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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

‘Odd rebel’ gets a potent weapon in RTI

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Her brush with the establishment is enviable, and her purpose sincere. She is 61, single and the pen-name ‘Odd Rebel’ — short for Audrey Rebello — couldn’t have summed her up better. A former IIM-A fellow, she just can’t sit back and watch in wry resignation the endless indignities heaped on common citizens. She fights for consumer rights, takes up cudgels against policemen on basic safety issues, battles against encroachments and for sanitation requirements in the city. Today, she has taken on the mobile and the WLL service providers as toll free emergency numbers like 100, 101,102 are rarely accessible to a common citizen from public phone booths and sometimes even from mobiles. Rebello, who otherwise bombards authorities with letters, now relies on the Right to Information Act to make the authorities confess on paper that they did wrong. “In Gujarat, writing letters to government officials is like tickling a dinosaur’s tail. It will take ages before the dinosaur realises it was tickled. With RTI in force, I know exactly what went wrong when, be it a law and order problem in a neighbourhood or inefficiency of the municipality in collecting strewn garbage,” says Rebello. An IIM-A fellow, former lecturer of English and former social worker, Audrey Rebello kicked her fat-salaried corporate job 20 years ago after she found fighting boardroom battles boring. She found that fighting for the basic rights of citizens required far more spine than what is needed to survive in the corporate world. And today, she is using the Right to Information Act as her weapon to fight the babus. “RTI alone cannot redress problems of individuals. You have to use a combination of tools and laws along with it to make any authority do its job properly. Babus generally take advantage of our ignorance of laws and procedures. In fact, with the RTI, I make them confess on paper that they are not doing their work, which is embarrassing for them,” says Rebello. She further says, “For instance, no one has bothered to appoint an executive magistrate at Gheekantha court-1 since October last year. So many cases have piled up since then. The lone officer handling the job has other responsibilities and is therefore not being able to do justice to the task at hand. I filed a petition under the RTI recently to know why the government was not filling up those posts.”
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 25; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

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