Are we blackmailers?

In response to Haq Khan''s comment about RTI activists

Er. Irfan Banka
Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 14 2018 11:53PM | Updated Date: Feb 14 2018 11:53PM
Are we blackmailers?

This is to remind you of your statement against RTI Activist on the floor of Assembly on 6th of February 2018. You have told the Legislative Assembly that RTI Activists are big blackmailers which is absolutely condemnable. I along with my associates at J&K RTI Foundation, am a campaigner of the revolutionary Right to Information Act (RTI) Act since my first year of Engineering Studies and you have no right to call me a blackmailer. 

In a workshop on RTI at IMPA organized by Zakat Foundation of India I met Dr. Raja Muzaffar, Dr. Sheikh and other RTI campaigners. I asked a few questions to Dr. Muzaffar and got familiar with the act to some extent. After a few months my 3rd Semester examination result was declared. I was surprised to see only 40 percent marks in my favorite subject which was quite unacceptable to me. I filed an RTI and asked for photocopies of answer sheets. No reply was provided and with the help of Dr. Muzaffar I filed complaint in the Commission. Commission had hearings and finally a notice for penalty proceedings was issued to the PIO and I was called by the PIO for a deal. A peon there said, “Don’t leave them, if you are from a good family, they are very frightened and will provide you anything you ask for”. This is where I got encouraged; and joined the RTI Movement. I did not think about my marks and started awareness of RTI in my College. Evaluators had done injustice with me but I used RTI to teach them a lesson. Now, Mr. Haq, tell me, am I a blackmailer??

With the help of RTI I am able to compel the Irrigation Department to construct a flood protection bund within 3 days from the date of filing RTI Application. The village where bund was constructed was neglected for 15 years and nobody listened to the common man who is today saying with pride “RTI CHU DEEN and everyone should use it”. The bund saves five villages from submerging due to floods every year. My work is to teach people RTI so that they would get empowered and exercise real democracy. Tell me, Mr. Haq, Should you call me a blackmailer?

My associate is exposing scam of SBM in the department you are heading. In reply to his RTI Application, the Rural Development Department personnel say we have recovered 72000 from the illegal beneficiaries and the amount will be given to the genuine cases. Tell me Mr. Haq, should you call my associate, who is a BPL category person and is deprived of his right to government schemes, a blackmailer? 

I am helping one of my friends in drafting an RTI Application and without any reply his result of B. Tech, which was earlier withheld, is declared; and he is passed. He praises RTI and gets justice without any face to face contact with PIO. Mr. Haq… should you call my friend a blackmailer?

The police, which is thought to be the rudest in its activities by the people, is not acting on my complaint and I am filing an RTI to obtain its status. In revenge I am harassed, and my phone is seized off in some fake case. Finally I come out of the problem with Superintendent of Police’s help and with my friends we start campaigning for RTI as it encourages us and we find it the only tool in our hands to make the government accountable. Does it mean we are blackmailers? 

Mr. Haq, there bare uncountable stories on success through RTI and the empowerment of common man; and believe me, nobody till date could give a single evidence of blackmailing through RTI. Have you ever thought that the blackmailing is only possible if the government officials are corrupt…I have personally observed that the PIOs are using RTI for creating smoothness in their offices! Recently an officer called my friend to obtain some information from his office through RTI which he could not provide to the people because of some higher authority orders. RTI is the only tool in the state that could expose wrong doings in the offices and the whistleblowers must be appreciated for their acts rather than calling them blackmailers. 

Mr. Haq, now decide who is a blackmailer? A common man using RTI or a corrupt official who is not allowed to misappropriate government funds and is hence blaming whistle blowers? I am not saying that all RTI Applicants are RTI Activists, there may be some who act indecently; but there is no scope of blackmailing when an honest official faces an RTI Applicant.

Mr. Haq, my final request to your good self is to either come with the evidences in support of your statement against RTI Activists or come clear on the issue!

(The author is Chairman J&K RTI Foundation)