Thursday, September 27, 2007

My first RTI success

About 6 months back, Chandrika (who used to work with me in AID India) had gone to a village called Vada Iluppai in Vembakkam block of Thiruvannamalai district. There she met a widow who was had to get her widow pension but till then had not, for various reasons. She also told Chandrika that she had already given an application to the VAO (Village Administrative Officer) after giving him some money but nothing has happened yet. Then the second time, I had also gone there with Chandrika and we were discussing what was to be done. We always had RTI at the back of our minds, but we thought let us file a fresh application. So we got a new one purchased, filled up necessary details after consulting with an official in Vembakkam BDO (Block Development Office). We had taken the signature of the Panchayat leader, which was necessary, took a medical certificate and a photo and then went to the Cheyyar Taluka Office (Widow Pension Applications are dealt only at Taluka offices). While we were doing this another woman approached us for the same help and so we decided to help both of them. We filed the applications and we were promised that this application would be looked at in one month and would be acted upon suitably. Then started the repeated trips to the taluka office. After a month, there was no news. The procedure for sanctioning would involve a visit for checking the validity of the application and whether the person deserves it. Even this had not happened in one month. We went back but things did not move. After that Chandrika moved to Rajasthan. I visited them a couple of times. In between the official changed. So this new official blamed the old official and again told me that he would complete the procedure within two weeks. Again nothing happened. I visited again. This time he gave me the contact number of the Revenue Inspector (who actually does the checking) and asked me to contact her. By this time I had decided, that I must use RTI. So I came back to Chennai and sent an RTI application. They refused to accept the courier and it returned. So I went again. I wanted to find out why it was returned. I was told by the person in despatch, that But I had mis-typed Cheyyar as Seiyar and hence it was returned. They told me that this looked like Seiyur (which is another Taluka). But I explained to them that Cheyyar is in Thiruvannamalai district, but Seiyur is in Kanchipuram district. And I had clearly mentioned the district name. If that was not sufficient, I had also given the phone number of the office correctly. The person there couldnt answer much. Then I personally filed the RTI on that day and got an acknowledgment. And this was on 29th Aug 2007. I received a phone call on 26th Sep 2007 from the Tahsildar himself, to tell me that both the people were found deserving and hence Pension has been sanctioned and that they will receive their first pension on Oct 1st 2007. He was very courteous and asked me about what I was doing. And that it was very good that the NGO I was working in is working in Education etc etc. Today I received a letter saying the pensions have been sanctioned. This is within one month of filing the RTI.

As RTI has always been meant to bring about a change, I count this as my first success with RTI. I have received information before from Public Authorities, but this is the first time there is a direct visible benefit of RTI.

In another village, while I was doing an RTI awareness session in a village, I had helped a person file an RTI on his ration card applicatin. It has been 2 months since then. I need to follow up on that next.

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