Sunday, December 16, 2007

RTI Project updates - 2

The volunteers training that was initially scheduled for saturday(yesterday) was shifted to sunday(today). On Saturday, I conducted an RTI training for AID Chennai Full timers. About 15 people attended the training. Then there was a training for volunteers on Sunday (5 of the 7 people who initially agreed attended the meeting).

Training for AID Chennai Full timers
This training happened on saturday (15th December) went on for 2 hours. There were a lot of questions about where RTI can be used. I did this before the training for volunteers, since I thought that it can be some practice for me. Overall, the training went off pretty well. Many told me that the training was very useful and informative. One particular person said that it was very useful, though when she walked she did not have much interest. I think a good amount of that credit should go to the fact that RTI is such a wonderful tool which can have an impact on many day to day issues that individuals face, and hence when they see that such issues can be handled using RTI they are very impressed. The audience in this training was very varied. At one end there were people who had only completed 12th standard, and at the other end, there were people who had completed Masters in Social Work with a few years of experience in the development sector.
The agenda was that, for the initial 45 minutes, the basics of RTI act was explained using the presentation(that can be seen here, though I dont know how anybody can see those tamil fonts on the net. Anybody who needs a copy can mail me.). As the name suggests, this PPT is in both English and Tamil simultaneously. After the basics were discussed, I discussed with them a few RTI success stories, for them to get an idea of what kind of cases can be handled, and what kind of information can be accessed, and what is the scope of impact that the RTI can have. This went go on for about half an hour. This was a pretty interesting one, where in many questions were asked like "Can RTI help if buses are not coming on time?", "What can we do if one person who is married has ditched his wife and married somebody else. The police intervened and asked the man to pay alimony, but the man is not paying up." One person asked "Can we use RTI to speed up processing of cases with the courts". There was a lot of discussion on various issues, but public transport was a dominant theme. The final session was a mock application drafting session, wherein, I ask them to think of some issue, and then draft an RTI application to address the issue. Once the applications were ready, we asked each individual to read out their application, and then discuss what could have been done better, etc.

Training for Volunteers
On 16th December, there was a training at AID office for volunteers. 5 volunteers attended the training. The training went on for about the 2 hours. With similar agenda as the previous day. But one learning from the previous day was that, starting off with the Presentation is somewhat abrupt. So I initially gave them a quick overview of, application and appeal processes, in about 5 mins, and then started the presentation which contained the details of each of the processes.

Once the training was over, we had a discussion on how publicise our awareness session in the slums. 4 members of the chennai RTI group, who were part of the campaign in 2006 were also present. I had proposed that we should have an awareness session next saturday (22nd Dec) in one slum. So there was a general opinion that we should have a contact point in the slum before we do the awareness, as that will help them trust us. Hence, Sharadha and I decided that we will do that work during the 1st two days of the week and then decide on the slum.

Working with the commission
This week, I went to the commission, and met Mr.Dhandapani, to find out the status of my RTI application asking for the soft copies all the decisions they had made till date. Since they had not replied within 30 days, I had already filed a first appeal too. But still there was no response. So I went and met this person. He was not very keen on talking to me, since he appeared busy. He said that soft copies of the decisions will not be available for the next two months atleast. He showed me three closed cardboard boxes with computers, saying, these were yet to be opened and only after they are opened this work can be done. Today after the volunteers training, the 4 member of the ChennaiRTI group had a small meeting where we discussed what needs to be done about the commission. Then we all decided that during one of the weekdays, we will go and meet the Chief Information Commissioner (Mr.S.Ramakrishnan) and discuss this issue and arrive at a means of getting a copy of their decisions, which can later be analysed.

Email and phone Helplines
We had decided to start an email helpline and a phone helpline. The phone helpline will be open on saturdays. The phone helpline will start from next Saturday. Publicity for this will happen through emails and through the publicity posters and handouts that we will prepare for the awareness sessions. The helpline phone number is 9789819014. The email ID will be The email helpline is, of course, open right away.

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