Saikat Dutta of The Outlook magazine and Vinita Kamte, wife of killed Mumbai police officer Ashok Kamte, are among the seven winners of this year's National RTI Awards, announced on Monday by the Public Cause Research Foundation.
The foundation also organised a ceremony to honour the 10 RTI activists who were killed this year.
The awards were decided by a jury consisting, among others, of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy; the former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma; journalist-editor Madhu Trehan; and the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh.
Mr. Dutta received the Best RTI Journalist Award for using the Right to Information Act to expose a Rs.2,500-crore scam in the export of rice. The RTI papers accessed by Mr. Dutta revealed a massive diversion and sale of rice meant for the public distribution system to countries abroad by private companies in collusion with government officials. The case has since been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Ms. Kamte used the Act to ferret out information and documents relating to the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, in which her husband and two other police officers were killed. Ms. Kamte proved through the documents that her husband died, not because of “foolishness,” as suggested in official quarters, but because of the inefficient handling of the situation by the State government.
The other awardees are Manoj Kumar Karwarsa, a school teacher from Haryana who filed RTI petitions to expose the panchayat occupation of government land in his village; Ramesh Kumar Verma, a Haryana-based activist who brought to light irregularities in the supply of medicines to government hospitals; Athar Shamsi, who fought for the rights of beedi workers in Uttar Pradesh; and Rajan Savlo Ghate, who exposed the illegal purchase of Goan lands by foreign nationals.
The winner in the Best PIO category is Pradeep Kumar, a young Block Development Officer of Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh with a sterling record in upholding transparency and handing out information.