Friday, December 09, 2016

MNS alleges scam in garbage transportation

The Indian Express‎‎‎: Mumbai: Friday, December 09, 2016.
AFTER scams on roads, drain de-silting and anaesthesia machines, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been hit by allegations of yet another scam, this time in the transportation of garbage. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporator Sandeep Deshpande alleged in the Standing Committee Thursday the scam was worth Rs 900 crore and involved 43 contractors.
Deshpande said fellow corporator Sujatha Pathak from the T ward had prepared a report on alleged violations of tender conditions by the contractors appointed in the N, S and T wards for transporting garbage. “Several residents of the three wards complained their waste was not being collected regularly, which prompted us to probe the issue. We applied for documents under the Right to Information Act and found 15 violations of the tender conditions. We are confident all other companies have similarly cheated the BMC,” he said.
Deshpande added that similar to the findings of the inquiry into the de-silting scam, logsheets of the vehicle tracking system of garbage compactors indicated similar anomalies. “There are multiple entries of the same truck with overlapping entry and exit timings. In other cases, while one shift mandates an eight-hour duty time, there are entries where a large compactor has completed the shift in 15 seconds,” he said, adding that the transportation of garbage to the three dumping grounds has been given out in eight tenders to 43 companies in the city divided into six zones.
Alleging that solid waste management officials were hand in glove with the contractors, he said, “While the tender conditions clearly state the companies bidding for them cannot be related to each other, documents indicate the owners of two such companies are brothers with the same official address. Officials have overlooked violations of this kind and the tender conditions have been designed to benefit the contractors.”
He alleged that RTI documents revealed all the 96 compactors (small, mini and large) transporting garbage had expired fitness certificates. Deshpande said he had sent the findings to the mayor, the municipal commissioner, the chief minister as well as the Governor but had not received any response.
“There is a scam of Rs 900 crore and the citizens have suffered because of it. There should be an inquiry, which has to be completed within a time-frame unlike the road scam inquiry, and SWM officials need to be suspended to ensure they don’t tamper with evidence,” he said. Even though none of the corporators from the Shiv Sena spoke on the issue, Standing Committee chairperson Yashodhar Phanse asked the administration to study the documents submitted by Deshpande and file a reply at the next meeting.

Prasar Bharati has no record of how it spent Rs.190 crore

The Hindu‎‎: New Delhi: Friday, December 09, 2016.
DD not giving clear picture of money spent on family planning programmes: HC
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed shock and wondered if there was some misappropriation of funds when it learnt that Prasar Bharati had no record of how it used Rs.190 crore allocated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for telecast of awareness programmes on family planning and population control.
Court surprised
The court was even more surprised when Prasar Bharati said it had received Rs.190 crore and not Rs.160 crore, as stated in an RTI reply by the Union Health Ministry.
Prasar Bharati submitted that it did not keep any record of how the money was spent as 122 programmes were telecast from 30 different kendras and it was not possible to collate all the data of expenditure because there were many “hidden costs”.
Details sought
A Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar was hearing a petition by Satyanarain, who had sought details of how the money granted by the Health Ministry in 2012-13 for family planning awareness programmes on Doordarshan was utilised and how many shows were telecast.
While the petitioner had sought a record of Rs.160 crore as per the information received in an RTI reply from the Health Ministry, Prasar Bharati said in court that it had received Rs.190 crore and even showed a record of having spent the money.
“How is it that they [Health Ministry] gave you Rs.160 crore and you spent Rs.190 crore? How has this discrepancy crept in?” the Bench asked the counsel for Prasar Bharati.
CAG report
“There is a CAG report to show everything. We have telecast shows. But we don’t keep a record of how much money is spent on each aspect of a show,” said the counsel, adding that the Rs.190 crore figure had been reached as there were certain “hidden costs”.
To this, the Bench remarked: “If you don’t have record of expenditure from that Rs.160 or Rs.190 crore, that means anyone can come take out the money and go. You must be having some record on how much you spent on production, on stage, etc., otherwise you can receive Rs.190 crore and spend it wherever.”
“We will simply say that Doordarshan is unable to give a clear picture of amount received and spent. You are not giving satisfactory answers. Why do you want to hide things,” the Bench asked as Prasar Bharati said collecting information sought by the petitioner would lead to diversion of funds.
On Prasar Bharati saying that RTI Act does not apply to information which is not available, the Bench said this is a case of information not being collated and “it is about money for which there is no information”.
The Bench asked Prasar Bharati to collate all information on how the money was spent and fixed the matter for hearing on January 25.

Seek information on demonetisation from RBI and Finance Ministry under RTI

Moneylife: Pune: Friday, December 09, 2016.
While the Indian government has declared that secrecy was very essential before demonetisation was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fact is, the decision affected every citizen, as crores of citizens have been standing in queues since 9th November, battling hardships and cash crunch in banks and automatic teller machines (ATMs). Hence, to obtain information regarding the decision falls not only under the fundamental rights of citizens under the Constitution but also under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and co-ordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) urges citizens to procure information under RTI regarding this decision. Nayak has steered this campaign by himself filing two RTIs one to the Department of Currency Management, Reserve Bank of India and the other to Under Secretary (Currency I & II), Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance.
Citizens have right to know about exact procedures followed before the government announced demonetisation. Also, they can seek information on what were the deliberations of Ministers and officers involved in the decision-making process and much more.
Nayak, in his RTI applications has sought the following information:
Apropos of S.O. No. 3407(E) notified in the Gazette of India, dated 8 November 2016, regarding the decision to cease bank notes of denomination Rs500 and Rs1000 as legal tender, I would like to obtain the following information from your public authority, under the RTI Act:
To the Reserve Bank of India
1)    A clear photocopy of the minutes of all meetings of the Central Board of Directors regarding the aforementioned subject matter, held till date, along with the papers, presentations or other documents placed before them at every meeting;
2)    A clear photocopy of all communication along with Annexures if any sent to the Government of India regarding the decisions/ recommendations of the Central Board of Directors, subsequent to the meetings specified at para #1 above;
3)    A clear photocopy of all submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, from any person/ organisation/ institution or entity, by whatever name called, regarding demonetisation of currency notes, since 24 May 2014 till date
4)    A clear photocopy of all responses sent by your public authority to the senders of the submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, specified at para #3 above;
5)    A clear photocopy of all file notings and correspondence held by your public authority in hard copy or electronic form, including emails regarding demonetisation of currency notes.
To the Ministry of Finance:
1)    A clear photocopy of the entire Cabinet Note along with Annexures, if any, on the aforementioned subject, that was put up to the Union Cabinet for its decision;
2)    A clear photocopy of all correspondence and file notings held in hard copy and electronic form containing the deliberations of Ministers and officers involved in the decision-making process on the aforementioned subject matter;
3)    A clear photocopy of any document constituting evidence that the aforementioned subject matter was placed in the public domain for comments from the general public prior to the submission of the Cabinet Note specified at para #1 above for its consideration and action; and
4)    A clear photocopy of all submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, from any person/ organisation/ institution or entity, by whatever name called, regarding the aforementioned subject matter, since 24 May 2014 till date.
Nayak says, “Readers who have the right to seek information under India's RTI Act must formally ask these and more probing questions to demand disclosure of the deliberations of all public servants involved in the latest demonetisation exercise. I request citizens to feel free to use or adapt these formats to seek transparency in the decision-making process or amend the queries as they think best. This is a matter of immense public interest affecting every citizen of India. There is no reason why any of this information should be withheld from public scrutiny.”
“Unfortunately, instead of paying serious heed to stories of illegal transactions, people who raise such queries are being dubbed supporters of black money and corruption not only by elements in the political establishment but also by other citizens who have not thought these issues through. Many a concerned citizen wants to live in a "Swachch Bharat" instead of becoming a cheerleader for a "dry washed" economy,’’ Nayak added.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

49 per cent drop in Marathi-medium enrolments

The Asian Age‎‎‎: Mumbai: Thursday, December 08, 2016.
There has been a 49 per cent decrease in number of students enrolled in Marathi medium schools in the city from 2011-12 to 2015-16, according to non-government organisation Praja Foundation’s annual report on the state of education in civic-run schools released on Wednesday.
The report stated that the number was 116,086 in 2011-12 but came down to 71,454 in 2015-16. The NGO gathered information from the civic education department through RTI (right to information). It found that 439,153 children were enrolled in 2011-2012 but the number fell to 383,485 in 2015-16. Reason being Marathi medium students had a dropout rate of 15 per every 100 in the academic year 2015-2016.
Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja Foundation, said, “We had predicted that in 2015-16, the number of students in class I will be 38,329. However, RTI data revealed that only 34,549 children enrolled in class I in 2015-16. It is ‘worse’ than what we predicted. If this slide continues, then in 2019-20, we may have only 5,558 students enrolling in class I.”
Milind Mhaske, project director, Praja Foundation, said, “Denial of the fact that class I enrolments have dropped by 45 per cent in the last seven years (from 2008-09 to 2015-16) and also the fact that for every one student getting a scholarship in Class VII in municipal schools, there are 134 students in private schools would mean that in the next ten years, we will see only a municipal education budget for teachers and the establishment but no students! Are we, the people of Mumbai, ready for this!”
BMC education committee member Shivnath Darade said, “Yes, there have been drop outs in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation  (BMC) schools. We are taking efforts but if parents are unwilling to send their children to the civic body’s schools, we cannot help it.”

Rs 100 cr: Kerala-based spiritual organisation biggest donor to Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan project

Business Standard‎‎: New Delhi: Thursday, December 08, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) is not just funded by taxpayers but also by voluntary donations to a special fund set up for the purpose. Information obtained by Business Standard under the Right To Information (RTI) Act shows that from September 2014 till October this year, the Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) received almost Rs 455 crore in donations.
The single largest donation of Rs 100 crore came from Kerala-based spiritual organisation called Mata Amritanandamayi Math. The organisation based in Kollam in Kerala made this donation on September 15, 2015. Interestingly, just a few months before the Rs 100 crore donation was made, Mata Amritanandamayi called ‘Amma’ (Mother) by her followers, had met PM Modi at his residence.
Reports from the time suggest that she had expressed her intentions to contribute to the government’s Namami Ganga project aimed at cleaning the polluted Ganga river. Mata Amritanandamayi has many high profile followers including sportsmen, politicians, businessmen and actors across the world. In September 2016, a year after the donation was made, the Indian prime minister had specially flown to Kerala to attend the spiritual leader’s birthday celebrations.
Information shared by the Finance Ministry shows that the funds donated by the spiritual organisation was deployed in states through which the Ganga flows. The funds were specifically deployed for “constructing toilets for poor and downtrodden in villages surrounding the Ganga river.”
The biggest beneficiary was the state of West Bengal which received Rs 83 crore from the spiritual organisation’s donation. Funds were sanctioned to West Bengal by the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s (HRD) department of school education and literacy in addition to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The HRD ministry had sanctioned Rs 36 crore on January 12, 2016 to West Bengal from the donation to repair or reconstruct dysfunctional toilets in government schools. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation had sanctioned Rs 47 crore on January 21, 2016 to the state for building or repairing over 39000 toilets in households across West Bengal. These funds were to be only used in those towns and villages in West Bengal that were situated around the Ganga.
While these funds were sanctioned and released, West Bengal hasn’t provided utilisation certificates as of date to the central government.
Other states that received funds out of the donation were Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttarakhand. Jharkhand received Rs 1.64 crore for constructing close to 300 toilets in government schools. Bihar received Rs 11 crore for the purpose.
The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand from where the Ganga supposedly originates received almost Rs 3 crore for building over 2400 toilets for rural households.
The Rs 100 crore donation by Mata Amritanandamayi to the Clean India Fund is much higher than other corporates who donated under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
Information obtained under RTI shows that one of the largest donors after the Mata Amritanandamayi Math is engineering behemoth Larsen and Toubro (L&T). Unlike the spiritual organisation’s single donation, L&T made multiple donations totalling almost Rs 61 crore from March to July 2015.  The donations by L&T also coincided with major milestones for the Rs 16,000 crore engineering giant.
The Rs 30 crore donation made in July came just a few days after L&T flagged India’s first nuclear steam generator for the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in Gujarat.
Meanwhile the Rs 30 crore donation made in June came just a few days before it bagged a Rs 2715 crore contract from ONGC for its offshore Bassein development project. L&T’s defence arm had also bagged a Rs 468 crore contract from the Ministry of Defence for building a floating dock for the Indian Navy in June 2015.
L&T was in the news recently for sacking over 14000 workers in what was billed as one of India’s biggest layoffs. Despite the gloom over the sackings, L&T has reported higher half yearly profits in 2016-17 as compared to last year. In January last year, journalist Swapan Dasgupta was appointed on the board of directors of L&T.
Other significant corporate donors include Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), Bank of America, General Electric (GE) and DSP Merrill Lynch. But none of them come even close to the donation of the spiritual trust and the engineering giant.
When seen together, Mata Amritanandamayi Math and L&T, alone accounted for 35% of the total voluntary contributions to the Clean India Fund. The Clean India Mission is one of the key projects of the Modi government and was allocated Rs 9000 crore in last year’s budget. To fund the campaign, a Swachh Bharat cess of 0.5% on service tax was imposed. The government collected over Rs 3900 crore through the cess in 2015-16. The mission seeks to eradicate open defecation in India by the time the present government seeks re-election in 2019.

Appointment of Guj information commissioner challenged in HC

Business Standard‎‎: Ahmedabad: Thursday, December 08, 2016.
The Gujarat High Court today issued a notice to the state government on a PIL challenging the eligibility of a recently-appointed information commissioner.
A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi issued notice to Information Commissioner D P Thakar and the principal secretaries of General Administration and Legal Departments.
Petitioner Praful Desai challenged Thakar's appointment saying his educational qualification and experience did not meet the criteria under the RTI Act.
Thakar's qualification BCom, LLB was not commensurate with the post, as the Act says that information commissioner should be a person of eminence, with "wide experience" in terms of educational qualification, Desai claimed.
Thakar joined government service as a clerk and was gradually promoted to deputy secretary before being appointed as an information commissioner, the PIL said.
"The government of Gujarat has so far murdered, through its repeated acts of omission and commission, objectives for which RTI Act 2005 was enacted," the PIL alleged.
In August 2012, the high court asked the government to fill up two vacancies of information commissioners. In February 2015, it set aside two appointments of information commissioner, observing that the persons did not meet the criteria, the PIL pointed out.
Last December, the high court again ordered the government to fill up the two vacancies.
Desai's earlier PIL on the same issue was dismissed by the court as he failed to obtain information about Thakar's educational qualification through RTI.
He filed a fresh plea after obtaining the information through another source.
The PIL also sought to know how the government was proceeding with appointment of the new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). Present CIC, Balwant Sinh, retired on December 6.

Corridors of power insensitive to RTI queries : By Ganji Srinivasa Rao

The Hans India: Telangana: Thursday, December 08, 2016.
It appears that the Telangana Secretariat does not care a hoot for the Right to Information Act.
Even eleven years after the Central enactment came into vogue, the PIOs (Public Information Officers) of almost all the departments in the Secretariat, which is ruled by All India Services officers, choose to ignore the RTI applications though they are bound to provide information within 30 days.
Most of the PIOs prefer to stick to the age-old British era’s Official Secrets Act keeping the information secret rather than providing it to the public.
Poor response to the series of RTI applications forwarded by The Hans India to elicit information from the PIOs of various departments in Telangana Secretariat proved it beyond any doubt.
The Preamble of the Right to Information Act 2005 clearly points out: Whereas democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.
The Section 7 (1) of the Right to Information Act clearly states that information should be provided to the applicants within 30 days after receiving the application.
Till date, there is no exemption to the RTI Act either by the Centre or the State government.
It may be recalled that The Hans India published on October 23 a report highlighting that the officials of 30 departments did not upload more than 7,000 GOs during the nine-month period from January 1 to September 31, 2016.
There is clear evidence that the PIOs received the applications for information sent on October 26 and November 1 but they never cared to provide information after the lapse of 30 days.
The Hans India sought information from the PIOs of 30 departments in the Secretariat regarding the details of GOs which were not uploaded in the official government website, reasons for not uploading, among other information.
When the officials failed to discharge the statutory duty, at least the Ministers concerned should look into the lapse if they had any grip over their departments.
At least, 18 departments out of the 30 departments did not respond to the RTI applications. The following are the departments which did not respond.
1. Agriculture and Cooperation Department 2. Disaster Management 3. Environment, Forest, Science and Technology Department 4. General Administration Department 5. Higher Education Department 6.Health, Medical and Family Welfare Department 7. Home Department, 8. Housing Department 9. Irrigation and Command Area Development Department 10. Industries and Commerce Department 11. Information Technology, Electronics and Communications Department 12.
Labour, Employment, Training and Factories Department 13. Law Department 14. Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department 15. Minority Welfare Department 16. Planning Department, 17. Revenue Department 18.
Transport, Roads and Buildings Department. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao leads the pack with the miserable failure of the PIOs of the departments of General Administration and Minority Welfare in providing information to the RTI applicants.
He is followed by Deputy Chief Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali, Revenue Minister Eatala Rajender, Forest Minister Jogu Ramanna, Industries and IT Minister K T Rama Rao,
Home Minister Nayini Narasimha Reddy, Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao, Health Minister C Lakshma Reddy, Housing and Law Minister A Indrakaran Reddy and Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Law Commission exploring ways to bring BCCI under RTI act

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Wednesday, December 07, 2016.
Law commission of India has begun proceedings to examine the feasibility of legalising betting in sports and also bringing the Board of Control for Cricket in India under the RTI Act.
“We are examining all legal aspects of betting in sports,” Justice (retired) Balbir Singh Chauhan, Chairman, Law Commission of India, told HT. “Once we make up our mind and prepare a skeleton in what direction we should proceed and what legal problems may arise, we will write to all the stakeholders.”
In its July 18 verdict ratifying the Justice RM Lodha Committee report on reforms in the BCCI, the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice FM Kalifulla had suggested that the law commission should examine the legality in both the cases and make its recommendation to the government.
Both the panels appointed by Supreme Court in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, the initial one headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal as well as the Lodha panel have recommended that sports betting should be legalised.
The SC’s July 18 verdict reads: “The recommendation made by the Committee that betting should be legalised by law involves the enactment of a law which is a matter that may be examined by the Law Commission and the Government for such action as it may consider necessary in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
Justice Chauhan said: “In many countries betting in sports is legal but situations are different there. We will study all the aspects.”
A 2012 report by international audit and professional services organisation KPMG valued the Indian sports betting market at a whopping Rs 300,000 crore. If made legal, the government, by levying a possible 20 percent tax on profit, can earn revenue between Rs 12,000 to 19,000 crore a year. Currently, only betting on horse racing is legal in India.
The Mudgal panel report was submitted to the Apex court, based on which the Lodha panel was appointed in January, 2015. It was tasked with suggesting reforms in the BCCI and taking action against Chennai Super Kings official, Gurunath Meiyappan, and Rajasthan Royals co-owner, Raj Kundra.
While declaring BCCI a ‘public body’, the Apex court had observed that as a possible first step in the direction to bring BCCI under the purview of Right to Information Act, it expected the Law Commission to examine the issue and recommend to the government.
“The study to bring the BCCI under RTI is also under process. We are studying BCCI’s case and consulting some experts also,” Justice Chauhan said. “We are also writing to stake-holders. We have not written to the BCCI, but we will surely listen to them if they come to us.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Denial of ACR breaches Article 14 : By Madabhushi Sridhar

The Hans India‎‎‎‎: New Delhi: Tuesday, December 06, 2016.
Literature suggests that the appraisal systems or the ACR in civil services has been found to be ineffective and does not contribute to employees’ learning and development as the ACR system has communication gaps with personal biasness and lack of employees’ participation (Stafyarakis M, Eldridge D. HRD and performance management. MSc in Human Resource Development Reading 5. IDPM University of Manchester; 2002 quoted in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pmc/articles/PMC4890281/).
The Supreme Court in Vijay Kumar vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. 1988 (Supp) SCC 674 held that an un-communicated adverse report should not form the foundation to deny the benefits to a government servant when similar benefits are extended to his juniors. The Supreme Court in another case State of Gujarat & Anr. vs. Suryakant Chunilal Shah 1999 (1) SCC 529 stated:
"Purpose of adverse entries is primarily to forewarn the government servant to mend his ways and to improve his performance.
That is why, it is required to communicate the adverse entries so that the government servant to whom the adverse entry is given, may have either opportunity to explain his conduct so as to show that the adverse entry was wholly uncalled for, or to silently brood over the matter and on being convinced that his previous conduct justified such an entry, to improve his performance".
Supreme Court in Dev Dutt v Union of India and others (2008)8 SCC 725 (https://indiankanoon.org /doc/801705/) held: “In our opinion every entry must be communicated to the employee concerned, so that he may have an opportunity of making a representation against it if he is aggrieved”.
The two-judge bench speaking through Justice Markandeya Katju, held as follows:
It is well settled that no rule or government instruction can violate Article 14 (equality before law) or any other provision of the Constitution, as the Constitution is the highest law of the land.
The … Office Memorandum, if it is interpreted to mean that only adverse entries are to be communicated to the concerned employee and not other entries, would in our opinion become arbitrary and hence illegal being violative of Article 14.
All similar Rules/Government Orders/Office Memoranda, in respect of all services under the State, whether civil, judicial, police, or other service (except the military), will hence also be illegal and are therefore liable to be ignored.
The Supreme Court explained how the ACRs and non-communication of same to the affected party will reflect arbitrariness, as follows:
It has been held in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India & Anr. AIR 1978 SC 597 that arbitrariness violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
In our opinion, the non-communication of an entry in the A.C.R. of a public servant is arbitrary because it deprives the concerned employee from making a representation against it and praying for its up-gradation.
In our opinion, every entry in the Annual Confidential Report of every employee under the State, whether he is in civil, judicial, police or other service (except the military) must be communicated to him, so as to enable him to make a representation against it, because non-communication deprives the employee of the opportunity of making a representation against it which may affect his chances of being promoted (or get some other benefits).
Moreover, the object of writing the confidential report and making entries in them is to give an opportunity to a public servant to improve his performance, vide State of UP vs. Yamuna Shankar Misra 1997 (4) SCC. Hence such non-communication is, in our opinion, arbitrary and hence violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Apex Court established a norm that every remark, good or bad, in annual confidential report should be communicated to the concerned employee.
It explained:14. In our opinion, every entry (and not merely a poor or adverse entry) relating to an employee under the State or an instrumentality of the State, whether in civil, judicial, police or other service (except the military) must be communicated to him, within a reasonable period, and it makes no difference whether there is a bench mark or not.
Even if there is no bench mark, non-communication of an entry may adversely affect the employee's chances of promotion (or getting some other benefit), because when comparative merit is being considered for promotion (or some other benefit) a person having a `good' or `average' or `fair' entry certainly has less chances of being selected than a person having a `very good' or `outstanding' entry.
When the adverse remarks or less than ‘best’ appreciation will affect the career of the employee, the natural justice demands the disclosure and review mechanism. It is an important transparency measure which will totally transform the relationship between superiors and the subordinate employees.
Transparency in public administration requires all entries in ACR must be accessible to affected employee. The Supreme Court developed the principles of natural justice.
39. In the present case, we are developing the principles of natural justice by holding that fairness and transparency in public administration requires that all entries (whether poor, fair, average, good or very good) in the Annual Confidential Report of a public servant, whether in civil, judicial, police or any other State service (except the military), must be communicated to him within a reasonable period so that he can make a representation for its upgradation.
This in our opinion is the correct legal position even though there may be no Rule/G.O. requiring communication of the entry, or even if there is a Rule/G.O. prohibiting it, because the principle of non-arbitrariness in State action as envisaged by Article 14 of the Constitution in our opinion requires such communication. Article 14 will override all rules or government orders.
Natural justice includes right to represent against adverse remarks and seek review of the same.  This is a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court which ended the slavery for ACR. Prior to this the Information Commissions gave different contradictory judgments regarding disclosability of ACRs under RTI Act.
Government Employees online portal http://www.gconnect.in/orders-in-brief/acr-apar/annual-performance-appraisal-report-dopt-instructions.html, gave following frequently asked questions and answers on APAR:
a)    Since when the entire remarks in the APAR is being conveyed to the officer reported upon for representation, if any? Answer From the report for 2008-09 onwards.
b)    On the basis of representation submitted for upgrading the grading in the ACR/APAR under OM dated 13.4.2010, can a review DPC be convened if the Competent Authority upgrades the grading to the benchmark level? Answer The O.M. No. 21011/1/2010-Estt.A dated 13.4.2010 does not envisage any review DPC and it is concerned with future DPCs only to be held after the date of issue of the O.M.
c)    What are the time schedules for completion of various processes in the APAR? Answer Annexure III to O.M. No. 21011/1/2005-Estt. (A) (Pt-II) dated 23rd July, 2009 refers. This O.M. is available in this Department’s website. Source: http://persmin.gov.in
This is the most significant change in the functioning of pubic authorities brought by the vibrant employees challenging the adverse ACR remarks through RTI and PILs.
However, the change will not be applicable before 2008 and will not help the appellant to secure any remedy for adverse remarks in ACR for years 2001 to 2004.
All of those employees who were adversely remarked by their superiors might be at a serious disadvantage and injustice or differential treatment.
There is no remedy available for such employees are still in service, or retired, if their old ACRs contain any adverse remarks and their career is affected by it.
Administrators need to address it. (Based on decision on 1.11.2016 in Y K Mall, Lucknow v. PIO, KVS, Delhi, CIC/CC/A/2015/002083-SA) Madabhushi Sridhar. (Copy of Oredr)

Govt of India outfit says, it has no studies on anti-riots efficacy of pellet guns, which injured 3000 in J&K

COUNTERVIEW‎‎‎: Ahmedabad: Tuesday, December 06, 2016.
After declaring two months ago that pellet guns’ sale and efficacy as anti-riots weapon cannot be disclosed in public interest, a top Government of India outfit has stated that it does not have “any studies regarding the efficacy of anti-riot weapons such as pellet guns.”
The reply comes in the wake of a Right to Information (RTI) plea by senior activist, Venkatesh Nayak, who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a Delhi-based NGO. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which operates under the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics used in air, land and sea.
The reply further says that the OFB does not manufacture “anti-riot weapons such as pellet guns but only the ammunition used with it.” Interestingly, instead of providing the information sought under RTI, the OFB just “printed out the webpages from the OFB's website regarding the specifications of the pellet cartridges and sent them to me after stamping them with a seal saying document issued under the RTI Act", says Nayak.
Nayak wonders, in an email alert, if the Khadki Ordnance Factory (OFK), Kokata, operating under OFB, does not manufacturing the anti-riot weapon called pellet guns, where are law enforcement agencies, particularly the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in J&K, buying these pellet guns from.
He further wonders, “If as the manufacturing entity, OFK does not have any study reports regarding the efficacy and expected impact of pellets on human beings, how are they authorised to manufacture such ammunition and under whose orders?”
Nayak asks, “If there is no written record about how such ammunition will impact on the intended targets, how can any standardisation of ammunition be achieved?”
OFK is a public sector enterprise which sells arms and ammunition not only to the defence forces and law enforcement agencies but also to civilians in the form of weapons for hunting, sporting and self-defence.
Comments Nayak, “Such a body is claiming that they do not have studies which show how such anti-riot ammunition will impact on human beings. This is indeed a very strange admission.”
According to a news report, the Indian paramilitary fired up to 3,800 cartridges between July and August, each containing 450 metallic balls, totaling up to 1.7 million pellets. About 3,000 civilians have been injured due to pellet guns as of 24 August.
Meanwhile, Nayak says, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Committee report on riot control methods remains a secret. The committee, was formed following reported instances of numerous youngsters being injured severely by pellet guns, resulting in extensive eye damage, many of whom were innocent bystanders.
“The seven-person committee said to have submitted its report to the Government. This report has not been officially placed in the public domain. There is an urgent need to make the report public. A similar report prepared in 2010 was made public by the Delhi Police after I filed an RTI application”, says Nayak.
“There is no reason why the 2016 report should not be made public, especially, when organisations like OFK are manufacturing ammunition for riot control without knowledge of what their impact is on the human body”, Nayak asserts.

NSF protests against Govt for rendering SIC defunct

Daily Excelsior‎‎‎: Jammu: Tuesday, December 06, 2016.
Accusing the Coalition Government of rendering the SIC completely defunct, NSF activists today held a protest against the subversion of RTI Act in the Jammu and Kashmir State.
Led by Dr Vikas Sharma, State president NSF, raised slogans against the Coalition Government and demanded immediate appointment of the SIC members as well as its Chairman.
Lambasting the State Government’s casual attitude towards the SIC that  led to its redundancy,  Dr Vikas Sharma alleged  that the Ministers and MLAs,  particularly those of BJP,  were in notion that  the transparency was good for others only and they should  be left free and unquestioned.   BJP’s resistance to RTI Act  an be gauged from the fact that one of the BJP MLAs moved a bill in the previous session of Assembly for the amendment of J&K RTI Act and alleged misuse of the Act by the so called “unscrupulous elements”.

Disclose details of corrupt officials: Info panel to govt

Chandigarh Tribune‎‎: Rohtak: Tuesday, December 06, 2016.
Efforts of a Rohtak-based RTI activist to get details about the involvement of IAS, HCS, IPS and HPS officers in corruption cases finally seem to be bearing fruit.
The Haryana government as well as the State Information Commission had earlier refused to furnish the information sought by the applicant under the RTI Act. The applicant then moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which directed the commission to reconsider the matter.
Following the High Court’s order, a three-member Bench of the commission observed that “the disclosure of information relating to corruption cases registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, is warranted on account of larger public interest.”
The Bench, comprising State Information Commissioners Urvashi Gulati, Major-Gen (retd) JS Kundu and Yoginder Paul Gupta has directed the SPIOs at the offices of the Haryana Chief Secretary and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to furnish point-wise certified information, including copies of FIRs registered against IAS, HCS, IPS and HPS officers under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Earlier, in a reply filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Haryana government had stated that the information relating to the involvement of IAS, HCS, IPS and HPS officers was “personal information of the officers concerned” and action against such officers was a “matter between the employer and the employee”.
In an application submitted under the RTI Act, Subhash, state convener of the Haryana Soochna Adhikar Manch, had sought information about IAS, HCS, IPS and HPS officers serving in the state who had faced corruption charges between January 1, 2000, and October 31, 2013.
The Haryana Government authorities had refused to provide any information sought by the Rohtak-based RTI organisation in this regard, stating that the information was personal in nature and exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right To Information Act.
Subhash then filed another application to the First Appellate Authority the State Public Information Officer-cum-Secretary to the Government of Haryana but failed to get the desired information as the said authority also maintained that the disclosure of names of corrupt officers and action taken against them was a matter of privacy between employee and employer.
The RTI activist then filed a complaint against both government agencies with the State Information Commission and urged it to take suitable action against them for shielding corrupt officers in the name of privacy.
However, the State Information Commission had then upheld the decision of the State Public Information Officer, maintaining that indulging in corrupt practices was part of the officials’ personal information and its disclosure would lead to invasion of privacy.

KP govt urged to extend RTI Act to PATA

Daily Times: Peshawar: Tuesday, December 06, 2016.
The ProgNat Development Initiative (PDI) has urged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government to extend Right to Information Act (RTI) to Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) aimed to accelerate process of good governance and eradicate corruption from government institutions.
PDI, a social development firm working on youth development and citizen journalism social enterprise in KP has launched a novel initiative to endorse the idea of RTI extension to PATA. The firm submitted an online petition on social media seeking the public support for endorsing the idea.
Currently, PATA represents 27 elected members in the KP provincial assembly but under the Article 147 (3) of the constitution the government the Governor KP has not extends the RTI act to PATA.
"In order to improve governance, reduce corruption and make institutions accountable, we urge the President of Pakistan and the Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to extend KP RTI Act 2013 to PATA on a priority basis and provide an opportunity to the citizens of PATA to meaningfully partner in the democratic process by improving their involvement and contribution in public affairs," the petition read.
The petition was submitted on 30th November 2016, consider one of the unique of its kind in the KP where the firm using the platform of social media trying its best to approach high-ups government authorities for the right of marginalizes section of the region.
Talking to Daily Times Noor-ul-Islam, Co-founder of PDI said that the aim of the petition was an attempt to aware public and compels the government to fill the legal space causing region basic rights and accelerate the demands for the constitutionally guaranteed.
He said we struggle to extent the wing of the RTI to PATA for large the interest of public and society which had suffered hardship during the last decades.
"We have limited resources to start a wide campaign in the province for the purpose and we planed to access to public through the medium of social media to endorse our idea with us and accelerate the demand for the right of civilian living in PATA," Noor maintained.
The statement of petition said that Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees every citizen the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Urjit Patel paid Rs. 2 lakh a month

The Hindu‎‎‎‎: New Delhi: Monday, December 05, 2016.
RBI Governor Urjit Patel gets a little over Rs. 2 lakh as salary and has not been provided with any support staff at his residence, the central bank has said.
Mr. Patel, who took over as RBI Governor in September, is at present in possession of the bank’s flat (Deputy Governor’s flat) at Mumbai, it said.
“No supporting staff has been provided to the present Governor, Urjit Patel at his residence. Two cars and two drivers have been provided to the present Governor,” RBI said in reply to an RTI query.
The bank was asked to provide details of remuneration given to the former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and incumbent Mr. Patel. Mr. Rajan assumed charge from September 5, 2013 with a monthly salary of Rs. 1.69 lakh. It was revised to Rs. 1.78 lakh and Rs. 1.87 lakh respectively during 2014 and March 2015. His salary was hiked to Rs 2.09 lakh from Rs 2.04 lakh in January this year, the RTI reply said. PTI

CIC asks MHA to release security clearance details of Jet Airways

Daily Pioneer‎‎‎: New Delhi: Monday, December 05, 2016.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs to release the details of security clearances related to Jet Airways.
The order pronounced recently by Information Commissioner Sudhir Bharghava said the MHA can’t withhold the RTI queries related to the security clearances given to the appointment of Capt. Hameed Ali, a Bahrain national, as Chief Operating Officer of Jet Airways.
The CIC order came on the petition filed by noted activist Vineet Narain’s Kalchakra Magazine Editor Rajneesh Kapur who said that Capt. Hameed Ali had been working as COO of Jet Airways for more than 7 years violating all norms of Civil Aviation and Home Ministry’s mandated security clearance.
The MHA did not provide any information on any RTI query in this regard on the “pretext” of confidentiality, said Kapoor in his appeal to the CIC. Narain has also filed several complaints against the series of violation by Jet Airways in many forums like CVC, CBI and DGCA.
In his order, the Information Commissioner criticized the  MHA for taking stands on the pretext of confidentiality. “ The Commission is of the opinion that the information sought, if disclosed, would serve larger public interest since it relates to the issue of security clearance of a person who is working as a senior functionary in Aviation Sector and not following proper procedures while granting security clearance to such persons could pose a grave threat to the security and safety of the passengers, who travel by air.
“In view of this, the Commission, directs the respondent to inform the appellant whether any security clearance was given to one Hameed Ali or not, within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this decision,” said the CIC order.

427 jumbos in captivity have no ownership records

Times of India‎‎: Kochi: Monday, December 05, 2016.
There are 427 elephants in the state without the statutory ownership certificates, according to information received under RTI. These elephants are in the custody of various individuals and trusts, which are connected with places of worship.
The Kerala forest department in its reply to the NGO, heritage animal task force, said 427 persons had applied for ownership certificate for the elephants which they had been keeping without the required documents. Of these applicants 320 are Hindus, 44 are Muslims and 63 are Christians, said the RTI reply.
There are 349 are male elephants, 74 are female elephants and four are Makhanas (male elephants without tusks by birth). Besides, there are 29 elephants with the Kerala forest department which are housed at Kottur, Karulayi, Kodanad and Konni elephant camps, without statutory ownership certificates.
"As per the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the forest authorities have no special right to keep elephants in captivity inside their elephant camps without ownership certificates," said secretary of heritage nnimal task force (HATF), V K Venkitachalam. "Now all the 15 elephants being paraded as part of Tripunithura Vrischikolsavam are kept by persons without any ownership certificates," he said.
Among the devaswom boards, Guruvayur Devaswom has 52 elephants, of which 19 have no ownership certificates.
The Travancore Devaswom Board has 32 elephants and none of them have any ownership certificate. Cochin Devaswom Board has 11 elephants, all without certificates while Malabar Devaswom Board has five elephants, two of which have no ownership certificates.
The two elephants of Padmanabhaswamy temple - Darshini and Sudarshini also do not have ownership certificates.
As per the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, keeping an elephant without ownership certificate is a non-bailable offence.
"Such a wildlife crime may fetch imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs 25,000. But the state government has not taken action against any person for the past 69 years," he said.
During 2016, 22 captive elephants died in captivity due to negligence and torture, meanwhile 12 elephants have killed 12 mahouts and one woman.
Recently, Union minister Maneka Gandhi in a letter to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had also asked for a ban on parading of the elephants.

Pellets and denial of information under RTI Act : by Venkatesh Nayak

Kashmir Life: Srinagar: Monday, December 05, 2016.
Readers will remember my dispatch from September this year, describing my efforts to find out details about the sale and the efficacy of anti-riot weapons- particularly pellets guns which have caused severe injuries to hundreds of youth in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
I had sought information under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) about the quantum and price of sale of pellet guns and cartridges as well reports of any studies conducted about the efficacy of such weapons and ammunition on human beings.
The RTI application originally sent to the Ordnance Factory Board Kolkata (OFB), landed up with the Khadki Ordnance Factory (OFK).
Rejecting the RTI application, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), OFK, had invoked the ground of “defence interest of the State” under Section 8(1)(a) and also claimed that the information was in the nature of commercial confidence, trade secret and / or intellectual property and disclosure would adversely affect the competitive position of a third party.
So I filed a first appeal against this order with the First Appellate Authority (FAA), OFK.
Now the FAA, OFK has, in his order, clearly stated that:
1.a) they do not hold reports of any studies regarding the efficacy of anti-riot weapons such as pellet cartridges; and
2.b) they do not manufacture anti-riot weapons such as pellet guns but only the ammunition used with it.
In response to the FAA’s direction to disclose specifications of the pellet cartridges, the CPIO has claimed that disclosure of the sale price and the quantum of sale of pellet cartridges is not in the public interest. The CPIO merely printed out the webpages from the OFB’s website regarding the specifications of the pellet cartridges and sent them to me after stamping them with a seal saying “Document issued under the RTI Act”.
What is problematic with the FAA’s order?
The FAA, OFK’s order is problematic in many ways:
1)    if the Khadki Ordnance Factory (OFK) is not manufacturing the anti-riot weapon called “pellet guns, where are law enforcement agencies, particularly the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in J&K, buying these pellet guns from?;
2)    if as the manufacturing entity, OFK does not have any study reports regarding the efficacy and expected impact of pellets on human beings, how are they authorised to manufacture such ammunition and under whose orders? If there is no written record about how such ammunition will impact on the intended targets, how can any standardisation of ammunition be achieved? Readers will remember that OFK is a public sector enterprise which sells arms and ammunition not only to the defence forces and law enforcement agencies but also to civilians in the form of weapons for hunting, sporting and self-defence; Such a body is claiming that they do not have studies which show how such anti-riot ammunition will impact on human beings. This is indeed a very strange admission; and
3)    The FAA did not bother to give any ruling on my arguments that the sale and pricing of anti-riot weapons cannot be rejected under the RTI Act under either Section 8(1)(a) or Section 8(1)(d).
What is problematic with the CPIO’s response after the FAA’s order?
1)    While dealing with my RTI application initially, the CPIO had invoked 2 exemptions (listed above) to deny data regarding the pricing and sale of the anti-riot weapons. Realising that the claim cannot be justified, he has now argued that such disclosure will not be in the public interest. As pointed out above, the FAA did not give any ruling on this issue at all, which he should have. Instead, the CPIO is now raising a ground which is not even permitted under the RTI Act for rejecting an RTI application. According to Section 7(1) of the RTI Act, a request for information may be rejected only for reasons contained in the list of exemptions given in Sections 8 and 9. Nothing in those sections authorises a public authority to reject a request for information by holding that its disclosure not in the public interest.
If I had asked information about the manner of deployment of the anti-riot weapons or their distribution across the forces that are authorised to wield such weapons, that would not have been in the public interest to disclose. Even, then it would still have to be linked to the exemptions related to protecting the country’s security or ensuring efficient operations of law enforcement agencies to reject the request.
2)    The printout of the webpages that the CPIO has sent contain specifications for the 12-bore pellet cartridge that contain rubber pellets. According to several media reports officers engaged with the situation in J&K have commented that they use 9-bore cartridges. Several media reports indicate the use of metal pellets on protesters in J&K. So the information supplied by the CPIO does not match with the information emerging from the ground in J&K. So are the law enforcement agencies in J&K especially, the CRPF sourcing the 9-bore pellet cartridges also from some source other than the Khadki Ordnance Factory? The information disclosed under RTI does not clear up this mystery either.
MHA Committee report on riot control methods remains a secret.
Soon after the media reported instances of numerous youngsters being injured severely by pellet guns, resulting in extensive eye damage, many of whom were innocent bystanders, the Government of India announced the formation of a committee to study existing and alternative methods of crowd control. The 7-member committee is said to have submitted its report to the Government. This report has not been officially placed in the public domain. There is an urgent need to make the report public. A similar report prepared in 2010 was made public by the Delhi Police after I filed an RTI application. There is no reason why the 2016 report should not be made public, especially, when organisations like OFK are manufacturing ammunition for riot control without knowledge of what their impact is on the human body.
This is an issue of immense public interest. I hope readers will also start seeking such information from the Central and the State Governments as well as the law enforcement agencies that are operating in J&K.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Government hospitals lack enough nurses

Times of India‎‎‎: Madurai: Sunday, December 04, 2016.
An RTI filed by B Anand Raj, a health activist, has revealed that most government hospitals in Tamil Nadu lack the required number of staff nurses, who play a crucial role in the functioning of these facilities.
Most of the major government hospitals lacked the required strength with Madurai's Government Rajaji Hospital topping the list. The average inpatients at the GRH on a daily basis is 2,600, while the bed strength is only 2,518. There are only 436 nurses, of which only 338 are permanent, to take care of these patients. As per MCI specifications, there should be at least 1,200 nurses employed at the hospital.
Nurses are crucial for the functioning of any hospital, as they are the constant monitors of the patient's health. There are 19 medical colleges functioning in Tamil Nadu, with MCI permission, but they are found to be faulty in terms of the number of nurses employed, he said.
Government Rajaji Hospital caters to nine southern districts. There should at least be a minimum of 800 nurses at the hospital. Other hospitals with short-staffed nurses include Tuticorin Government Hospital with only 254 nurses as against the required 300, Tirunelveli Government Hospital which has 202 nurses as against the required 400, Thanjavur Government Hospital which has 162 as against the required 350 nurses and Coimbatore Government Hospital which has 230 nurses as against the required 400.
However, the government hospitals in Sivagangai, Tiruvarur, Theni, Villupuram and Dharmapuri, which are smaller than the above mentioned hospitals, have a better nurse to patient ratio, as per the records. However, Theni hospital was recently embroiled in controversy over scavengers being used to attend to patients. It is currently under investigation.
The Tiruvarur hospital has 255 nurses to treat 400 patients daily. If GRH is to have the same nurse to patient ratio as the government hospital in Tiruvarur, then it should have at least 800 nurses. While Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital and the GRH have more or less the same bed and patient strength, the former has 700 permanent nurses, 300 more than the latter.
The GRH treats 25 lakh outpatients, eight lakh inpatients and an average of 22,000 deliveries annually. This hospital also has the highest infant mortality rates in Tamil Nadu when compared to other government hospitals. The MCI rule says that there should be a staff nurse for every eight patients, but many hospitals have only three to four nurses for more than 50 patients. The post-operative ward in the gynaecology department at the GRH has only two nurses for about 150 patients.