Experiences with RTI

One late evening while having tea in my room we thought of experimenting RTI to figure out the root cause of some typical problems of the Research Scholars of IIT Bombay. RTI was new to us, we did not know what to do and how to go for that. Even though we were motivated, it took 15 days to execute the plan (though the execution time was hardly 3 hours). The delta force required to overcome the inertia for filing the RTIs actually came while we were having tea in my small room (even I had burnt my left hand, fingers and wrist in that process 😦 ). One fine day we managed to send our RTI applications successfully with our fingers crossed. As per our expectations, we received the RTI replies in time. Though we have not achieved 100% success in solving the problems, we could at least find the root cause of the problems in most of the cases. In this post, we have explained our experience on RTI; starting from preparing the questions to getting the answers.

Case 1: UGC Fellowship Problem at IITB

Background: There are some 50+ students doing Ph.D. under UGC Fellowship Scheme at IITB. Even though UGC have revised the fellowship amount twice in the last 2 years, students were not getting their fellowship at the revised scale at IITB. To our surprise, the revised fellowship scheme was implemented in various colleges of Mumbai University. When we approached the authorities (academics as well as accounts) at IITB, they simply passed on the blame to UGC; “UGC have not paid the dues for the last 3 years, how can we give at the revised scale? and who will pay for that”, was the typical response we got. They were right, UGC had not released the dues to IITB for the last 3 years (which was around Rs. 2 crore). We were not sure, whether that was a deliberate act of UGC or there were some reason behind this. So, we thought to use RTI to know the reason.

Filing RTI Application: We prepared a simple RTI Application (sample application is given below) and attached one Rs. 20/- Indian Postal Order (IITB post office did not have IPOs of Rs 10/- denomination, we used Rs. 20/- instead) to it and send that through registered post with ad.

*********Start of Application***********

To
The Public Information Officer,
University Grant Commission (UGC),
Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg,
New Delhi – 110 002, India

1. Full name of Applicant: Mr Bean
2. Address: IIT Bombay

3. Particulars of information required:
(i) Subject matter of information: Enhancement in fellowship by UGC
(ii) The period to which information relates: Current
(iii) Description of information required:

  1. How many Research Scholars have joined IIT Bombay under the UGC Fellowship Scheme since Jan 2005 till date.
  2. How much is the total fellowship and contingency amount to be disbursed to these Research Scholars of IIT Bombay?
  3. How much money is actually given by UGC to IIT Bombay since Jan 2005 till date for the fellowships and contingency of the above Research Scholars?
  4. If there is a difference between the required amount and the amount paid by UGC (item no. 2 and 3 above), when will the remaining amount be sent to IIT Bombay?

(iv) Whether information is required by post or in person: Post
(v) In case by post: Ordinary, registered or Speed post: Ordinary

(4.) Whether applicant is below poverty line: No

Signature of the Applicant

*********** End of Application*************

Getting the Answers: To our surprise, we got the response on the 30th day of our application. The response was quite positive. After receiving our RTI, UGC released Rs. 2, 14,68,941/- (the actual dues for IITB was Rs.1,98,50,047/-) to IIT Bombay in 2 installments (before the 30th day 🙂 ). We got the answers, problem got solved without running from posts to pillars.

Case 2: MHRD Fellowship Hike for PhD Students

Background: Even though w.e.f 1st April, 2007 MHRD has increased the fellowship of Ph.D. students, the scheme is yet to be implemented in many universities. All IITs did not implement the scheme citing deficiency in fund and had requested MHRD to release extra money for this. As usual, nothing happened at MHRD. Neither MHRD acted on the joint request of all IITs nor it listened to our repeated requests (we were in touch with MHRD through different channels). Hence we thought of filing an RTI to MHRD to know the status of implementation. We prepared the following questions, attached an IPO of Rs. 20/- and sent that to MHRD by registered post with ad.

The questions:

  1. The date on which the circular has been actually implemented at each of the following institutes : Mumbai University, IIT Bombay, Mumbai, IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi and IISc. Bangalore.

  2. The amount and the date on which the extra money (to be disbursed for the enhanced fellowship) was actually sent to each of the above institutes.

  3. The date on which IIT Bombay, Mumbai received the extra money and the total amount.

Getting the Answers: Unlike UGC, we did not get the answers directly here. MHRD returned our application (did not process that) citing mistakes in “Pay to” of the IPO of our application. However, to our surprise, the scheme got implemented after a week (from the day MHRD received our application) in IIT KGP followed by IIT Bombay (after we showed IIT KGP’s Circular to the authorities at IITB) and in other institutes. Interestingly, we got replies from IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi, IISc Bangalore too on the date of implementation as MHRD had forwarded our RTI application to these institutes.

Case 3: MHRD Fellowship Hike for MTech Students

Background and the questions: Same as Case 2 above.

Getting the Answers: Unlike Case 1 & 2, we sent that application through Speed Post. No one received the application at MHRD, Delhi (receipant un-available 😦 ) and that got returned to us. We sent that again through registered post with ad to the same address sent before. This time they received the letter. We received their reply on the 30th day. Though the answers were positive, there was no concrete answer on the fellowship hike for MTech students. To know the status of implementation, we have filed RTIs again; this time to AICTE and MHRD both.

Comments: Frame the questions properly and send your RTI applications through registered post with ad only.

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7 Responses

  1. A good step to make people use the power of RTI to remove the blocks in the implementation of govt. policies.
    Please share the information regarding the second appeal. 🙂

  2. Article in the Hindustan times which has blatantly copied (with a few missed-facts ) from the blog, and has not even cited the source . “RTI comes to the rescue of IITians” http://www.hindustantimes.com/storypage/storypage.aspx?id=2887d0b0-8bc3-423b-ac2c-c6dab28432c4&&Headline=RTI+comes+to+the+rescue+of+IITians

    Compare the blog and the article, and you will see that the reporter has missed out the fact that only the PhD students were disbursed the scholarship.

    So here is the question
    1. Can we trust reporting in this world were nearly every channel is a news channel?

    Just a thought for the aamjunta

  3. Very good article and quite informative. I thought of giving one more link on RTI, which might be beneficial for many people.

    http://right2information.wordpress.com/

    One can see the variety of RTI applications and case studies there.

  4. A minute’s success pays the failure of years.

  5. A good job! Keep it up.

  6. Very nice experiences, indeed… They behave like school-kids… 🙂
    Btw, what happened in Case 3 ?

  7. One good thing the government has done is RTI. But, there are elements working within the system to eliminate the major benefits of RTI. I urge my friends to support to save RTI. Till the time India get a lokpal, RTI can help us the common man; only hope.

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