Recently, there was a query filed under Right to Information (RTI) Act, to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) seeking the names of the `tukde tukde gang’.
This was in the backdrop of a public speech by Home Minister Amit Shah on 26 December 2019, where he said that the time has come to punish the `tukde tukde gang’. However, the RTI application seems to have rattled officials in the home ministry. The RTI applicant, journalist Saket Gokhale, is so serious about procuring this information that if he does not get it within the deadline of 26 January 2020, he claims he would be filing a second appeal with the central information commission (CIC).
While the `tukde tukde gang’ (whoever they are) has become the butt of sarcasm and vicious verbal attack, not only by the prime minister, home minister, senior leaders from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their ardent followers, the RTI query brings forth the serious aspect of whether it is recognised officially, through an official certified copy! No wonder, the MHA is now in a quandary.
Mr Gokhale received a reply from the MHA, which says, “Ministry of home affairs has no information concerning tukde-tukde gang."
A news report in India Today says, “the term 'Tukde Tukde Gang' has not been mentioned in any report by intelligence and law enforcing agencies. It was coined after the February 2016 controversy in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where it was alleged that some people raised "anti-India slogans". The Delhi Police is yet to establish this charge. Some officials said they believe this is frivolous RTI application.”
This is not the first instance when a seemingly frivolous query under the RTI has revealed that some important dates, holidays and records that, we, as a nation abide by, may not really have any official basis.
Our political leaders have verbally stated them over the many decades that we have gained independence and they have become unquestionable laws.
For example, in 2012, school girl Aishwarya Parashar from Lucknow, filed a RTI application to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking information on copy of the official order that recognized ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi as the Father of the Nation.
The PMO said it did not have any such information and transferred her RTI application to the MHO, which in turn transferred it to the PIO of the National Archives of India. The National Archives in turn asked Aishwarya to visit the office and search through the files herself. And the matter ended there!
So, this frivolous question actually tells us that there is nothing official about the title other than peoples’ love and respect for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Similarly, hockey is not the national game of India, as per a RTI reply, and there is no government order (GO), which notifies Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as national holidays, as per replies received from the relevant public authorities.
Another seemingly funny RTI query was filed by Bangalore-based RTI activist Narashimha Murthy. He filed an application with the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Trust, seeking information on whether Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Kubera had been cleared and if not, then how much of it is still left.
He alleged that the trustees emotionally blackmail devotees on this point to extract donations. A board to this effect is put up in the premises of the temple, which Murthy read, when he visited the temple and was shocked at the gullibility of the people.
As per mythology, Lord Venkateshwara’s mother had borrowed lot of money from Lord Kubera, for his marriage.
Of course, Mr Murthy got no reply, although he filed a second appeal with the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission!
Seems like a stupid RTI query? No, in reality it exposes the blind belief of people and advantage that trustees take of their unquestionable faith.
Some RTI applications are genuinely humourous.
An RTI applicant, Ajay Kumar, in 2016 filed an application to the MHA seeking information on whether India would survive an attack by alien zombies and extra-dimensional creatures. What would be the chances of our survival? No prizes for guessing that it went viral on the social media.
RTI applications have also been filed to seek information regarding prime minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of `aachhe din’ and whether `ladoos’ sent by the RTI applicant to the then President of US George Bush were delivered to him. Information has also been sought on an eligible matrimonial mate, from among employees in any government office, addressed to the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission amongst several others.
While it is good to have a good laugh over such frivolous and frivolous-yet-introspective RTI applications, no prizes for guessing that these are regularly used by political leaders and public authorities to state how they are already overburdened and all this is a waste of time.
Well, somebody needs to tell them that laughter is the best medicine and it could lead to channeling their energy towards more transparency! Agree?
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and 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”.