A website to log the RTI success stories of Purulia villagers
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On being asked his age, Kolebor Kalindi, a resident of Karru village in Baghmundi block of Purulia, fumbles for an answer. The 20-odd neighbours and relatives surrounding him do some loud thinking, and conclude that he cannot be more than 40. Kalindi, a farm labourer with a family of seven, looks older. His neighbours, Shombari Machchua, Gangadhar Hembram, Raghu Majhi, Bhojohori Kumar, don't seem to know their ages either. More occupied with trying to eke out a living as farm labourers, the community, mostly belonging Scheduled Castes, doesn't spare much thought to birth dates.
Yet, they are all familiar with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, thanks to the efforts of some students in the US who trace their origins to West Bengal and a local organisation called the Mandra Lions Club. The two groups joined forces to educate the people of the three blocks in Purulia — Baghmundi, Jhalda I, Jhalda II — about the importance of using RTI to gain information about the workings of government agencies in matters that directly affect their daily lives. This year they plan to launch a website which will feature these stories from the grassroots.
Like the story of Kalindi, who got an educated farmer, Basudeb Kumar, to file an RTI about the amount of ration a BPL card holder is entitled to under the public distribution system. The RTI, filed at the village panchayat office, also sought the list of people under the Annapurna and Antyodaya schemes.
"We are labourers. After a day's work of making cane baskets, I don't get more than Rs 50 to feed seven mouths. The ration shop would usually give us one or two kg of rice every week," says Kalindi. But after the RTI, he found out that he was entitled to five kg of rice every week, at the rate of Rs 2 per kg.
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