Government-aided schools refuse to answer multiple RTI queries. Instead, they threaten to go on strike and manage to get the applicant arrested on extortion charges

All children need to do to skip class on a chilly winter morning is to convince a neighbourhood uncle to file an RTI against their school asking them uncomfortable questions. It's just that simple, at least that's what came out of a meeting called by 15 schools in Malwani, Malad, on Saturday.

In the meeting, attended by 5,000 parents at MHADA grounds, school authorities said that Kiran Sindhi and Ali Asgar Mohammad Tehsildar, residents of Malwani filed numerous RTIs in the last three years with multiple queries regarding building inspections, school facilities, government grants, school certifications, fire safety norms, etc. The schools alleged that Asgar and Tehsildar's were trying to extort money from them if they were unable to answer the queries.

The schools threatened to remain closed on Monday in protest of the RTIs but the strike was called off after Ali Asgar Tehsildar was arrested on Friday on charges of extortion. Ramesh Indulkar, Principal of Ideal English High School and Chairperson of Malad Private School Association said, "We were harassed by two people Sindhi and Tehsildar for three years. Earlier, they asked for a bribe from one of our association member too. We decided to file a case against them and inform parents about how schools are being harassed."

We cancelled our decision of closing schools on Monday immediately after Malwani police arrested Tehsildar," Indulkar added. Tehsildar was given bail by Bandra court on Saturday.

Asgar and Tehsildar appealed to court as their RTIs filed before July 18, 2011, are still pending. Sindhi said, "We are just asking for information from the schools through the RTI. What wrong have we committed? We don't understand why schools have not responded. Moreover, one of the principals who attended the hearing on February 9 passed a communal slur against Tehsildar. They have registered a fake case of extortion against us."

"The principals are misleading parents who don't know how the schools are extorting money from them illegally," he claimed.

A parent, on condition of anonymity, said, "Most of the parents don't know what the issue between the schools and the residents who filed RTI entails. We even told the school that if the RTI applicants are have queries, the school should not hesitate in giving the information."