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Protect RTI activists

Dated: 2013-06-15
Protect RTI activists

The death of RTI activist Ravinder Balwanifollowing a mysterious hit-and-run incident in the capital has triggered allegations of foul play. The family of the deceased has drawn attention to the numerous death threats Balwani had received in the last one year, about which he had complained to the police. An ex-official of the Delhi Transco Limited and aide of anti-graft crusader Arvind Kejriwal, he used the RTI to probe corruption particularly in the power sector and could have made powerful enemies. Balwani's death also renews focus on RTI activists' increasing vulnerability. According to an Asian Centre for Human Rights report, 12 RTI activists were killed between January 2010 and August 2011, while more than 20 were attacked in various parts of the country.

Many activists routinely face serious physical assaults as well as other punishment for bringing the corrupt under a scanner and demanding greater government transparency. The situation has become too critical for the government to ignore any longer. Given that the UPA government doesn't have too many trophies to flaunt since it came to power in 2004, the RTI is certainly one of its crowning achievements. But this achievement can be sullied if RTI activists continue to die in mysterious circumstances. Not only should Balwani's death be seriously and fully investigated and the guilty - if any - be punished, the government needs to take adequate measures to protect RTI activists. Police must take complaints about threats to RTI activists seriously. It would be a cruel joke if RTI remains on the statute books, but the law and order machinery fails to protect those who make use of its provisions. 

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