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Middle-class empowered | The rise

Jan 17, 2007 08:50 AM IST India India

The Justice for Jessica campaign, the battle for a long overdue judgement in the Priyadarshani Mattoo case,a strong Right To Information campaign, CNN-IBN's citizen journalists - India's middle class has amply proved over the past year that it is up and running for causes that matter.

Be it running around for radical reform, lighting candles for justice or garnering support for a long-term change, the great Indian middle class has been there and done it to all. CNN-IBN celebrates the spirit of the middle-class activism in a special series -
The Rise Of The Radical Middle.

New Delhi/Mumbai: Information is power and the great Indian middle class has a new tool to wield it. The Right to Information Act - since it came into force last year - has been a driving force for many who now have the means to take matters in their own hands.

In the third installment of the special series – The Rise of the Radical Middle – CNN-IBN focuses on two men who have used RTI to make their and their society’s lives simpler.

For over eight years, a recycling factory in east Delhi played havoc with Kapil Jain's life.

"Because of the factory my wife had a miscarriage, my father's health got affected and my mother started getting high BP,” says Jain.

Jain did not shift out of his home, nor did he seethe in silence. Instead, this schoolteacher went against the grain of his middle-class sensibilities and decided to get the factory shut.

In 1995, he registered his first police complaint but nothing became of it. He then approached the Pollution Control Board, but in vain.

A desperate and isolated Jain then decided to go the Right to Information way. Just one application under this Act meant prompt action and the factory was sealed in just 26 days

“SDM said we made a mistake. Same day the factory was sealed," says Jain.

Jain still grieves his first unborn child, but with the sadness there is a satisfaction of a citizen who still got his due.
Kapil Jain is just one of the scores of stories pouring in of ordinary middle class people who, despite limited means and little influence, have been able to take on the system using the RTI act.

“The process of seeking information so empowering that many things get done. Earlier any pending work, even legitimate meant people were helpless and had to run around and pay bribes. Now if you find out your files status or people on it, work gets done. This is a potent tool in hands of the common man,” says RTI pioneer and Magasaysay Awardee Arvind Kejriwal.

Another such person is 45-year-old Mumbai-based tailor Bhaskar Prabhu. He spends an hour a day away from his daily work and a few thousand rupees a month from his own pocket to tidy Mumbai up

Prabhu has till date filed nearly 300 RTI applications on everything from getting potholes fixed to removing illegal vendors from the footpaths of Dadar.

"It’s important to take out time so that the young generation realises its importance and sees its fruits. It is necessary,” he says.

With thousands of applications pouring in with public authorities, it’s an indication that there is a growing Indian middle class that's finally ready to come out of its inertia and work at righting the system.

(With Marya Shakil and Mosiqui Acharya)