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Vuppala Gopala Rao could teach RTI activists a thing or two. At 78, he's still getting laws amended and working to make a difference to the lives of Hyderabad's silvers, reports Babli Yadav
He has earned many nicknames over the decades but they mean nothing to him. This silver has his sights firmly focused on just one thing: good governance. And at 78, Vuppala Gopala Rao is still crusading. "My mission began before the Right to Information Act came into being but the Act has given me even more ammunition," smiles the feisty Hyderabad resident, who has taken up local causes, coaxed, cajoled and confronted the most powerful in the state government and has even marched all the way to the Supreme Court.
A resident of Kukatpally, Rao's quest to educate people about their rights began in 1976 with the Praja Aalochana Vedika, which has conducted over 300 seminars and awareness sessions to encourage people to stand up for their rights. But it was in 1997 that Rao's journey really began. "I started fighting against illegal occupation of public places like parks and community spaces. In Bhagyanagar colony, where I lived then, a portion reserved for a park had been illegally occupied. The municipal authorities did not entertain my queries and complaint, so I went to the director of municipal administration. He instructed the municipal commissioner to give me a copy of the layout. I finally got the information and took legal action. The Supreme Court too delivered a judgement in my favour and all the illegal structures were ordered to be demolished," Rao narrates, summing up a lengthy battle that set the tone for the rest of his work.
Since then, Rao has taken up the gamut of civic issues, from municipal and commercial taxes, electricity issues and road-building estimates to drainage works. He often works with other senior social activists on issues of transparency and accountability in civic and government bodies. After the implementation of the RTI Act, they have collaborated to conduct awareness programmes and meetings to train other activists and educate them about the new law.