Chennai lad uses RTI the ‘right’ way

Chennai: When we think about an RTI activist, the first image that comes to our mind is that of a middle-aged person who wants a change in the society.

But when ‘News Today’ encountered with D Sampath Raj, who is 22, this reporter learnt that there are surprising things to come from the youngster.

Hailing from Bharani Nagar, Saligramam, Vadapalani, in the city, Sampath who works at a private MNC, is a social volunteer who takes to filing RTI petitions for the welfare of the public.

Sampath shared about his two-year journey as an RTI activist. Here are the excerpts.

Q: WHAT MADE YOU BECOME AN RTI ACTIVIST?

A: During my college days, I came across a news on the Internet that said India does not have a national bird, flower or animal. All national symbols we have now except for the flag, anthem and emblem do not have a mention in India’s constitution. They are all unofficial. It came to light only after a school girl filed an RTI application. It was the first time I came to know about RTI Act and its power.

Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RTI APPLICATION?

A: In December 2016, I filed an RTI petition seeking the information on the validity of various toll plazas across the State, specifically about all the tolls located in the Chennai-Kanyakumari, Chennai-Coimbatore and Chennai-Pondicherry routes. Since I travel frequently, the main trouble that I saw people facing was that there were toll booths every 50 to 70 kilometers. A lot of allegations were also raised regarding the delay in the extension of concessionary over toll collection period for the toll plazas along the Chennai-Tiruchi section of the GST. So, I filed an application.

Q: WAS YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT A SUCCESS?

A: It had just been over a month since I filed the petition and only a couple of segments of the NHs in the State replied. Only the tolls located along Krishnagiri and Ulundurpet, Dindigul to Samayanallur and Madurai to Kanyakumari replied back. Still, I have not received any information regarding the toll plazas along Chennai to Tiruchi and Chennai to Salem segments of the Nhs

Q: AFTER THAT, WHAT OTHER PETITIONS HAVE YOU SEND?

A: Being a civil engineering graduate, I filed petitions regarding the construction process of underground Metro Rail routes after the accident occurred near Gemini circle last year. I have also filed applications regarding the data of buildings with parking facilities in five cities namely Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi, and Tirunelveli. My latest RTI application was regarding the refunding process of the State government for private schools that offer free seats under the Right to Education Act.

Q: ACROSS THE COUNTRY, A LOT OF RTI ACTIVISTS HAVE BEEN THREATENED AND FACING SEVERE REACTIONS. ARE YOU GOING THROUGH ANY SUCH SCENARIO?

A: As of now, I have not received any threat from anyone. But there are RTI activists who deal with very serious issues like exploitation of natural resources and get threats from various entities. I have not filed anything like that so far. Maybe I will also receive threats if I too file petitions like that.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?

A: Earlier, when I was residing at Saidapet, I teach people in my street about RTI. Following that some of them even filed an application as it needs very less time and costs only Rs 10. Its been five months since I moved to Saligramam. I am planning to organise a sensitisation programme in the area for free. Youngsters have to know about their rights and it will shape up a better democracy. Sampath can be reached at 8122822158.

NT Bureau