Ankit Salgaonkar, the 24-year-old lad from Chapora village in Goa, is apparently the youngest RTI activist of Goa. He runs a small General Store in Anjuna. His first confrontation with the corruption started way back in last year when he visited the RTO office in Mapusa in regards to the transfer of his vehicle and that experience apparently changed his whole life.
Ankit Visited the Mapusa RTO office for the first time on September, 15th 2015 and that was the time he realized that high caliber of corruption and misappropriation takes place in this office. “I had visited Mapusa RTO office for the transfer of my vehicle and they demanded Rs. 600 from me to transfer my vehicle, later on, when I enquired with the others I came to know that they demand the money to get all sorts of work done. But it was shocking to me. Slowly I came to know that everyone working there demands the money for any kind of work and then I realized that some sorts of corrupt activities are going on here”. Ankit narrated.
After this negative experience, that too on his first ever visit RTO office shook his confidence on the working style of the government departments in Goa. He started visiting this place frequently to find out more about the corrupt activities and by this time he made up his mind to expose all the corrupt people who take the advantage of their position to make money in illegal ways. He saw that every task has one price tag there, which would start from as small as Rs. 20 with no upper limits. According to the existing system here “If you pay, your work will be done otherwise you have been asked to visit the place repeatedly till the time your task is done”, he pointed out. Ankit also told us that “If you avoid them then you have other option of going to the agents (Touts) sitting outside the RTO office and they also have their rate cards which again depends on upon the task”.
Ankit’s revelations were shocking, everything was happening under the nose of the government and nobody ever took any cognizance of it. This made Ankit more curious about the entire thing, and he decided to expose the people behind this. When we tried to find out how he came to know that the RTO staff doing something illegal, he told us that “I observed them minutely, when I was in the queue I saw the agents coming to the lady clerk with the documents and along with the documents they used to handover the some cash to her, telling her to expedite the work. I went to inquire with her if she can do the other work so fast then why not my work too? On this she replied that she needs to pass on certain part of the money to her seniors and started demanding the money from me, but I did not want to promote this activity and decided to come out of the line”. He took a pause and then continued again with similar enthusiasm “I was quietly standing in one corner and observing her activities, there I saw one elderly person standing in the line for long time, he was apparently had come all the way from Margao. Once he reached near that lady I saw him requesting her saying ‘Madam I am coming from Margao and I need the transfer of my vehicle as I am relocating’ but she refused to listen to him, he repeatedly kept requesting her but she did not pay much attention to his pleadings. Finally, she opened up to him and straight away demanded the money to get the work done faster. The elderly person took out rupees 20 notes from his pocket and kept on the file”.
Ankit was standing far from the scene and watching everything, “Soon that elderly person came to me and confessed that he had only rupees 40 to travel back to Margao out of which she took 20, I felt very bad about it and that prompted me to start my fight against these corrupt activities taking place in RTO office in Mapusa. I decided to do the recording of her activity and when she demanded the money from once again, I started the recording, it was my first sting operation which I later gave it to Anti-Corruption Department”, he told.
After the disclosure of this corrupt practice at Mapusa into the media by Ankit, people started approaching him with their problems, especially those who were facing the similar issues in the government departments. “First thing that happened was the media person took my interview and that resulted in the kind of publicity whereby people started approaching me and started giving me the information about the corrupt activities taking place in another departments. It such happened that once when I went to the Mamalatdar office for some work, one elderly person approached me and asked me ‘Are you Ankit Salgaonkar?’ And I said yes, and then he started telling me that he saw my interview on the TV and the same lady demanded the money from him too”.
Ankit Salgaonkar now deiced to go blunt against these corrupt activities across the Goa, but his main target was to finish the corrupt activities in Mapusa first. “After I exposed that corrupt lady at Mapusa RTO and handed over the recording to the ACB office DySP Silva helped me a lot, now I started to follow the agents who were sitting out and helping the corruption to flourish. Since then whenever I dialed 100 to give them the tip about the agents I realized that before the police reach the spot all agents used to disappear in the thin air, I was sure that this was not happening without the help of inside person”.
The journey of Ankit was not easy and he had to face lots of hurdles while exposing the corrupt people. As per the law the police should not disclose the identity of the complainant/caller on 100 as mentioned “Your Identity will not be disclosed” but according to Ankit the guidelines were not followed by the police “When I used to complain about the corrupt activities, the police used to go and tell the parties that I have complained about them”. There was no end to the Ankit’s problem but he could not back out from this, “I could not back out from this since people might start thinking that I have been paid by someone to come out of this and I did not want to give any opportunity to anyone to talk about me” he added.
Although the Ankit started his journey to eradicate the corruption from the RTO department but that was not the end of his journey, people started coming to him with the information of corruptions taking place in various departments in Goa. “People approached me with the corruption in Panchayats to Electricity department who demanded the money from the builders to issues them various licenses, people started calling me the RTI activist since I used to collect any required information under the RTI act in Goa”, he noted.
After the RTO Ankit shifted his attention towards the other departments and one of them was the Mamlatdar office where huge corruption racket was underway. “Here the situation was little tricky, to get your residence certificate you needed to get in touch with the agents, I don’t want to go against them because for the residence certificate one needs to furnish an affidavit and for which the agents charge much lesser than the advocate would charge in case you get the affidavit done from them. People anyways pay readily to get their job done; here the issue is not the charges but the channelizing of the funds which go into the pockets of corrupt instead of government treasury”, he pointed out.
Ankit also enlightened us about the distribution system of the money earned through the way of corrupt practices, “To get the Job in RTO or for that matter in most of the government departments, one had to pay a huge sum of money and to recover the same they select the path of corruption. The corruption starts right at the grassroots level and reaches to the top most level and everybody is in the loop reaps the fruits of it, Rs. 40 lakhs is the huge amount to recover and that’s where the distribution system of the money comes into the picture to distribute the earnings in a proportionate manner to everybody”, he told.
Ankit has a dream of finishing the corruption from this state and may be from the rest of the India. His dream is very big to his age, but he do not mind dreaming and working towards the fulfillment of the same. “I may not be able to finish the corruption, but I can surely work towards reducing it to the minimum level, maybe later on some more people will join the mission and this way one day the entire corruption will be eradicated from the India”, Ankit was looking very confident while saying this.
When we asked Ankit how does he plans to change the existing system he said that “I will work hard towards the betterment of the society, people ask me to join the political parties but I want to keep myself away from all these since joining any particular party will only lead to the trashing of my dreams. The parties’ function of granting favors to their workers and favors originates from corruption. If I file a case against anybody and if he belongs to the same party which I am the part of, I will have no option but to grant him favors. The party can even use me for the settling of the scores with the opposition, in either case it will not be in my favor and that is why I think if I have to bring the change in the society then I will have to do it independently without the support of any political party.
Ankit is doing all these social work at his own expenses. Right from obtaining the records from RTI to doing all the running around and collecting information are done from my own pocket. There is no provision of funding from anybody. Ankit is slowly taking over the other serious issues which are haunting the society, one by one and in some cases he even had to face the threat calls from people whom he tried to expose. Ankit can be the inspiration to all those young people who are looking for the change in the society but not doing much towards it may be since they don’t know how to go about it. This is the good opportunity for all those young guys to join the league of Ankit and start fighting the corruption in the society.
To become the RTI activist, you need to just learn to write an application on the plain paper and seek any information you need from the government, such as documents, contracts, tenders, in a form of certified photocopies. Trust me once you are RTI activist they will have to reply to your queries. This is based on the judgment given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court according to which “People are the Masters, therefore, the masters have a right to know how the government, mean to serve us, are functioning.” We all are taxpayers and we have full right to know where the government uses our hard earned money. Every government office has a Public Information Officer (PIO) designated to serve people with the information they are seeking, he is responsible to accept your application under RTI, gather the information and provide you in writing. In the case of delay in providing the information beyond 30 days or provided information is incomplete then the concerned officer automatically becomes liable for a penalty of Rs. 250 per day which is extendable up to Rs. 25000 per application. What are you waiting for now? Go ahead and bring the change in the society which you were always looking for.