The RTI story: a saga of struggle

Moment to cherish:‘The RTI Story: Power to the People’ being released at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur.Special Arrangement

Moment to cherish:‘The RTI Story: Power to the People’ being released at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur.Special Arrangement  

Rural community activists, retired bureaucrats, academicians, theatre artistes and members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) recollected the long and arduous struggle, which had originated in Rajasthan, for right to information at the launch of the book, ‘The RTI Story: Power to the People’, in Beawar and Jaipur last week.

The Chang Gate at Beawar in Ajmer district was the spot that witnessed a 40-day-long dharna in 1996 for transparency in governance. The book launch ceremony at ‘dharna sthal’ near the gate evoked nostalgia for the participants who had played a key role in taking forward the demand for enactment of the RTI Act.

The book, narrating the story of how ordinary people came together and fought against odds, has been authored by social activist and Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy with the MKSS Collective. Its formal launch in the rustic environs, away from the glitter of big cities, impressed the passers-by who joined the event in large numbers.

Call to citizens

In Jaipur, the 375-page book was launched on Saturday at Jawahar Kala Kendra, the hub of cultural activists and artistes, with a call made to the citizens at large to come together once again to defend democracy at the present juncture. Speakers recalled the RTI movements initial phase when getting information from panchayats was a big challenge.

Ms. Roy said she had put together the stories about people who had made selfless contributions to ensure enactment of the extraordinary RTI legislation. “This book is the result of collective efforts of innumerable people who have fought against corruption and challenged arbitrary power. If we wish to keep our democracy alive, each citizen needs to ask questions from the powers that be today,” she said.

RTI activist Nikhil Dey said the legislation was the joint outcome of people’s participation and the positive role of newspapers. He cautioned the civil society against the attempts being made to weaken the RTI Act and dilute the concept of the government's accountability.

The participants sang Rajasthani folk songs which were composed during the dharnas held in Beawar, Jaipur and elsewhere. The book was described as a narrative comprising the stories and anecdotes from which the theatres of protest, long spells on the streets and drafting of people'’ law emerged.

Among others, rural women activists Gyarsi Bai Sahariya, Naurti Bai and Sushila Devi, MKSS activists Shankar Singh and Narain Singh, Priya Kapoor of Roli Books, Kavita Srivastava’ of People's Union for Civil Liberties and journalists Narayan Bareth and unny Sebastian addressed the launch ceremony.

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