RTI ACT and Investigative Journalism.

Just like citizens, the RTI act has enabled lot many journalists in the country to investigate regarding their concerned issues. RTI act over the years has become an important weapon for journalists to divulge hidden and lesser known information. RTI act has become so crucial and an “everyday thing” for some journalists that they have build their entire career out of it.

Some of the famous cases where RTI act has helped journalists in their investigation procedure are:

1) Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial Project by journalist Mr. Vishwas Waghmode:

Mr. Waghmode, a journalist at the time in The Indian Express investigated the controversial Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial project. According to him, the initial cost quoted by the contractor was Rs.3826 crores which was supposed to be the lowest bid as opposed to the government’s bid which was Rs.2500 crores. The government in order to resolve this issue set up a committee led by the chief secretary in order to renegotiate the cost which successfully got the cost down to the government’s estimate of Rs.2500 crores. Mr.Waghmode in connection with this case stated that the rules do not allow renegotiation but rather they are supposed to issue fresh tenders. He further added that the opposition was alleging the government had reduced the height of the statue in order to reduce the cost which the government vehemently denied.

In order to have the “genuine information”, he took the help of RTI act. Mr. Waghmode discovered and revealed how the government had in reality decreased the height of the statue and the horse by 7.5m. But in order to show that the height of the statue was not reduced, they had instead increased the height of the sword by 7.5m. He further revealed that since the sword was straight, the amount of money required to build the sword was quite less when compared to the reduction in height and that in turn helped them reduce the cost by a substantial amount.

RESULT:

When all of this came into the public eye, the State Government could not justify why the height of the sword was increased and was in deep shame.

2) HONORARY DOCTORATE SCAM by Shyamlal Yadav.

When we talk about investigative journalism in India, we can never ignore this name, that is, Shyamlal Yadav. In 2018, Mr. Shyamlal Yadav in The Indian Express published a series of investigative reports on how India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for “predatory” publishers of substandard research journals.


On February 6, 2018, The Indian Express scrutinised over 500 RTI applications filed over 470 higher educational institutions to find that monitoring authorities, and hundreds of politicians and bureaucrats were awarded such degrees between 1997 and 2017.

The list for instance included former director of IISC, who received 18 honorary doctorates from public universities between 2006 and 2012 when he was chairman of NAAC’s EC. The list also had several UGC chairmen who had such degrees during their tenure.


RESULT:
Rules were made by higher authorities in 2019 after the investigative report via RTI files whereby NAAC officials, family weren’t allowed to accept honorary doctorates from institutions under their watch. RTI was used to dig out crucial facts in this case.

3) Discontinuation of LIC policies by Shyamlal Yadav

Shyamlal Yadav got information through RTI from Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) that there were 59 million insurance policies those were lapsed permanently due to discontinuance of premium. And the premium deposited since then had become LIC property. Despite many efforts LIC did not provide the info on total money deposited against those policies till the date they lapsed. As a result, Indian Express published the story about the discontinuation.


RESULT:


Within 25 days of publication of the story, LIC issued fresh
advertisements regarding renewal of policies.

4) Streams of Filth by Shyamlal Yadav:

This was an investigation by Shyamlal Yadav regarding water pollution in India that took over one year. About 39 RTI applications regarding expenses by Government on water projects were filed.
It came into notice that large amount of money was spent by Government for water purification projects but there was little effect on nation’s lifelines.
The story was published in The Indian Express and was selected by UNESCO as one of the 20 best Investigative pieces in the world.


RESULT:
Central Pollution Control Board said the rivers of India are not just polluted but severely toxic.