RTI Watershed Moments Never Cease in Pune
Pune-based Sumita Kale, an economist and alumna of Cambridge University and Sushma Date, a paediatrician by profession, who are intensely pursuing a campaign to save the Vetal Tekdi hill—the largest green lung of Pune—tweeted as follows - 
DP Alignment is being changed, Expert Committee ignored, and maps uploaded by consultants show the change. Our RTI filed on 3rd April, but PMC still not giving documents saying Commissioner (has not signed).
Sushma Date (@sushmadate) tweeted:
Yesterday we were told by senior PMC officials that they could not give us the new BB road alignment under RTI because it had not yet been approved. 
So why are VG Kulkarni and the road consultants in such a mad rush to mark the alignment, that too with cement poles?
These tweets are a result of the raging controversy and relentless campaign to stop the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) from cutting a road through the verdant Vetal Hill. On Thursday, the civic body, which has turned a deaf ear to the several thousands of citizens who protested on the streets recently, placed the cement poles at the mouth of the hill to demarcate the road alignment. These two citizens, who hate to call themselves activists, are pursuing the issue with dogged determination and through the right to information (RTI) route. 
This morning, these citizens went onto Facebook Live to protest against the PMC bulldozing through a road, the alignment of which is, mysteriously, a top secret.
Interestingly, Pune is perhaps the only city that has pursued campaigns using RTI. Ms Kale and Ms Date have a formidable collection of certified documents because of which the PMC, though pretending to be brazen, is actually on the back foot.
Examples of Pune residents using RTI are impressive over the years. Some of them are not even activists in that sense of the term—they are citizens of Pune, and they like to fight with proper ammunition—that is, certified documents from the authorities themselves, under the RTI.
Earlier, major general SCN Jatar (retd.), a top-notch Army officer and a nonagenarian now, has used RTI extensively for this Balbharati-Paudphata (BB-PP) Link Road that cuts through the Vetal Tekdi hill and has also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court and won. This is how he guarded the hill for an entire decade. His RTI applications about the water leakage of the huge pipeline that brings water from the Khadakwasla lake are also notable.
Prashant Inamdar, an engineering entrepreneur and an expert committee member appointed by the PMC to assess the need, efficacy and vehicular traffic of the BB-PP Road, also uses RTI for a number of issues. The founder of Pedestrian First, he has had some tell-tale information on the shoddy ways in which the civic body goes about the Rs20,000-odd crore Pune Metro as well as other modes of transport.
Vivek Velankar, an educationist and author of several books on career, takes up various issues that affect the city by invoking RTI in the PMC and also consistently invokes this sunshine law to get information from banks which reflects the injustice and agony of individual account holders. He has been doing this ever since the RTI Act came into existence in October 2005.
Jugal Rathi is the undisputable expert when it comes to the chronic mismanagement of the PMPML - the civic body's public bus transport. He is a walking encyclopaedia on the ills of the management of PMPML and, lately, the controversy over the purchase of e-buses.
Sanjay Shirodkar, an engineering entrepreneur, has used RTI remarkably for issues of airports around the country and the toll plazas of Maharashtra. He has knocked at the high courts and even the Supreme Court for transparency in the functioning of the airports, which are now being managed in the public-private partnership model.
Vijay Kumbhar, an erstwhile journalist and now a part of the AAP political party, has the record of being the first-ever RTI activist in the country, who, way back in 2005, did an inspection of files in the PMC regarding the controversial TDR (transfer of development) issue. Thereafter, he invoked RTI and used the information to turn it into various public campaigns like the school uniform issue, the long lease of public land by PMC to private entities, land grab issues and many more.
Deepak Bache-Patil, a resident of Pimpri-Chinchwad and a small-time trader whose tremendous work on the state of dams in our country had been highlighted by Moneylife, has been quietly making a difference by constantly writing to the authorities in Mantralaya and chief ministers across the country.
Vinita Kamte, a lawyer by degree and wife of the late Ashok Kamte, additional commissioner, Eastern region, who was killed in terrorist action in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, filed an RTI in various departments of the Mumbai Police. She procured the call records - audio and written manuscripts. Based on this, she and her twin sister Revathi found shocking evidence of neglect by the Mumbai control room. She spun this into a bestseller book - To The Last Bullet.
Prabhakar Karandikar, a former divisional commissioner of Pune, was one of the few high-level bureaucrats who used RTI to strengthen his case regarding his date of retirement.
Pune police's Jayashree Mane had effectively used RTI to procure copies of the muster roll of her male colleagues who were often not seen on duty.
Moneylife had carried investigative stories by this author, who had invoked RTI regarding the controversial retirement home case of the then-president of India, Pratibha Patil. The author also invoked RTI in the controversial Dow Chemical plant case that was to come up on the outskirts of Pune. Damning information under the RTI led to this giant multinational company returning the entire 100 acres of land to the Pune collector. 
These are just a few names that have thrown up information that showcases the negligent manner of working by various public authorities. There are hundreds of Puneites who are filing RTI for garbage, roads, water supply and other amenities for which they are getting poor service.
The two people who steered the awareness and use of the RTI Act are Prakash Kardaley, the then-resident editor of The Indian Express and Anna Hazare, because of whose efforts and agitations Maharashtra got its RTI Act right and before the Central RTI Act, which has retained much of the Maharashtra Act.
Indeed, Pune, which has been internationally known for social reforms since the early 19th century, continues to shine through every successive generation. Inspired?
(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”.)
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