Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner |
Bhaskar Prabhu was involved in the movement that led to the enactment of the freedom of information law in Maharashtra, and then later at the pan-India level
Mumbai: Bhaskar Prabhu, aged 62, has spent a lifetime advocating for citizen engagement, emphasizing the need for proactive involvement in shaping the democratic process. "We mustn't wait for the perfect moment to participate; it's essential to act now," he said.
As the driving force behind the Mahiti Adhikar Manch, a forum dedicated to fostering awareness on India's Right to Information Act, Prabhu has tirelessly championed for increased literacy and knowledge among citizens concerning governance and transparency. In 2000, he established the F-South Ward Citizens' Forum, providing a platform for NGOs to educate citizens about consumer rights in Mumbai's chawls and slum areas.
With active involvement in the nationwide efforts that led to the enactment of the RTI Act in Maharashtra and later in the coin try, Prabhu has collaborated with prominent activist Anna Hazare and forged connections with organizations including the NCPRI (National Campaign for the Right to information) and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). His efforts have been instrumental in training individuals and organizations in the effective utilisation of the RTI and in advocating for its widespread adoption.
Recognising the disparity among citizens in access to information, Prabhu has consistently advocated for transparency in financial matters and governance policies. He said he believes deeply in the transformative power of the RTI law, and said it could truly liberate Indians.
Through a series of workshops conducted in various settings such as schools, colleges, corporate entities, and government departments, Prabhu's initiatives have significantly enhanced RTI literacy across Maharashtra. Notably, his recent endeavours include mobilising citizens for social audits and actively opposing any proposed amendments that might dilute the efficacy of the RTI law. Earlier, he also campaigned to reduce pendency in the RTI applications and appeals processes.
Professionally a businessman, Prabhu had set up the F-South Ward Citizens’ Forum in 2000, of which he is now a trustee. That experience of working with the citizens’ forum and partner NGOs on issues such as consumer awareness campaigns led to the formation of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch in January 2006.
Prabhu's relentless efforts through the Mahiti Adhikar Manch have impacted over 7,00,000 individuals in Maharashtra, highlighting the critical role of the RTI Act in ensuring transparent governance and accountability. He continues to stress the significance of leveraging the RTI Act to drive positive change and foster greater accountability in governance and the political landscape.
"Consistently Bhaskar Prabhu has been advocating and using RTI for the last 18-20 years,” said former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. “There are few users who continue in this journey like this who started with the movement and have stayed along. He is advocating social audits and has done that also.” Gandhi said Prabhu worked with him in the Technical Advisory Committee of the BMC, where he managed to get many successes.
“The amount of time he has spent for RTI has been phenomenal. He was instrumental in having a two-day all India conference on RTI at the Mumbai University where he co-ordinated in starting a course on RTI among others," said Gandhi.