“Proper use of Right to Information (RTI) and social media, like Twitter, coupled with public interest litigation (PIL) can bring positive changes in the Railways. If some divyang person like me can make the Railways to follow procedures and help provide justice to lakhs of commuters, you also can contribute in making the Railways much better,” says noted activist Samir Zaveri. He was speaking at a workshop on ‘How to resolve Railway related issues with Right to Information’, organised by Moneylife Foundation.
Mr Zaveri asked the participants to immediately register their complaint about the issues they are facing with the concerned authorities. And if that doesn’t help, then to file RTI applications seeking information on the status of their complaints filed. He advised them to pursue such issues with perseverance since it does take time to resolve them. He further said that the points raised in the application should be precise so as to prevent application being rejected or confusing the Public Information Officer (PIO) to reply.
Mr Zaveri shared his successful battle for providing ambulances and Emergency Medical Rooms (EMR) across various railways stations of Mumbai through an order from the Bombay High Court (HC). The HC also ordered payments to private hospitals (to ensure that victims are taken to the nearest hospital) and to ambulance services and helpers, in order to ensure they make haste to help.
He informed the participants how the EMRs at different stations are helping save lives of several commuters. “Every years, over 2,500-3,000 people die only on Mumbai suburban rail network. Many of them die because there was no medical treatment available during the life saving ‘golden hour’. So I decided to pursue this matter and was successful in obtaining orders from the HC to keep at least one ambulance ready at every station, and set up EMR at suburban stations across Mumbai.”
Mr Zaveri astonished the participants with some of his mind-wobbling experiences on how despite of the challenges, he exposed corruption of the railway board including some of the senior railway officers and Railway Protection Force (RPF) which also made him known as an uncompromising railways activist.
He also shared an incident where the Railway Protection Force (RPF) officials were collecting rent from their ground near Mulund station. According to information procured by Mr Zaveri using the RTI, the ground at Mulund was rented out to non-Railway parties for various functions on daily rent basis. Following an order from RPF head office, the officer at Mulund collected all the rent and deposited it in a separate bank account under the name of ASC, RPF. The money deposited in this account was Rs10.39 lakh during 2010 to 2014. Following correspondence with the authorities, finally in 2015, the then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered on enquiry into this episode and asked to take action against erring officials.
Mr Zaveri has witnessed the callousness of the Railways, Railway Protection Force (RPF) and even state-managed Government Railway Police (GRP) on several occasions. He even faced the wrath of the Railways and Police for his tireless, never giving up spirit and humble attitude and has now won the case against the Railways and Police. When asked about being under pressure due to such harassment from false cases, he says, “When a case of kidnapping one alleged vendor was filed against me, I studied law books with help from a retired judge and some lawyer friends. This knowledge gained due to the false case, to use right sections of laws for particular situation, which is still helping me to fight for commuters.”
In the concluding session, Mr Zaveri answered various queries of the participants including issues like the overcharging for eatable items in running trains, shortage of security personnel at railway stations and in allocated coaches, misuse of VIP quota for train ticket booking by touts, and unauthorised travelling in coaches reserved for divyang persons.
He highlighted the point that, if he alone can bring such positive changes, then even others can. “Each one should select one issue, however small it is and start using RTI to obtain more information on that particular issue,” he says.
He stressed that the citizens should also raise their voice against the wrong they encounter and immediately bring it to the notice of the Rail Officials via their Twitter handle. (https://twitter.com/RailMinIndia, https://twitter.com/PiyushGoyalOffc, https://twitter.com/WesternRly) Some of the participants also requested Moneylife Foundation to provide the contact details of the Railway Authorities, which enables them to complaint about any railways issues. Read here (http://dir.railnet.gov.in/)