Anitha Ranjani Sampath shares her experience of filing an RTI

Anitha Ranjani Sampath, a power systems engineer in Bangalore and a volunteer with Hasiru Usiru’s (HU) Namma Raste Namma Ooru and Namma Metro campaigns since August 2008, filed RTI applications to obtain critical information regarding various public infrastructure projects. In an e-chat, she readily shared her experiences as below.

What motivated you to request these details?
During various discussions within HU, we realised that essential data that were unclear about the Namma Metro and road widening projects included the following:
•  Overall expenditure, construction and execution plan
•  Impact on trees – how many will be cut, when, where and why? Is any relocation/replacement planned?
•  Were any public consultations organised regarding tree felling, road widening, project feasibility, number of people affected, etc.?
•  Were other alternatives considered – if yes, why were they rejected, why is this the best solution to the current problem?

Do you have a copy of the original application seeking information?It’ll be great if you share all the original application(s) and response(s) since they are public documents now.    
I have soft copies of the original applications and will send them across.

Some specifics about the procedure:

Did you submit the applications electronically? Also, were there any attachments?    
No. I submitted them by post.  There weren’t any other attachments

How much did you spend overall including fees and any other expenses?
Per RTI application, I spent Rs 11 on postal order (Rs 10 for application fee and Re 1 for the postal order form) and Rs 25 on the speed post with acknowledgment and minor printing costs.

Was the filing process easy? How much time did you need totally?
It seemed easy. I took a day to write the application and get it reviewed by another person and then another day to print and post it.

Did any RTI activist or prior applicant guide you or do you have any previous experience with it? If not, did you refer any RTI Act website and/or booklets for the PIO’s name, application form, submission address and process, etc.?
Vinay Sreenivasa, from HU and another friend involved in the Chennai RTI campaign helped me. And I reused the format of a previous RTI application filed by HU.

Would like to mention anything more about BMRCL’s reply?
In general, BMRCL’s responses were very disappointing. It seems like government authorities are trying to withhold information. I had filed an RTI application asking for details of public consultations for its projects. The response I got was that public consultations were held. I wanted to know, when, where, how it was publiciszed but all these questions were ignored.

What information did you seek from BBMP? Did it reject any application stating that you have submitted to the incorrect PIO or provide incomplete, unsatisfactory answers?
Sridhar Raman (my husband and HU volunteer) and I filed three separate RTI applications on road widening to the BBMP. They sent exactly the same response to all three applications stating that it was not the authority to be contacted. It’s hard to believe that BBMP does not know about road widening in Bangalore. We had asked if road widening schemes and notifications issued by the BBMP were as per the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act or as per the Comprehensive Development Plan.
 
Did you try following up with either office?
No, I haven’t followed up as they responded but in a way that I think is inadequate. 

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Pushpa Achanta is a writer who enjoys volunteering, photography and poetry.