “regarding point no.8…”etc! After all why the Pm fears for disclosure? He should not have had such fears. He should be the first servant of the people, not the first protector of erring babus and erring politicians.
In this context, now it has come to the public knowledge that the former President APJ Abdul Kalam wrote a 2004 “secret “letter to Vajpayee asking for the terms for awarding the Padma  awards. We remember those days. We have written more than once letters to the then President requesting him to consider awarding Bharat Ratnas to such persons like Verghese Kurien and Jyoti Basu and it was   a sad reflection that such letters were always went unresponded. Even a polite acknowledgement would have shown the highest office in the country cares for the ordinary citizens. But alas! It was not so.

Now a culture of total insensitivity informs this government, this government
establishment. No replies, no acknowledgements from the top Constitutional authorities, from the PMO or from the Congress headquarters.

We often wonder why these offices have so many staff and clerks and they are always buzzing around as if they have so much work on hand! They, as we can see and we can see, do the major work of preventing people from reaching the ears of the high and mighty!
The Indian Express has done a great service by using the RTI and scooping the entire lot of letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi over the term of the first United Progressive Alliance government. The letters confirm what many have suspected for long that the two different visions inform the offices of the Prime Minister and the Congress president.

The other leak, if we can call it so, is about the details of the awards of the Padmas, the recent disclosure of how the award went to the US based hotelier, Chatwal and also those who were left out of the awards finally even those recommended by the PMO and also others how the entire selection and inclusion and rejection have made the awards rather a low act in the eyes of the public.

In fact, the Padma wards controversy brings us to mind the British experience.

There used to be a scandal still doing the rounds in England how when the early 20th century Prime Minister Llyods George (UK Premier from 1916 to 1922) was Prime Minister he resorted to “sell” the awards to make money for himself. He was not a rich man in his times and thus he adopted this route to fund for himself.

Thus, he even engaged agents to go around the London clubs and there are hilarious stories how the broker would say to the bidders:”Only Knighthoods are for sale for 10,000 pounds, baronetcies for 30,000 and so on…And soetimes, the fellow, whose name is even withus, Maundy Gregoryan unsavoury character would say often:”Only five knighthoods are left for the June list”!

Now, we seem to be nearing a situation like the one we have witnessed in those times, where we have now the lobbyist’s tapes on display thanks to some feisty TV channels and we are now learning and even reconciling to the harsh reality that even the Cabinet formation is done under the duress of the high power corporate lobbyists!

So, very soon, the Padma awards like other favours from the government can be bought thanks to the lobbyists, if not through other unsavoury characters!

All these deteriorations in governance and the very ordinary men and women who are deciding our destinies may be mitigated hopefully thanks to the RTI and the men and women, from Aruna Roy to Wajahat Habibullah and Mr.Gandhi and Agarwal, we see some positive hope for a democratic dialogue with our “governors”!

So, now the RTI at least gives some relief (though the working of the RTI in the states varies very much. Much remains to be done and more activist’s community we need to build up.

Wake up to the power and potential of the RTC. Every citizen worthy of some doing some public well must engage the RTI for digging out much corruption and much that is unwelcome in our polity!

Image Source : tribuneindia.com

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