October 20th, 2016
RTI Activist Murdered
72-year-old Bhupendra Vira, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, was shot dead in Mumbai on Saturday by a man who barged into his home. The killer entered Bhupendra’s home in Santacruz at around 9 pm while he was watching TV and shot him in the head, said the police. A former corporator of the Congress, Razzaq Khan and his son have been arrested in connection with the murder. They will remain in police custody till October 24.
Vira had always been a committed social worker who had taken on land mafia and encroachers. He had also filed applications with BMC and Slum Rehabilitation Authority and Lokayukta. Activist and former Aam Aadmi Party leader Anjali Damania, who had worked closely with Mr Vira, alleged that he was murdered because of his relentless fight against illegal land dealings. She also told police that Mr Vira and several other activists had been threatened in the past. Police is presently carrying out investigation, whether Mr Vira had complained about any threats. Khan and his son are being interrogated about the identity of the assassin and the source of the firearm.
Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra and former chief secretary of state Ratnakar Gaikwad on Monday asked authorities to ensure a thorough probe into the murder of RTI activist Bhupendra Vira and make public the information sought by him. He directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to upload on its website information sought by Vira through applications pending with its Public Information Officers (PIOs). The Additional Chief Secretary (General Administration Department) shall review pending RTI applications filed by Vira during the last one year with various public authorities other than BMC and make sure information sought is put on the government websites concerned before 31 October.
It is extremely serious,sad and unfortunate that RTI Activists who play a very important role in ensuring effective implementation of RTI Act, have to face violence, intimidation and resistance from unscrupulous and corrupt elements in the society and it is the duty of Government and Public Authorities to ensure full protection and safety of RTI Activists to support transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities.
With this recent incident, the death toll of those using the transparency law to target corruption and malpractices has gone up to 56, reported Times Of India. There has been more than 311 instances of harassment of RTI activists including murder, attacks and intimidation from the time the law came into force in 2005, according to an analysis by Delhi-based advocacy group CHRI.