An Ongoing Investigation
Sabrang Trust and
Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai
genuinely participative democracy, adult citizens should have access to
information on policy and budget that affect especially a citizen͊ Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination, fundamental rights guaranteed
in our Constitution.
this process of accessing information, citizens can then participate
more directly in the administration and governance of society. Any
democratic society that has had to adopt a representative parliamentary
system, combined with principles of the de-centralised exercise of
power, needs to put systems in place that go beyond simple electoral
democracy. While elections and the representatives that this exercise of
the fundamental right to franchise throws up the majority people͊ choice of candidates who represent them in legislatures and Parliament,
the nitrty gritty of everyday governance is controlled by a vast and
sprawling bureaucracy. Termed the 䥥l frame of Indian democracy
founding fathers of the Indian republic, decades of non transparent
functioning combined with a culture of impunity have rendered policies
and decisions made by those in power, out of the knowledge of each
Panchayati Raj, the Consumer Protection Act and especially the Right to
Information Act of 2005 have attempted to change the accountability
patterns substantially. While each Indian, rich or poor, woman or man,
regardless of the caste, community, tribe or gender she belongs to is
yet to see the fair and equitable right to life and livelihood, the
existence of the RTI Act since 2005 has certainly made key aspects of
governance more transparent.
law of 2005 has enabled any citizen to question decisions and policies
and their implementation by different wings of government. After a
prolonged grassroots level agitation by civil rights activists, the
central government enacted the Right to Information Act in the year 2005
and the Government of Maharashtra state also passed the law in the same
year. As a result, all the information relating to administration and
governance, except classified and confidential-sensitive information
relating to national security is now available to any citizen of our
states in the country, like Chhatisgarh and Gujarat have tried to
conceal basic decisions related to crime through a circular of their
respective Home Departments. Although there is large scale ignorance
about the law and some instances of misuse by unscrupulous elements, the
law has enabled information flow from a hitherto tightlipped executive
and bureaucracy becoming a powerful instrument for individual citizens
and social and civil rights activists to access information and thereby,
through exposure and agitation, ensure greater accountability and
transparency in decision making.
Trust, with its extensive human rights documentation and work in
peace-building and its flagship programme of KHOJ, a secular education
project as also the sister organization, Citizens for Justice and Peace
dedicated to protecting civil and human rights, have been together using
various strategems to combat the scourge of communalism (the politics of
hate and division), safeguard the rights of minorities and scheduled
castes and tribes, especially women. We have been active in the field
for close to twenty years.
committed team of activists and field staff have worked hard with the
founders of the organization, to use the Right to Information Act, 2005
to access information related to communal violence, education, diversity
principles in government employment 㰥cially jobs for teachers and
policemen. Our vision and worldview has guided this effort begun
systematically since 2007. As an outcome of this sustained effort, many
in our team have now become well versed with using this law.
Disinformation, prejudice and myth is often used and spread by communal
forces, bent on dividing populations on the basis of creed and faith to
deepen the divide. Often honestly asked questions and the answers that
they elicit can and do bring answers that a) either puncture the
stereotype or b) enable pro active agitation and mobilisation for
citizenghts; c) most critically such data can effectively be used
to ensure fair and impartial governance.
2007, our dedicated cell of RTI activists has collected, collated and
analysed information pertaining to the violation of human rights, civil
rights, injustices to minorities, implementation of various schemes for
the upliftment and welfare of weaker sections. Information sought has
also pertained to equal and fair access to education in state schools
(school mapping data, ratio of drop outs, teacher student ratios),
edible mid-day meals for children and other facilities. We have
questioned local authorities on budgetary allocations for quality
education, health schemes for children attending Zilla Parishad and
municipal schools. The information so collected is used for activities
aimed at ensuring effective implementation of the policies declared by
corporations and governments but often not implemented effectively.
efforts have so far ensured that an Urdu and Marathi medium school has
been opened in Mumbra, north of Mumbai. Details of government schemes
for preschool children and womenlfare have also been accessed by
us. Women and Child Welfare budgets in states like Maharashtra announce
the establishment of Bal Gruhs and Anganwadis crucial for quality
pre-schooling, but absence of adequate information and effective
monitoring often renders these allocations meaningless.
also collected and collated information related to violations of human
and civil rights, communal violence atrocities on scheduled castes,
tribes women and minorities, communalcrimes and maintenance of jails,
police atrocities such as custodial deaths and encounters. Systematic
information sought by us on the establishment and setting up of the
State Human Rights Commissions has resulted in valuable data on the
numbers of complaints filed and their progress.
of FIRs and complaints lodged related to communal violence in different
states have thrown up interesting data that we present before you on
this unique website. Apart from brief analysis, statewide and subject
wise that will be made available, we intend to share the actual data
(scanned PDF files) to enable free access to this information that has
been collated. We shall also present brief district-wise analyses.
experience of over four years has thrown some interesting comparative
features. For example, we have observed that the implementation of Right
to Information Act, 2005 has been most unsatisfactory in states like
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. It has also been observed from a
perusal of the FIRs filed, that most of the in Uttar Pradesh instances
of communal violence were the result of direct or indirect provocation/
active involvement of rightwing forces with a majoritarian bias.
Besides, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have not responded
adequately to our requests of for providing information under the R.T.I.
Act. The usual practice is to circumvent the query, provide ambiguous
and / or misleading information, and delay in answering the questions
put or maintain a silence on the availability of the copies of the
documents requested for in support of the questions that have been put.
etc. This is an unfortunate observation we need to make. Andhra Pradesh
is also another state that has tried to delay sharing of information
using the existence of a circular of the central government. Data
collected and collated by us on the diversity profile in police
appointments was used as a sound advocacy tool with the Maharashtra
Maharashtra there appears a greater awareness about the act though
anomalies exist. In Gujarat too we have accessed detailed information
related to the 2002 violence while crime statistics are being denied
again using the existence of a Home department circular that is now
ongoing experience with this investigation has reinforced the experience
of RTI activists countrywide that access to information makes the
government more accountable. Sabrang has used its collective experience
of over two decades to use the RTI to access information on the
diversity question, rights to minorities, schedules castes, scheduled
tribes and women and girls.
invite you to use this website that has been the result of painstaking
work. Value additions to the data in terms of references to laws and
notifications, national and international ﮠvarious aspects of access
to human rights will be continually added to enable yours to be an
enriching experience. It is only when data collected by many of us
involved in the collective struggle against impunity and transparency
and accountability in governance, is shared in the public domain, that
this flow of information will lead to energetic advocacy and action.
forward to your feedback to our efforts.