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5 Big Scams exposed by the help of Online RTI Act 2005 - ₹299/- Online RTI Application

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It has been 15 years since this law came into existence. In early years of existence itself it was quite clear how powerful this law is. By just paying fee of Rs 10 you can claim access to information not just at some local government office but also to information lying at Prime Minister of India’s office. Government officers are public servants meant to serve public but that is something which is on papers only, in reality they act and behave as if they lords appointed to rule over general public.


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Times have changed and this act has provided transparency to what earlier used to happen behind the curtains under complete secrecy. People at helm have to provide the reasons for the action which they have taken, reason for the delay in public services, reason for awarding contract to a particular company and the list could be unending.

For the 20 years of existence it has empowered common people to turn into RTI activist who have not only made their lives easier using this law but also unearthed the huge scams. It is not a hidden fact that crony businesses and netas are plundering this nation and ruining the lives of its citizens. Once they get money in their bags they try to put it in safe places outside the India. This flight of wealth from India to outside is more treacherous than what it used to be during British Raj. There are also instances where tribal land was grabbed for pennies by well connected netas and then sold off to wealthy business men. Entire stretches of Aravali forests were grabbed by politico business mafia. Even matters related to defence of nation are not untouched by crooked middle men of the country.

However, it is not an easy task to bring out the information and point out gaps in due procedures and lack of transparency. It takes patient pursuing of the information through RTI applications. Good acumen to ask precise questions as well as dealing with uncooperative government officers is required. There may be instances where they may threaten to dissuade you.

We hereby take you through how the scams which shook the nation and knocked parties out of power were unveiled.

The Adarsh Scam

Where else on earth you will find people who can grab the land designated for War Widows. Adarsh housing society was setup to provide housing to the widows of soldiers who were martyred in Kargil war. In year 2008 alert citizens of the country had sensed that things did not seemed right. Using the RTI they came to know that this building had come up flouting all sorts of rules.

Originally, society which was for war widows had now flats allotted to relatives of the then chief minister of Maharashtra among others. Which was to be 6 storeys was now 31 storeys. RTI queries also revealed that The Adarsh Housing Society, had now more than 100 allottees instead of original 30 allottees during the course of 5 years of existence.

Not just bureaucrats and politicians, even top military officers were found involved in it. There were Union minister, two Army chiefs, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, a diplomat to US, top bureaucrats were among allottees of this housing society. Truly speaking when names of military officers were taken, nation lost faith in all. As if this was not enough, they building came up without taking environment clearances.

This scam was not exposed instantly but RTI activists pursued their mission not for months but for years. Officers were unwilling to give information but RTI activists were also determined not to back off. Ultimately their efforts bore fruits and allotments to all the ineligible people were cancelled and the society itself was disbanded. Several politicians including Chief Minister of Maharashtra had to resign from their posts.

2G Telecom Scam

Among many scams which happened during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure, 2G was one of them. It was mother of all scams which happened in India till date. As per one estimate by Comptroller of India (CAG) loss incurred by government of India to tune of 1.75 Lakhs crores. Listening this kind of amount, a wave of outrage went throughout India and thus laid path of removal of Congress party from corridors of power and that remains a case till date.

In 2011, spectrum was to be allocated to for rollout of 2G services by telecom companies of India. Telecom ministry led by A Raja was to handle this entire process in free and fair manner, however, what unfolded was behind the scene deals of dubious nature between corrupt politicians, bureaucracy and crony business men. It was alleged that bribes amounting Rs 2000 crores were paid.

In uncovering this scam, RTI activists played a key role. RTI activists applied for information with various authorities revealed about communications between A Raja and Solicitor General of India and Prime Minister of India. Voluminous information running into hundreds of pages was supplied to applicants. They surfed through those pages and pointed out gaps in the allocation processes and opaqueness involved.

Soon, scandal blew out in media of the country. There was storm in the parliament where government was unable to defend itself. As this was not enough, soon CAG released its estimates of loss and there was outrage in the whole country and paved the way of decimation of Congress party.

A Raja along with Kanimozi (daughter of M Karunanidhi) and many others were sent to jail and remained there for months to come. However, its another thing that none of them got convicted. Finally, Supreme Court cancelled all the 122 licences allotted to the respective allottees.

Commonwealth Games Scam

Some say that integrity is a commodity in India. Things here are such that there is hardly any government scheme or project where controversies and allegations of corruption are not levelled. However, Commonwealth Games scandal was such that it invited bad name to the whole country in international community. In year 2010, India was to host Commonwealth Games in nations capital Delhi. Athletes of 54 countries were to participate in these games.

Suresh Kalmadi- MP and Sheila Dikshit- Chief Minister of Delhi were heading the preparations. However, team of observers from overseas found gaping holes in preparation for games. Just a few days ahead of games, infrastructure was not ready. Stadiums were still getting ready. Housing for athletes were filthy and just not liveable. Roads were still being brought to the standard. As a last option a lane was dedicated on right hand side of all the designated roads in Delhi for passing of CWG vehicles only.

A new thing called Aerostat – a giant helium balloon – was to be introduced. A sort of screen suspended in air where images related to Indian culture were to be beamed. A lot of controversies and allegations were associated with this as well. It was procured from a foreign company at exorbitant cost of 40 crores. What was use of it once the games were over? Rot in junkyard. Equipment procured from foreign companies for other aspects of the games was also marred by corruption charges.

To maintain false impression that games were being held at sanctioned money, funds from other sources were diverted. Ultimately, in 2011 Mr Kalmadi was arrested under corruption charges. Outrage was such that despite doing a lot to improve infrastructure in Delhi and introducing world class Metro rail and flyovers, Sheila Dikshit government did not survive and was decimated in coming elections. She had ruled over Delhi for 15 years and her work was appreciated by all.

A big credit goes to RTI activists in unearthing Commonwealth games scam. RTI activists had filed applications and dug out the information that amounts worth Rs 750 crores had been diverted from funds earmarked for welfare of Scheduled Castes.

It was also found by the RTI activists that many of projects were completed on paper and no actual work was done on ground. It was thus proved that there was not only shoddy work done but also large scale corruption in the preparations of CWG.

Indian Red Cross Society Scam

Rot in Indian system is not only systemic but systematic also. In India it is not politicians who are target of charges of corruption but bureaucracy is equally part of the blame game. RTI activists unravelled the fact government Babus were siphoning crores of rupees from funds meant for Kargil war relief and those affected by natural disasters.

It was found out by RTI activists that babus who were handling these funds were using them to buy goods of luxury and personal comforts. Items bought included ACs, refrigerators, cars, mobiles phones and list goes on.

Soon, this scam was busted and funds were confiscated and deposited with Prime Minister’s office. Also, action was initiated against the guilty IAS officers.

An upcoming University In Orissa

Vedanta Group specialising in mining and metals decided in 2006 to start a world class university on Puri Konark highway in Odisha. This group is based in London, United Kingdom. This university was proposed to be set up on 6000 acres of land. Odisha government under chief ministership of Naveen Patnaik granted this much of land. However, like many other deals, corruption cast its shadows on this project also. Consent was not taken from the farmers who owned the land.

They filed RTI applications and got this fact on paper from government that government did not consult Farmers nor asked for their consent before acquiring land from them. Government’s order was challenged in the High Court and all the documents were presented. Apart from objections of farmers, state government also flouted environment laws in allocating land.

Considering all the objections High Court cancelled this acquisition of land and restored it to original owners of it. This whole episode depicted how governments can ignore interests of millions to satisfy greed of a few controversial projects and business. Environment is something which not of interest to particular community or species but is collective wealth of our planet and few can keep their personal interests before them.

Coal Scam

Then Prime Minister was holding additional charge of Coal Ministry. At that time coal blocks were allotted to different corporate entities. However, process was not transparent and lot of dubious deals were conspired behind the curtains in the corridors of power. While the ideal situation would have been the one in which all corporates should have been invited for bidding and the highest bidder should have been awarded but this was not the case. Just like 2G allocation this was riddled with charges of corruption.

Those who were concerned about the environmental and economic impact of this whole activity raised their voice. They started filing RTI applications and came to know how rules were being flouted and a few selective entities were being allotted coal blocks all for free. Soon opposition parties grabbed the opportunity to expose the wrong doings of the government.

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) prepared its report and tabled it in Parliament. As per report, CAG estimated the loss caused to government to tune of 18 lakh crores. There was uproar in the Parliament and functioning of it was stalled. It could function only for 7 days out of session of 20 days. Prompted by these CBI investigated for the possibilities of corruption involved. Finally, matter reached Supreme Court of India and all the allocation of all the coal blocks where production had not started were cancelled. Few top executives of the big corporate houses were sent to jail for varying terms of rigorous imprisonment.

FAQs...

Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 is an Act passed by Parliament on India authorising people to ask questions and seek information from government officers about public and their own personal matters

Anyone who is citizen of India can file RTI Application and seek information and answers to his questions

All central and state government ministeries, departments, public sector companies, public sector banks, police etc are covered under this act. However, certain information related to defence forces and foreigh policy is barred from disclosure.

Fee for filing RTI Application with central government is Rs10/- and is free for those who are below poverty line. However, State governments charge fee variating from Rs 10 to Rs 50. Apart from this if the information asked is voluminous then department may ask you to pay Rs 2 per page of information supplied. However, you can take photos of the pages instead of taking photocopies.

You can seek status report of your PF withdrawal application, status of you Passport, seek copies of your Marksheets, copy of FIR filed by you, case status in court, Income tax matters etc.

You seek status and information related to bad roads, ill maintained parks, poor sanitisation and upkeep of drains, bad construction of building or infrastructure, absence of teachers in schools and list is endless

There are numerous examples wherein anti corruption activists have uncovered major scandals like Coal scam, 2G scam, MP LAD scam, Red Cross society scam and so on.

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