Thursday, April 02, 2015

No one convicted for rhino poaching in Assam in five years.

Nagaland Post: Guwahati: Thursday, April 2, 2015.
Although hundreds of rhinos have been poached in various areas of Assam, including the high-security Kaziranga National Park, no one has been convicted so far for poaching in the last five years. Statistics of the Assam government - which were accessed by an RTI activist - revealed that 247 people have been arrested since 2009 till 2014 for their involvement in rhino poaching in four districts of Assam - Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Sonitpur and Nagaon. But none of them have been convicted by a court so far.
RTI activist Rohit Choudhury shared the statistics with the media on Tuesday.
“Eighteen poachers were arrested in the four districts in 2009, two in 2010, 19 in 2011, 115 in 2012 and 60 in 2013,” he said. While 52 cases of rhino poaching have been registered in Kaziranga alone since 2009, 18 cases have been registered in Sonitpur district during the period. Karbi Anglong, which borders the national park, registered 15 cases of poaching during the period, while Golaghat and Nagaon districts saw 29 and 35 cases, respectively. Of the total number of people arrested, the highest (84) was from Karbi Anglong. The activist said there should be proper training on the Wildlife Protection Act for the officer in-charge of the police stations of these four districts surrounding the Kaziranga park and well as near other wildlife sanctuaries.
“Under the guidance of Gauhati High Court, there should be joint consultation of the judiciary, police and forest department to prepare a mechanism for fast disposal of cases related to wildlife crimes,” he said.
Nine rhinos have been poached in Assam since January this year, of which eight were killed in Kaziranga alone. AK-series rifles, INSAS and SLR guns, Japan-made 7.65 mm pistols have been seized from the poachers arrested during the period.

Rickshaw body gears for strike as radio cabs enter auto zone.

Indian Express: Pune: Thursday, April 2, 2015. 

Rickshaws had earlier remained off the roads on March 16. (Source: Express photo)
Even as auto-rickshaw unions are crying foul over radio cab operators entering their domain “illegally”, officials from the Ministry of Road Transport say the entry of “service aggregations” in auto-rickshaw platforms (platforms as a service or ‘PaaS’) is not illegal. Auto-rickshaw unions in Pune are getting ready to launch an indefinite agitation against taxis licensed to ferry tourists doubling up as normal radio cabs that serve as a means of public transport in general.
Nitin Pawar, convenor of the Rickshaw Panchayat, claimed that radio cabs meant for tourists ferrying passengers in general was illegal. They are talking of launching an indefinite strike on April 22.
Introduction of service aggregators like Ola in the autorickshaw platform has been strongly opposed by rickshaw unions in Pune. Rickshaws had remained off the roads on March 16. The daylong strike was called by the Rickshaw Panchayat. Protests outside the Regional Transport Office (RTO) and district collector’s office were held against radio cabs.
Nitin Pawar said radio cabs in autorickshaw platform was illegal as companies have not taken any permission.
Ola, the largest of the service aggregators, has around 2,500 auto-rickshaws listed on their platform. Ola started auto-rickshaw services in Pune in November 2014. Auto-rickshaw drivers in the city talk about the aggressive enlistment policy being undertaken by the company.
Senior officials of the road transport ministry said that introduction of aggregator services in the domain of public transport would allow more choices for the consumer and also decongest the city’s roads. “Radio cabs operate under tourist taxi permit. Instead of going to stalls, passengers have the luxury of calling up a phone number or using an App to hail a cab or auto-rickshaw. This is well within the legal framework,” said a senior official. Explaining the role of service aggregators, an official said that they act as a platform for sellers and buyers to meet. “As per existing laws this is legal and no further permission or permit is necessary for running such services,” they said.
Officials said that following the alleged rape of a woman in Delhi by the driver of a radio cab, the transport commissioner of Maharashtra had held a meeting with taxi service aggregators in the state. “During the meeting the commissioner asked the aggregators to ensure background check of drivers and to ensure proper security precautions,” he said. Although auto-rickshaw unions are calling for action against radio cabs, there are no talks of such a thing happening at the government level. Asked about the reason for their contention Pawar said that the past experience of auto-rickshaw drivers who had gone for such services has not been good. “We got RTI information from the RTO that such service aggregators do not have any licence to operate. The auto-rickshaws have permits licenses, badges so they are allowed to ply,”

LPG blast victims can claim insurance from oil company.

Times of India : Vishakhapattanam: Thursday, April 2, 2015. 
Reports of accidents involving LPG cylinders are increasingly becoming commonplace in domestic households across the country. But, did you know that as a consumer, you can claim insurance for damages caused by LPG cylinder blasts?
According to the public liability policy (Policy No 021700/46/14/37/00000041), LPG consumers of PSU oil companies such as Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), can claim personal accident cover to the tune of Rs 5 lakh per person per event. In addition to this, they can claim Rs 15 lakh as medical expenses per event, with maximum claim of Rs 1 lakh per person. At the same time, consumers can claim Rs 1 lakh per event for damages caused to property.
However, civil society groups allege that victims often fail to claim insurance due to lack of publicity about the insurance policy by the oil PSUs.
Speaking to TOI, former secretary to the Union government, EAS Sarma said, "The insurance policy taken by oil companies is good for consumers. But the oil PSUs also need to improve awareness among the public. In fact, even though insurance cover is available, it is usually the state government that gives compensation to the victims, while oil PSUs are paying such a high insurance premium. What is the use if the public is not made aware of this provision?"
Pointing out that even gas dealers are not aware of this provision, Vistarana Mass Communication Society vice-president Korikana Sujatha Prasad said, "Victims have to fight for a long time to receive the insurance amount even if they submit their claims."
Citing the example of a cylinder blast in Vizag in December last year, she said, "The main problem is that victims are not aware of the insurance policy. The kin of the victims were not aware of the policy, but after we briefed them about it, they filed claims and were able to get some financial relief."
"We were able to educate the consumers because they are also from the city, but what happens in case of rural households? Who will inform them?" she added.
When TOI posed an RTI query to oil PSUs, HPCL was the only one to share data. The oil major said the number of reported LPG accidents involving HPCL cylinders has increased from 33 in 2013-14 fiscal to 68 in 2014-15 fiscal (April 2014 to January 2015). Even the fatalities due to LPG accidents has shot up from 23 to 37 during the same period while the number of injured persons has increased from 56 to 159.
However, surprisingly, the insurance payment given by HPCL to victims has reduced from Rs 38.35 lakh in 2013-14 to Rs 37.17 lakh in 2014-15.
Meanwhile, the other two oil PSUs - IOCL and BPCL - cited different reasons for not sharing information on accidents and insurance paid to victims of cylinder blasts. While IOCL said, "Details of accidents in which subsequent bursting of cylinder took place/ compensation are not maintained separately, hence the same is beyond the purview of Sec 2(f) of RTI Act 2005." BPCL, in a three-page reply, said that a separate RTI application has to be made to a separate official.

Research paper is not personal information: CIC.

Economic Times: New Delhi: Thursday, April 2, 2015.
The thesis submitted by a research student is not a personal or third party information and cannot be withheld by an Institution under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has said. 
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said,"It is not third party information. Moreover, there is a public interest in knowing the originality of the thesis, especially when a serious allegation of appropriating the research work is made by the co-researcher, it is the duty of the academic institution to clear the allegation after due verification." 
The matter related to an RTI applicant who had demanded from Rajasthan-based Arid Forest Research Institute the copy of pre-thesis submission seminar details of a researcher, copy of her thesis, all correspondence related to research work, rules and regulation of research work and related records. 
The applicant alleged that the researcher had stolen theme of her research paper, hence she requires all these details to establish her claims. 
Acharyulu said the thesis submitted to a University is not private or personal information of the candidate who submitted it, but the property of the University, which has to discuss and decide whether it deserves the award of Ph D or not. 
"One of the purposes of seminar of pre-submission and viva voce of Ph.D candidate is to ascertain whether research work of candidate is original and the work done by the candidate only," he said while ordering the disclosure of documents. 
The Information Commissioner also directed the Institute to treat the RTI application as a complaint against the researcher, whose documents have been demanded by the applicant and carry out an inquiry into the allegations. He said a report should be submitted before the Commission after the inquiry.

RTI forces AMC’s medical education trust to disclose all.


Times of India: Ahmedabad: Thursday, April 2, 2015.
After resisting from giving details of its function and budget the AMC Medical Education Trust finally bowed before Right to Information Act (RTI). The state information commission had ordered AMC-MET a few weeks ago to upload all information regarding its functions, budget and employee status on its website- amcdental.org. 
The trust established a dental college in 2009 for various academic courses in medicine. These disclosures are mandatory as AMC-MET is a public-funded trust. Despite this, the trust had managed to remain largely underground for many years, till RTI queries started probing into its activities. The information commission while acting on a complaint filed by Pankaj Bhatt, an RTI applicant, had sought reasons for non-disclosure of details under section 4(1)b of the RTI Act. 
Under this clause a public funded body has to reveal powers and duties of its officers, procedures followed in decision-making process, details of rules and regulations and manuals and discharge of duties by the board councils or committees.
Following the RTI query the state information commission directed the state government's General Administration Department and the Urban Development Department to look into the matter. GAD wrote to the trust in October 2014 and in February this year UDD sought clarification on the matter from the trust. Finally on Wednesday the matter was resolved when the trust uploaded all relevant details on its website, as per directives of the information commission.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Economic Times: New Delhi: Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
A decade after enactment of the Right to Information Act, a study conducted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has revealed that the government departments are unwilling to share even basic data on how many RTI applications have been received, disposed of or rejected. 
The study shows that the percentage of public authorities unwilling to share this data with Central Information Commission ( CIC), the transparency watchdog, has increased over the years, with 27% of government departments not reporting this data in 2013-14, compared to 11% in 2005-06, the year of introduction of RTI Act. 
CHRI study says while the Supreme Court has been conscientious about reporting the number of RTI applications, rejections and even grounds for rejections, Delhi High Courthas not reported this data.

As per the study, 2012-13 saw an increase of 22% in the number of applications received across board, compared to the previous year, but in the next year the increase was just 2.7%, with 8.34 lakh applications received.
"The question here is — has an RTI fatigue set in? Or will the number of applications increase considerably if all public authorities were to report their statistics?" asked CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak. 
The comparative study also points to a worrying trend of rejection of applications by some ministries.
The corporate affairs ministry, which finished at the top for rejecting applications in 2013-14, saw a 300% increase in the rejection rate over 2012-13. The power ministry also doubled its rejection rate.
Some ministries, however, reduced their rejection rates drastically. According to the study, the external affairs ministry reduced its rejection rate by 40%.
Similarly, the rejection rates in railways, commerce, chemicals and fertilisers, civil aviation, food and environment ministries fell substantially during the year. 

Javadekar in no hurry to process Chaturvedi’s transfer: RTI reply.

Hindustan Times : New Delhi: Wednesday, April1, 2015.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s wish to have Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and whistle blower Sanjeev Chaturvedi in his team is not likely to come true soon.
More than 40 days after Kejriwal made the request, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar has not approved his deputation to the Delhi government even though his ministry recommended his transfer.
Sources said Chaturvedi’s deputation may take some time as the Centre had developed cold feet over moving him out of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he is without any work for the last several months, to the high-profile job as head of Delhi’s anti-corruption helpline.
Ministry sources said the minister was yet to approve his transfer.
When asked about Chaturvedi’s deputation, Javadekar said, “We are here to discuss policies and not persons…I am not give running commentary on file movement”.
But information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act showed the government’s reluctance to relive him of his charge.
Kejriwal had written to the environment minister seeking the Haryana cadre IFS service officer’s transfer on February 17. Two days later, environment secretary Ashok Lavasa forwarded a file seeking the minister’s approval for forwarding Chaturvedi’s case to the Cabinet Committee on Appointment for transfer. The minister raised some questions to which the secretary replied on March 2, information provided by the ministry shows.
While the Centre has decided to go slow in the case of Chaturvedi, who had accused then BJP general secretary and now health minister J P Nadda for recommending his removal as CVO of AIIMS for exposing corruption, it had approved the posting of 1982-batch Indian Revenue Service official Sukesh Kumar Jain in Kejriwal’s office.
Jain was posted as director with the income tax department.
The Delhi government had sought the services of four officers -- Ghaziabad city magistrate Kapil Mishra, additional district magistrate Moradabad Praveen Singh, Jain and Chaturvedi -- a couple of days after Kejriwal took oath on February 14.
Except Chaturvedi, the other three joined the Delhi government on March 16. Mishra and Singh joined deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s office.

Life & times of a 'rogue' transport official

The Telegraph: Ranchi: Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
The March 26 arrest of Hazaribagh district transport officer (DTO) Vinod Kumar, for allegedly minting money in exchange for licences, permits and the like, points to how deeply corruption is entrenched in the system as mid-level babus live king-size and run a parallel governance machinery with middlemen.
Though the quantum of bribe money has not been ascertained, it is likely to be in the legion of crores, as Hazaribagh's location, with 200km of highways passing through the district as well as GT Road from Barhi to Barkathha, a 52km run, makes it a gold mine.
Besides licences and registration for vehicles, both fixed routes of bribe money, big cash comes from staying blind to heavy vehicles entering the district with contraband items.
Hazaribagh's Nitesh Tiwary (38) got a real-life taste of the DTO's system when he found his driving licence, renewed every year since 1994, scrapped in October 2014.
When Tiwary contacted DTO Kumar, the official said that according to his date of birth, May 10, 1977, he got his licence in 1994 when he was underage.
"When I said I did not know about that and why I am being punished for it at 38, DTO Kumar told me to talk to a man standing at the entrance of his office. The middleman said as the office was computerised, renewing my licence wasn't possible but he could help me get a new one if I paid him Rs 2,600," Tiwary, who filed an application under RTI Act to know how the system is supposed to work and job rates, fumed.
Raju Kumar, who runs a pathology centre at Devi Mandap Road, told The Telegraph he paid Rs 2,500 to get his new driving licence through a middleman 15 days ago. "Renewals cost some Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200."
The office situated near the district collectorate has rates of different works painted on its front wall but they are a decade old. As middlemen had full control of the office, no one bothered to put up fresh rates.
So, what is the official rate for a new licence and for a renewal? After some hemming and hawing, an employee at the DTO's office in Hazaribagh told The Telegraph: "A new licence comes for Rs 1,100 and renewal costs Rs 260."
The life and times of Hazaribagh DTO Kumar, arrested for graft by Vigilance Bureau and now cooling his heels at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, are peppered with many anecdotes like these.
And, the DTO was not alone, as an army of middlemen and errand boys, numbering around 200, took a percentage of the ill-gotten earnings.
A man at the office of the DTO, who did not want to reveal his name, laughed. "Corruption was going on at the DTO for a long time, everyone was happy, including middlemen and customers. Why blame DTO Kumar alone? Supply exists because of demand."
Sources said DTO Kumar engaged his driver Suraj Kumar to finalise the more lucrative deals. In first week of November last year, a goods laden truck was caught in Atka. Kumar gave a mobile phone number to driver Shankar Lal of Madhya Pradesh asking him to talk to that person and get his vehicle released. The number was of Suraj, who demanded Rs 20,000 for its release.
Unfortunately, Suraj was caught red-handed accepting this amount in November. When, on November 11 last year, Vigilance raided his office, Kumar escaped. On December 19, he rejoined, flaunting his "political connections in Ranchi".
Asked why it took three more months since December to arrest DTO Kumar, state Vigilance Bureau boss inspector-general (IG) M.L. Meena denied "pressure" but said they wanted to collect foolproof evidence before booking the senior official.
"After the new government (read Raghubar Das) took charge, Vigilance Bureau has been given a free hand to book corrupt officials. I don't know anything about Kumar's political connections. All I can tell you is that I have not received any sifarish (recommendation) calls or messages from any one for Kumar."
Asked about his reputation, senior officials at the state transport department where Kumar reported to transport secretary-cum-commissioner Ratan Kumar, called Kumar "an effective officer".
"He was effective and active," said a former DC of Hazaribagh under whom Kumar worked. "I did not know about his illegal activities."
What bureaucrats know but won't possibly say is that it is tough for a DTO to stay clean in a system where everyone is minting money.
During the tenure of Anosh Ekka as transport minister, enforcement inspectors, popularly known as mobile darogas, subordinates to the DTOs, had huge clout. In Jamshedpur, a mobile daroga used to keep a personal army for collection of bribes along Jamshedpur-Ranchi and Jamshedpur-Baharagora stretches.

Kumbh Mela scam: Info panel recommends CBI probe into fund misuse.

India today: Dehradun: Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
The Centre in 2010 had given Rs 565 crore for the Kumbh Mela to the Uttarakhand government.The ghost of 2010 Maha Kumbh mela scam is back to haunt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttarakhand. Responding to an RTI query, the Uttarakhand Information Commission has recommended the state government to conduct a CBI probe into the alleged misuse of the Maha Kumbh mela funds hosted in Haridwar.
The BJP was in power in the state during the period and the central government had provided Rs 565 crore for the smooth conduct of the mela. However, many development works remained incomplete even after the mela had concluded. And those done in Haridwar were of poor quality.
Giving details of the CAG's March 2010 annual audit report, RTI applicant Ramesh Chander Sharma charged that even after completion of the mela, 54 development works-worth Rs 180.07 crore-were incomplete. The application (dated May 19, 2014) had sought information about the work done with balance Rs 180.07 crore after the mela, which various state government departments failed to provide.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand BJP's general secretary Naresh Bansal said, "The Congress government is doing this just to divert the attention of the public from their failures. They are welcome to conduct the inquiry. The probe will bring the true picture before the public."
The state information commission recommendation about a high-level probe comes more than four years later after the CAG hinted at gross misuse of the central government grant provided for the Maha Kumbh. A total sum of Rs 565 crore was approved for 311 works to be executed by 34 departments of the state government.
When the Maha Kumbh concluded in 2010, an over excited Uttarakhand CM and senior BJP leader Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank demanded a Nobel Prize for successfully hosting the biggest mela.
On the other hand, the Congress made the mela scam an election issue during the 2012 state Assembly elections and also during last year's Lok Sabha polls. But even after being voted to power in March 2014, the Congress government had so far shown no intention of taking any action against those found guilty.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Abolition of compulsory languages in varsity: Guv approached

Business Standard: Lucknow: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
An RTI activist has sought the intervention of Uttar PradeshGovernor Ram Naik in resolving the issue of abolition of three compulsory languages from the curriculum of the Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti Urdu, Arabic-Farsi University. 
The RTI activist, Saleem Beig, in his complaint to the Governor said the varsity's executive council had in 2012 decided to introduce Urdu, Arabic and Persian as compulsory languages, but the present management reversed the decision without the executive council's consent. Beig said the management's decision was contrary to the idea with which the institution was set up.

Activists defend their Rights

Livemint: Pune: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
The forum was created at the end of a two-day training workshop conducted in Pune over the weekend. Following the killings of CPI leader Govind Pansare, who succumbed to his injuries after two unidentified assailants fired at him near his Kolhapur home in February, and anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune in August 2013, Maharashtra-based human rights defenders (HRDs) have created a forum to address the threats they face in their line of work. The forum was created at the end of a two-day training workshop conducted in Pune over the weekend. 
The training sought to provide clarity on who are HRDs and Women HRDs (WHRDs) and the mechanisms and strategies, both at the international and national level, needed to address the challenges they face. The workshop also offered information on how HRDs and WHRDs can access immediate help for the threats they face. On 28 and 29 March, lawyers, activists and non-governmental organization workers from different regions of Maharashtra participated in the human rights defenders Maharashtra state workshop—the first-ever training of the kind to have been conducted in the state, according to Rama Sarode of Pune-based human rights organization Sahyog Trust. Other organizers included Madurai, Tamil Nadu, based Human Rights Defenders Alert—India and charitable trust Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns, besides national consortium Working Group on Human Rights. “Even as we fight for the rights of the vulnerable, we are coming across cases where human rights defenders are being attacked. It’s therefore important to come together to fight for our own protection,” says Sarode. 
There were 32 participants from various regions of the state, including Satara, Sangli, Solapur and Mumbai, working on women’s issues, children’s education, and Dalit rights, among other concerns. “We conducted a session on how to draft an urgent appeal and provided information on the platforms through which human rights defenders could receive protection, funds, or support,” says Sarode, a lawyer. Her partner Asim Sarode, an environmental lawyer, has received threats on his stand on the matter of ex-communication by Jath or caste panchayats, after he supported Santosh Jadhav’s case in the Bombay high court. In 2004, Jadhav contested and won the gram panchayat elections of Harihareshwar in Raigad. Immediately afterwards a gavaki (caste panchayat in Konkan Maharashtra) boycotted him and his family. Jadhav filed a police complaint and approached the courts. The case prompted the high court to issue guidelines, as there is no law till date that deals with victims of ex-communication. “This workshop came about after a national training of trainers of HRDs in Madurai, which was attended by the organizers of this workshop. 
The Maharashtra trainer group strongly felt the need to conduct a workshop for human rights defenders in the state, as Maharashtra has seen more than 50 attacks on RTI activists, including 11 cases of murder over the last 10 years,” says woman human rights defender Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who conducted a session on gender and caste violence at the workshop. The forum of HRDs intends to create a state-level network and reach out to more defenders, particularly in the western region of Maharashtra—in Marathwada and Vidarbha. The forum will work closely on the threats received by activist-writer Dr Bharat Patankar last week. Dr Patankar is president of the Shramik Mukti Dal, an organization working for the rights of workers. He received a letter earlier this month, which told him that after Pansare and Dr Dabholkar, it would be his turn next.
The forum wrote an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission regarding Dr Patankar and plans to address another appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva. The workshop also brought together activists to recognize the importance of various human rights concerns. “Gender justice, violence against women and women’s rights still tend to get pushed downwards in the hierarchies of various human rights movements, hence it is important that gender, sexuality, disability and caste need to be mainstreamed in the work of human rights defenders,” said Mahabal.

No funds, medical bills worth crores pending.

The Tribune: Fazilka, Punjab: Turesday, March 31, 2015.
A large number of pensioners and employees have not been reimbursed their medical bills worth crores of rupees for the last so many years in Fazilka district.
Information sought under the RTI Act revealed that pensioners and employees had not been reimbursed their medical bills to the tune of Rs 2.47 crore approved by the office of the District Education Officer (Primary) from 2008 to 2014, out of which the department is liable to pay Rs 88 lakh to pensioners and Rs 1.59 crore to employees.
Similarly, medical bills of pensioners and employees of over Rs 2 crore have been lying pending since long, which too have been sanctioned by the District Education Officer (Secondary).
However, due to “non-availability” of funds with the Punjab government, the bills are yet to be cleared. As a result of which the employees have been running from pillar to post to get the payment. “All the bills have been sanctioned which are awaiting funds,” said District Education Officer (Secondary) SS Bal.
Om Parkash Sharma, general secretary of the Fazilka unit of the Punjab Government Pensioners Association, demanded immediate release of the payment of pending medical bills failing which he said the association would launch an agitation.
The other aspect of the problem is that even after four years of granting district headquarters status to Fazilka, the Education Department has not granted drawing and disbursing powers to district education officers, Fazilka (Secondary and Primary), which has multiplied the problems of employees and pensioners. They have to visit Ferozepur after covering a distance of about 150 km for the purpose of medical bills.

Ghate threatens to gherao CM today over 108 workers demands.

Navhind Times: Panaji: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
RTI activist Rajan Ghate has threatened to gherao Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar at his official residence at Altinho-Panaji if the demands of 108 emergency medical technicians and drivers are not resolved by 12 noon on Tuesday.
Addressing the media on Monday afternoon, Ghate said that the workers have never demanded permanent jobs or of being absorbed in the government services but only safe working environment for women staff, who he said are falling prey to patients besides payment for working overtime and no night shifts. He also accused GVK and government of being involved in a scam as only 10-12 ambulances are on the road and payment being made for 30 ambulances.
Ghate said that it is shocking that despite 108 ambulance staff being on hunger strike for last 12 days, neither Parsekar nor Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza has come to their help. He said that the striking women are most vulnerable as they do not have proper facility to answer nature’s call since the existing ladies section of sulabh shauchalaya is in bad shape.

No action against lawn on plots for weaker sections.

Times of India: Nagpur: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
The inaction of officials from ULC department and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) goes to prove their nexus with the high-profile developer who constructed a posh lawn for functions on plots meant for construction of tenements for people from weaker section. Developer Sanjay Agrawal and his family members are not facing any action even though all officials are aware about their brazen violations.
TOI had on March exposed the lawn constructed on area of 72 plots released by the state government for construction of tenements for weaker section people under ULC's Talegaon Dabhade scheme. The officials of ULC department and NMC knew about the brazen violations even before the TOI expose.
ULC department additional collector Vinay Moon and NMC executive engineer Mahesh Gupta had assured to initiate action when the TOI asked them about the violations.
However, asked about the status of the case on Monday, Moon said action was yet to be taken by the ULC department. "I was busy with some other works so could not initiate action. Department has to inspect the site and make spot panchnama before taking action. We will initiate necessary action soon," he said.
Gupta did not respond to TOI's calls. NMC sources told TOI no action has been taken by NMC's town planning department.
RTI activist TH Naidu told TOI the ULC department is known for protecting violators and this was not the first case. "I also went to the ULC department and informed them about the violations. But the department did not take any action. Two years ago I happened to expose similar case at Khamla. A residential complex was built on land meant for weaker section. But no action has been taken as on date despite lodging many complaints," he said.
NMC too is supposed to initiate action since lawn cannot be developed on residential plots. Besides, the NMC town planning department had not released the plots to the owner. The layout's open space was also not handed over to NMC. Yet, NMC is not taking any action against the lawn developer.
Actually, NMC town planning department itself had violated some norms. TOI had highlighted how amalgamation of 72 plots into four plots was allowed in violation of the ULC Act norms and the government's directives.
The government had declared the area of 72 plots as surplus under ULC Act. The government was supposed to construct tenements for weaker section people. But the government handed over the land to the earlier owner Rajaram Dhanwate, after he applied to develop tenements for people from weaker sections. Then the government had approved layout on the area on April 21, 2003. An area measuring 88,069.33 sq ft was divided into 72 plots. The owner was supposed to either sell the plots or construct and distribute tenements for people from weaker sections within two years from April 21, 2003.
Naidu added that the ULC department should have taken back the land from owner and ensure tenements were built for the weaker section. "The government has made it clear in the approval that the land would be taken back in case of any violations," he said.

RTI reply cites Nehru statement — made 13 years after death.

Indian Express: Vadodara: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
The Ministry of Culture has said in an RTI reply that it does not have a policy to deal with “procurement of historic memorabilia and belongings of national figures smuggled out of India”, owing to an advice against such a policy by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Rajya Sabha in 1977. Nehru passed away in May 1964.
Vadodara resident Pankaj Darve, who filed the RTI, was told by the Archeological Survey of India, which falls under the Culture Ministry, that Nehru, in 1977, expressed the fear that any such move would “affect bilateral relations”.
The ASI reply, dated March 17, 2015, was received by Darve on March 28. The reply, signed by Sunanda Shrivastav, superintending archaeologist (antiquity), stated: “In reference to the Government of Indiabringing back the priceless items in foreign possession before India’s Independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, while giving his opinion on starred question 617 dated 14.12.1977 in the Rajya Sabha, about the return of the Kohinoor diamond, had said that there can be no decision on the bringing back of such property, as such attempts could affect the strengthening of bilateral relations between the countries.”
Darve wanted to know what steps the government was taking to bring back belongings and memorabilia of national figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maharana Pratap, Prithviraj Chauhan, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Veer Savarkar, Guru Gobind Singh, Tipu Sultan, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi and Bhagat Singh.
Apart from admitting that it has no policy, the ministry also said the government has “no information” about such belongings.
Darve had also asked the ministry if the government considers itself the “owner” of the belongings of national figures, and had requested the ministry to share records tracking the historical belongings, their current location and legal possessors.
“The ASI’s reply stating that Nehru made a statement to that effect in 1977 is shameful as he passed away in 1964 and a Union Ministry ought to have its facts right. Moreover,it is appalling that for over 60 years, India has failed to frame even one policy to procure invaluable treasures of national heroes on the pretext of bilateral relations. Itshows India in a poor light,” Darve said.
“We only come to know about missing memorabilia when they go under the hammer illegally by international auction houses. This smuggling of historical memorabilia has already cost the country many significant items of Gandhiji, Tipu Sultan and Prithviraj Chauhan. But it appears the government never learnt its lesson,” he added.
Darve initially received a reply from the ministry’s International Cultural Relations (ICR) department earlier this month through its chief public information officer and under secretary Kamal Bakhru. The reply stated, “The information may be treated as nil.”
But his application was then transferred to the ASI department, and Darve was alerted about it. Meanwhile, Darve also received a letter from the Victoria Memorial museum in Kolkata, under the ministry’s directions, stating that it was in possession of one sword belonging to Tipu Sultan, formerly exhibited in the Royal United Service Museum in London.

Saline Water Used for construction of Trichy

Times of India: Trichy: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.
The collapse of a building at the central university at Thiruvarur, in which five people were killed, has raised doubts about the quality of construction in the region which has high salinity in ground water. In reply to an RTI filed by a resident of Thiruvarur recently, Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board had said that ground water in the locality was not conducive for construction owing to its high salinity. Though many building contractors claim they buy tanker water for construction, that is not the case in reality, say activists. 
N Rajashekran, a long time resident of a Mudikondam in Thiruvarur district said all government buildings in the locality were being constructed using ground water only. In 2010, Rajashekaran filed a case in Madras high court pointing out poor quality of water used in construction activity. The case was dismissed 16 days ago. Thiruvarur predominantly being an agrarian district, survives on the tributaries of River Coleroon that flows from Trichy. Vettar, which is located closely to the central university, is the primary water source for farmers in Thiruvarur. 
But the river is dry during a major part of the year and sea water incursion is high in the region. 
Buildings that have been constructed using saline water normally start showing off damages in the first few years itself. Owing to salinity, steel reinforcement corrodes and expand, which leads to cracks in beams and pillars. Such buildings become unsafe for habitation in a few years, said Rajashekaran. The activist alleged that poor water quality could be the reason for the mishap. 
Acting registrar of the university, P Ravindran, refuted the charge that poor quality water was used for construction. He said, "Our bore well is more than 500 feet deep. Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board tested our water and gave approval". His strange logic is that if the well is deep, the water has to be potable. 
VC T Sengadir said a complete study on the quality of construction would be carried out by roping in experts from IIT and other reputed organizations.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Private colleges in Jabalpur under scanner over scholarship fund.

Hindustan Times: Jabalpur: Monday, March 30, 2015.
The Jabalpur administration has served notices on several private colleges after an RTI reply revealed alleged irregularities in disbursement of post-matric scholarship between 2007 and 2014, the district collector said on Saturday.
The notices, served on private institutions in the district running professional and technical courses including engineering and management, has asked the authorities to furnish details of students who have benefited from the scholarship, said collector SN Rupla.
“Action will be taken against the colleges if they are found guilty of wrong disbursement of scholarship,” he said adding that “the alleged irregularities pertained to the period when funds were allotted to the colleges which used to disburse the same to the students.”
He added that the practice was discontinued recently and “now the scholarship amount is transferred online into the bank account of the beneficiary student.”
The Engineering Students’ Organisation, an umbrella body of students, had procured details of the scholarships through an RTI query besides details available online from the department’s website.
The organisation had later made a representation to the district collector demanding a probe into the alleged irregularities.“The ESO is not targeting any particular private college; there is irregularity in disbursement of scholarship in maximum colleges of the state,” said Deepak Nahar, a member of the organisation.
He said that quoting documents that “a college disbursed scholarship to a single student showing him (as) studying in the first and second semesters in two separate courses at the same time.”
Another member of the body said irregularities in disbursement of funds allotted to colleges under a Central government scheme have also been detected in other institutions located in Bhopal, Indore and Gwalior besides Jabalpur.
“We have even made a representation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the MP government’s economic offence wing recently demanding probe into the matter,” he added.

Ready to face probe: V-C of Nauni university.

Indian Express: Shimla: Monday, March 30, 2015.
Two days after BJP MLA and former minister Rajeev Bindal levelled charges of irregularities against Vice-Chancellor of Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni (Solan), Vijay Singh Thakur and demanded a probe by a sitting High Court judge, the latter has said he was ready to face a probe.
“I am ready for a probe by the High Court judge in two weeks and will face any punishment decided by the judge if proven guilty,” said the Vice-Chancellor.
The allegations relate to Rs 2.10 crore European Union International Collaboration research project on sustainable production of apples and pears in Asia, which Dr Thakur had handled as principal investigator during his posting at Horticulture research station, Mashobra, Shimla, between 2001 and 2006.
Bindal, who is BJP’s general secretary, accused the Vice-Chancellor over issues like violation of FERA, university accounts manual and of committing financial irregularities by concealing facts about the project and its accounts.He regretted that a senior leader like Bindal should not have levelled the allegations against a serving professional without complete verification of the records. He said there was no irregularity of any sort in the project.
He claimed a Solan-based lawyer, Ashwani Kumar, had used the RTI to get details of the project and mode of its implementation. Some foreign tours and a vehicle purchased under the funding of the project has raised questions.
When contacted, the V-C said the project was of Rs 2.10 crore but it was later slashed to Rs 70.36 lakh. “All audits and records of the funding and money spent are available for verifications,” he said.

‘Dubious deals’ by ministers embarrass KCR government, more scams tumble out.

Deccan Chronicle: Hyderabad: Monday, March 30, 2015.
A few Telangana ministers are proving to be embarrassments to the TRS government as they keep getting embroiled in controversies.
Agriculture minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy has allegedly built a ground-plus-six-floor building in his constituency Banswada in Nizamabad district though the gram panchayat had approved only ground-plus four.
He has also allegedly encroached on the road. Earlier, too Mr Reddy had courted controversy for his alleged involvement with the sand mafia in the district. A local BJP leader in Banswada, who had obtained information about the minister from the gram panchayat under RTI, was arrested on March 27. KCR takes note of graft accusations
In protest against the arrest of its leader, the BJP called for a ‘Banswada bandh’ on March 28, leading to complete shutdown of the town on Saturday.
Recently, power minister G. Jagadish Reddy recommended processing of a file recommending handing over government college land in Medak back to the family that had donated it a few decades ago.
This took place in Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s home constituency Gajwel, much to the embarrassment of the TRS government while the Legislative Assembly was in session. Mr Reddy defended his action saying that, “it was a mere recommendation and not an order”.
Over 40 acre of land in Jagadevpur had been donated to the state government by one Narasimha Reddy to set up educational institutions in 1969. The land was registered in the government’s name in 1979.
Recently, the donor’s sons asked for the land to be handed back on the grounds that the government had failed to meet certain conditions like naming the institutions after their father and installing their father’s picture.
They submitted a representation to Mr Jagadish Reddy who, instead of safeguarding government land providing free education to the poor and needy for nearly five decades, recommended the revenue department to draft a file and “circulate” for consideration.
There are allegations that the donor’s family has been eyeing the land since it is now worth nearly Rs 4-5 crore and has offered to share the receipts with leaders who would help them to get the land back.
The Chief Minister has asked ministers to file defamation cases against those who make false allegations against them but both the ministers are yet to file the cases.
Mr Jagadish Reddy, however, has filed a case against former Congress MP Ponnam Prabhakar who had accused him of receiving kickbacks from engineering college managements for releasing fee reimbursement arrears while he was education minister.
Earlier, ministers Srinvas and T. Harish Rao had faced allegations of having links with illegal sand miners in Nizamabad. Both have threatened to sue TD MLA A. Revanth Reddy, who had made these allegations in January, but are yet to initiate legal proceedings against him.
Similarly, endowments and housing minister A. Indrakaran Reddy is facing allegations of encroaching on lake land in his home constituency Nirmal in Adilabad district.Mr Reddy, however, has denied this and has filed a defamation suit against a vernacular daily.
Transport minister P. Mahender Reddy, meanwhile, is facing allegations of being involved in land settlements in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts, which he has denied.All these allegations and accusations against ministers have been brought to the notice of the Chief Minister who is apparently looking into them.
It now remains to be seen how Mr Chandrasekhar Rao will react and control his ministers for stirring up unnecessary controversies and embarrassing the TRS government, which promised a “clean and corruption-free administration” from the day it took charge, on June 2, 2014.

Canacona local alleges scam by tribal welfare dept.

Herald: Goa: Monday, March 30, 2015.
In a sharp attack on the Tribal Welfare Department (TWD), a resident from Canacona taluka has accused the department of extending financial assistance under Atal Asra Yojna for illegally constructed houses in Gaondongrim-Canacona.
In a letter, Ramkrishna G Dessai stated that TWD had sanctioned 195 cases of repairs to houses and 8 cases of reconstruction of houses in Gaondongrem.
“As per condition No 4 of your department to sanction the financial assistance, an NOC of landowner or ownership documents is a must…While giving sanction to repair the houses under Atal Asra Yojna Scheme, you yourself have violated condition No 4, thereby giving scope for illegalities and helped in committing irregularities,” alleged Dessai, who claimed to have obtained details under the RTI Act.
Dessai, who claims to be a component of the Comunidade of Gaondongrim, insisted that the Comunidade of Gaondongrim had not issued any NOC to provide financial assistance under the scheme to the illegal constructions at Karvem-Gaondongrim or other properties owned by the comunidade.
Dessai then went on to allege that the TWD’s sanction was “under undue political pressure.”
He also claimed that one house had been divided into two houses with two house numbers, to get double benefits to one and the same family. 
“Most of the cases are bogus and beneficiaries have not utilized the assistance for the purpose it has been obtained (no houses are repaired),” said Dessai. 
Dessai further alleged that 75 per cent of the eight cases of reconstruction and 195 cases of house repairs were bogus cases and demanded an inquiry into the misuse of public funds.
“If the financial assistance given to the beneficiaries is not in tune with the law, it should be recovered with interest,” he insisted. 
When contacted, Tribal Welfare Minister Ramesh Tawadkar denied any illegality in grants provided under Atal Asra Yojna in Gaondongrim or anywhere else. 
According to Tawadkar, applications are approved as per the prevailing guidelines and procedures of the scheme.
When informed about specific points raised by the complainant, Tawadkar said, “Ancestral houses do not need any NOCs from landowners under the scheme. BDOs are the nodal officers who scrutinize every aspect of the applicant and in certain issues the scheme being financial assistance to weaker section can be granted minus any documents.”
“Even if it’s a one family house, but if there is a partition within the family, both families in the household are separately eligible under the scheme,” Tawadkar stated on the allegation of one house had been divided into two houses with two house numbers to get double benefits to one and same family.