Youth file RTI applications to enforce tobacco control laws in Lucknow

[Read the nine RTI applications filed by youth] Using Right To Information (RTI) Act in ensuring proper implementation of government health laws including tobacco control was the issue-in-spotlight at the Rights and Responsibilities Training Camp (25-31 May 2011) held at Professor (Dr) Rama Kant’s centre in Lucknow. Magsaysay Awardee and noted social activist Dr Sandeep Pandey taught city youth how to write applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to fight corruption, and to increase accountability and transparency, in implementing tobacco control laws. He also appealed to the students to take a pledge never to give or take bribe.

Dr Sandeep Pandey drafted a sample RTI application. The application has to be addressed to Public Information Officer (PIO) 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 money order. Students don't have to go to the offices concerned because they can also send the application through registered post, said Dr Sandeep Pandey.

Every participating youth then wrote a real RTI application on some violations of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, demanding action from appropriate government authorities.

The 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.

The youth asked Public Information Officers (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, why children and young people are selling tobacco or can buy tobacco when law bans it, and likewise.

The Rights and Responsibilities Training Camp was organized jointly by Citizens for Healthy Lucknow campaign, Indian Society Against Smoking, Asha Parivar, Abhinav Bharat Foundation (ABF) and CNS.