This whistleblower helps 'clean' system

When compared to the metro cities, where RTI has taken the form of a campaign, Mangalore which too is growing in a rapid speed with majority of literacy population, visibly lacks RTI activists or organisations promoting RTI activism.

However, a city based NGO Whitewhistle, which has been set up by a youth to bring awareness about RTI among the urban population has certainly emerged as a ray of hope. Founded by an RTI activist Harsha Raj Gatty, who is a former MCMS student of Aloysius College and presently working with Mphasis, Whitewhistle has shouldered the responsibility of raising the number of whistle blowers in Mangalore. Whitewhistle was launched on May 2, 2011 with the motto of educating the people about their fundamental right to seek information from the bureaucracy and simultaneously alert the officials or the public servants of their duty to respond.

Speaking to City Herald, Harsha Raj Gatty said that his interest towards RTI activism simply drove him to start an organisation which would enable people to file RTIs and spread the awareness of the same. “In Whitewhistle, we not only file RTI forms for the needy, but also teach them the method to file the form. With RTI being mostly used as a device by the elite class, our major concern lies in sensitising the poor and middle class about the significance of RTI. Though the response we have received in the last four months has been positive, we are expecting more public participation,” he says.

RTI classes
Under Whitewhistle, Gatty and a team of his associates from various fields have been engaging classes to the school children, college students and public servants in the city limits. He started the class for school children during a summer camp organised by the Centre for Interested Learning (CIL), where, as many as 20 students filed RTI seeking answers to their questions. In the recent development, Gatty and his team was invited by the City Police Commissioner to engage RTI class for the cops.

Sharing his experience of handling RTI classes to the police on August 24, Harsha Raj Gatty said that it was a very different experience to inform about RTI to the men in uniform. “Though I had expected 10-15 police to take part in the class, I was surprised to see 40 and odd police including seniors and juniors eager to know the pros and cons of RTI,” he said. According to Gatty, there is an equal necessity to bring RTI awareness among applicants as well as respondents.

As he puts it, “many a times, applicants as well as respondents who are ignorant about their accountability towards the system, turn arrogant which results in enmity between the two. When the issue is taken in a personal level, it is likely to harm the applicant.” Keeping in mind the same, Whitewhistle has also taken up the agenda of ‘Risk Mitigation,’ where the distance between the applicant and respondent is well maintained. An RTI activist is expected to face risk if he has filed several RTI applications to the same office, he opines. In such a case, Whitewhistle files the RTI through one of its members so that the one who seeks information is kept away from danger. “If the issue is of serious concern, then we can manage to pull outsiders to file RTI from far away places,” he informed.
Why ‘Whitewhistle’?
According to Gatty, they have named the organisation ‘Whitewhistle’ because the information they seek from the offices is in white paper and the applicants are nothing but whistle blowers. Under Whitewhistle, the members file RTI in public interest on their own expenses or they file RTI based on others demand at a cost of Rs 20. If an individual approaches Whitewhistle to file RTI with business motive, then a fee of Rs 150 is collected, informed Gatty.

The organisation will become full-fledged and would be a registered trust in the month of December. One of the immediate plans of the organisation is to engage class for the prisoners in Mangalore Sub Jail. For more information, one can log into Facebook as the Whitewhistle is quite active on Facebook.

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