An official, who had been once suspended for campaigning in favour of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, has now been rewarded for presenting the ‘Best Paper Award on Case Study of the RTI Act.
JM Rajashekhar, a block health education officer (BHEO) in Haveri, had participated in a competition conducted by the Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Mysore, is one of the 10 award winners from South India. Moreover, he is the only government employee from the state to be among the awardees.
Rajashekhar’s papers were on corruption and harassment of workers in the North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and doctors deployed in non-medical services in the state health department.
The official told this correspondent, “As I had given a call to the public to make use of RTI to weed out corruption, I was suspended for five months in 2010 without any intimation or notice. However, to make good use of the suspension period, I kept filing RTI applications on proceedings of our department and unearthed a Rs 3 crore scam in the purchase of solar lights.” As of now, this case is pending before the Lokayukta.
“I argued in court that if campaigning for the RTI Act is wrong, then both the union and state governments should also be prosecuted. RTI is an Act framed by the government itself, and the government is spending crores of rupees for campaigns. The Act does not prevent government employees from campaigning or even using it,” he contended. His version was upheld by the, court and his salaries for five months too had to be paid by the government.
Rajashekhar, who has written over 60 books on health, consumer rights, journalism and agriculture, has been an anti-corruption activist for over two decades.