Citizens fighting the land-and-building mafia are afraid… and rightly so! It is our common experience that if a citizen approaches State Govt or Municipal officials against builders and land-mafias, the officials don’t hesitate to expose them. Activist Girish Mittal has pointed out how officials actively endanger RTI activists and complainants by giving builders their addresses:
See website of Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) http://mczma.maharashtra.gov.in/
• On it is a list of RTI applications made against various builders etc, along with addresses: http://mczma.maharashtra.gov.in/pdf/CRZ_RTI_2010.pdf
• Also, lists of complainants in 2010: http://mczma.maharashtra.gov.in/pdf/ComplaintCRZ_2010.pdf
• … and in 2009: http://mczma.maharashtra.gov.in/pdf/ComplaintList_2009.pdf
As against this, MCZMA website does not have:
• Names of builders etc. who applied for CRZ clearances, or violators who were served notices
• Names of MCZMA officials
• Address and phone numbers of MCZMA, or its officials
• Mandatory RTI Section 4 declaration of MCZMA
To pressure the government to make all information concerning land-use and building construction available up-front, and to protect & facilitate citizens interested in fighting illegal development & redevelopment, we are trying to form a union/association. Please come for our SECOND MEETING THIS SATURDAY at Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, Near Nanachowk, 3 minutes walk from Grant Road Railway Station (West). Date & Time: Saturday, 12 Feb, 5.30 pm.
OBJECTIVES OF PROPOSED UNION:
(i) TO PRESSURE THE GOVERNMENT TO IMPLEMENT RTI SECTION 4 in Building-Proposal department etc. Details: http://tinyurl.com/RTISec4
(ii) TO FILE PROXY RTI APPLICATIONS ON BEHALF OF INDIVIDUAL RTI APPLICANTS concerning all land and building activities. We propose that this union should charge annual membership fee of about Rs 1,000 to ensure good quality of members and their continued involvement, and initial admission fee of about Rs 2,000. In return for this payment, the office-bearers will file RTI applications in their own names, attending appeal hearings, drafting replies etc. on behalf of members. The funds collected should be used for the paperwork, conveyance, legal battles if necessary, and for rewarding those who actually do the work and take risks.
AT THIS MEETING , WE WILL DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING:
1) JURISDICTION. This Union or association will be restricted to Municipal Corporations of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) for practical reasons i.e. commuting, holding meetings etc.
2) STRESS ON SECTION 4 IMPLEMENTATION. Union will vigorously pursue the State government for suo-moto disclosure of all documents within a few months.
3) PROXY APPLICATIONS. Those belonging to core committee consisting of, say 100 persons, will file proxy applications on behalf of ordinary members, fully aware of the risks involved. Members may volunteer to file specific queries according to their competence, or they may be chosen by lucky-draw method. They will draft and pursue the RTI applications in a way that minimizes risks — by thinking dispassionately, like lawyers, keeping a healthy distance between themselves and the parties concerned including the builder mafias. They will avoid making any matter a personal vendetta.
4) PLEDGE OF MUTUAL PROTECTION. The core committee members’ safety will lie in collective action i.e. being present for one another whenever danger arises. They should all land up in a large number at the hospital / police station / court / Mantralaya / Azad Maidan in the middle of the day or in the dead of night if required. Otherwise, all activists will be discouraged from taking risks.
5) SELECTION OF MEMBERS & THEIR RTI APPLICATIONS BY SCREENING COMMITTEE. The core committee will form a screening committee, who will decide (a) whether to admit someone as a member and (b) whether to file an RTI application on his behalf.
6) TRANSPARENT RULES & CRITERIA. Admission of members and filing of RTI applications will be done according to certain rules and criteria, which will be reviewed every year. These rules will be known to members and to all concerned. The objective is to ensure that the union acts in public interest always, even while taking up causes where public interest may not be immediately apparent.
7) NO SECRECY, ALL INFORMATION RECEIVED WILL BE UPLOADED. Those who use RTI for blackmailing will be discouraged because all information and documents will be promptly scanned and uploaded into public domain. No secrecy and confidentiality will be maintained. This will also minimize threats by removing the incentive to silence individual RTI applicants by threats and violence.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MEMBER. Citizens who become members for having RTI applications filed by the union must accompany the core committee members on RTI inspections and appeal hearings as advisors. They must follow up and maintain close contact with the core committee member. If the costs incurred on their behalf cross a certain limit, they must reimburse costs as per the rules to enable the union to function properly.
9) REWARD/REIMBURSEMENT FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS, CHARGES FOR SERVICE RECEIVERS. Those who join the union to serve on the core committee will be service providers. Those who join for having their RTI applications filed will be service receivers. Rules will be framed so that service providers are financially rewarded for their efforts, and service receivers are appropriately charged for services.
10) SUPPORT FROM PUBLIC CONCERN FOR GOVERNANCE TRUST (PCGT), OTHER NGOS & DONORS. Mr D S Rangarao, who was present on behalf of PCGT, offered support in terms of office premises as well as strong voices of anti-corruption stalwarts such as Narayan Varma and Julio Ribeiro. Sudhakar Malpe and others present also offered similar support of their NGOs. G R Vora and Viren Shah stressed that concerns about risks must be properly addressed through proper size and structure of this union.
11) LEGAL GROUNDWORK & REGISTRATIONS. Needless to say, once the structure of this union/association is decided, the body will be registered so that money received will be transparently utilized. Only after this will membership fees etc. be collected.
Fellow activists living in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (i.e. Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan etc.) here is a further question for you: IF THE ABOVE OUTLINED CONDITIONS ARE FULFILLED, WOULD YOU FILE AN RTI APPLICATION ON SOMEONE ELSE’S BEHALF to uncover and prevent scams like Adarsh & Lavasa, encroachment of public spaces and destruction of mangroves? Please think about this very seriously, and do come to the meeting.
Report of our first meeting: http://tinyurl.com/UnionMeet1a