“When we don’t get ration, what do we do with information?”
Sometime in 2005, proper after the implementation of the Right to Information Act, activist Anjali Bhardwaj was holding an consciousness camp at a Delhi slum when a lady threw this query at her.
“The question made me realise that people will have to be explained that the law will help them access not just information, but help them access their rights and dues. Gradually, as it helped them access records about ration shops, stock registers, sale registers, the corruption became apparent. They realised they can now hold ration dealers accountable,” Bhardwaj stated.
Over the years, the RTI has emerged as one of essentially the most used transparency legal guidelines globally. “Around 60 lakh RTI applications are filed annually. And this in a country where one has to contend with big ticket corruption as well as grassroots corruption,” Bhardwaj stated.
On Tuesday, the federal government of the United States named Bhardwaj amongst 12 people from internationally because the recipients of the newly-instituted Anti-Corruption Champions Award. The state division below the Biden administration made the announcement, saying the award recognises those who braved adversity to defend transparency and fight corruption.
Founder of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a residents’ platform working to carry transparency and accountability in governance, Bhardwaj hopes that the award will assist draw consideration to lapses such because the absence of guidelines holding up the implementation of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 for seven years.
“Since 2005, over 80 RTI activists have been killed for raising questions. Recently, we had gathered in Odisha to observe the first death anniversary of RTI activist Ranjan Das. Whistleblowers like him who have uncovered corruption in housing schemes, PDS and other social security schemes using RTI keep asking for protection. A law is really necessary for them,” she stated.
Bhardwaj studied on the LSR school, Delhi faculty of Economics and the Oxford University, earlier than beginning her journey as a transparency activist round 20 years again. She stated the award is a “recognition of the collective effort of people and groups across the country who hold power to account”.
“The award also comes at a time when those who ask questions, whether on corruption or human rights excesses, are facing attacks. There are attacks on instruments through which people seek transparency. The RTI Act was amended for the first time in 2019 and it significantly weakened the independence of the information commissioners. The commissions also remain headless and appeals and complaints languish. These are major challenges,” she stated.