Sukhvinder Singh Parihar lives in a small village in the Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh. For the past five years, the children of his village, Karora, have been waiting for a school. Parmar has been fighting to ensure that the school and other development projects in his village are completed. Helping him is the Right to Information Act.
"I keep filing requests for information on the status of various projects under RTI, but have never got the relevant information on time," he told Gaon Connection.
Thirty-five days stretch to 18 months
For every application, he has to wait for almost one-and-a-half years. This is despite the fact that according to rules, the relevant official has to provide the information sought within 35 days.
"If any official does not give the information within the stipulated 35 days, the applicant can approach the senior-most official of the concerned department. If even he does not respond, the applicant has to wait for 45 days and file a second appeal to the State Information Commission. This entire process stretches the time is taken to get information up to one-and-a-half years and even then, we often get only half-baked information," says Parihar.
Also Read: "Amendments to RTI Act will finish it"
Information costs money
Apart from the damage caused by delay, the applicant also has to bear the financial implications of repeatedly filing applications. "Just the cost of photocopying all documents, again and again, becomes a lot. According to the rules, an applicant should ideally pay only Rs 35 or Rs 40. The rules further state that if the applicant does not get the information within 35 days, then the applicant does not have to pay anything. But not only do we have to spend money, but we hardly ever get timely and complete information," he adds.
Threats and Bribes
Despite threats and bribes, Parihar has taken his quest for information to its logical conclusion. Officials who have not given him the information he sought, have been brought to book. "We have ensured that action was taken against Block Development Officers, District Supply Officers and several others. We keep getting telephonic threats and also bribes," he says.
Due to his constant RTI driven vigil on the progress of gram panchayat projects, Parihar and his family have had to face many problems. "The Pradhan has often told my father that I should take care as my activism is earning me many enemies," he says.
"No need for amending RTI"
Despite the delays in getting information, Parihar is happy with the RTI Act in its present form. "The RTI Act is good but the government is repeatedly trying to dilute it. Now, there is also a word limit of 599 words on how much information we can seek," he adds.