Saturday, October 12, 2013

Of 27 persons hacked to death for using the RTI tool, four were from Gujarat alone: Campaigners

By Our Representative
The Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), the state’s premier Right to Information (RTI) campaign body, has expressed dismay over the fact that during the last eight years, as many as 27 RTI whistle blowers were hacked to death all over India, out of which four were from Gujarat. Those who were killed in Gujarat after fighting for their rights under RTI were -- Vishram Dodiya,Amit Jethva, Jabardan Gadhvi, Nadeem Saiyyad. Suggesting that this is a “poor record” for a state which calls itself progressive, a presentation on the eighth anniversary of the RTI Act said, in the country as a whole over 155 whistle blowers were “brutally attacked” in India but survived, of which 24 such attacks took place in Gujarat.
Talking with newspersons in Ahmedabad on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the Act, which they said has “helped marginalized sections of India bring in major changes in their life by seeking information from government sources on disbursement under different schemes promulgated from time to time for their benefit”, MAGP campaigners, Harinesh Pandya and Pankti Jog, also regretted that the Gujarat Information Commission has lately begun to show lack of transparency.
“The Gujarat Information Commission website had put up details of the cases pending with the commission, which is the highest authority in the state to decide on RTI applications. The details were removed just a week back for unknown reasons”, the activists said, adding, “According to the information we have been able to obtain from the commission, there are around 8,800 cases still pending to be cleared by the commission. However, it is difficult to understand why couldn’t the exact number be put up on the website, with details like the number of years they are pending and the reasons for pending cases.”
When contacted, a senior commission official tried to reason that the details were “removed” because the commission was in the process of revamping the website. However, the campaigners suggested, the commission should show proactive disclosure, by which it swears. “It is unfortunate that the general administration department (GAD) of the Gujarat government should send details of implementation of the RTI Act to the commission every three months, but it never does. The commission on its part has also not asked why such indifference is there on the part of the commission.”
Significantly, this was done at a time when the Commonweath Human Rights Initiative, in its new report, "The Use of Information Laws in India",  has taken strong exception to the fact that the Gujarat Information Commission is one of the few states which have been refusing to upload their annual reports on their website. Other major states have not done it ever since 2006, when the Act became operational in all the states, are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The activists said, their latest efforts suggest that there are ways to protect the whistleblowers from brutal attacks at a time when powerful interests are refusing to part with information. “The first step could be that the applicants report to the RTI helpline 09924085000, run by the MAGP, regarding the threats, records voice complaint. It can send a fax message. This would help the RTI helpline to document the case and send details of the threat to the information commissioner, the district superintendent of police, and respective police stations with a demand to ensure protection of citizen.”
The MAGP’s next step is to guide the whistleblower to file a complaint with the police station, and also with commission under Section 18 of RTI Act. The complaint should be made in writing. “We have found that this method has been of great help and we were able to save two dozen lives in Gujarat”, the activists said, adding, “This helps the Information Commission, upon receiving complaint, to send a letter the police and the respective department, to which the RTI application has been addressed.”
This also helps the helpline to fax details to the district collector and the respective department to immediately put info into public domain. “This is followed up by the “demand to put information in public domain. If required similar RTI application are filed by the RTI activist in various parts of city, state, or country”, the activists said, adding, “At the same time, it is essential to use the social media and email information to as many persons as possible as soon as threat is received.”

List of whistleblowers killed over the last eight year:
S.No.
Name
Place
Form of attack
Probable Cause
Date
1.
Amit Jethwa
Gujarat
Shot to death
Enquiries about illegal mining that were a danger to the Gir reserve
July 20, 2010
2.
Dattatreya Patil (farmer)
Kohlapur, Maharashtra
Beaten up and slashed with swords
Filed RTI against horse trading in Kohlapur Municipal Election
May 31, 2010
3.
Vitthal Gite
Beed, Maharashtra
Killed by under the members scanner.
Exposed irregularities in a school in his village
April 21, 2010
4.
Arun Sawant 
Badlapur, Maharashtra
Shot dead
Feb 26, 2010
5.
Satish Shetty
Pune, Maharastra
Assaulted by assailants
Exposed major land scams, near Mumbai-Pune expressway
Jan 13 2010
6.
Vishram Laxman Dodiya 
Ahmadabad
 Shot dead
Sought info on illegal electricity connections in the city
Feb 11 2010
7.
Shashidhar Mishra (street vendor)
Begusarai, Bihar
Shot dead
Filed more than a 1000 petitions before his murder
Feb 14 2010
8.
Ramdas Ghadegaokar
Nanded, Maharashtra
Stoned to death
Took on the sand mafia
27th August 2010
9.
Sola Ranga Rao
Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh
Found murdered
Filed a petition on funding of the village draining system. 
April 11 2010
10.
Irfan Yusuf Qazi
Jaitapur,Mahrashtra 
Killed when his scooter was hit by a police jeep
Protested against nuclear power plant in Jaitapur
December 18, 2010
11
Nadeem Sayyad
Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Shot dead
Sought info and complaint regarding Illegal slaughter houses
5th Nov 2001

12
Shehala Masood
MP
Shot Dead
Trading of Animal Skin,organs
16th August 2011
13
Niyamat Ansari
Jerua village in Latehar district of Jharkhand.
Beaten to Death
MGNREGA
2nd March 2011
14
Jabardan Gadhvi
Kutch Gujarat
Provoked to committee suicide
Revenue Record
21St Feb 2011
15
Lalit Mehta
Jharkhand
Beaten to death
MGNREGA
15th May 2008
16
Venkatesh
Karnataka
Shot dead
Land scam
7th June 2008
17
Premkant Jha
Virar, Maharastra
Shot dead
Vasai Municipal Corporation regarding Constructive Activity
25th Feb 2012
18
Kameshwar Yadav
Jharkahand
Miurdered
Sought information on the nexus among officers, politicians, contractors and middlemen in NREGA related irrigation projects in Deori.
6th July 2008
19
Sou
Haryana


2nd October 2-11
20
S. Bhuvaneshwaran
Tamil Nadu


1st Oct 2012
21
Ramvilas Singh
Bihar


12th August 2011
22
V. Balasubramanyam
Tamil Nadu


18th Sept 2010
23
Vasudev Ediga
Udipi Karnataka


12th Jan 2013
24
Shambhu Singh
Rajasthan
Beaten brutally and then died in the hospital
(was receiving threat for last 2-3 months)
Local development work of thePanchyat
7th October 2013
25
Kumar Thakur
Bihar
Beaten to death
MGNREGA
23rd March 2013
26
Manjunath Shanmugam
Lakshmipur, UP
Shot Dead
IOC
19th Nov 2005
27
Murlidhar Jayswal
Munger, Bihar
Beaten to death
MGNREGA
23rd March 2013

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