Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RTI campaign reveals tribal woman waited for three months to get her thumb impression approved

RTI on Wheels in a tribal area of Banaskantha
By Our Representative
Do the tribal people of Banaskantha district in Gujarat have to face official indifference towards getting simple formalities done for getting their subsidized ration from fair price shops? It would seem so, if impressions gathered during the latest campaign by the premier Gujarat body propagating the right to information (RTI), Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), are any indication. Currently on a tour of Gujarat’s eastern tribal belt for making RTI popular, the MAGP found exactly this when the RTI on Wheels reached the mamlatdar office at Bhabhar taluka in Banaskantha district, where tribals live.
Narrating one such experience, Pankti Jog, the activist who is leading the MAGP campaign, said, “It was 10:30 am, yet there was no one was in the office. The security personnel told us that all the saheb would reach the office about an hour late -- 11:30 am. To make use of our time, we went to the bus stand and decided to do a short outreach programme.”
“By the time we came back, we could see one of the two officials had come to office and were on sitting their chair. As they recognized us, chairs were offered to us, tea was ordered. One of them said, for some reason, they were a little late, though this was not the case generally”, Jog said, adding, “Meanwhile, we noticed one lady waiting outside the cabin of the deputy mamlatdar (food and civil supplies). She was sitting on the floor, while her son, around 14 years of age, was standing with two papers in his hand.”
Jog said, “I asked her what work she had in the office. She replied that her husband had migrated to another district, hence she was not getting her ration. The reason offered to her was that the husband’s thumb impression was required. She complained to us that she was not getting ration for the last three months as her thumb impression was not taken by the computer. She came to the office several times with the request to allow her to get ration and certify her thumb impression. Yet, no one was listening to her.”

Real face of voluntary disclosure under RTI
“This made me to turn to the official, and ask him to look into her problem. Looking at my camera, she was asked to be seated on the chair. A simple piece of information about how she could add her thumb impression to the computer data to access her public distribution system (PDS) ration was given to her after three long months! If we were not there, she might have been asked to pay Rs 50 or Rs 100 to do the job”, the activist said.
“Two days after the incident we got a phone call, and she was so happy. Finally she was able to get her ration! Who was this woman? One might wonder. Does that really matter? Name her as Bhikhiben, Kamuben or Somaben… She is one of the faces among thousands who have been denied ration! Gujarat has heavy migration ratio. People migrate when there are no local livelihood options. This period if very crucial, and families experience food insecurity. It is time when the government becomes more proactive to ensure families get their PDS quota”, Jog pointed out.
The RTI caravan, which she claimed was “getting very good response” and was also leading to “amazing impact” in the tribal area, was helping people connect with the RTI, motivating them to file RTI for seeking accountability from the government, she said, adding, "The RTI on Wheels visited government offices to checked the status of disclosures, discussed issues with officers, and gave them inputs on RTI”.
The Bhabhar mamlatdar office, interestingly, was found not following the RTI rules, which make voluntary disclosures mandatory. “As per section 4 of the RTI Act, information needs to be proactively disclosed – disseminated. A notice board was put inside the office (as seen in the photograph), but no information was provided on it, and Bhabhar was no exception,” Jog said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am aware of high credibility and the effective work being done under RTI Act by MAGP and many activist group. We must support them in whatever manner we can. One suggestion- some local volunteers at the village level and Taluka level may be trained to help the local needy people and if any problems, report to MAGP. Virani