It’s a Story of Ants Fighting the Elephant – The RTI Story: Power to the People

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In his foreword to the book Gopalkrishna Gandhi writes: “On the dust-laden street of revived spirits, gutsy agitations, arduous marches – for a new championing of rightful claims of rightful rights, this book takes its place, says what it says and does what it does. It gives us the story of how a lifeline came to be thrown to its claustrophobic polity, its suffocating republicanism and its malnutritioned democracy. “

This book is about “How and why the uniquely inspirational Aruna Roy and her associates Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, his wife Anshi and others in their steadily growing team started the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan’s rocky interior in 1990. It takes the reader through a series of defiant campaigns, stubborn resistances, tough-and-go negotiations, hard resolves, privation, persecution and dangers beyond the ordinary, towards dispelling ignorance, sharpening understanding of the laws and entitlements, strengthening resolves and the plain guts that are needed to waken somnolent administrators from daytime slumbering.

It’s also the story of unexpected support, often from sagacious members of the very bureaucracy that was ‘under attack’ from intellectuals, writers, other NGOs, and from the hinterland of enlightened Indian opinion.

Aruna Roy says the Right to Information Act of 2005 is now the most used law in the world. Indians have tasted its power and its ability to keep the system in some check, yet an account of how and what led to the promulgation of this Act was missing. This book manages to do that in the best way it can.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi writes: “This book is much more than a chronicle of successive events. It is a testament of the willpower, determination and resolve that comes from a people knowing that their cause is true and just, that it is not just about their ‘claims’ as individuals but about the veracity and indeed the necessity, in terms of social justice, of claiming that which is legitimate. It is a manifesto of truth-seeking, truth telling and truth living. Its author is no individual, no institution. Its author is the true word.

RTI Martyrs

Nearly 60 RTI activists have been killed and many injured in India for seeking their constitutional rights. There is genuine fear among those who want to take recourse to this right for information.

Yet, Aruna Roy and others believe RTI’s impact will grow, deepen and expand.