RTI activism: A few fearless, good people

An RTI activist was fatally shot in Mumbai, a grim reminder of the grave danger that the crusaders against corruption face. The government must wake up and provide protection to them

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Rahul Dass | October 17, 2016


#Transparency   #governance   #RTI   #RTI Act   #cabinet secretariat   #CIC   #Right to Information  


Bhupendra Vira, a 60-year old RTI activist, was killed in cold blood in Mumbai. His chilling murder shows the severity of threat faced by RTI activists across the country, with those being exposed not hesitating to go to any extent to silence the voice that exposes corruption.

Vira’s RTI applications had targed a former corporator over alleged illegal constructions and he was killed barely hours after a Lokayukta order for demolition of four of the corporator’s properties.

“The government should take strong action over Vira’s killing,” Anjali Damania, who was formerly with the Aam Aadmi Party and has vociferously spoken out against corruption, told Governance Now.

“Vira had in the past sought police protection, which had been provided for sometime but later withdrawn. Enough is enough. The RTI activists should be looked after by the government as they put their lives at stake,” she said.


Read:  RTI --Signs of regressive forces at work


RTI activists have been harassed, assaulted and even bumped off, yet the voice against corruption has only grown stronger over the years. The civil society is acutely aware of the disastrous impact of corruption on the body politic.

Take the case of journalist Sandeep Kothari whose killing in 2015 prompted director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, to urge an investigation. “I condemn the killing of Sandeep Kothari. I call on the authorities to investigate this crime and bring its perpetrators to trial. This is essential for journalists to be able to go on informing public debate for the benefit of Indian society as a whole,” said Bokova.

Kothari had exposed illegal mining and land grabbing in Madhya Pradesh and he used RTI to get information on his subjects. He was beaten, abducted and then burned alive.
 
Read: India ranks 4th on list of countries with strongest RTI laws

RTI activists have been rightly demanding for tightening of the laws and have repeatedly sought protection. The government needs to actively look into the safety of the RTI activists so that those who are risking their lives to take on powerful people do not pay the ultimate price of death.

Even the whistle blowers protection (amendment) bill which provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants needs to be urgently taken up. The Lok Sabha had passed it on May 13, 2015.

Read:  The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015


Vira’s killing should be taken as a wake-up call so that people who are doing a good thing for the society are not bumped off. Those who are campaigning against corruption are a rare breed of people who believe that they can make a significant contribution to society by rooting out corruption. They must be protected as they are the ones who are bravely moving ahead despite staring at death.

Read: The RTI Act

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