The Political Science Association of Lady Shri Ram College organized a talk with the famous Right to Information Act activist Nikhil Dey on 29th October 2015. Mr. Dey spoke about the importance of RTI and its role in empowering citizens. He linked the RTI struggle to the feminist movement and helped students realise how each of their voices count. The session was very interactive and informative and brought to our attention many pertinent issues that neither the government nor the society at large talks about.
Mr. Dey started his lecture with the famous feminist slogan ‘the personal is the political’. Politics unfolds itself in various forms and manifestations in our daily lives. We all as individuals are political beings. From the simple act of voting to conforming to a certain idea of an ideal male or a female are all political acts. Moreover, according to Mr. Dey since all individuals are deeply political the onus to change all that is wrong with our society also lies with each one of us. Mr. Dey is part of the Mazdor Kisan Shakti Sangthan which played a pivotal role in the struggle for RTI. The movement started out with the demand for minimum wages for farmers but soon grew into a much large struggle for transparency and accountability.
The RTI bill was passed on 12th October 2005 which means this October the Right to Information Act will complete ten years of its existence. According to official statistics 8-10 million people every year file an RTI but according to Dey the actual number is much larger. This Act gave citizens the right to ask the government why are people dying of hunger and why basic facilities like education, employment, sanitation etcetera are not extended to those who need them the most. Mr. Dey compelled students to question the idea of a ‘shining India’ and look at the larger social, political and economic inequities prevailing in society.Students also saw a short documentary based on a girls’ school in Rajasthan where all students had come out on the streets to demand for more number of teachers and demanded that the government must soon address their concern. The talk was concluded with a small question and answer round.
Mr. Dey talked about how we need to stop deeming ourselves as powerless individuals and take things in our control by holding the government accountable. He urged all students to question the prevailing notion of development and argued that true development would come when all citizens of this country realise that the nation belongs to them and not to a mere bunch of capitalists. The most fundamental message that students took home with them was that a revolution starts with a single person. Power lies with each one of us we just need to claim it.
– Pritha Bhattacharya, First Year (College Magazine).