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Anti-corruption crusader soldiers on with his RTI petitions
By S. Lalitha
When a national hue and cry was raised recently over Rs 35 lakhs being spent on refurbishing two toilets at the Planning Commission’s office at New Delhi, one man responsible for throwing the spotlight on this matter was thoroughly bemused at the media’s excitement over the issue.
He goes by the name of Subhash Chandra Agrawal, India’s most famous Right to Information (RTI) activist. With over 5,000 RTI petitions filed from his small house in Chandni Chowk, this textile merchant has clearly earned the right to think lightly of this issue in comparison with other big exposes he has brought about since the RTI Act came into force in 2005.
Clearly a one-man army who is clear about his priorities in life, he turned down requests by Mr Baba Ramdev to join Mr Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption bandwagon. Political parties have also pleaded with him to head their RTI cells, which he refused. A good friend of reputed activists, including Mr Arvind Kejriwal and Ms Aruna Roy, he is quite content being on his own.
“I do not want to be attached to any group. I want to maintain my neutrality,” Mr Agrawal told ipaidabribe.com in a telephonic talk from Delhi. Along with the rock-solid support provided by his spouse, Mrs Madhu, this 62-year-old believes in going about his business of exposing ills rather quietly.
Mr Subash Chandra Agrawal captured in his house.Photo courtesy: Nai Duniya.
The most recent RTI application he has filed has sought details of all tours undertaken by Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, ever since he assumed office. “I have actually done it at the request of a few journalists, who wanted to know the information. Their attempts to get the information from the Commission met with resistance. Hence, I have decided to get it for them,” he says.
Stating that it is impossible to cherry pick his favourites among all his petitions, this mechanical engineering graduate has a soft corner for the RTI application to the judiciary, which forced judges to declare their assets as mandated by law. Mr Agrawal was also awarded the first ever RTI award presented in the country in 2009.
So what made him into such a prolific campaigner against malpractices of any form. The harassment and torture meted out to this youngster allegedly by his uncle in his childhood and youth has scarred him for life, he points out. “My hardships are my motivation to strive for a larger cause,” this fiery activist informs.
With a spate of murderous attacks taking place on RTI activists across the country, it is pretty surprising that this seasoned campaigner has not been targeted. “I am not afraid. I am fighting with the system everywhere, not against any individual. So, this automatically protects me,” opines Agrawal.
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