On 27 August 2013 , the Information Commission conducted the final hearing of our appeal. Being an experienced administrator, the Commissioner saw through the arguments of the Deputy Collector’s staff immediately. Mr. Shailesh Gandhi’s presence also helped us retain our confidence in these completely novel circumstances.
Finally, Mr. Gaikwad, Information Commissioner, pronounced his ruling. He asked the administration to compensate each applicant who came to Mumbai Rs. 2,000 each. Also, he issued show cause notice to the information officer for levying fine under 2 different sections of RTI Act – in each of the 1,272 cases. He ordered that all the information sought must be given to every applicant before 31 st October – and promised further stern action if this was not done.
But the most useful part of the order is that – he ordered all the district administrators to publish information about claims under the FRA , and action taken thereon. This has to be collected for last 3 years, published on their websites and on notice boards ad district and subdivisional levels. It has also to be kept updated every month. So, though the issue started with some 6000 tribals in a single tehsil, the resultant benefit has flown to all the tribals in the whole state of Maharashtra!
In the final analysis, we believe, we were able to make these points :
1. It has proved that RTI is actually useful – the urban volunteers always doubt this.
2. It has proved that ‘powerless’, ‘uneducated’ tribals can bring the govt machinery to its knees if they have knowledge of correct laws and training and patience to use them.
3. It has proved that for a revolutions guns are not necessary. Pen is more potent than a gun
4. It has proved that one can make the system work even without agitation, political support, sloganeering – just information is sufficient.
5. it has created a model for tribals elsewhere to replicate
6. It has created and proven strength of the concept of ‘Mass RTI’ – the bad things that happen to govt people get manifold; and it becomes impractical to use threats or violance against the person who dares to question the system. So, similar method can actually be used by urban people – for potholed roads, water suppy in new colonies, cleanliness, railway FOBs, etc
Here, allow me to conclude the first part of our fight to realize our dream. We still have a long way to go – to get information, to get compensation, to pressurize authorities to process our claim, and to finally become owners of our land. But this fight has given us additional dreams – we want to help jungle dwelling people everywhere to claim the land looted from them by the British – and Indian – rulers. We want to help our people gain the self-esteem that comes from a successful fight against a system which looks like a giant. May be, we think, our urban friends too start fighting the system to fight the injustice that they face. And maybe they will understand our dream and try to adjust their living style to leave our rivers, jungles and living styles alone.
On 28th August 1963, a great man in America dared to dream. 50 years after that, almost to the date, we are doing the same. And this dream we are seeing with our eyes wide open. We know it’s not easy – but we know it’s not an impossible pipe dream. We know we are not alone, that there are many who are awakening to dreams of their own. Keep watching this space for stories about dreams, fights, disappointments, and small victories. And start having a dream of your own too!
Click here to read the decision (in Marathi)Jawhar-CIC-Order-of-Tribal-s-Forest-Rights
Click here to read an excellent media report about this news http://www.moneylife.in/article/rti-battle-of-jawhar-tribals-get-a-fillip-with-a-favourable-cic-order/34248.html