| Saroj Khattry: Hope for right to information
Saroj Khettry’s 25-year-old fight for a simple piece of information is likely to end on Thursday, when his plea comes up for hearing at the state information commission.
“I have tried my best to get this information for the past so many years. Finally, I moved the commission after enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) bill and this is my last hope,” said Khettry, a 74-year-old businessman.
The hearing on the septuagenarian’s plea will mark a watershed in Bengal’s tryst with the new bill, framed to empower people with information.
“We have received 79 complaints as of now in connection with non-disclosure of information. Nearly 20 cases have been disposed of without any hearing. On October 26, we will hold the first hearing at Bhabani Bhavan,” said Arun Bhattacharjee, information commissioner.
The commission has summoned both Khettry and the principal information officer of the department of cooperation.
The quest dates back to the late 1970s, when Khettry decided to leave his flat by resigning from the cooperative society, near Purna cinema in Bhowanipore. He had paid Rs 4.47 lakh for the 850-sq-ft flat. Khettry vacated the flat as he was told that the booking amount would be returned.
“The promoter and the society did not return the money and even handed over the flat to someone else. Since then, I have been trying in vain to know the name of the owner of the flat,” said a battle-weary Khettry.
As housing cooperatives are monitored by the department of cooperation, he dashed off a series of letters that remained unanswered. Khettry’s visits to the department’s office, at the New Secretariat building, did not yield any result either. Then, he even moved court.
“Despite a favourable court order, I was not allowed possession of the flat,” said Khettry, who had lost all hope of recovering his money or the flat. Then came the RTI bill and he renewed his quest.
His letters to the cooperation department were again not acknowledged, though the law states that any applicant for information should be informed about the status within a month.
“The situation remains the same. Now, the case can be resolved if the department of cooperation names the owner of the flat,” added Khettry, who lives on Ashutosh Mukherjee Road with his wife.
The information department officials hold out the assurance of Khettry and others like him going back with a smile — and armed with the facts they have been denied so long — from the Alipore office.
“It is a new law and we are yet to start full-fledged operations. But by early next month, we will be ready to handle every query,” said information commissioner Bhattacharjee.