■ Pushpa Devi, a homemaker-turned-panchayat representative of Baridih block, Bokaro, used Right to Information (RTI) Act to stop illegal sale of government land
■ Vijay Yadav, a ward councillor of Koderma, ensured through RTI Act that private English-medium schools adhered to Right to Education Act provisions and enrolled poor students under reservation
■ Mukesh Rajak, a youth from Madhupur block, Deoghar, used the RTI Act to expose MGNREGS irregularities
Ranchi, Sept. 8: They are not exactly city slickers. But a small band of men and women across small district towns and villages of Jharkhand is using the RTI Act to demand answers, slay graft and usher in change.
Jharkhand RTI Forum, an outfit that promotes use of RTI for public good, will felicitate 16 persons, including Pushpa, Vijay and Mukesh, at a function in Ranchi tomorrow for using the sunshine Act to expose irregularities and ensure transparency (see box).
Pushpa, a panchayat samiti member of Baridih, Bokaro, who took on the powerful land mafia in Bokaro and saved 99 acres of government land, recounts her experience.
“A year ago, brokers who had occupied government bandobasti (read settled) land started selling them off. So, poor legal settlers were getting heckled and pushed off. I used the RTI Act to get details and learnt that land brokers were eyeing 99 acres in Barkabandh, Bahdurpur in Bokaro. They even sold off three acres. I rallied people to speak up against this. The block administration later cancelled registration and lodged an FIR against land brokers. They will now be arrested,” she said.
Vijay said he was shocked when in April-May this year, he visited six private English-medium schools. “Not one had complied with the provision of RTE Act that directed admission of poor children,” he said.
“I filed an RTI application with Koderma sadar block to find out how many poor children have been admitted in compliance with the RTE Act. When schools learnt about my RTI, they started admitting poor children. Now, some 150 needy children are on the rolls of English-medium schools,” Vijay said, adding he studied only upto Class X.
He added he also used RTI to secure information on why homes of over 150 fishermen were left unfinished for some two years by block authorities. “The homes were finally completed,” he grinned.
Mukesh’s experience involved fighting for public good in the face of mudslinging.
The 21-year-old of Bherwa panchayat in Deoghar’s Madhupur block, used RTI to expose irregularities in MGNREGS. “I wrote a RTI application to Madhupur block, asking details of different MGNREGS works were undertaken during the year and their status,” said the youth.
What he faced was unexpected. “The corrupt officials used a rozgar sevika of Bherwa panchayat, one Vandana Kumari, and got an FIR lodged against me saying I am teasing her. I used RTI again to expose how she showed she stayed in Bherwa for official work but actually go to Dumka for her B.Ed course in SP College there. Now, her name has been struck off from the college and process of her removal from MGNREGS post is underway,” Mukesh said.
If most used the RTI Act for public good, Sanjit Kumar Chandra of Nirsa, Dhanbad, another awardee, used it to ensure justice for himself.
“I was confident I had done well in Jharkhand Public Service Commission exam for civil judge (junior division) but my name didn’t figure on the final list. I used the RTI to see my answer copy from the Commission. I had bagged 72 marks but it was shown as 68. Jharkhand High Court intervened, the mistake was rectified, and I’m waiting for my appointment,” Sanjit said.
“We want to encourage the common man and woman, particularly youths, to use the RTI Act and point out the loopholes in the functioning of public schemes. We are also focusing on awarding panchayat representatives who strengthen grassroots democracy,” Vishnu Rajgaria, secretary of Jharkhand RTI Forum, said.