Though I had heard a lot about RTI, I had never given much thought to it. But, when my father was forced to take the help of RTI, I discovered for myself what a blessing it is for ordinary citizens of this country. As we all know, lack of transparency and accountability is one of the major reason for corruption. There are many schemes that the government and its agencies put forward for the people. Many a times, it doesn't reach the people to whom it was intended and if all it reaches them, it is only partially delivered.
Being an agriculturist in this era of labour shortage and high wages, is a tough task. Mechanization is slowly becoming the norm of the day even in the rural areas these days. As such, the agricultural departments are also promoting mechanization by providing subsides to farmers for buying various agricultural tools.
Thus, one day, my father too bought agricultural machinery (tiller) for which a 50% subsidy was announced. Upon applying for the subsidy for the same, he was given a re-imbursement amount for 25% only. As he was eligible for 50% subsidy, he went to the concerned office and asked why he was given only half of it; he was told that the scheme was valid only from a later date.
Convinced that he was given a false reason (for whatever objective) he referred to the notification of the subsidy and confirmed that he was indeed eligible for 50% subsidy and not 25% as claimed by the official. He decided to fight for what was due to him.
What followed was a lengthy battle of correspondence. My father filed an application under the RTI to know when the scheme was launched and what % was the subsidy he was eligible to receive. He got the information that he was eligible for 50% subsidy (at least a dozen letters and follow up letters were exchanged in between).
When he approached the concerned department again with the information, he was told that they came to know of the scheme only at a later date and hence he was not eligible. This was followed by further correspondence and all the lame excuses given by the officer at the agriculture office were proved wrong with the help of information received through RTI.
And, after a lengthy battle against the indifferent officers, which took more than a year, he got the copy of an order directing the office concerned to pay the balance amount due to him as per the scheme. Though the order was received a couple of weeks ago, the money has not yet been released by the office. But, since the order has been passed, we hope that it would be paid, sooner or later.
The notable factors in this whole episode are the apathy and arrogance of the concerned officer. Perhaps he thought that being a farmer, my father will think that whatever he said was true and be happy with the 25% subsidy he got. But, he was wrong. Perhaps he has not seen many farmers who are knowledgeable and ready to fight for what is rightly theirs…
It got me thinking… If my father too were an illiterate, ignorant person, he would never have got the money that was rightly his. I wonder how many poor farmers were cheated and not given the full amount due to them. Most of them would have believed the officer and gone back thinking that they were eligible for only 25% and not 50%.
This is a true story that happened in one of the smallest offices in a small town of our country… I can’t even begin to think how much corruption would be going on in other officers where poor and ignorant people are often cheated. Sadly, it is often the most deserving people who are deprived of their rights…
The silver lining is that if we can spread awareness and fight for what is truly ours, then we can bring in some changes. RTI is an important tool for common citizens of the country to claim what is theirs. And, with perseverance and relentless efforts, many a things can be achieved.
Finally, it is to be noted that RTI Act in itself cannot enforce any action. But the information received through the RTI is a powerful tool in our hands that can help us in getting constructive results from the concerned people.
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