Bhagwan Mulji Karia (71) is an ideal example for the country’s Right To Information (RTI) activists. While a majority of RTI activists extort money through RTI replies, Karia spends from his own pocket to fight for the cause of citizens.

Bhagwan Mulji Karia started his activism after he was forced to shut down his family business
Bhagwan Mulji Karia started his activism after he was forced to shut down his family business

“I walk from CST to the Chief Information Commissioner’s office in Nariman Point for appeal hearings, to save Rs 20, which I use for printing one page of my application,” says Karia, a resident of Mulund (West).

Many activists target builders in the city; they find irregularities in their construction projects through RTI requests, and blackmail the builder into paying them money. Else they threaten to stall the project using the information.

How it began
Karia was a businessman, but was forced to shut shop. “I was a supplier of a plastic colours till 10 years ago. After the government introduced heavy taxation, I was forced to shut my family business.”

On his visits to government offices for any work, he observed how people suffered at the mercy of the babus. “Everyone has a price tag, from the peon to the head of department. I shut my business because I couldn’t entertain corrupt officers, nor could I engage in malpractices,” he recalls.

Six years ago, he decided enough was enough. He decided to take the corrupt staff to task and target consumer-related issues that affect people on a daily basis. His first RTI application – relating to weighing machines – was in 2008 (see box). He then took on several issues.

“After me, my brothers took over the company. They now pay me a fixed amount every month, so that I can take care of my wife and mentally ill son. Of this, I spend more than half on filing RTIs,” says Karia.

Karia doesn’t care for threats. “I received death threats twice. I don’t care if I die. When these very people realise I’m honest, they bow down to me,” he says.