[AI] Info act gives visually impaired their due ....Viju B I TNN

Pradeep banakar pradeepsocialwork at gmail.com
Wed Apr 2 23:08:44 EDT 2008

Mumbai: Tears of joy fill Sreeram Patankar's eyes as he recounts the long-drawn battle with the establishment, which had rejected the rightful due of 200
visually-impaired and physically-challenged Thane residents for around five years. 
Patankar, founder-trustee of the Brihanmaharashtra Apang Sadana Sangh (BAVS), was fighting a losing battle with the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), which
was delaying a proposal to allot telephone booths to hundreds of physically-challenged residents of Thane. 
But the Right to Information(RTI) Act came to the their rescue. BAVS had wanted to know why the TMC was sitting on the proposal to give the telephone booths.
State information commissioner Suresh Joshi, who heard the appeal on February 12, not only directed the TMC to provide details of the allotment of booths,
but also requested the administration to expedite the matter. 
"Within two days, the panel received a list from the TMC of 35 booths, which will soon be allotted to the physically-challenged people. It also had the
names and locations earmarked,'' Joshi told TOI. 
This, says Joshi, is a positive sign for effective implementation of the RTI Act in the long run , as the administration has woken up to the powerful role
the information act is playing in the lives of common citizens. 
In 2003, the TMC passed a resolution to allot phone booths in keeping with the 1995 directives of the urban development department to create self-employment
opportunities for physically-challenged people at the level of local bodies. 
The TMC got 436 applications of which 193 were approved. "The condition was that the person should have been a resident of Thane for 15 years,'' said Patankar.
The TMC, however, sat on the file for the next four years. "When our appeal to the TMC did not get a response, we organised a mass agitation, but even
that did not have any effect,'' Sharad Pawar, a member of the sanghatana, said. 
Last December, the TMC held an event to announce the allotments and even called the applicants to the Thane public hall. "But the event was hogwash and
nothing happened,'' Patankar said. 
The BAVS had filed an RTI query in April 2006 seeking the status of the proposal and details of the allotment. "But neither the PIO nor the appellate authority
gave adequate information and we filed a second appeal with the SIC,'' said Pawar. 
The SIC then asked the TMC to provide the status of the proposal, in accordance with the jurisdiction of the RTI Act, and urged the authorities to expedite
the matter. "The order went beyond the RTI Act's ambit as the panel considered the anguish of the hundreds of physically-challenged people who were willing
to put in hard labour but denied employment opportunities,'' said Joshi. 
WELL DONE: The RTI plea filed by Sreeram Patankar's organisation forced the Thane corporation to act on a proposal to allot phone booths to the disabled

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