In India, information is free -- if you're willing to die for it


Just days after a bureaucrat was burned alive for trying to stop the theft of gasoline by the so-called "fuel mafia" in Maharashtra, a social activist in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was shot for the second time for his efforts to expose corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme.

A homeopath practitioner and social activist, Amarnath Pandey suffered pellet injuries on his head in mysterious circumstances at Robertsganj area under the same police station in Sonebhadra district on Wednesday, the Times of India said..

Just one more sign that India's revolutionary Right to Information (RTI) act -- a brilliant tool in fighting graft -- is not enough by itself.

As Lydia Polgreen wrote for the New York Times earlier this month, and as many Indian journalists have noted over the years:

"Millions of Indians who had embraced the country’s five-year-old Right to Information Act, which allows citizens to demand almost any government information. People use the law to stop petty corruption and to solve their most basic problems, like getting access to subsidized food for the poor or a government pension without having to pay a bribe, or determining whether government doctors and teachers are actually showing up for work.

But activists ... who have tried to push such disclosures further — making pointed inquiries at the dangerous intersection of high-stakes business and power politics — have paid a heavy price. Perhaps a dozen have been killed since 2005, when the law was enacted, and countless others have been beaten and harassed."