Skip to content Skip to navigation

Rti Findings Lead to Violent Threats in Assam

Akhil Gogoi of Golaghat town in Assam has been a beleaguered man for more than a year now. His life under threat, he has been practically forced to go underground following multiple applications under the RTI Act that would bring to light massive corruption by local officials. He is not alone. Namita Subedi, Sanjit Tanti and many others in Assam have also faced violent threats after they questioned the implementation of various schemes through RTI.

As the Secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), an activist group, Akhil Gogoi filed a number of RTI applications on March 2, 2006, seeking information on the implementation of schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Individual Beneficiary Scheme (IBS) and Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) from the concerned departments in Golaghat district. Thereupon, he was targeted by the authorities as a "troublemaker" and beaten up on several occasions. On December 9, 2006, KMSS workers on a cycle rally against the corrupt practices of the local authorities were assaulted, allegedly by Congress goons. Rumours were spread that KMSS was an illegal group and police complaints were filed against Akhil Gogoi and other KMSS members, which led to the arrest of two KMSS members, Mr. Horen Payeng and Mr. Jiten Doley, who were kept in custody for about 3 months.

According to Akhil Gogoi, the concerned departments at first refused to divulge any information under various pretexts. It was only after he approached the state's Chief Information Commissioner in November 2006 that some action was taken, with the Golaghat DRDA divulging the requested information.

Akhil Gogoi's group had conducted a thorough survey to crosscheck the implementation of the schemes by the panchayats, and visited all households in the Gomariguri Block of Golaghat district listed as IAY, IBS and SGRY beneficiaries. Not surprisingly, several irregularities came to light, including forged names listed as beneficiaries of IAY, half completed houses for some, and so on. Beneficiaries under the IBS scheme had not received most of the commodities. In the case of SGRY, road repair, digging of ponds and construction of houses had been done only on paper. The Cheque Release Register (CRR) for IAY, which the DRDA had to release under RTI, revealed malpractices to the tune of Rs. 35 lakhs. On August 7, 2006, cheques worth this amount were released through 12 panchayats for the construction of 140 IAY houses, for which there was no beneficiary list whatsoever. Following local media coverage of a press meet by KMSS in the first week of May this year, a staff person of the DRDA, Tarun Bora was dismissed on May 15, and the construction of 140 houses was finally begun.

The CRR for SGRY also unveiled a Rs 25 lakh scam, whereby stationery material worth that amount was shown to have been bought on August 12, 2006, from a non-existent agency. According to the guidelines, stationery cannot be bought under SGRY. The purported stationery was also nowhere to be found in the SGRY storehouse.

A women's organization, North East Network, (NEN), inspired by RTI crusaders such as Aruna Roy (MKSS), and the CHRI has taken the lead in training people from different organizations in Assam to use the Act since 2004. Based on information provided by NEN on the RTI process, Akhil Gogoi had appealed to the Information Commission of Assam. NEN has also compiled other instances of and has compiled many instances of such attempts.

Ms. Namita Subedi of Teliagaon Mahila Samiti of Sonitpur district of Assam, filed an application regarding the appalling condition of a road in her area. She discovered that an amount of Rs. 30 lakh had been sanctioned for its repair. She went to the PWD office to complain about the lack of repairs, taking some photographs of the road as proof. Namita's 'inquisitiveness' incensed the contractor responsible for the repair, as well the area's MLA who is responsible of road construction under the MLA Fund. Ms. Subedi now has to be constantly vigilant in case of any attacks.

In another instance, Sanjit Tanti of the Sodou Assam Adivashi Chatra Santha received information of massive misappropriation of funds under IAY in Udalguri district a few months back. The IAY officials offered Sanjit Tanti a bribe to not disclose the information. Two members of Sanjit Tanti's group, who went to the BDO on May 17, 2007 to follow up, were attacked by five men with kukris (machetes) while on their way back from the BDO's office, as reported in local papers of May 18, 2007.

A veritable Pandora's box of such corruption has come tumbling out in Assam with the use of the RTI Act. Threats and violence such as those perpetrated against Akhil Gogoi have followed in their wake, with the guilty scrambling for cover and using any means to stifle the RTI applicants. Such threats reveal the pervasiveness and depth of corruption in almost all the public offices, and the complete non-accountability of the officials with regard to public funds. These incidents should not deter the democratic right of the citizen to question government officials; in fact it should strengthen citizens in large numbers to promote public monitoring, and signal that these corrupt practices are no longer acceptable.

Report by North East Network
J.N. Borooah Lane, Jorpukhuri
Guwahati 781001
Assam, INDIA
Telephone:(91-361) 2603833, Telefax:(91-361) 2631582
Website:www.northeastnetwork.org

Author info

kbora's picture

Comments

Debajit Bora.'s picture

Akhil Gogoi must not be frightened. I think, corruptions may be partly reduced by this way that adopted by Mr.Gogoi.The support of the common people shall be always with him.

Add new comment

Republish

Republish this content

Bajali students brings glory to Barpeta

28 May 2011 - 1:58am | Juthika Das

The people of Bajali subdivision in Barpeta district again brings glory to the entire district. Prakashjyoti Kalita, of Sankardev Shishu Vidya Niketan, of Pathsala in Bajali subdivion in Barpeta district secured first position in the HSLC examination that declared today. All the people of Bajali subdivision overjoyed at the success of the students in both HSS and HSLC results. Prakashjyoti Kalita scored a total of 570 marks having letter marks in (As, Eng, GS, GM,SS, and AM). While he was asked about his future plan he answered that he wants to become either doctor or an Engineer. At present he will take admission at Pathsala in science stream. He regularly read 8-10 hours daily. He never hoped that he will stood first. He is indebted to his parents and teachers of the school for his success. He said that if one read attentively it would not be hard to success one’s dream. Mentionable that a total of three students secured First, 18th and 20thPosition from sankardev Shishu Vidya Niketan. Simanta Patgiri of Sankardev Shishu Vidya Niketan ,pathsala secured 18th position with a total of 545 marks. On the other hand Nishartha sarma of Sankardev Shishu Vidya Niketan of Pathsala secured 20thposition with a total mark 543 in the HSLC examination that was declared today. Abinash Medhi of Bajali HS school, pathsala secured 16th position with a total mark 547. On the contrary Bibhab Goswami of G.N. Bordoloi Memorial High School secured 13th position with 550 total marks. Bibhab wants to become a doctor. Bhabendra Nath Saikia is his favorite writer. Son of Dr. Kankan Goswami and Prabha Devi, prof. BBK College, nagaon, Barpeta Bibhab credited to his parents and teachers for his success.


Abinash Medhi, 16th position:



Bibhab Goswami, 13th position:



Hritika Kalita, 12 Position:


NISHARTH SARMA-20th rank:


Simanta Patgiri-18th position:


SUMAN SHEKHAR SARMA 10 POSITION

Anti-tobacco bill soon

3 Apr 2013 - 10:51am | AT News

Health minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma is hopeful that the bill to ban tobacco is on the cards. Dr Sarma informed the Assam assembly on Wednesday that the bill would be moved after cabinet approval.

John Abraham on save rhino mission

16 Nov 2014 - 10:22pm | AT News

Come January. Save rhino mission will rent the sky. Courtesy John Abraham. The Bollywood personality who owns the North East United FC in the Indian Super League will kick off a CSR campaign to save the endangered rhinos. Addressing a press conference in Guwahati on Sunday he said,” since I am an animal activist and you all know about my involvement on the save tiger project. Therefore, I am naturally very much interested to launch a mission to save the rhinos from January.” But he refused to share details of the campaigns to protect the one horned animals from the impending threats.