The one source that a Mumbaikar can tap for information on any civic issue or education, is www.diehardindian.com, a website run by Karmayogi Pratisthan
In the year 2002, after eight years in the US, a young, rank-holding engineer, Gaurang Damani, returned to India, determined to make a difference. He passionately believed that the time had come for India to take its ‘rightful place’ in the world. But it was easier said than done.
In 2003, he set up Karmayogi Pratisthan, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at building awareness and empowering people about how to deal with everyday problems. Karmayoga, in a nutshell, is described as ‘selfless service unto humanity’ and that is what the Pratisthan does through regular blood donation camps, distribution of educational material, school notebooks, financial assistance for deserving students, as well as a host of other activities like beautification of precincts, better traffic management and countering harassment of people through mindless government actions such as unauthorised towing of cars.
Along with this action on the ground, Gaurang decided to use his information technology background to create a go-to place called www.diehardindian.com for absolutely whatever information that a person, especially a Mumbaikar, would ever need in life. So if you need an election card, ration card, senior citizen card, birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate, or information on hostels, ambulances, eye banks, helplines or counselling facilities (for AIDs, senior citizens, ragging, abuse, etc) and don’t know how to find it, just log on to the website. That’s not all. If you want to know how to deal with mosquito infestation, dangerously overgrown trees, report traffic issues, learn about rainwater harvesting or file any civic complaint, you can get information and leads on www.diehardindia.com.
The best feature of the website is that it provides names and numbers of all police stations and of Mumbai’s 227 wards. Asked why he had posted contact details of officials, Gaurang says, “Often, we find scamsters posing as municipal officials. They fine people for things like car washing or putting window grills. So if someone intimidates you claiming to be a civic official, you should ask for their ID cards and know your rights before paying any money.”
Dealing with the police also tends to confuse and frighten people. So the website informs people about their rights as well as how to file complaints, what is a first information report (FIR) and the difference between a bailable and non-bailable offence and arrest. The same goes for towing and traffic fines, where Gaurang has filed and won a successful litigation against unauthorised towing of vehicles in Mumbai.
Another useful segment of www.diehardindian.com deals with the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It provides practical tips (and samples) on how to file successful applications and detailed guidance on the first and second appeal process. Gaurang is himself a successful user of RTI and has even conducted a clinic on RTI for Moneylife Foundation. A special section covers everything you need to know about buying, renting, repairing a flat or re-developing an entire building. In addition to this, the section includes useful links to government websites for details.
Empowerment through information (including contact details of your corporator, MLA and MP) is Gaurang’s formula to a better society and he is constantly seeking feedback on how to add, improve and update the information provided. How is all this funded? Gaurang says he does not need aggressive fund-raising. The money comes from his own resources and support from friends and well-wishers. Committed volunteers from his locality (the Dadar-Matunga-Wadala-Sion area in Mumbai) invariably join him in various campaigns for blood and organ donations, distribution of schoolbooks or providing medicine to the needy. Donations to Karmayogi Pratishtan are eligible for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.
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