‘Since Feb ’18, no action on violence against Bihar RTI activists’

"When I sought information of the status of cases against activists, I was told that 184 of 213 cases have been disposed of. But I was not told what action was taken against officials and people responsible for harassing them,” said RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai.

There have been 213 cases of violence and harassment against Right to Information activists in Bihar in the past decade with no action taken on the 21 cases filed in the last two years, an activist has said citing an RTI reply.

Nagrik Adhikar Manch convenor and leading RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai, 55, who has filed over 500 queries since the Act came into being, told The Indian Express: “When I sought information of the status of cases against activists, I was told that 184 of 213 cases have been disposed of. But I was not told what action was taken against officials and people responsible for harassing them.”

Most of the 21 cases, lodged between February 2018 and September, are related to panchayat-level schemes, paddy procurement by Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS), MNREGS and appointment of primary and secondary school teachers. Also, since 2008, 17 RTI activists have been killed, said Rai, citing information received from the state Home Department.

As per a Home Department order, all cases of atrocities against RTI activists must be disposed of within a month and an SP must a look into each matter. The order had said that if there is a complaint against the SP, the Inspector-General of Police must look into it.

A case filed by Rai is among the pending ones. The activist, who had complained against the Buxar SP for allegedly “misbehaving” with him in 2017, said that even after the matter reached the DGP’s level, no action had been taken.

Another pending case is that of 70-year-old Girish Gupta of Begusarai, allegedly beaten by block-level employees in May 2020. Gupta said: “I was badly beaten up by government employees at my home during lockdown. Even though I can barely walk because of geriatric problems, I faced a case of lockdown violation. Local cops and officers were incensed at my RTI query on whether they mention expenses of ads they get published on their birthdays in their IT returns.”

In a case which had made headlines, a Buxar RTI activist’s minor son was charged under the Arms Act and put inside the adults’ jail in February because the father had sought details on paddy purchase by PACS in the last eight years. The minor was released on bail after The Indian Express published a report on this in September.

Bihar Additional Secretary (Home) Amir Subhani told The Indian Express: “Now that pending RTI cases have been brought to my notice, the department will look into it”.

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