Edit/Op-Ed

Conspiracy Theory: Did RTI Applications’ “Heat” Cause the Blaze in Maharashtra’s Mantralaya?

Krishnaraj Rao

While Mantralaya’s documents are going up in smoke this evening, many of us RTI activists have suffered a direct hit. We have lost hope of getting the documents we need to unearth scams, as Mantralaya departments will now routinely deny us saying that the files were burnt, or are in disarray and hence unavailable under RTI.

So, did someone want to burn specific documents in Chief Minister’s office and Chief Secretary’s office, and accidentally set on fire some electric wires that carried the blaze uncontrollably throughout Mantralaya? Or was the original fire intended to destroy key papers in Urban Development Department (UDD) about scams even more damaging than Adarsh? The air is thick with conspiracy theories.

STRANGE COINCIDENCE

THREE DAYS AGO, RTI ACTIVIST SULAIMAN BHIMANI FILED FIVE WIDE-RANGING RTI APPLICATIONS to unearth cozy dealings between five state government offices that operate together like five fingers of a hand, namely (1) Chief Minister’s Office (2) Chief Secretary’s office (3) General Administration Department i.e. GAD (4) Governor’s secretariat and (5) State Information Commission. (MMRDA is the conspicuous sixth finger, by the way.) These RTI applications have a sweeping scope, as they requested RTI inspection of an unusually wide range of files for the period 1 Jan 2005 till date, to enable us (i.e. Bhimani, GR Vora, Anil Galgali and I) to demand copies of virtually any document relating to the tenures of the present holders of these offices, as well as their predecessors. We requested dates in the next two weeks for these inspections.

These five RTI applications are attached. You can also download them as a single PDF file:http://tinyurl.com/Five-RTI-Appl-Mantralaya-Fire

And now, all of us know that Chief Minister’s Office and Chief Secretary’s Office will say: The fire ate our “homework”. Even Governor’s office and GAD may use this excuse, saying that their files had been called to CMO and Chief Secretary’s office. They will continue to use this excuse for months, if not years!

If RTI activists in other states also want to use our formats (and and a few others filed simultaneously), here in word files: http://tinyurl.com/RTI-Appl-b4-Mantralaya-Fire

Statutory warning: Do this at your own risk, because your state government offices may burn down soon afterwards!

(Krishnaraj Rao is a prominent Right-to-Information activist and journalist based in Mumbai. He can be reached at thebravepedestrian@gmail.com)

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