25-year-old Kerala activist files over 3,000 RTIs, sheds light on public safety lapses

M V Shiplaraj filled his first RTI application in 2017, seeking details of safety measures adopted by teachers during student tours.
M V Shilparaj with his RTI applications.
M V Shilparaj with his RTI applications. Express.

KASARAGOD: M V Shilparaj is looking to make it all ‘right’! The Cheemeni resident is on a mission to make right to information (RTI) work for society – in its push for progress and development. So far, he has filed more than 3,000 RTI applications, and responses to them have made the local postman a regular visitor to his residence.

The 25-year-old filled his first RTI application in 2017, seeking details of safety measures adopted by teachers during student tours. In 2024, he filed a major application with Kasaragod fire station, for information on fire and safety facilities at public buildings in Kerala and schools in his home district of Kasaragod.

The reply threw light on the fact that such facilities are sorely lacking. It was revealed that of the 2,277 public buildings in the state, 983 do not have adequate fire and safety facilities. Of the total, 614 were school buildings, of which only 247 passed muster. Based on the reply, he drafted a report, which was sent to higher officials, including the chief minister, the additional chief secretary of the home affairs department and the director general of the fire and rescue department.

“People believe that filing an RTI is a tedious process. In reality, it is simple. Don’t file an RTI to fill gaps in information. It helps to reveal details of implemented projects and progress of those in the works. Filing an RTI should be taught at the school level so that children become familiar with the process,” suggests Shilparaj, who is a final-year MSW student at Sree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit’s Payyanur regional centre.

Fired up by tragedy

In December 2020, a husband and wife self-immolated in Thiruvananthapuram. The fatal incident unfolded as Rajan and Ambili, who were facing eviction from their home, doused themselves with petrol. In the chaos of the moment, when authorities attempted to intervene by grabbing hold of their lighter, the situation escalated, resulting in the blaze being set off.

On realising that the intervention had been bungled, Shilparaj filed an RTI with the state police and fire and rescue services headquarters requesting the playbook on how officers deal with such emergencies. He submitted a report to the DG of fire and rescue services requesting that training be provided to civil defence members to deal with suicide attempts. “My suggestions were implemented,” points out Shilparaj, who is himself a member of the civil defence corps of Thrikaripur fire station.

In 2022, Shilparaj filed an RTI with the Kasaragod district police chief’s office for information on the response time of officers in the district. Based on the replay, he filed a petition with the home ministry, attaching data collected from 2019 to 2024, including details of law enforcement’s response times in countries such as Finland and America. Based on the petition, the home ministry replied that 100 new vehicles have been cleared for the department.

In 2024, he filed an application with the local self-government department (LSGD) directorate regarding availability of streetlights in every panchayat of the state. His report, based on the response, was submitted to department officials, including the minister and the additional chief secretary.

In a recent action, Shilparaj requested, through a petition to the central and state election commissions, that special software be made available to avoid voting irregularities. “I expect a positive response,” he added.

Commendations

In 2021, he received a letter of appreciation from the crime branch DySP of Kasaragod for his efforts in combating crime in society. Earlier this year, the Palakkad chapter of the Kerala Association of Professional Social Workers (KAPS) named him its best social work student.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com