Having just graduated from Class XII, Fauzia will not spend a summer day marching through central Delhi out of choice. Her mother Ruksana made it clear that the 18-year old owes her future to the cause supported by the rally — safeguarding the RTI Act.
“My daughter was part of the Ladli scheme [which supports the education of girls]. Though we had all the right papers, her name was misspelt. [The authorities] would not correct it though I ran from pillar to post. So I filed an RTI petition and made sure it got done,” Ruksana said on Wednesday.
“The RTI Act is needed. It gives a woman like me the power to question officials,” she said.
Fauzia now hopes to enrol in the Bachelor of Social Work course at Jamia Millia Islamia. The mother and daughter had come to Parliament Street as part of a large group from their neighbourhood in Trilokpuri in east Delhi to participate in a rally organised by the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) to protest the RTI Amendment Bill, 2018.
The Bill, which the Centre proposes to introduce in the monsoon session which began on Wednesday, will give it the power to set the tenure and salaries of both Central and State Information Commissioners.
NCPRI activists warned that such a move will compromise the autonomy and independence of the Information Commissions and dilute the powers of the RTI Act.
Politicians from several parties addressed the Jan Manch after the rally. Assuring the gathering that his party will oppose the amendments, Rajya Sabha Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said the BJP government was destroying every institution and legislation related to transparency and accountability.
Other political leaders who expressed their opposition to the Bill included the Trinamool Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi; Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha; Communist Party of India’s D. Raja and Atul Kumar Anjaan; and CPI (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury, said a statement issued by the NCPRI.
“It is crucial that people campaign against these attempts to dilute oversight institutions,” said Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, addressing the Jan Manch.
Off the stage, Delhi citizens and visitors from at least 10 States bore witness to the power of the RTI Act in their lives. “I have filed RTIs on behalf of several widows, who have not got the pensions promised by the government,” said Ruksana, who works as a community organiser with a local NGO.
“My mother-in-law got Rs. 32,000 after the RTI was filed,” said her neighbour Aamna.
Two women from Lal Gumbad basti in south Delhi told
how RTI petitions had ensured they got their PDS rations after changes in Aadhaar, ration cards and distribution points had disrupted their supply.
“It is an essential law. We must not lose it. That is why I have come to this protest,” said one woman.
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