The Right to Information Act 2005 is a law that enables Indians access to government records. Under the terms of the Act, any person may request information from a "public authority" which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.
The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination.
Vijaya S Mulay, a retired municipal nurse, frustrated by the nonpayment of her retirement dues for nearly a year, filed a query under the RTI Act and sought to track the movement (or non-movement) of papers pertaining to her service. The papers were pending with the administrative department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (formerly Bombay Municipal Corporation) or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is, ironically India's richest municipal organisation.
It is responsible for the civic infrastructure and administration of the city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay.
Mulay used to work with the Marol Maternity Home at Andheri (east) and retired as senior nurse in September 2005.
When there was a delay in getting her leave encashment payment, she applied to the medical officer, Marol maternity home, Andheri. But the officials there gave her excuses like, "We have to check the record from the day of starting service and your papers are missing."
When Mulay did not get any response for nearly a year, she filed an RTI query on September 12 last year. She got a reply within a week from the public information officer that she would get her dues within eight to 10 days.
Though Mulay got her dues (Rs 1.8 lakh) within two weeks, she found it appalling that the officials had sat on her dues for over a year.
She then filed a second RTI query on March 2007 which sought details of the movement of her files from one desk to another and the action that had been initiated against the officers for the massive delay.
The RTI response revealed details of movement of the papers. It said that the papers were at Marol Maternity Home for 82 days and then were moved to the administrative office, K east ward, where they remained for 30 days. The papers were then sent back to Marol Maternity Home where they remained for another 189 days.
The BMC, taking cognizance of this delay, penalised the chief clerk Suresh B Dhotre, and clerk Vijay B Ghag from Marol Maternity Home with fines of Rs 200 and Rs 300 respectively. Written memos were also served to the two and a record of their shoddy service was made in their service files.
"I felt humiliated by the way I was treated after being in public service for over three decades. But the penal action thanks to the RTI Act has given me new hope," Mulay said.