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After sixty years of neglect, RTI changes UP village Print E-mail

Indian Express, December 24 2007
http://www.indianexpress.com/story/19348.html

In the six decades after Independence, nothing actually worked in the Naraini block of Banda in UP’s Bundelkhand region. The villagers periodically protested against lack of civic amenities, bad roads and sub-human living conditions but no one listened. Until they discovered the Right to Information Act. Things changed in just three months.

Over 14,000 villagers in the cluster of eight villages, 60 km from Banda, were cut off from the rest of the world. There was no electricity, no road and no bridge over the two rivers that flooded this low-lying area during the rains. The nearest primary health centre is 15 km away and children have to walk 2 km to reach the primary school.

On July 1, the villages filed applications under the RTI Act to the district collectorate, Banda and to the office of the commissioner, Chitrakoot division. They sought to know the outcome of the Banda DM’s visit to their block on March 2 last year; what the DM’s orders were after the visit; and details of how the funds meant for their villages were spent.

Within a month, they got what they wanted, and more.

Work on a 7.8 km approach road and a bridge began in September, now electrification of the villages is underway. Block Development Officer of Naraini block Tejwant Singh says he joined only in August and since then he is taking “a keen interest in the development of the area.”

The push came from the people of Chandpura, with help from an NGO, Vidya Dham Samiti, a group of volunteers. They began educating the villagers about their rights in 2002. “In two years, the villagers were confident enough to raise their voice. They staged dharnas, gheraoed the commissioner and took out processions demanding their rights to have roads, bridges and electricity,” says Samiti volunteer Raja Bhaiya.

On Republic Day last year, the villagers wailed in front of the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. The unique protest brought officials to the village. But all it yielded was a survey and a plan. That was when the villagers were told about the RTI. “We have won the first round of our battle. With this weapon of RTI in hand, we will get everything done in our village without begging in front of anyone,” said Ram Awatar, a villager who along with others have formed an action group called Chingari.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 June 2007 )
 
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