The collapse of the Morbi suspension bridge last weekend, killing over 130 people and still counting (as several allegedly are still missing), has left the nation aghast and attracted international attention and sympathy. More so, because this bridge, built by the British in 1900, underwent recent renovation and, only a week back, re-opened to the public.
Attempts are being brazenly made to curiously hide the name of the Ajanta Oreva company and its bosses who undertook the renovation and maintenance of the bridge. We saw this in the way the name board of the Oreva company was covered with white cloth before prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s visit to the tragedy site and the absence of the names of Oreva bosses in the first information report (FIR) at the relevant police station. However, citizens could well file right to information (RTI) applications to find out the truth.
Hundreds and thousands of citizens should file RTI as soon as possible, more so because all information regarding the bridge, its renovation and the tragedy, comes under suo motu disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act as it is of large public interest, expenditure of renovation through public money, contract given to a private organisation (unworthy of the contract as it is a clock company and has nothing to do with construction and civil engineering).
However, the immediate concerning public authority – district collector of Morbi – morbi.nic.in – has no information uploaded.
My attempt to file an RTI application, online, has presently turned unsuccessful. I went to the onlinerti.gujarat.gov.in website and clicked on the RTI portal - https://onlinerti.gujarat.gov.in/rti_portal/site/login
. However, after writing the OTP number, it says the number is invalid (see message received and the pic shot showing that I had written the correct OTP). In fact, I attempted five times and each time that I got the OTP number, it said ‘invalid OTP number’. Isn’t that strange? I request readers to try logging in to the RTI portal and give me feedback.
I got through to the online RTI form. However, strangely, the district collector of Morbi, as a public authority, does not appear if you want to select this as the public authority. Frustrated, I scanned through the ministry list and decided to file the RTI to the prime minister’s office (after all, it is a grave national tragedy). I filled it up.
However, when submitting it, it wasn’t getting processed to the next page, that is the online payment page (for paying the RTI fees). I checked everything – it says the RTI request should be maximum 3,000 characters. I counted – it was 1,431 characters. All other information required had been put in, yet it was not happening. I will keep trying. I request readers to try, too and let me know if you could succeed. Write to me at [email protected]
Nevertheless, citizens can file the RTI application on paper and send it to the Morbi district collector, the chief minister of Gujarat’s office and the prime minister’s office.
Please ask for the following information on the Morbi tragedy in your RTI application:
1. Copies of all correspondence between the district collector of Morbi and the Ajanta Oreva company regarding the repair and renovation of the Morbi suspension bridge which killed over 130 people.
2. Copies of all correspondence between the district collector of Morbi and Ajanta Oreva regarding permission to re-open the suspension bridge after repair/ renovation.
3. Copy of the fitness certificate issued by the district collector of Morbi to certify that the bridge was fit to be re-opened by the Ajanta Oreva company.
4. Copy of the advertisement of tenders for repair and renovation of the bridge floated by the district collector of Morbi or any other relevant Gujarat state authority.
5. Copies of the bidders of the above tender for repair and renovation of the bridge by the district collector of Morbi or any other relevant Gujarat state authority.
6. Copy of the FIR lodged with the relevant police station of Morbi.
7. Copy of the immediate assessment of the Morbi suspension bridge tragedy by the district collector of Morbi.
8. Copy of the documents related to the expenditure incurred by the district collector of Morbi or any other public authority to hurriedly renovate the hospital for prime minister Modi's visit to meet the victims of the Morbi suspension bridge tragedy.
9. Copy of financial compensation announced for victims of the Morbi suspension bridge tragedy.
I shall also be filing the RTI on paper and sending it to the public information officer (PIO) of the Morbi collectorate through speed post under Section 7 of the RTI Act, under which the PIO is mandated to give information within 48 hours. You do the same.
Let us build up citizen pressure through this RTI application. I request experts to let us know here if there is any other public authority under RTI that we can seek information from.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)