“What we are doing, it’s about the governance issues,” says Muzaffar Bhat, a leading RTI organizer. “The government of India is not sincere about curbing corruption here … because they think, ‘If we target ministers here of different parties, who is going to keep Kashmir with India?’
The RTI act allows anyone to ask specific questions of government officials and expect a response within 30 days.
On June 7, Malik asked how much has been spent on fuel and pilots for Abdullah’s helicopter rides since 2009. He has yet to receive a response from Abdullah’s public information officer, meaning the case will be sent to the state’s chief information commissioner to apply pressure and fines on the officer.
Numerous efforts were made to get comment from Abdullah. His office canceled a sit-down interview for scheduling reasons. Close to press time he sent an e-mail declining to answer questions sent via e-mail more than a week ago pertaining to this RTI.
There are, of course, reasonable official uses for helicopters. India’s chief ministers, who are like US governors, rely on helicopters to get around quickly in a country with poor infrastructure. This is especially true in mountainous Kashmir where many constituents and development projects would be otherwise inaccessible.
But chopper expenses are a populist issue even in countries like the US – where the governor of New Jersey has recently been questioned about their use. And in Abdullah’s case, they feed into a common perception of him as a young leader close to New Delhi and accessible on Twitter but removed from the sufferings of ordinary Kashmiris.