Empowering young people with Right-to-Information (RTI)

[हिंदी] [Photo] Enforce tobacco control laws by using RTI
Using Right To Information (RTI) Act in ensuring proper implementation of government policies including those in tobacco control was the issue-in-spotlight at Sherwood Academy, Sector-25, Indira Nagar, Lucknow. Magsaysay Awardee and noted social activist Dr Sandeep Pandey who was the Chief Guest, taught students how to write applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to fight corruption, and to increase accountability and transparency. He also appealed to the students to take a pledge never to give or take bribe.

"It is apparent that mostly it is the educated people who indulge in corruption vis-a-vis uneducated poor people of our country. Most of the big scams are not possible without the connivance of highly educated officers" said Dr Sandeep Pandey. "This is all the more reason why it is important for young students to be sensitive to issues like corruption and think of social welfare instead of just their own interests in their future life" said Dr Pandey.

Sharing examples with Dr Sandeep Pandey of corruption faced by them in their daily lives, students said that schools charge 'donation fees' at the time of admission, government officers ask for bribe for issuance of birth certificate, they pay bribe to traffic police when caught driving vehicles without a valid license or helmet or being underage, among others. On the last traffic police example, Dr Pandey explained that it is not only the fault of traffic police, because they will rightfully stop students because they are underage to drive vehicles - it is also the fault of the bribe givers. So corruption can only be decimated if we don’t give or take bribe. Also these young people will grow up tomorrow and hold offices where people may come to give bribe and seek favours - that is why commitment against corruption from the youth is so key for a healthy society.

Dr Sandeep Pandey then drafted a sample RTI application and every participating student wrote a real RTI application on some issue affecting their lives. The application has to be addressed to Public Information Officer (PIO) of the relevant government department and must state that the information is being sought under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Every RTI application has to be filed with a fee of Rs 10 which can either be paid in cash or sent through a postal order. RTI applicants should mention the number of postal order or Rs 10 currency note in their application. Students don't have to go to the offices concerned because they can also send the application through registered post, said Dr Sandeep Pandey.

One student wrote a RTI application to Nagar Nigam asking why the garbage is lying in front of his house in Indira Nagar, what action has been taken against those responsible for removing garbage, and by when this garbage will be removed. Another student wrote RTI application on garbage lying inside a government hospital.

Bobby Ramakant said: "Tobacco kills, don’t be duped! Most of the tobacco addiction begins below age of 18 years, and therefore young people should see the real face of tobacco which is diseased and deadly, and realize how deceptive tobacco promotion can be! Use your wisdom and choose life, not tobacco."

Bobby Ramakant said: "Cigarette and other tobacco products Act (COTPA) 2003 is one of the most comprehensive tobacco control laws in the world, and India has also ratified the global tobacco treaty (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – FCTC). We can use RTI Act, 2005, to demand enforcement of tobacco control and public health laws."

Bobby Ramakant said: "Ask Public Information Officer (PIO) of relevant departments why there is a tobacco-retail shop within 100 yards of educational institution when COTPA 2003 prohibits sale of tobacco within 100 yards of any educational institution, why people are smoking in public places, how many have been fined for smoking in public places under COTPA and likewise."

Rahul Kumar Dwivedi, 25 years, a resident of D-block Indira Nagar, Lucknow, has sent a RTI application today by registered post on compliance of COTPA 2003 to PIO, Health Department, UP government asking why tobacco retail shops are there within 100 yards of educational institutions, who is responsible to remove these shops from within 100 yards of educational institutions, by when these shops be removed from within 100 yards of educational institutions and how much fine has been collected by violators of ban on smoking in public places in UP.

Let's hope young people continue to take up cudgels against corruption for a better tomorrow.

Published in:
Citizen News Service(CNS), India/Thailand
CNS Tobacco Control Initiative, India
The States Times, Jammu & Kashmir
Elites TV News, California, USA