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RTI – A novel way to fight for the rights

"Women of Baharana and Kunanga village of Banakhandi GP near Konark found a way to fight for their rights through Right To Information (RTI) Act-2005. It's by using RTI that they made the administration work to provide drinking water in their village, convene Palli Sabha (Village Meeting) regularly and empower the villagers to supervise over all development works."

N A Shah Ansari : September 15, 2008

RTI for Drinking Water:

It was June 7, 2008. More than two hundred women of Baharana and Kunanga village of Banakhandi GP of Gop Block of Orissa sought safe drinking water from the Administration by using Right to Information (RTI) Act as a tool for the same. The village women came to Gop Block office in a rally & demanded for safe drinking water facility in their villages. They gave a memorandum to the Block Development Officer and deposited one hundred eight RTI application forms asking for different information regarding the same.

People of the villages like Baharana, Murkundi, Kunanga, Dasabatia, Sarada etc of Banakhandi GP near Konark in Orissa had been facing severe scarcity of drinking water. There are three tube wells in Baharana village installed by Government which released saline water with a pungent iron smell. To the agony of the villagers, their relatives avoided coming to the village due to this reason. On visit of a guest, the villagers had to offer green coconut or bottle water. Through out the rainy season they used to collect the rainwater flowing through the roof for drinking and cooking purposes. During summer, they had to walk almost two Kilometers to a canal known as Safei Nala (Water Drainage canal) for water. People who were unable to go such long distance had to use the water from nearby muddy ponds used for bathing and cattle washing purposes.

Women of Baharana and Kunanga village of this GP found a way to fight for their rights through Right To Information (RTI) Act-2005. More than two hundred women went in a rally headed by their SHG leaders and gave the memorandum to the BDO Mr. Srimanta Mishra, demanding immediate provision of safe drinking water in their village. Along with the same they also deposited one hundred eight RTI applications at Block office for all information in this regard.

Village Women organised PALLISABHA at Baharana Village

Baharana is a remote village of Banakhandi GramPanchayat of Gop Block with lot of problems like Drinking Water, School Education, Road facility etc. Since long a proper Pallisabha was not organised in this village. So when the village women came to know regarding their role and responsibility in Panchayatiraj System especially in PalliSabha and GramSabha, unitedly they demanded for a special PalliSabha before Sarapancha and BDO, Gop Block. On their demand the PalliSabha was convened at Baharana village where only women of the village were present. More than hundred women actively participated in different discussion with Sarapanch, GP Secretary and Concerned Ward Member of that Ward who was presiding over the PalliSabha.

A number of proposals were proposed and SHGs of the Village were given responsibility to execute the projects. Also the Sarapanch assured to take immediate action for supply of drinking water to this village under JALADHARA Project as the villagers used to collect drinking water from a SAFEI NALA one and half KM away from the village. The concerned Block development officer Srimanta Mishra again appreciated the action taken by village women and assured them to visit that village very soon.

A battle won through RTI

Confidence never bends down. Hard work with confidence always brings success, proved the women of Baharana village of Banakhandi Gram Panchayat of Gop Block in Puri District of Orissa.

When the women of Baharana village came to know that Pallisabha should be held in their village at least once in a year and even more on demand but no Pallisabha had been organized in their village since long, they came forward to make it sit.

The team of village women demanded at Block office for a Pallisabha in this village. As per their demand BDO of Gop Block directed concerned official & GP to organise Pallisabha of that village on dt.07.07.08. The Pallisabha was organized on that day and strangely only hundreds women of that village joined in this pallisabha & taken part in different discussion. On that day they came to know that the only village road of their village is going to be constructed very soon by the Gram Panchayat itself. They formed a village Inspection team to supervise the road work & demanded for the estimate copy of the road work. But the Sarpanch played double stranded with them.

They started demanding for the estimate copy each day and stopped the road construction work which was started by the GP authorities. The Sarapanch and the GP Secretary told that the road work has not been pre-estimated but started in advance for the benefit of villagers. They threatened that if the village women will disturb, the road construction work will be cancelled. Then the local touts and contractors started to scold and intimidate to stop their movement. Even, they threatened to give false police cases against the women leaders. Also the Sarapanch & local touts used the male villagers to threaten their wives not to take part in this movement.

But the women are never bent. They deposited 5 RTI applications at Gop Block to get the estimate copy of this road work and demanded the BDO to keep the road construction work on hold till supply of the estimates. Finally, the Sarpanch handed over the estimate copy on 08.09.08. The village women have now decided to ensure quality construction of their village road.

Bhabani Malika – a 72 years old lady of the village said with contentment - “Finally, we won the battle”.

(Author is a leading Social and Media Activist working for empowerment of youth and people living in Rural Orissa)



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