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13 Dec 2019, Edition - 1613, Friday

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Coimbatore

Activist to whistleblower

Umaima Shafiq

Manoj Arun gave up a secure job to become a full-time RTI activist. He exposed corruption in government departments and used RTI as a ‘corruption killer’.

Manoj Arun, a Coimbatore resident, was always interested in social work, so much that he even gave up a secure job to become a full time RTI (Right to Information) activist and whistleblower in 2010.

He tells The Covai Post, “During my employment I noticed a lot of corruption in some Coimbatore government departments. An IAS officer then had swindled Rs.2 crore through bribes and abuse of position. I immediately exposed him with Right to Information (RTI) details and through the print media. The public furore even made a Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi (VCK) member mention the incident in a Tamil Nadu state assembly meeting. The government ordered a DVAC enquiry, suspended the officer and blacklisted the post. However the money was not recovered.”

Next, Manoj noticed discrepancies in other departments and began using RTI as a corruption killer. “In 2011, we activists began to petition the government to instate the Citizen’s Charter to acquaint public on government procedures like applying for driving licence, ration card and other certifications with rules, regulations, time duration and fees. Many applicants speed up these procedures by bribing or not giving proper records. This gives rise to corruption. We found that the Citizen’s Charter is already there but not obeyed. Ironically it has punishments for erring public but not the corrupt officers,” he said.

Then in 2012 Manoj began to expose overcharging by local cable operators (LCO). “Many of them were charging Rs.100 per month instead of the Rs.70 to get Sun TV also included. We highlighted this and that led to the formation of the Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd, under then chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s directive. We also petitioned for online payment of the cable rentals but again found that Arasu’s supply of set top boxes did not tally with the subscribers list. So we got a High Court stay order on this but even then LCO’s have not given receipts,” says Manoj.

Manoj had also campaigned for live telecast of Tamil Nadu Assembly proceedings in 2013-14 and auto fare meter revisions in Coimbatore by submitting grievances of both customers and auto drivers. Besides this he became a member of the Tamil Nadu RTI Activists Association this year. This association collectively helps inter-district RTI petitioning and information disbursal in Tamil Nadu.

Does he get life threats? “I live alone with two dogs protecting me. Already I have been jailed twice. The first was for a week, for protesting against misuse of citizen’s rights and the second for allegedly attacking Coimbatore mayor in 2014 during a tree cutting protest. Although I have been bailed, I am facing a trial in the latter case even though the opponent was suspended in another corruption case. Several judges have come and gone and adjournment goes on,” concludes Manoj. While in jail, Manoj boldly filed RTI against corrupt jailors and prison wardens.

He has fact sheets on all his activities and helps everybody in need. His number is 9894169363.

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