Ashraf HossainAshraf Hossain is a living legend in Jessore’s Chaugacha upazila, helping the people in his area to avail the Right to Information (RTI) act. Ashraf approaches various departments of government organisations for information and provides this information to people who need assistance. Thus he tries to render government and private organisations accountable.Abdul Jabbar needed help from Ashraf Hossain. He is a day labourer of Boro Gobindapur in Jessore’s Chaugacha upazila. He cut his hand while on the job and rushed to hospital on Saturday. Jabbar’s brother called Ashraf and Ashraf called the Chaugacha health complex’s authorities.Ashraf’s call made the hospital authorities provide Jabbar their best treatment.Jabbar told Prothom Alo, “The doctor took time and care to stitch my hand. I would not get the best treatment if Ashraf uncle had not called them”.Ramzan Ali from the village Laskarpur has been facing inordinate delays in registering land at the upazila land office. Ashraf Hossain sent him to an official and the work was done within a few days.Ramzan said, “Without Ashraf’s help I would have faced more hassle”.Ashraf Hossain, 50, lives with his wife and two children in Jamlata village of the upazila. And eighth grade drop-out Ashraf, is a timber trader.Ashraf always protested against any irregularities, corruption, and unlawful activities around him since his childhood. Now he fights against the corrupt with proof. He even provides the proof and information to the media.Ashraf Hossain applies for necessary information to different government departments, using RTI. He asks for information if he hears of any irregularities or corruption.He complains to the information commission if any official refuses to provide him with the necessary information.Ashraf, so far, has submitted application 26 times to various government departments under the RTI act. He received 18 sets of information on time, four after approaching the information commission and four are being processed.Ashraf was harvesting rice with his son in the field near home when the Prothom Alo correspondent visited him.Ashraf said, a private development organisation MRDI arranged a training camp on the RTI act in it office at Shinghajhuli union parishad in 2015. The seven-day camp was organised by Manusher Jonno Foundation.”I came to know that according to the law every citizen has the right to any information from the authorities. After the training ended, I started to seek information from different departments of the government offices” he added. Ashraf said, Chaugacha upazila health complex, Chaugacha Upazila Education Office, Chaugacha Juba Unnayan Office and Shishu Niloy Foundation refused to provide him with information.Shishu Niloy Foundation did not even accept his application and an official even insulted him. He complained against the foundation and three government offices to the information commission.Ashraf said the officers apologised and provided him with the information he asked for later on.Now his applications are under process in Chaugacha Primary Education office, Dhuliani UP, the office of Jessore district civil surgeon and Chaugacha Rural Electrification office.According to Ashraf, the RTI act is a great initiative as it renders various organisations accountable. But he had been threatened too, while trying to avail information. His wife, Taslima Khatun said, “My husband helps people, I am happy about that. But sometimes he has to face threats to his life. I am worried about him” Ashraf’s initiative to ask for information is the talk of the town. Following his footsteps, Jahangir Alam, a Singapore migrant from Ujirpur village, Abu Kalam, Dablu Mia from Muktarpur and Nawab Ali from Fatehpur sought information from various offices under the RTI act.Sukumar Das, the acting president of TIB’s Shocheton Nagorik Committee in Jessore said, “This is certainly a positive initiative by Ashraf Ali. Being inspired, many others are seeking information from different offices.”Earlier, Ashraf applied for lists of free medicines provided by the government and the register book that contained the patient lists provided with the medicines from January to September on 26 August in 2015. He applied to the Jessore civil surgeon’s office on 7 October. They did not provide him with any information.Ashraf then complained to the information commission and the commission ordered them to provide him with the necessary information within 15 days.After that, the patients started to receive free medication and treatment at the Upazila Health Complex.A patient at the health complex, Shahar Banu said, “I have been admitted into the hospital for 10 days. I got all the medicines for free.”Ashraf applied to the Chaugacha upazila education officer for a copy of the student-list who get the stipend and government allocations in Garibpur primary school. There have been no irregularities in distribution of stipend since then. ASM Kabir Hossain, the senior information officer of Jessore district said, “Every citizen has the right to information from any department. Ashraf Hossain is seeking information using RTI act which is a very positive initiative”.Shaheen Anam, the executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said the RTI act was introduced with the purpose to establish good governance. “We can achieve the goal if the public starts to use the act” he added.Shaheen again said, “It is sad that rural people are using the RTI act more than urban ones. We need to work on this to change the scene”.*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat.