RTI activists’ murders: Jairam Ramesh demands prompt action, compensation to families

Rural development minister’s letter to Nitish Kumar includes four suggestions for better implementation of social welfare schemes

 
By Alok Gupta
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Union rural affairs minister Jairam Ramesh has expressed great concern over recent crimes targeting Right to Information (RTI) activists in Bihar.  In a letter to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Ramesh  demanded the immediate arrest of those who murdered the RTI activists  and compensation package for the families of deceased activists.

“Majority of the murdered activists had exposed corruption in grassroot development schemes like MGNREGA and solar light installation,” the letter states. The letter also cited a meeting with family members of deceased activists.

Ramesh’s letter prominently mentions the recent killing of advocate Ram Kumar Thakur of Muzaffarpur and Ram Vilas Singh of Lakhisarai, Bihar. Ramesh points out that Thakur, who exposed the MGNREGA scam worth Rs 25 lakhs,   had been beaten up and threatened with dire consequences over the past year. “Such cases should be investigated by the highest possible agency and culprits brought to book,” he says in the letter.

Audit, arrest, seize

The police made no arrests in either case. Thakur’s family has accused the mukhiya of the Ratnauli panchayat of masterminding the murder.

Ramesh has suggested a four-point approach for effective implementation of social welfare schemes that also takes into account protection of whistle-blowers. He suggested the Bihar chief minister conduct a special audit of all government schemes at the panchayat level. This audit should also deal with unsocial elements who threaten whistle-blowers and RTI activists who play a crucial role in exposing corruption in various schemes.

Secondly, the minister suggests that during the social audit, criminal cases should be lodged against those found usurping development scheme funds. There should be provision for recovery of scam money from officials and people misappropriating the funds.

Ramesh took strong exception to the non-payment of compensation to the family members of Thakur. He suggests that the deceased activists’ families should be given a compensation package, and the activists’ contributions recognized.

In the last of his four suggestions, Ramesh urges the government to ensure a social audit of MGNREGA at the panchayat level. He expresses his wish that the state constitute a separate social audit cell at the state level.

 

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