RTI activists reach Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest against the amendment bill, detained

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: August 1, 2019
The recent amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005 have drawn widespread condemnationacross the nation, with activists and citizens coming out on the streets to protest against the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 which will dilute the original act and put transparency—the very foundation of a healthy democracy--under peril. These protests have reached the steps of the RahstrapatiBhavan. To bothprotest against the amendments and appeal to the President to not give his assent to the controversial bill, concerned citizens and RTI activists including Anjali Bhardwaj and Nikhil Dey reached the RashtrapatiBhavan today at 12 noon. However, all of them were detained by the police. A press conference is also scheduled at 02.00 pm today at Indian Womens’ Press Corps, Delhi with the title “Use RTI to Save RTI.”

Save RTI

Anjali Bhardwaj is an Indian social activist working on issues of transparency and accountability. She is also the co-convenor of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. Nikhil Dey is also an Indian social activist and has been actively working for Right to Information.

The National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) in collaboration with various campaigns and groups including the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Right to Food Campaign (RTF) and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) have been protesting against the amendments all across the country. Thousands of people have petitioned the President of India asking that he not give his assent to the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 which has been passed in both the houses.

Save RTI

12.00 pm: Within a few minutes of reaching the RashtrapatiBhavan, the activists and all the protestors detained by the police. Anjali Bhardwajtweeted, “Police is detaining everyone who wants to petition the President to withhold his assent to the #RTIAmendments. No right to even peacefully submit a petition the President in our country now?? Is this a democracy?”

01.00 pm: Bhardwaj again tweeted about the detention by the MandirMarg police. The tweet read, “People who had gone to submit their petition to the Rashtrapati appealing him to withhold assent to the #RTIAmendment Bill have been detained by police in the MandirMarg police station. Not allowing people to submit the petition endorsed by lakhs across the country #SaveRTI.”

02.00 pm: Protestors have been released but not allowed to go to RashtrapatiBhavan. Bhardwajtweeted, “People now released but not allowed to go to RashtrapatiBhavan. Only 3 people were allowed to go submit the petition. Why can citizens not go to the President’s office to deliver their petitions in a democracy? #RashtrapatiSaveRTI”

02.30 pm: A press conference held by Anjali Bhardwaj and Nikhil Dey with the title “Use RTI to Save RTI.” They talk about the issues in the amendment bill and how it will dilute the original act. They also said that they will file 100 RTIs relating to varied issues including the mentioning of matters in front of selected judges and then follow up after a month to check any developments. The idea is to file RTIs and make the public aware of this important legislation which is now being diluted by the ruling regime. They also plan to hold campaigns across the nation on the 1st of every month.

The protestors had visited the RashtrapatiBhavan with a copy of the change.org petition asking the President to not sign the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 which received 1,27,000 signatures.

On July 31, a #SaveRTI protest and signature campaign was held at Andolan Park in Delhi. Anjali Bhardwaj had tweeted the photos of the signature campaign with the caption, “#SaveRTI protest and signature campaign today at Andolan Park in Delhi. On Thursday (August 1) all the petitions against #RTIAmendments will be submitted at RashtrapatiBhavan at 12 noon to appeal to the President to withhold assent to the Amendment Bill. #RashtrapatiSaveRTI.”

Save RTI

Other Protests:
On July 27, hundreds of youth Congress workers took to the streets of the national capital to protest against the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 and accused the Central government for diluting the RTI Act. A press statement issued by the Delhi Pradesh Youth Congress read, “The RTI Act, 2005 was brought by the UPA government which gave rights to the citizens of India to question the government. However, it has been diluted by the current government by bringing the Amendment Bill, 2019.” The Youth Congress workers were stopped at Raisina road and many of them were detained by the Delhi police.

As LokSabha MPs debated the RTI Amendments Bill inside the Parliament House on July 22, a small group of Delhi citizens, mostly women, took to the streets less than a kilometre away to protest the proposed changes.They marched from JantarMantar to the Constitution Club in Delhi. “We are fighting for the right to question the government. They say that this [amendments] law will make it harder to do that,” said 60-year-old Raheesa Begum, one of the protestors.

The RTI Act is used every year by nearly 6 million citizens of the country. It has proved to be the strongest tool in the hands of ordinary citizens to realize their fundamental right to know and hold power to account. The law’s passage in the Parliament in 2005 was a victory for peoples’ movements and campaigns that represented the will and intention of lakhs of citizens to keep democracy alive.

The recent amendments introduced to the RTI Act by brute legislative force, are regressive and are aimed squarely at undermining the independence of information commissions, thereby diluting India’s strongest and most widely used framework for transparency.

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