By Manzar Bilal, TwoCircles.net,
It was a good step by UPA government in 2005 when it introduced Right to Information (RTI) Act as it gave a ray of hope to millions of citizens seeking transparency and accountability in government. Four years down the line, have citizens got real fruits of the Act? Yes, but not fully, says Mrs Perveen Amanullah, president, Bihar Suchna Adhikar Munch, in an interview with Manzar Bilal of TwoCircles.net on the 4th anniversary of RTI.
RTI Act completed its four years. How do you think people benefited from this act during these years?
Of course, lots of people have got benefits by RTI in the country. Though I have been actively involved in social work since 2002 in Delhi, but two years ago when I came Patna, I started to work for public welfare by using RTI Act. We can show you the record of thousands of people whose cases we solved and they got their rights by the virtue of this act.
Mrs Perveen Amanullah, president, Bihar Suchna Adhikar Munch
The most famous work of us in Patna which hit the news headlines and angered the government officials was the case of Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). There was corruption everywhere in the hospital. Patients had to pay for every little and big work. But when we used RTI against these corrupt doctors, nurses and workers, though after a big battle, they had to give up their activities and now situation at PMCH is normal.
There are many cases in which applicants were turned away, harassed, sometimes put behind bar and charged with criminal cases. What do you say about it?
Yes, I know that only to avoid exposure of their involvement in corruption, officials of several departments tear down applications and threat applicants. Currently, we have received 40 complaints from several parts of the state which say that people were booked with false criminal cases such as murder, attempt to murder and rape only because they used RTI. This is very dangerous trend in a democratic India. But even though we should not give in to these corrupt officers, on the contrary we should use this in more numbers and continue our efforts.
What should be done to curb this problem?
We and some other social organizations working in this field are demanding the government to take some necessary steps for effective implementation of RTI. Guilty officers should be punished, so that rights of citizens can be saved.
How much Muslims are interested in using RTI?
I am sorry to say that Muslims are not interested in using RTI. We Muslims are facing many problems in the country and we are the most backward community. Of course political parties and government officials have been neglecting us, but we should also examine that what we ourselves have done for us. This is a democratic country; we should fight for the cause of our rights being in the limitation of Indian constitution. We can solve most of the problems by using RTI. Instead of abusing others we should act for our rights.
But it seems that we are happy with our problems. Therefore, we are behind all other communities in taking benefit of RTI as we are in other fields.
What do you plan for spreading awareness about RTI?
Media can play an important role for creating awareness among all deprived people about RTI. So they should do their work as much as they can. As far as we are concerned we are holding awareness program time to time and we are always ready to attend the related programs. We are going to hold programs at district level to make awareness about RTI and also to hand over memorandums to district magistrates about people's problems.
What is your massage for the people?
I humbly request all depressed people that constitution has given them a means in the form of RTI by which they can solve their problems. They should not be prey of any street leaders who might grab a big amount of money in the name of their works. On the contrary they should use RTI without any hesitation for any kind of problem.
(About the interviewee: Mrs Perveen Amanullah is wife of Bihar's principal secretary for home, Mr. Afzal Amanullah. An eminent social activist in the state, Mrs Amanullah has been working for rights of people for years using RTI Act.)
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Muradpur, Patna, Bihar.