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Activist Files for Right to Information in Response to Modi's Lamp Vigil Amid COVID-19 Lockdown

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Light bulb - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): At the behest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citizens banged their utensils at 5 p.m. for five minutes on 22 March as a gesture of thanks to healthcare workers engaged in the fight against COVID-19.

Activist Nutan Thakur, based in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, has sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the prime minister's office on the Modi's call for everyone to switch off their lights at 9 p.m. on Sunday, 5 April, for nine minutes and light earthen lamps instead.

Modi said in his address to the nation that people can light an earthen lamp, torch, or phone light in those nine minutes to display the nation's collective resolve in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his video address to the nation, which was also coincidentally held at 9 a.m. on Friday, PM Modi said, “This Sunday, on 5 April, we must all, together, challenge the darkness spread by the corona crisis, introducing it to the power of light. On this date, we must awaken the superpower of 1.3 billion Indians. We must take the super resolve of 1.3 billion Indians to even greater heights,” Modi said in his video address.

In response to the video message, activist Nutan Thakur filed an RTI application seeking to know “the logic and rationale for issuing these directions”.

Speaking to Sputnik, Thakur said, “The RTI application raises a number of questions. Apart from the rationale behind such announcements, one also needs to know whether these are PM Modi’s directions or (those of the) PMO (Prime Minister's Office), or the government of India’s directions. If these are government directions, where are the rules and guidelines for enforcing them?”

“The sense that we are getting is that concrete information in the fight against COVID-19 is not coming out. The PM hasn’t spoken a word about the ongoing lockdown and how the government plans to address the problems being faced by the people during the lockdown. Every time PM Modi speaks, we only get the optics,” Thakur told Sputnik. India is currently undergoing a 21-day lockdown, set to last until 14 April, to end the spread of COVID-19. 

The RTI she filed raises a number of questions. “As per PMO records, what are the gains that are supposed to take place by following these directions? As per the PMO records, is this direction mandatory or is it only suggestive? Has the PMO issued any written direction in this regards,” the RTI application filed by Thakur asks, demanding a copy of the directions issued in these regards by the PM's office or the Government of India.

The RTI Act passed in 2005 empowers the Indian citizens to ask for information from the government on decisions taken by it as well as demand documented proof. 

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