Saturday, December 20, 2014

High Court orders independent probe into irrigation irregularities .

Free press journal: Mumbai: Saturday, 20 December 2014.
The Bombay High Court on Thursday ordered an independent inquiry to be set up to look into all the irrigation irregularities.
A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by Mayank Gandhi that seeks for an inquiry into sanctioning of dam projects in the Konkan division, citing irregularities in the sanction of the under construction Kondhane dam project over Ulhas river.
The petitioner alleged that Right to Information (RTI) inquires revealed no clearances were sought from the environment and archeological departments before the project began, even as 216 hectares of forest would be affected and Kondhane Caves, a Nationally Protected Monument of the Archaeological Survey of India, were located within the catchment area of the dam.
According to the PIL, the construction of the dam began without the permission of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), railway authorities and Archeological Survey of India, despite the fact that large tract of forest land and monuments would be affected, and the dam was close to a railway line.
The PIL alleges that no need-based study was conducted, no impact assessment was made and no technical clearance of any nature was done before or even after sanctioning the dam, adding that no proper assessment of drinking water, irrigation water and water of industrial use through the river basin of the Ulhas River had been done ever since the last report of Chitale Commission in 1982, the recommendations of which are completely flouted by this project.
A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice A S Gadkari has allowed an independent inquiry in five dams mentioned in the Chitale committee to stop payment to all the contractors and that no additional work should take place after today.
Advocate General Sunil Manohar has sought time for the state to file its reply in an affidavit. The next hearing is scheduled for January 20.

Soil survey bureau contracts raise a stink

Times of India: Nagpur: Saturday, 20 December 2014.
RTI information availed by a citizen has revealed that the city based National Bureau of Soil Survey and land Use Planning (NBSS&LUP) has been giving construction work to the same civil contractor for years together (since 2009). The Bureau also appears to be intentionally breaking up even big works into smaller ones so they could be locally sanctioned. Obviously, the beneficiary is same contractor Bharat Enterprises.
All the projects' cost just under Rs 5 lakh, which happens to be the maximum limit that the Bureau director can sanction. Projects costing more are to be cleared by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Though the present contractor was first hired by the Bureau in 2009 during the tenure of director Dipak Sarkar, he continues to be hired for every civil work ever since. Present director S K Singh sees no harm in this and claims substantial and practical justifications for it.
RTI papers in possession with TOI show that Bharat Enterprises owned by Anand Sakhale has been getting projects costing anything between Rs 1 lakh plus to Rs 4.99 lakh. Some of these civil works (for example compound wall work, pavement work of same place) have obviously been broken up to ensure total amount of one instalment doesn't exceed Rs 5 lakh. The same person has bid and won the contract for all the pieces.
In one case, six different works, each less than Rs 5 lakh, were awarded on a single day on January 17, 2011. They all pertain to fixing vitrified tiles at various places in staff quarters as well as office premises, painting plastering etc and should logically be given out as a single work. In March 2011 again, four contracts were given to the same contractor. The total civil work allotted to Bharat Enterprises from 2009 to 2011 exceeds Rs 1.20 crore.
Another lacuna in awarding the contract, either knowingly or unknowingly, is that the contractor was hired without being asked to submit the income tax returns, VAT registration and payment of service tax etc.
The present finance officer of the Bureau refused to speak to TOI on the subject but sources in his department told TOI the contractor now was an income tax payee. "Apparently it was a big mistake on part of the then finance officials and the director to not demand these papers in the tender and so the contractor may not have submitted them. It cannot be that a contract is issued to a party that has not submitted all the required documents as required in the tender," said a source.
Other sources in the Bureau also objected to what appears to be a rigged process. "How can the same contractor always bid the lowest? Why can't all works of one type like tiling, painting, construction of a wall, scooter or car stands etc be given in one go. Why they have to be split into smaller works? How can an accounts officer not demand essential papers while allotting contract," said a senior non-technical staff member.
Bureau director S K Singh justified breaking up of contracts to less than Rs 5 lakh listing various limitations attached to allocation of any maintenance works. "I am not justifying any mistakes but it is true that any requests for sanctions above Rs 5 lakh keep pending with ICAR for over a year. One of our proposals was turned down by ICAR after a year as it was costing Rs 3.8 lakh. We can't wait that long. CPWD doesn't respond to any tenders or requests by the Bureau for small works. Big contractors do not bid for them either," he said.
Singh also added there was complete transparency in tendering and allocating the work. Tenders were opened in presence of all bidders. We don't give a work unless there are minimum three bidders. In emergency situations like ministers and officials' visits, Bureau has to give small works and they are accepted by only Bharat Enterprises, he added.
SOILED WORKS
·        All civil works allotted to same contractor since years
·       Contractor did not submit income tax returns or other certificates
·       Large works like building a compound wall, tiling entire premises, painting broken up into smaller ones so they could be locally sanctione
·       Small contracts for same type of work allotted within few weeks of each other, sometimes on a single day
·       Same contractor always magically turns out to be the lowest bidder

RTI query reveals Alok Industries was penalised by Ministry of Defence; Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan vendor in Kerala gets empanelled after suppression of facts.

Hindu Business Line: THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Saturday, 20 December 2014.
RTI enquiries have ferreted out documents indicating irregularities in the empanelment of suppliers for school uniform by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Kerala.
Enquiries by RTI activist Gyanesh Sharma revealed that Mumbai-based Alok Industries may have provided falsified information to get empanelled as a vendor.
113-cr scheme
Tender SP(2) 42544/2013/ dated 17-08-13 was for empanelment of vendors for supply of two sets of uniform material at 200 per pair for 27 lakh students during 2013-14. The tender was worth 113 crore.
While the Centre would provide 33 crore , the State government would cough up the remaining 80 crore.
The tender had already raised controversy with the Left-leaning Kerala State Teachers Association and Student Federation of India alleging a scam.
Their ire was against another Mumbai-based textile firm that was allegedly given special favours to get empanelled. The Director of Public Instructions, Kerala, had denied any wrongdoing.
RTI disclosure
Meanwhile, the RTI activist based in Rajasthan told Business Line that he has written to the official in charge on Alok Industries.
While applying for the tender, the company had suppressed crucial information that would have disqualified it, Sharma said, sharing relevant RTI documents with Business Line.
Tender conditions required that a bidder should not have violated any of the conditions relating to supply of clothes.
It should also not have been blacklisted by any government department or organisation across the country. This needed to be specified on a notarised 100 stamp paper.
Accordingly, the company made the declaration on 29-7-2013 signed by Nandakumar Nair, in the capacity of an officer authorised to sign bid on behalf of Alok Industries. It was signed before Natvarlal P Sonchhatra, Notary, Greater Bombay.
Clinching evidence
Sharma has produced Letter No 2408/0219/CA/2007-2008 from the Ministry of Defence, Ordnance Clothing Factory (OCF), Avadi, Chennai, dated 2-1-2008, to demolish the claim.
The letter reveals that an order issued to Alok Industries for the supply of drill cotton was cancelled for delay and the company was barred from bidding for two years.
The letter said: “Since you have failed to supply 64,987 metres of the subject item within the contractual delivery period of 20.12.2007, even after several expeditors from OCF Avadi, the supply order cited at reference is cancelled totally forfeiting the full security deposit amount of 2,44,351 submitted by your firm. Further, limited tender enquiries will not be issued to your firm for two years for the above store from the date of this letter. You are requested to return the original supply order.”

वाड्रा-DLF डील के दो पेज गायब हुए, खेमका के RTI आवेदन से हुआ खुलासा

Zee News: Chandigarh: Saturday, 20 December 2014.
हरियाणा सरकार ने खुलासा किया है कि रॉबर्ट वाड्रा और डीएलएफ के बीच हुई विवादित डील में से दो महत्वपूर्ण पेज गायब हो गए हैं। गुम हुए पेज में कई टिप्पणियां भी थीं।
यह मुद्दा तब सामने आया था जब IAS ऑफिसर अशोक खेमका ने फाइल की कॉपी लेने के लिए एक RTI दायर की थी। इस डील के रद्द होने के समय अशोक खेमका महानिदेशक (संयुक्त) थे।
हरियाणा में पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री भूपिंदर हुड्डा की सरकार द्वारा बनाई गई तीन सदस्यीय समिति के साथ यह डील की गई थी, जबकि खेमका के पास इस डील में हुए परिवर्तन को रद्द करने के अधिकार थे।
खेमका के RTI आवेदन पर प्रतिक्रिया देते हुए राज्य के जन सूचना अधिकारी डॉ. वाधवा ने एक एफिडेविट में कहा, "ऑफशियल फाइल के पेज नं. 1 और 2 को ढूंढने की बहुत कोशिश की गई, लेकिन पेज नहीं मिल सके। इसलिए आवेदक को पेज नहीं दिए जा सके।"
इस जवाब के बाद खेमका ने राज्य के मुख्य सचिव को इस मामले में एफआईआर करने को कहा। इस मामले में सरकार ने कार्रवाई के लिए सुनिश्चित किया।
कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष सोनिया गांधी के दामाद रॉबर्ट वाड्रा पर राजनीतिक पहुंच का फायदा उठाते हुए 65 करोड़ रुपये का ब्याज मुक्त लोन लेने और सस्ते दामों पर जमीन लेने का आरोप लगा था।

Medical council denies info under RTI Act

Chandigarh Tribune: Chandigarh: Saturday, 20 December 2014.
The Punjab Medical Council has been denying information under the RTI Act on the status of registration and licences of five doctors convicted by a court in a kidney transplantation scam.
The council, which is in the middle of a controversy over differences among its office-bearers on extending the registration of these doctors, is also not giving any information on proceedings of the ethical committee on the issue.
For the past eight months, RTI activist from Jalandhar Ashwini Dogra has been seeking information from the medical council whether any action has been taken against these doctors. He has been also seeking information on the proceedings of the ethical committees, but to no avail.
The issue came to limelight last week when president of the council Dr GS Grewal objected to the extension of registration of one of the doctors. Other members of the council, including Registrar Dr Gurdeep Singh Kalyan, were in favour of extending the registration on the plea that the convicted doctor was on bail and had moved a higher court for relief.
The council cleared his case at a meeting of the ethical committee in June. After the controversy surfaced last week, when Dr Grewal wrote to the Health Department over the issue, Health Secretary Hussan Lal sought legal opinion on the issue.
The council is yet to inform the RTI activist about the decision and the reasons behind it. “I read in the columns of The Tribune about the decision and the controversy. The council has been denying information to me. They told me in April that the issue of the registration of doctors would be taken up in the next meeting of the ethical committee, but they gave me no details about it later on,” he said.
Registrar of the council Dr Gurdeep Singh Kalyan did not comment on the issue despite repeated attempts.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nearly 80,000 Delhi cops await promotion for last 10 years

India Today: New Delhi: Friday, 19 December 2014.
It's an endless wait to get promoted for 21,000 Delhi Police personnel. About one-fourth of Delhi Police personnel, in the nearly 80,000-strong force, are waiting for their promotion for the last 10 years, but that remains elusive.
Promotions are due for the assistant commissioners, inspectors, sub-inspectors and constables. But it seems the top cops of the force are not bothered about the issue. Despite vacancies at various levels in the force, the personnel are not promoted which could have filled these vacancies.
Interestingly, some of these personnel are drawing salaries meant for the higher ranks even though they have not been promoted.
In a reply to an RTI query Delhi Police has admitted that there are about 6,000 vacancies in the force. There are 162 vacancies in the rank of assistant commissioner.
According to the RTI reply, there are vacancies for 3,657 constables and 1,347 head constables. At the same time, about 7,282 constables and 8,896 head constables are waiting for their promotions for several years.
According to the reply, even though there are 1,508 vacancies for the post of sub-inspectors, 3,382 assistant sub inspectors are waiting for their promotions. Interestingly, they are drawing the salary of a sub inspector though they have not been promoted till date.
According to a senior Delhi Police official, there are many instances where police personnel got four promotions in just a few years but many cops are still waiting for their second promotion. "A sub-inspector got four promotions and became a deputy commissioner of police as he had good relations with various top police officials, including various commissioners. There's biasness within Delhi Police. Even though there are about 6,000 vacancies, several policemen are waiting for their promotion, and senior officials are not saying anything about it," an inspector of the force told MAIL TODAY.
"There are various inspectors and assistant commissioners of police who will retire soon. But so far, they have got just one or two promotions. We have informed and requested the top brass to fill in the vacancies but nothing has happened," another top police official told MAIL TODAY. "Recently, when few officials went to meet a special commissioner to talk about this issue, he strangely replied that we have to wait for some time as there are few vacancies," he added.
"Delhi Police can easily promote at least 35 per cent of its personnel. But senior officials are not bothered. Every year several police personnel retire. That creates vacancies, but hardly 10 per cent of the vacancies are being filled through promotions," the official said.
Curiously, the number of sub-inspectors waiting for promotion is almost 30 times more than the current vacancies in the rank of inspector. According to the RTI data, about 660 sub-inspectors are waiting for their promotions but there are only 23 vacancies in the rank of inspector.

Students' protest against staff shortage enters 102nd day

Times of India: Coimbatore: Friday, 19 December 2014.
The students of CBM College of Arts and Science in Kovaipudur entered their 102nd day of protest against the college management on Wednesday. The students, who were protesting against faculty shortage, have leveled fresh allegations against the management.
"The college has 41 acres of land in total. There is a government-aided section and a self-financing section. The self-financing section is an evening college, but it functions during the day," said Janakiraman G, a first year MA economics student. He also alleged that the management was collecting 9,800 per semester as fees from government-aided college students instead of the 1,800 per semester. There are around 590 students in the government-aided college and 350 in the self-financing evening college. Most students have been protesting since September. TOI had reported the student sit-in protest in September. When no action was taken following the protest, around 200 students submitted a petition to district collector Archana Patnaik. She had promised action immediately. TOI had reported that, too.
The students then began protesting against the shortage of faculty. A second year MSc student said there are only 32 teachers in the college when the requirement is 66. "There is no proper sanitation facility in the college. We have hence boycotted classes since September and no semester exams were organized for us," he added. The semester exam organized by Bharathiar University began during the second week of November and ended in early December.
The students have also alleged that the college did not organize routine functions or events. Routine functions like college day, sports day, graduation day and other celebrations have not been organized. In fact, graduation day has not been organized since 2007, said one faculty member.
Students had filed an RTI with the directorate of collegiate education seeking details about the functioning of the college. Through the RTI, they found that the self-financing college has been given approval to function as an evening college only. But, the college has been functioning during the day.
A senior administrative authority of the college said, "All allegations except excess fee collection are true. The officials from the higher education department have visited the college and reports have been submitted to the minister."

Yet another committee set up to ensure implementation of Sec 4 of RTI Act

Moneylife: Pune: Friday, 19 December 2014.
DoPT has again appointed a two-member committee to look into compliance of the most important transparency provision, which is the Section 4, of the RTI Act.
It looks like transparency has become a pain in the neck for most public authorities. Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which makes suo motu disclosure mandatory and which is the most powerful section of this transparency law, is being dodged by most government departments despite innumerable circulars, orders and recommendations.
The latest attempt to get government babus to conform to the transparency required by RTI, is the creation of a two member committee for developing a monitoring mechanism to ensure that Section 4 is being implemented to the fullest. This is probably the outcome of the recommendation of the government appointed task force comprising several experts and NGOs, to help the Central Information Commission come up with a way forward.
AN Tiwari, former Chief Information Commissioner and professor MM Ansari, former Information Commissioner, are the two members on the task force, who have been appointed last month for a three month period. The task force was appointed, “for developing detailed guidelines and methodology for monitoring the implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act, including conducting audit of selected Ministries and Public Authorities, etc.’’
As per the office order issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 26 November 2014, the two member committee is expected to develop basic parameters of disclosure and audit, as per Section 4 of the RTI Act. It is to prepare guidelines for test-checking third party audits in terms of compliance and adequacy of the disclosures. It will look to develop and suggest mechanisms for improving the content and quality of the disclosures, make recommendations for a long term framework for methodology for conducting such audits, identify critical areas which require special focus to give impetus to Section 4 disclosure, conducting sample test audit for few Public Authorities and suggesting a mechanism for identifying agencies for carrying out audit.
It may be noted that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had sent official memorandums to all public authorities on 15th April, 2013; 10th December, 2013 and a reminder again on 4th September, 2014, reminding them to comply with the guidelines on suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act and send an Action Taken Report on the compliance. It had stated in its letters that, “each Ministry and Public Authority shall ensure that the guidelines for suo motu disclosure under RTI are fully operationalised within a period of 6 months from the date of their issuance i.e. 15.04.2013. It was also mentioned that the Action Taken Report on the compliance of guidelines should be sent, alongwith the URL link, to the DoPT and the Central lnformation Commission soon after the expiry of the initial period of the 6 months. It has been noticed that most of the Ministries/Departments/Public Authorities have not sent the compliance report or Action Taken Report to this Department and Central lnformation Commission.’’
The same letter also said, “each Ministry/Public Authority should get its proactive disclosure package audited by a third party every year and such an audit should be communicated to the CIC through publication on their own website.”
It may be recalled that The DoPT, which had set up a task force in 2011 for comprehensive implementation of pro-active disclosure under Right to Information (RTI), had issued detailed guidelines through an official memorandum of 15 April 2013, to public authorities for pro-active disclosure of information under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
The ultimate reason for setting up of the Task Force was that, “the quality and quantity of proactive disclosure is not up to a desired level. It was felt that the weak implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act is partly due to the fact that certain provisions of the Section are not fully detailed and in case of certain other provisions there is a need for laying down detailed guidelines… there is also a need to set up a compliance mechanism.’’
In one of its recommendations, the task force had stated that, “the DoPT (should) provide all information Commission with infrastructural support, to be able to undertake audits of the performance of public authorities vis-à-vis their proactive disclosure obligations under the RTI Act. In the absence of such a mechanism, state governments are unlikely to establish effective monitoring mechanism on their own.”
Nonetheless, it is indeed curious that the rules requiring the uploading of all functioning, proposals, decisions and grants by public authorities on the website, should create so much fuss and resistance and waste of public funds. Such committees are set up, for ensuring implementation of elementary information. What is complicated, of course, is the obvious – that skeletons will tumble out of the cupboard if transparency is 100%. Which public authority would want that?

‘Minorities being treated as mere vote bank’

Times of India: Bareilly: Friday, 19 December 2014.
On the occasion of World Minorities Rights Day, several Muslim organizations across different sects came together on Thursday and rued how the community was being treated by the political leadership as "mere vote bank".
Muslims from Bareilly, Moradabad and adjoining areas also regretted the fact that several welfare schemes announced for them in the past never took off. The participants also shot off a letter to PM Narendra Modi.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board president Maulana Mohammed Mufti Raees Ashraf told TOI: "Muslims, including Ulemas and intellectuals, gathered for a meeting in Bareilly on Thursday. It was discussed that minorities in the country do not feel safe. We have decided to boycott celebrating the day until both central and state governments fulfil their promises made at the time of elections."
All India Imam Masjid Association vice-president Maulana Nasir Husain Ashrafi, too, condemned tokenism in the form of observing a day to espouse the minority rights and then forget everything about them.
Saleem Baig, an RTI activist who has filed several RTIs to know the current status of minority schemes announced by various political parties, said, "We have become mere vote banks. Schemes for the upliftment of minorities are announced just for show and their budget is later allotted to some other schemes."
Baig said that though the formation of a Waqf Nigam and Saman Avsar Ayog were recommended by the 2006 Sachar Committee and even the central government had promised to set them up in the same year, it still remains a pipe dream.
"Through an RTI filed last year, I came to know that no time frame has been fixed for setting up a Waqf Nigam," he said.
Hazrat Maulana Abdul Quayyum, general secretary, All India Tanzeem-e-Ahle-Sunnat, said, "Most of the schemes for protection and development of minorities in the country are announced during the election time to woo voters. But majority of these scheme remain only on paper."
During the meeting, the fate of the much-touted 2012 central government scheme, Padho Pradesh, which promised interest-free loans to minority students aspiring to study abroad, was also discussed. "It was revealed in an RTI reply dated June 2014 that the government had sanctioned a sum of Rs 10 crore in 2013-14. In the financial year 2014-15, only Rs 4 crore were left of that. However, when I enquired about the number and details of beneficiaries under the scheme, it was revealed that till now, not a single person had been benefitted," Baig said.
The RTI activist also took on the ruling Samajwadi Party, which had announced schemes like Rin (loan) Mafi Yojna and medical quota for minority students in their election manifesto. "However, it was revealed through an RTI query in September 2014 that both of these schemes have not been implemented in the state yet," he said.

Why law university VC not appointed by state, asks Bombay HC

Times of India: Mumbai: Friday, 19 December 2014.
The Bombay high court on Thursday directed the state government to reply to a petition which questions why the first vice-chancellor of Maharashtra National Law University at Mumbai was appointed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and not by the state government.
The petitioners' advocates, Srihari Aney and Uday Warunjikar, told the court that documents received under RTI Act show that the government was unaware of B P Panda's appointment. On August 29, the CJI approved Panda's appointment as VC.
The government's advocate, Vishal Thadani, said that a search committee had held interviews. The HC has sought the advocate general's assistance at the next hearing on December 23.

Government Drops Proposal for Feeder Airports

Indian Express: Kochi: Friday, 19 December 2014.
The state government has dropped the proposal to set up feeder airports in Idukki, Wayanad and Guruvayur.
According to information available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the proposal to set up the feeder airports was dropped owing to people’s agitation against land acquisition.
The projects were mooted citing that the feeder airports in Idukki and Wayanad, both in the Western Ghats, would boost the tourism sector, while the airport at Guruvayor would promote pilgrimage tourism.
However, With regard to the proposed airports at Idukki and Wayanad, even the study was foreclosed due to protests against land acquisition, said the RTI document.
In Idukki, land was identified at Anakkara for the project.
The State Government had identified 450 hectares of land for the airport, and a feasibility study in 2009 found that the location identified for the project was ideal.
In Wayanad, land was identified at Panamaram for the project.  The government said that a rehabilitation package would be worked out, and that those being displaced would get compensation as per the market rate.
The airport was  proposed to be developed in the  public-private partnership model. It was pointed out that the project would give a boost to tourism in Wayanad, which is connected only by road.
Around 400 acres of land is required for the proposed airport at Guruvayoor.
However, there has not been much progress in the project, though a four-member delegation from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had visited the site identified for the project.

All is not well with land acquisition process

The Shillong Times: Shillong: Friday, 19 December 2014.
All is not well with the land acquisition process for the much talked about BG Railway line from Tetelia to Byrnihat with the bone of contention being the alleged “hush-hush” manner in which the land acquisition process is being carried out.
The Dorbar Shnong of Lum Nongrim and Ronghana have expressed dismay over the alleged improper way in which the land acquisition process is being carried out by the Ri Bhoi Deputy Commissioner depriving the residents of a fair deal.
According to a communiqué signed by Lum Nongrim secretary Shnong, Albert Lapang and Ronghona Rangbah Shnong, Amol Ronghang sent to The Shillong Times, the residents of Lum Nongrim and Ronghona villages of Byrnihat had received a notice in August under Section 12 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 with regard to the acquisition of their lands at Lum Nongrim and Ronghona villages from the Ri Bhoi DC wherein they were also asked to collect their compensations.
However, the communiqué stated that the residents of the said villages were in the dark as far as the land they had parted with and the rate offered for it was concerned. Subsequently, they protested the deal under Section 18 (2) (b) of Land Acquisation Act, 1894.
The residents of the villages are still clueless about the amount of compensation decided by the district collector and whether the decided amount will compensate for the plantation (betel nut, orange, guava etc.) the villagers have on the lands to be acquired for the railway project.
In the communiqué, Lyngdoh and Ronghang questioned whether Preamble 13 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 was followed by the Authority while awarding compensation to the villagers.
They also asserted that Section 24 (1) (a) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 states that where no award under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition, 1894 has been made, all provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 relating to determination of compensation shall apply.
“In this case there has been blatant negligence on the part of the concerned authority which has not followed the statutory requirement relating to the procedure for award of compensation as laid under the aforesaid Act,” the communiqué maintained.
The communiqué stated that resettlement and rehabilitation, as provided under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, is also part of the compensation which has not been complied with by the authority.
The communiqué further alleged that the villagers were denied of their right to know all of the aforesaid before the notice was issued to them under Section 12 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
The Dorbar members claimed that the Collector was requested to refer the matter to a Reference Court of Competent jurisdiction as provided under Section 18 (2) (b) of Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
The two village leaders informed that except for a few residents who have taken the land compensation under protest, none have accepted the compensation in protest of the shabby deal.
They further alleged that the Collector has failed to point out the facts the facts to the Railway Authority that the land under reference, supposedly handed over to the North East Frontier Railway, have not yet been acquired and compensation are yet to be paid to the land owners after following due procedure of the Law.
The Collector has also till date failed to refer the matter to the competent reference court even after expiry of three months, that is, from 12 September, 2014 the date of filling protest letter by the residents, they added.
They informed that, the residents of the two villages have also filed an RTI application dated 28 November 2014 to know about the whole procedure followed by the Authority for acquiring the aforesaid land as they were in the dark and the reply for the same is still awaited.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

AP State Information Commissioner’s High Court order suspended

Deccan Chronicle: Hyderabad: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao of the Hyderabad High Court on Wednesday suspended an order of the AP state information commissioner directing the public information officer of the High Court to furnish the information relating to judicial officers.
The state information commissioner on October 22, 2014, passed an order in an appeal by N. Purushotham Reddy, president of High Court Telangana Employees Association challenging the refusal of his application under the RTI Act by the information officer of the HC.
The appellant had sought the list of total number of sanctioned posts of district judges to each district and list of officers working in the category of district judges, senior civil judges and junior civil judges, their names and native district.
Aggrieved by the order Registrar (Vigilance) of the HC moved a plea contending that the information sought by the association president is neither related to the employees association nor is there any larger public interest involved in it and as such the information cannot be supplied to the applicant as it pertains to a third party.
While admitting the plea, Justice Ramamohana Rao granted interim suspension of the order and posted the matter after four weeks.

Forest dept shy of sharing info on Pombhurna tiger

Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
The wildlife wing of the state forest department seems to be reluctant to share information even under the RTI Act on the tiger that was allegedly shot dead amid political pressure on August 19, 2014, in Dongarhaldi (Pombhurna) in Chandrapur district.
On October 13 & 14, RTI activist Avinash Prabhune, Nagpur, had filed two separate applications seeking information regarding shooting of tiger, which was dubbed man-eater by the officials, in Dongarhaldi in Chichpalli range of Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM). The area falls under forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar's constituency Ballarshah.
However, even after two months there is no reply from the public information officer (PIO) concerned. The applicant had sought know about documents seeking permission to shoot tiger and it was not tranquillized first.
Prabhune also wanted to know measures taken by the authorities before granting permission to shoot the tiger and whether National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) protocol was followed before shooting it.
The application also sought to know whether locations where tiger killed humans were inside the forest area or outside. If humans were attacked in the forest area then what action was taken against them for trespassing.
"Generally, it is observed that there is no monitoring of tigers in areas outside national parks and sanctuaries and hence it is free for all. Villagers venture deep into the forests for poaching wild animals, extracting timber and forest produce and are attacked by large carnivores. Providing compensation in such cases is a loss to state exchequer as Rs 5 lakh to the next to kin of the victim is paid," said Bandu Dhotre, honorary wildlife warden of Chandrapur.
TOI on September 11, had highlighted reluctance of the department to share information under RTI on tiger numbers in the state. "I don't have hope from the appellate authority too as he hails from the same department and tends to be lenient towards his subordinates. I have filed second appeal before state information commissioner (SIC), Nagpur, for imposing punishment for not providing information in stipulated 30 days," said Prabhune.
The RTI activist on December 2 even called up the appellate authority and PIO with the office of PCCF (wildlife). Both assured to give information within a week and expressed regrets for the delay, but still information has not been supplied.
Prabhune is in process of filing complaint with SIC under Section 18 of the RTI Act for imposing penalty of Rs 250 per day for the delay by the PIO and also demanded disciplinary action against officials who failed to discharge their duty under RTI.
"Not replying to RTI application is not the sole issue. Forest officials delaying it without any fear of seniors is really surprising. Killing of tiger due to failure of forest department is not an information to be hidden. This also suggests total lack of transparency in the forest department," said Prabhune.
Prabhune's is not the only case. Another applicant Sachet Khandeswar said he too has been denied information on rescued wild animals that were brought to Seminary Hills for treatment during 2013-14.

HC suspends RTI chief’s order against it

Times of India: Hyderabad: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao of Hyderabad high court suspended an order of the AP information commissioner on Wednesday directing it to furnish details of judicial officers working in subordinate judiciary in AP and Telangana to an applicant. The applicant is N Purushottam Reddy, president of the Telangana employees association in the high court.
The judge gave the interim order while hearing a petition filed by the HC's registrar (vigilance) who challenged the order of the information commissioner on the ground that this information cannot be given to the applicant because 'it pertains to two states and also because it serves no public interest'.
Justice Rao, who heard the petition on Wednesday, issued notices to the AP information commission and other respondents directing them to file replies within four weeks and suspended the order of the RTI commissioner.

RTI activists get shot in arm as govt okays appointment of SICs

Times of India: Panaji: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
The state government has given its nod to fill up the posts of state information commissioners (SICs) lying vacant since more than two years. Sources informed that an advertisement will be published next week in this regard. The qualification for one of the posts is that the candidate should be a practicing lawyer and for the other, he/she should be a lawyer besides a journalist by profession.
In the past, the selection process of SICs was cancelled on technical grounds. The government had even finalized the names of journalist Sandesh Prabhudesai and former functionary of the Union defence ministry, Stanley Coutinho for the posts.
Reacting to it, the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar had said that as per the directions of the Supreme Court that at least one of the information commissioners has to have the knowledge of law, the selection process was cancelled. The government had not mentioned this requirement when the posts were advertised.
In July 2013, government had announced the names of persons shortlisted for the posts of CIC and SICs. Retired IAS officer and former Maharashtra additional chief secretary Leena Mehendale was selected as CIC.
In August 2013, high court issued notice to government over appointment of the second SIC following petition by a social activist. Subsequently, cabinet cancelled the appointments of Prabhudesai and Coutinho as SICs, but approved Mehendale as CIC.

3 lawyers file RTIs for BCI minutes; LI files appeal over Mishra’s decision to hide BCI documents

Legally India: New Delhi: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
Legally India yesterday made an appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act against Friday’s (12 December) decision by the BCI chairman to retract the BCI’s reply to an RTI request to inspect its meeting minutes.
BCI co-chairman Manan Kumar Mishra had said the BCI would not allow copying of all the promised documents because he feared Legally India would “create mischief”, despite having invited Legally India to its offices in an RTI response to inspect the requested documents.
BCI secretary and internal RTI appellate authority Jogi Ram Sharma and Mishra had told Legally India on Friday that the BCI would send a second written reply to the RTI within several days with formal, written reasons for rejecting Legally India’s RTI request, besides Mishra’s statement.
However, with the statutory period for an appeal running out on 19 December, Legally India sent the appeal by post to the BCI yesterday [see full copy of appeal below].
Sharma told Legally India by telephone today that he would reply to the appeal directly.
At least two advocates have submitted or will submit copies of Legally India’s original RTI request with the BCI.
One advocate posted a copy yesterday, while another advocate, Dushyant Arora, said that he would file a request by this evening.
Update 17:56: A total of three advocates have now filed RTIs.
Requests to other advocates;
If you are a lawyer and care about transparency in your elected, statutory and representative body, or if you are a journalist or anyone else who cares, please help.
Print out the document that is linked to here, amend it as you wish or seem fit, or just enter your name, address and date, and include Rs 10 as a postal order, DD or court fee stamp in the envelope, to cover the fees under the RTI Act.
Let us know once you’ve filed it, at news@legallyindia.com and let us know whether you receive a reply in 30 days. We’ll keep your identity confidential if you like.

RTI query reveals pesticide residues in organic produce ; Between January 2012 and October 2014, out of 150 samples of organic vegetables, 50 samples were detected with pesticide residues- Sayantan Bera

Livemint: New Delhi: Thursday, 18 December 2014.
A Right to Information (RTI) query filed with the ministry of agriculture has revealed the presence of pesticides—in some cases above permissible limits—in vegetables sold as organic or free of chemicals. But the Delhi retailer named in the RTI information protested that the vegetables came from a supplier endorsed by a government-approved certifier.
According to the ministry of agriculture, total organic production in
 the country is estimated at 1.24 million tonnes grown in an
area spanning 723,000 hectare. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The RTI query reveals that between January 2012 and October 2014, 150 samples of organic vegetables were analysed for pesticide residues—of these, 50 samples, or 33%, were detected with pesticide residues, while 10, or 6.6%, were found to have residues above the maximum residue level.
The information provided under the RTI is based on samples collected and analysed by the All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues (AINPPR) under the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi. However, all 150 samples were collected from The Altitude Store, a Delhi-based retailer of organic produce.
According to information revealed under the RTI, the most commonly detected pesticides are acetamiprid, chlorpyrifos, cepermethrin, flubendiamide and profenofos. Samples of cauliflower, cabbage, capsicum, brinjal, green pea, bitter gourd and okra were found to have residues above the maximum residue level.
The information raises concern regarding the quality of organic produce in India, which remains largely unregulated. Retailers often depend on private certifiers or trust their suppliers’ word that the produce is chemical-free. However, the fact that all samples were collected from a single shop in the National Capital points to a non-representative sample.
“We are in the process of collecting data on pesticide residues through 15 laboratories across the country. In Delhi, since there aren’t many organic retailers, we collected samples from one store,” said K.K. Sharma, network coordinator of AINPPR.
The RTI was filed by the Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), an association of agrochemical industries such as pesticide manufacturers.
“The presence of pesticides in produce sold as organic means there is no regulatory check. Customers are being cheated and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has not punished a single violator for selling fake organic products,” said S. Ganesan, an adviser to CCFI. “We also asked the ministry for details of pesticide residues in imported agricultural produce, but the RTI reply states that no such information is available,” he added.
According to the ministry of agriculture, total organic production in the country is estimated at 1.24 million tonnes grown in an area spanning 723,000 hectare. Currently, 12 states are engaged in organic farming, and two—Sikkim and Mizoram—are likely to become fully organic in a few years.
“The organic vegetables with pesticide residues were sourced from a certified supplier in Sonipat, Haryana,” said Ayesha Grewal, owner of The Altitude Store. “The supplier had a certification from Ecocert, one of the largest organic certifiers in the country approved by Apeda (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority). As a retailer or consumer, if I cannot trust a government-approved certifier who do I fall back on?” asked Grewal.
She said that AINPPR had not bothered to share the results on pesticide residues with the store. “Some months back, we stopped sourcing from the supplier in Haryana—but due to lack of quality and consistency; we were unaware of the presence of pesticide residues,” added Grewal.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NGO points an accusing finger at Excise officials

The Hindu: Visakhapatnam: Wednesday, 17 December 2014.
Officials of the Prohibition and Excise Department seem to be hand in glove with the owner of Vinayaka Wine Shop in Relli Veedhi in the Old Town area, president of Chaitanya Sravanthi S. Shirin Rahman has said.
Women of Relli Veedhi had agitated for 72 days demanding that the wine shop be shifted from the area as their men were exhausting their money by consuming liquor and ill-treating them. The shop was also creating a law and order problem in the area, she said.
The women, with the support of Chaitanya Sravanthi, a voluntary organisation, and other women’s organisations had even gone to the extent of falling at the feet of the authorities concerned, but the latter remained unmoved by their plight, Dr. Shirin Rahman said at a media conference on Tuesday.
She said that information obtained under the RTI Act had revealed that the licence for the wine shop was issued in the name of Seetha Appa Rao, an employee of the shop. The wine shop was, in fact, owned by Mohan Rao in benami. She said that the Excise officials had failed to verify the property of the prospective licence-holder before issuing the licence. She alleged that Appa Rao had shown the property that did not belong to him as his own in the affidavit. “How can an employee working in a wine shop possess so much wealth?” she asked. Dr. Shirin Rahman said that the wine shop dealer had also misled the Minister on the issue.

29,480 structures may face the hammer in Pimpri Chinchwad

Times of India: Pune: Wednesday, 17 December 2014.
The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) may have to demolish at least 26,000 illegal constructions in its limits, while the Pimpri Chinchwad New Township Development Authority (PCNTDA) may have to pull down another 3,480 illegal constructions on development plan roads and reservations, as the state government is not inclined to regularise such constructions.
State revenue minister Eknath Khadse said in the legislature on Monday that illegal constructions on land reserved for civic amenities should be demolished.
Three years ago, a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by local resident Sarang Kamthekar and Shiv Sena corporator Seema Savale had revealed that there were around 26,711 illegal constructions on 269 plots reserved in the old development plan of 1995.
The PCNTDA had sent a proposal to the state government in December 2011, seeking to regularise 15,029 unauthorised constructions in Chikhli, Nigdi, Thergaon, Rahatni, Bhosari, Wakad and Chinchwad. Of these, 3,480 structures cannot be regularised as 1,505 are located on reserved plots and 1,975 are on development plan roads. The state government had rejected the proposal in 2012 and now in view of Khadse's statement, these constructions may be demolished.
Speaking to TOI, Shirish Poredi from the civic engineering department said, "We have information about the number of unauthorised constructions in the city, but no specific data about the number of illegal constructions on development plan roads and reservations. We have been sending notices since June to owners of the illegal structures on development plan reservations."
Reacting to Khadse's statement, PCNTDA chief executive officer Suresh Jadhav said, "We conducted a survey of unauthorised constructions in 2008, but it had to be abandoned halfway due to public opposition. We will wait for instructions from the state government regarding the action to be taken in the matter."
He said that if the government refuses to regularise these constructions, a new survey will have to be undertaken to demarcate the development plan roads and reservations and to identify the number of such structures.
Manav Kamble, president of the Nagari Hakka Suraksha Samiti, said, "More than one lakh people will be displaced if these illegal buildings are demolished. The state government must try to change some reservations to minimise the number of people that will be displaced."