Dear Kejriwal and Modi, the question wasn't if PM's degrees were fake or not but why information was denied!

On 12 October, 2005 came into force the Right to Information Act (RTI) which enables the citizens of India to ask for information from the public authority and mandates timely response to citizen’s requests for government information; the first application was given to a Pune Police station. The act was hailed by not just the activists and press inside but also outside country’s borders for easing the gap between citizens and their political masters, for bringing accountability and transparency. From then many prominent civil society members and ordinary citizens who are aware of their rights have used this tool to obtain information and question authority wherever necessary. Thanks to this, many corruption cases have been unearthed and different political parties have used this scams to charge at their opposition. Although the act was passed under Congress regime, it won’t be wrong to say that it’s the BJP, then in opposition which had reaped all its results by heaping corruption charges against then govt. So one can safely claim the act was and is pivotal to hold institutions and governments accountable to its citizens. I myself had in past requested information under the act for under constructed roads, ration cards, college infrastructure etc., and had used information to ask for subsequent actions. When I went to a local panchayat building for getting some information under RTI, I was told by the junior officer who refuser to accept my application until his senior came - “I could have received it and ignored it like any other letter but your letter would require a mandatory answer, and madam has asked not to collect RTI without her presence!”

Number of petitioners had requested information about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees over the two years from India’s premium universities wherein Modi claim he has been educated from but all the petitions have been dismissed of the much sought information. This denial of information under law is what many civil society activists have alleged sets bad precedent and undermines the legitimacy of the Right to Information Act. Despite uproar although minuscule in media and concerns raised by many, the PMO, Delhi University, and Gujarat University have repeatedly declined to provide any information on PM’s degrees. Why would a university hide information about an alumni as high as Prime Minister when they otherwise boast of actors, businessmen and other political hotshots as their alumni is one that has baffled us all. And here is where media picked the ‘news’ and then Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal sent a scathing letter to Chief Information Officer (CIC) saying while it wanted him to provide information about his electoral photo identity card, it was obstructing information about PM’s degrees. In an unusual step, this letter of Kejriwal was considered as RTI application and the CIC directed PMO and both universities to provide the necessary information so that degrees can be made public.

What was saddening after all this incidents was that the real issue of information being denied although mandated by law was lost. Social media and news agencies were up in arms to pitch it as Kejriwal against Modi which attracts eyeballs and subsequent TRPs. Sorry to confirm but they all succeeded. The original issue of denial of information was lost and political drama was played on screen. For days there were claims of degrees being fake and forged until the big interview from govt. It was surprising from the part of BJP that it sent its tallest leaders, cabinet minister and president of the party with degrees. All thought, the issue would die its natural death now but then came the reply presser from AAP just after BJP. If BJP claimed degrees real, AAP claimed them forged. The battle of fake versus real continued and continues to be played out on social media and news channel but the whole issue of denial of information under RTI was lost. Nobody cared to ask the original questions that mattered. Sooner or letter we will have the truth of PM’s degrees but people are going to continue to ask for different information under the act and officials now will find themselves at ease to deny them their right to held governments and authorities accountable.

P.S. To those who say education doesn’t matter, Modi is doing far better than his predecessors with fancy degrees, it is not about the degrees. Even according to law, a person requires no formal education to be the Prime Minister of this nation but he is required to swore honestly. If Modi has indeed provided false information in his affidavits then that is criminal. To be educated or not is not the question, did Modi lied in his election affidavits or not is!

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