The power of RTI – My experience

Recently I personally experienced the power of the RTI(Right to information)act. The incident has to do with BMC and the issue is related to notorious open manholes in Mulund. As many of us know manhole covers are conspicuous by their absence in several parts of Mumbai and our suburb Mulund is no exception. During the last one month there were several reports of people falling into manholes accidentally and there was at least one accident which was fatal involving a small kid.
However, what shook me into action was the fall of my office colleague into a manhole in the dark (near Johnson & Johnson). Imagine the shock one would experience if one were to suddenly find oneself inside a manhole with no one around to help! Apparently he struggled hard and managed to climb up to safety after a long time. Quite scary even to think of that! Needless to add that my friend had a providential escape.

This incident provoked me into instant and spontaneous action. The same day I found myself talking to a few friends of mine to seek solutions. Before seeking solutions one has to first understand the problem. It seems that there is widespread pilferage and theft of manhole covers – whether they are made of metal or concrete – for the sake of their metal value. And,as always, there is always precious time lost to replace the missing ones,which is the cause of accidents.

What then is the solution? From my previous experience of working on Composite’ materials,I recalled that a similar problem in Railways was solved by replacing the metallic fixtures in a compartment with ‘Composites'(FRP,Fibre reinforced plastics). Since the latter does not have any resale value,obviously,there is no incentive for pilferage. I made further inquiries and came to know that BMC was already aware of this solution and they had already conducted pilot trials in some parts of the city.
Then I used RTI to find out why they were not implementing this solution in Mulund. I prepared a set of questions basically to elicit information on various aspects of a project for replacing the existing manhole covers with FRP . The officer (Civil maintanance) was very cooperative and gave all the information.
He gave information on the pilot scale experiments and the feedback they got. He also shared info on the plans for implementing in Mulund during the next financial year(April,2010). BMC is apparently,planning to keep stocks of FRP manhole covers with the idea of replacing as and when the existing manhole covers are found missing. On my part,I offered to lend a helping hand to identify competent fabricators of FRP based covers,in case they needed any help.

In the light of my personal experience,I am convinced that RTI is a great boon in the hands of responsible citizens, provided it is used for constructive purposes. In the absence of RTI,I am sure I would have been forced to go from pillar to post to get any meaningful information.
I can use this information in the future to demand proactive action from BMC on this particular issue.

The purpose of writing this post is to highlight that RTI is a great tool empowering the common man and we all should use it purposefully to make our governments more accountable.

Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 11:21 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am sure you meant ‘manhole COVERS are …in Mulund..”

  2. Yes indeed-that was a silly mistake which escaped editing. Thanks,anyway

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