Friday, November 12, 2010

Punjab NGO 'SANKALP' takes RTI route to nail officials negligent in water pollution in a village


This is one of the rare cases, where dedication to serve the humanity with power of RTI is finally going to change the life of crippled & innocent poor villagers of ARNATU, a village in district Patiala, Punjab. Jatinder Jain, a Sunam district Sangrur Punjab based RTI activist, President of SANKALP, an NGO who made it possible.
Jain read a news report about ARNATU village where every third home is afflicted both mentally and physically due to water pollution. I visited this village having population of 2500,situated on the bank of Ghagger & felt the pain of the villagers where most of houses has one or two person with deformities, & I complained about the water pollution as well as non seriousness of the health hazards of ‘Arnatu’ villagers to the Health Minister, Punjab Pollution Board as well as Deputy commissioner of the district, jain told to Tribune.
Even after a month time, non of department’s officer acted on the complaint, Jain filed RTI applications on 13/05/2010 about progress made on his complaint about non-seriousness about the health hazards of ‘Arnatu’ villagers & corrective measurements taken so far in this regard, etc.
However, he did not get proper reply from all of the three departments. Finally he was forced to file complaint to State information Commission. Immediately after issuing of notice by SIC, all the three departments came into action & PPCB took samples of water and found that water of this village is not fit for drinking as it has high concentration of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). Bio-chemical levels in the Ghagger were far higher than normal, village ponds as well the groundwater was also contaminated, but Punjab Health Department, on the basis of the report submitted by doctors of Primary Health Center, Shutrana, to Civil Surgeon Patiala claimed that there was nothing wrong & water is fit for drinking in four water samples taken from village from different sites. Even these two contradictory reports, have left the resident puzzled but as a result of these RTI, these departments wake up & a special team of doctors from Chandigarh visited this village to check the health hazards of villagers due to the polluted water, Deputy Commissioner sent a team of doctors to make a detailed summery of each deformity in the village. Chairman of Punjab Pollution Control Board visited the village & ordered for detailed samples of ground water for further study. The water supply and sanitation (WSS) department sanctioned Rs. 70,000 to repair non functional tube well, we could get potable water as it could draw water from the depth of 600-650 feet said, Gurbex Ram Sarpanch of this village, as villagers have to use their submersible pumps for potable water which are drawing water from the depth of 200 to 250 feet. This water is too polluted because of discharge of pollutants into this seasonal rivulet by various industrial units which led to polluted ground water in the upper layer of land in the village as it is located on banks of Ghaggar.
His struggle with the help of RTI has not only drawn the attention of the Govt. authorities towards the Arnatu resident, but also SIC found the Public Information Officer of PPCB as well as Public Information Officer-cum-ADC, District administration APS Virk guilty under the Right to Information Act for not providing information in prescribed time of 30 days and issue a show cause notice & order also mentioned that why the penalty as prescribed in Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005 should not be imposed upon them, and seek explanation of both PIO’s should be submitted to the court on next date of hearing on November 11, 2010.
Its to mentioned that due to Jain’s efforts, matter has been already raised by PPCC Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and popular environment Sant Baba Sichewal has also come with them and has also been apprised of the seriousness of the problem and has raised the matter with Punjab Pollution Control Board as well as among the Punjab govt.
Jain has also several more notable successes in using RTI to expose corruption and irregularities. "I always want to do something for the society. Now, RTI Act act is a very powerful tool by using it, I will continue to raise several issues of public importance," say Jain.
RTI has given ordinary citizens the power to expose the non seriousness & criminality of government officials. The tribe of Jatinder Jain will hopefully grow.
jatinder jain (sankalp.rti@gmail.com)

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