Right to Information (RTI) activist Ranjit Mahanti’s quest for truth ended with a rude shock yesterday, when staffers at the Vinayak Ganesh Vaze Kelkar College in Mulund told him that the data he sought was so immense and would require so much work that they would have to hire two additional employees to do the work -- they asked if the activist would cough up their charges.
‘The work may require a year’s time. We have to appoint two additional employees and the expenditure on this has to be met by you,’ read the reply to a simple query put forward by Kanjurmarg resident Mahanti (35), asking if the college is in the habit of returning the refundable security deposit and caution money it takes from its students.
Mahanti said the institute asks for certain refundable security deposits while admitting students -- Rs 250 for use of the library, Rs 400 for use of the laboratory and Rs 150 as caution money that can cover losses in the event of any breakage or damage to the facility caused by the students. While these amounts are fully refundable after completion of the course, students are not informed the same.
Mahanti filed the query on December 1 last year. At first, the college administration tried to evade the query. “I was getting rude replies from the college management. They even misbehaved with me at times. They were saying that it was not possible for them to reply to the question,” he said.
Mahanti wasn’t ready to give up and kept asking about the status of his query. Yesterday, he received the shocker from the college in a letter that asked him to pay the two people who would have to be hired by the college to collect the data.
The school’s reply
‘We wish to inform you that information required by you about security deposits is extremely large work. It may require one year’s time. It is not possible for us to complete this during our routine work, for which we have to appoint two additional employees on contract basis. Kindly let us know whether you are ready to pay for the expenditure towards this work for information required by you.”
No return policy
In 2011, MiD DAY had published a report on RTI activist Sudhir Singh’s expose that Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala (RJ) College had amassed Rs 45 lakh by way of refundable deposits from students (‘College pockets Rs 45 lakh in refundable deposits: RTI’, November 28, 2011). After the news broke, the college started refunding the money, and also pasted a notice on its board informing students about the refundable money.
The other side
“Right to Information activists also should understand the problems faced by the college. Often they seek unnecessary information to harass us. We are short-staffed. Mahanti had met me. We will give the information to him,” said Dr Bharat Bhushan Sharma, principal of the college