A man of many RTIs V Madhav’s petition prompted HC to set aside a govt order giving blanket exemption to the vigilance dept from the RTI ambit. It’s the latest win for the activist who has filed 250-odd RTI applications since he took up the crusade Jeeva | TNN Chennai: He’s filed over 250 applications under the right to information (RTI) act in the last two years — and V Madhav has obtained many landmark orders from the state and central information commission. The latest of these is Tuesday’s Madras high court ruling that the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption will come under the purview of the RTI act though the state government had exempted it earlier.
“I saw the success stories on Arvind Kejriwal’s website explaining how the RTI act could be effectively utilised even for issues like getting ration cards, patta and electricity connections without delays or bribes,” says the 29-year-old who worked as a software professional with Infosys until May 2006, when he decided to turn into a full-time RTI activist. So, Madhav gave up a monthly salary of Rs 25,000 and joined the Association for India’s Development, an NGO in Royapettah, for just Rs 7,000 a month.
“Arvind Kejriwal’s website inspired me to file RTI applications. But the scope of the act is much more in ensuring transparency in governance,” he says. A couple of months ago, Madhav was in the news for stopping the car of a district judge on Poonamallee High Road as the vehicle had a red light on its roof. Though Madhav was detained by the police for a couple of hours, it finally turned out that the judge, as per rules, could not use a beacon on his car.
When Southern Railway demanded that he pay Rs 750 as salary and allowance to its employees so that they could reply to his RTI application in 2008, Madhav took up the issue with the central information commission, which quashed the railway’s demand and directed it to provide information.
Last year, Madhav used the act to get the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s office to appoint a public information officer (PIO). Though the act says it’s mandatory for the CMO to have a PIO, there was no such position till he took up the issue.
He also inspected the records of several departments at the Secretariat, Chennai central prison, general hospitals and Chennai Corporation. One of his inspections in 2009 brought to light the fact that Rs 140 crore, including the huge donations received towards tsunami rehabilitation, were lying unutilised in the CM’s Public Relief Fund.
“There are many obstacles to utilising the RTI act, but it is the only legislation that had given power to the people. Even consumer laws have not empowered citizens the way RTI has,” Madhav says.