Monday, June 24, 2019

A Rabbit Hutch To Ensure Public Cleanliness?

The Citizen:Monday, June 24, 2019.
Situated right opposite the famous flea market, Janpath Bhawan is one of the city’s best-known shopping centres, located in its very heart and frequented by dignitaries and hordes of shoppers alike. Yet, right behind the imposing walls of the building lies a sad, decrepit skeleton of what used to be the most charming part of the market, for both adults and children alike, till just six years ago.
Between 1998 and 2004, representatives of the Janpath Bhawan Market Association wrote countless letters to all sorts of civic authorities including the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), along with their various subsidiaries, to take actions against the defilement of the 22 by 20 feet empty space owned by the Ministry of Urban Development behind the building – not only was the area commonly used as a garbage dump, it was also a popular spot for street hawkers from the flea market to relieve themselves.
According to Sanjeev Arora, then President of the Janpath Bhawan Market Association (JBMA) and owner of the Famous Book Shop; “the stink emanating from the area was so bad that it was difficult to walk around it, which severely hampered business for all of us. The police would come for a couple of hours, but as soon as they left, things would go back to the usual”. The association tried many initiatives to keep the area clean – pictures of Gods and Goddesses were plastered across the walls – but to no avail.
Then, in 2004, things seem to take a turn for the better when the CPWD set up a horticultural enclosure in the space to be developed as a green area. However, when the space continued to be used as a dumping ground, the JBMA led by Sanjeev Arora proposed the idea of converting the enclosure into a rabbit hutch.
“Because the area is surrounded by multi storeyed buildings, the area does not receive much light and thus proved not to be appropriate for horticulture. Rabbits seemed an appropriate solution to the problem: the animals are loved by all, are easy to take care of, cannot be found in zoos, and wouldn’t create any noise or disturbance in the area. So, we pitched the idea to the CPWD, who approved the idea and notified the concerned departments that ‘a rabbit enclosure was being constructed to stop the misuse of land’. We got all the requisite permissions from the Central Zoo Authority and animal welfare to ensure that the Wild Life (Protection) Act was not being violated in any way, and got about 25 rabbits to their new home.”
Arora, whose book shop shares its back wall with the enclosure; took charge of taking care of the rabbits at no cost to the government by appointing vets, employing caretakers, and installing coolers, heaters and lights within the enclosure in order to keep the rabbits comfortable and ensuring that they were well-fed.
Soon, the rabbit hutch became a popular attraction. According to one of the shop-owners in the area, the enclosure was the kind of landmark that people used to stop by to have a look at on the way back from major sites such as India Gate. “Children would huddle around the enclosure for hours, admiring the animals, while their parents shopped in peace,” said another shopkeeper in the area. The initiative of the market association was featured in many newspapers, including The Statesman, The Times of India and the Indian Express, and even popular publications in Germany. In 2007, the Delhi Government awarded the association under the Bhagidari project in the spirit of government-people partnership.
There were a few roadblocks along the way – such as when in 2008 Maneka Gandhi accused Arora of violating animal rights and using the enclosure to usurp government land, and complained to the Director General of the CPWD on grounds of “unchecked breeding” – but these issues were amicably sorted, and the healthy rabbits remained a landmark for people to meet at, and an attraction for urban children to admire.
However, with a change in the CPWD authorities, trouble began again for the JBMA. “The new official began to harass us, bringing up a clause that said the area was cleared for horticulture as a green space, not for animals,” Arora told The Citizen.
“They hinted at demands for money, but we were already spending about 1000-1200 Rupees a day to take care of the rabbits, and we didn’t pay them anything,” he added. On January 3, 2012, the CPWD disconnected the electricity supply to the area without any notice, leaving the rabbits to the mercy of Delhi winters and leading to the death of a few rabbits due to the cold. Shopkeepers in the area allege that this was done by CPWD engineers to take revenge against the association for speaking to the media about the perils of safety at Janpath Bhawan. Later, water supply to the area was also cut, and traders took away some rabbits to save them from endangerment.
Things got worse in 2013, when the CPWD started serving eviction notices to the enclosure. According to the association, these notices were not typed on the agency’s letterhead or carry the signature of any authority, and so they did not respond to them. On May 22 2013, the last notice was served, after which the association approached the courts. “We were told that the CPWD had received complaints from shopkeepers in the area, but in reality, nobody had any issues with the rabbits whatsoever,” Arora told The Citizen.
“We were being asked to remove the rabbits as they were allegedly bringing us publicity, but we had only brought them to maintain cleanliness in the area. Despite our explanations and reassurances, the Director General and the chief-engineer of the CPWD came and conducted repeated “inspections” on the site. Then, one night at 3 AM; within the waiting period of the show-cause notice; CPWD sent bulldozers to the area and razed the enclosure to the ground,” he said. According to the shopkeepers, there were around 48 rabbits in the enclosure at the time, and they had recently been visited by the vet.
The next day, CPWD officials placed some potted plants in the space. According to Arora, the association filed an RTI to check for complaints against the enclosure, but none were to be found. “The complaint on the basis of which the CPWD acted was filed by their very own people whose offices are in RK Puram, and who have nothing to do with the area. They said that the land was being misused, and were probably angered that we were not ready to pay-up to them,” said Arora. In a few days’ time from the demolition of the enclosure, the plants; left neglected by the CPWD; shriveled up, and people started to dump their garbage in the space again.
Today, Sanjeev Arora; who runs a 71-year-old book shop connected to the area, is still asking for answers. The empty space has reverted back to its original state, and is used once again as a dumping ground. “Under Modiji’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, there has been some respite in terms of the absence of public urination in the area, but it is still unsanitary and a nuisance to the businesses in the area and the public as well,” said Arora.
Business-owners in Janpath Bhawan still believe that the space was much better off as a rabbit hutch, which made people happy and did not expose them to stench and germs. The CPWD no longer takes any initiatives to clean up the area, and it has reverted back to the original problem the association set up the rabbit enclosure to fight against. Despite efforts of former Union Minister of State, Culture and Tourism K. J. Alphons to restore cleanliness to the area last year, progress is yet to be achieved.
One is left to ask whether the civic authorities really do care about the welfare of the people and the localities which they are entrusted with.

School principal’s kidnap an ‘act of revenge’; 8 held.

Deccan Herald: Monday, June 24, 2019.
The CCB which investigated the abduction of a school principal from Vijayanagar in February this year has booked a woman and seven others under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA).
The prime accused in the case, Ravi A, who claimed to be an RTI activist and the president of Karnataka Students’ Parents’ Association, had abducted 68-year-old Bhadraiah, principal of Kiran Public School on February 19. Police said Ravi planned to demand a ransom of Rs 2 crore from Bhadraiah for his release but freed him after five days when he learnt the CCB was hunting for him.A senior officer said Ravi who was earlier arrested by the Rajagopal Nagar police in an extortion case filed by Bhadraiah wanted to take revenge and ganged up with Lakshman Poojary, a gun dealer, and his gang to executive his criminal activities. 
Police arrested Ravi along with Poojary, Karthik M Doulath, Daniel Devraj, Ayyappa, Kotresh, Ramakrishna and Manjushri.


To favour particular agency, MC turns city street vending plan into rule-bending plan

Written by Hina Rohtaki :Chandigarh: Monday, June 24, 2019.
According to the documents accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, the work of carrying out the survey was given to Haryana Nav Yuva Sangam in 2016. The agency specified its address near Chaubsee ka chabutra in Rohtak.
SELECTING A firm with higher rates despite the others quoting lower rates, allotting the tender without allowing the minimum time to lapse, paying for almost three times the number of vendors registered with the administration to ramp up the final bill. These are but some of the ways in which the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation tried to favour a Haryana-based agency that carried out a survey of street vendors under the “city street vending plan”.
According to the documents accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, the work of carrying out the survey was given to Haryana Nav Yuva Sangam in 2016. The agency specified its address near Chaubsee ka chabutra in Rohtak.
It was on March 21, 2016, that the MC put out an advertisement for selecting an agency to survey registered vendors in Chandigarh. The ad clearly specified that the interested bidders could apply till April 21, 2016, but the civic officials were in such a hurry that they opened the bids on April 4 — within 15 days of issuing the ad. In the first meeting of the town vending committee on April 4, the members were informed in the morning that MC was required to select an agency to carry out a survey of vendors. At 3 pm, the officers called five agencies to give their pre-bids, even though 17 days were left for the deadline to lapse.
Of the five companies invited for the pre-bid conference, four agencies that made the first cut were M/s NF Infratech Service Private Limited, M/s Rudrabhishek Enterprise Private Limited Noida, M/s Wapcos Limited Gurgaon and M/s Haryana Nav Yuvak Sangam, as per the documents. Surprisingly, the meeting decided to exempt NGOs or government agencies from depositing the earnest money of Rs 1 lakh. Haryana Nav Yuvak Sangam, which finally qualified, happened to be the lone NGO among the contenders.
Telegraph India: Bhopal: New Delhi: Monday, June 24, 2019.
There were some district administrations like Bhopal and Rewa, who have not submitted the inspection reports.
atest inspections have found that Ballot Unit (BU) and Detachable Memory Module (DMM), which act as key components of an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), are missing from safe rooms in a few districts of Madhya Pradesh, according to RTI documents. However, the RTI did not specify whether the EVMs were used in the last elections in the state.
These inspection reports were prepared during April and June this year and provided to RTI applicant Ajay Dubey who had sought details from the State Election Commission of the latest reports received from district administrations on security and management of EVMs.
Nine DMMs were found missing during the inspection of EVMs store room in Umaria, the reply said, without mentioning any reason behind it.
The Detachable Memory Module is an extra memory of the EVM which can be detached from the machine and stored separately.
According to Master Stock Register (MSR), there were supposed to be 2,709 DMMs in a strong room at a government polytechnic college in Narsinghpur district. During inspection, 2,508 DMMs were not found, according to the reply given by the district administration.
In a note, the Narsinghpur district authority said 687 DMMs, which were not used in elections (without mentioning what polls they are referring to), were sent to the commission's office and those used in elections were sent to ECIL, Hyderabad for disposal.
There are 201 DMMs available in the store room, the administration of Narsinghpur district said, without mentioning details of other missing EVMs.
Nine Ballot Units were not found during the inspection of a strong room in Bhind district, the RTI reply said. A ballot unit is is a small box-like device, on top of which each candidate and his/her election symbol is listed like a big ballot paper. The voter polls his vote by pressing the blue button against the name of his desired candidate.
Errors were found in 13 Control Units and 16 Ballot Units, during pre-first level checks, in May 2018, and they were not rectified by engineers sent by commission, said a copy of the report dated May 21, 2019 by Bhind district to the State Election Commission.
In Mandsaur, eight BUs were found missing and one DMM was missing in Shajapur district, according to the RTI reply.
A total of 26 DMMs were found missing in a strong room at Old Collector Bhavan, Balaghat district, it said, adding that 11 and 28 BUs were not found in the store room in Sagar and Gwalior districts, respectively.
There were districts like Ashoknagar, Shahdol, Dhar, Seoni, Shivpuri and Anuppur where all Control Units and Ballot Units were accounted for. "A thorough probe is needed to immediately trace missing Control Units, Ballot Units or DMMs. It poses a serious security concern over the safety of EVMs," said Dubey. There were some district administrations like Bhopal and Rewa, who have not submitted the inspection reports, he said.

NPAs Under Modi's Mudra Scheme Doubled in Just a Year, Reveals RTI

The Wire: New Delhi: Monday, June 24, 2019.
Public sector NPAs of loans issued under the scheme have increased by Rs 9,204.14 crore in just one year – from Rs 7,277.31 crore in March 2018 to Rs 16,481.45 crore in March 2019.
The non-performing assets (NPAs) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) doubled within one year. This information was obtained through an RTI petition filed by The Wire.
In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha given on February 12, minister of state for finance Shiv Pratap Shukla wrote that as of March 31, 2018, the total value of NPAs held by public sector banks under PMMY was Rs 7,277.31 crore.
The RTI filed by The Wire reveals that as of March 31, 2019, the total value of NPAs from loans issued under the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd. (MUDRA) stood at Rs 16,481.45 crore. This means that public sector NPAs of the loans issued under the Mudra scheme have increased by Rs 9,204.14 crore in just one year.
Under the Mudra scheme, 30.57 lakh accounts have been declared as NPAs. According to an Indian Express report, as of March 31, 2018, the number of NPA accounts was 17.99 lakh. In just one year, the number of NPA accounts has increased by 12.58 lakh.
Although the value of NPAs is not very high in comparison to the total value of all loans issued under the Mudra scheme, it is nonetheless steadily increasing.
According to an IANS report published on January 13, the Reserve Bank of India had warned the finance ministry that the Mudra scheme could become a major contributor to NPAs.
According to the data obtained from the RTI, loans amounting to Rs 3.11 lakh crore in total were issued between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019. That means that the value of NPAs amounts to 2.89% of the total value of all loans.
According to an RBI circular, failure to pay 90 days after the last date for the payment of an installment leads to an account being declared as an NPA.
Harshit Agrawal, assistant manager of Mudra Ltd., said, “In case of national banks, this deadline is 90 days, while the deadline is 120 days for NBFCs and MFIs. These rules apply to all types of loans, Mudra or otherwise.”
A bank declares an account to be an NPA in case there are no payments of the due amount (for any given quarter) 90 days after the last date of the quarter.
Loan breakdown
Prime Minister Modi had launched PMMY in April 2015. The objective was to provide non-corporate and non-agricultural small businesses with loans up to Rs 10 lakh, which are called Mudra loans.
Mudra loans are divided into three categories: Shishu (loans up to Rs 50,000), Kishor (loans between Rs. 50,001 and Rs. 5 lakh), and Tarun (loans between Rs. 5,00,001 and Rs. 10 lakh). Between the years 2015-16 and 2018-19, loans amounting to Rs. 8.66 crore have been issued. In that duration, a total of 18.25 crore Mudra loans were approved and issued. 
According to Mudra Ltd.’s statistics, as of now, Rs 3.05 lakh crore in Shishu loans, Rs 2.53 lakh crore in Kishor loans, and Rs 1.87 lakh crore in Tarun loans have been issued.
Mudra loans are provided by commercial banks, regional rural banks, small finance banks, co-operative banks, micro finance institutions (MFIs) and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). The rate of interest depends on the bank, and the repayment period usually ranges between five and seven years.

Cut corrupt to size

Rising Kashmir: Srinagar: Monday, June 24, 2019.
The message sent out by the Governor Administration regarding the corruption and nepotism in state institutions recently is lucid and plain. What makes it more conspicuous is the fact that while similar exercises were promised and initiated by previous governments, the action never started from the top order. For instance the PDP-BJP government when it was led by former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed promised decisive action against the corrupt officials (also termed as deadwood). But it didn’t last long and failed to fix the responsibility in the top order or high-rung officials. Those who were axed were mostly middle and lower rung officials. This time around some traction has been achieved and unless the administration sustains it the grip over graft cases may be lost. Graft in public offices is not new phenomena. 
It was and still continues to be the symbol of most South Asian countries. Kashmir being a part of it is in no way behind in following the unholy trend in government offices and public institutions. Corruption and nepotism have been two working principles in most public-dealing offices. There have been numerous cases reported where one reads of an officer, a clerk, a policeman 'caught' while accepting bribe. However what surprises a common reader and an unsuspecting person is the brazenness with which the acts are being endorsed in government offices. Officials who take bribes seem to be quite adamant about the perception that 'chai' is their birth right. 
To bring some semblance to the arduous affairs of getting a job done in a public office, the state government implemented the Public Service Guarantee Act (PSGA) in the state. Token publicity in newspaper adverts seem to have done little in even making the law intelligible to the masses. Expecting this 'revolutionary' Act to reinstate the faith of a common man in a fair deal in an office is a far-fetched fantasy. Although new in the basket of promising Acts, the PSGA has met the same fate that others related to checking graft have. It has been years since RTI Act was implemented in J&K, but how it has helped in curbing corruption and bringing transparency is doubtable. Despite being in their implementation mode RTI or PSGA remain concealed under wraps of ambiguity, uncertainty, red tape and obduracy of officials, their associates and agents. An example may not be set at the bottom, but if stern action is taken at top order the state may witness a positive change.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Playschools in the city wait for clear guidelines, registration process halts

Times Now: Gurugram: Sunday, June 23, 2019.
Takyar filed an RTI application seeking information about the number of playschools in Gurugram district. The application was filed in the month of March this year. In response to the application, the District Programme Officer informed Takyar that not even a single playschool in the district was registered. He filed a complaint at the CM window on March 27, 2019 following the RTI response. He stated in his complaint that no playschool in the district was registered and demanded action.
Speaking to HT, Sunaina Khatri, District Program Officer, Women and Child Development or WCD, Haryana said that the department has written to the head office regarding clarifications in the registration process due to which all the registrations of the playschool in Gurugram are pending. She said that the registration will proceed once the department responds with clear pointers.
Khatri further said that the application forms for registration have been received from some playschools which are being scrutinized. An official said that there are about 400 playschools in the district that have been identified. The personnel need training and guidance before heading for the registration process, as per department officials.
A District Programme Officer said that they are seeking clarity from the head office regarding the registration process. Clarification is needed about how many pointers are required to be fulfilled for registration of a playschool, he added. He further said that if the NCPCR guidelines are followed then no school will be registered. According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights or NCPCR guidelines, no child whose age is below three years can be admitted in playschool. Haryana state does not have its own set of guidelines for playschools as of now.

Mumbai University 2018 revaluation results yet to be declared, says reports

NewsX: Mumbai: Sunday, June 23, 2019.
University of Mumbai, MU has yet not release the re-valuation answer sheets for exams conducted in October-November 2018, reports said.The students those who had applied for the recalculation of marks conducted in October-November 2018, still have not received their results.
Vihar Durve, a RTI activist has recently requested information about the number of students who have applied for re-valuation after the winter exam session of 2018. Mumbai University has issued the notification that a total number of 9,889 students applied for re-evaluation in second half of 2018, but for how many students have passed the subject after re-evaluation is not available as the process is still underway.
In many cases it has been seen that results of revaluation are declared after the students apply for the supplementary exams. The university charges RS 500 for revaluation and RS 100 for a photocopy of answer books.
Also Many students who have appeared for the last semester examinations held in April-May have received the results for the same, but they are still unclear about the results of their previous semester. The results of Allowed-To-Keep-Term (ATKT) is yet to be released by the Mumbai University. ATKT exam is the process theough which the students take tests for a failed subject while being allowed to move to the next academic year.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation prepares to beat Malaria, inspects wards, raise awareness

DNA: Mumbai: Sunday, June 23, 2019.
Malaria cases have witnessed a steep rise in the city, as per BMC data. Around 968 malaria cases were reported by the public health department of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) this year from January to May. While the majority of the malaria cases were reported in May with 284 cases, as per the Right to Information (RTI) data given by the BMC. The data reveals that wards like Dadar, Mahim, Parel, Charni Road, Girgaon, Byculla have reported the highest number of malaria cases.
This year till May, wards such as E-ward Byculla, G-south ward Dadar, Mahim and F-south ward Parel, Wadala, Naigaon, Dadar has reported highest number of malaria cases in comparison to other wards across the city.
Last year too these wards had highest number of malaria cases. The data further reveals that from July 2018 till May 2019, around 4,326 malaria cases were reported in Mumbai across the wards of which major cases were reported during monsoon.
Mumbai has an average annual parasite incidence (API) of 0.4 cases per 1,000 population, which is less than one case per 1,000 population. While in other wards it is around 0.3-0.4 cases per 1,000 population, the API is 0.8-0.9 cases per 1,000 population in F-south, G-south, and E-ward.
Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer of BMC, said, "The number of mosquito breeding spots are more in these three wards – F-south, G-south and E-ward because of mills, chawl system and railway car sheds. Since few years, these wards have been identified as high risk area. Compared to other wards, the number of cases in these wards are more."
As a precautionary measures before monsoon, the BMC has started inspecting mosquito breeding spots in the city. Awareness campaign and information materials are distributed across wards. Dr Keskar, added, "As the area develops, the number of cases will reduce. More staff is deployed these wards to take preventive measures."
Highlights
  • This year till May, wards such as E-ward Byculla, G-south ward Dadar, Mahim and F-south ward Parel, Wadala, Naigaon, Dadar has reported highest number of malaria cases in comparison to other wards across the city.
  • As a precautionary measures before monsoon, the BMC has started inspecting mosquito breeding spots in the city. Awareness campaign & information materials are distributed.

RTC was paid ₹15.62 crore for last year’s TRS meeting

The Hindu: Hyderabad: Sunday, June 23, 2019.
7,925 buses were hired for Pragathi Nivedana Sabha in Kongara Kalan
As much as 69.5% of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation’s entire fleet of 10,464 buses was directed to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s Pragathi Nivedana Sabha in Kongara Kalan on September 2 last year. The transport juggernaut was paid for this event a staggering Rs.15.62 crore, a sum more than its average daily revenue.
According to a response to an RTI query, the TSRTC informed activist S Q Masood that the amount for hiring 7,925 buses was paid ‘locally’ at the various bus depots across the State. The RTI reply did not furnish the invoices as requested but stated that these are available with the respective regions and depots.
The largest number of buses for the public meeting was taken from Warangal region with as many as 1,325 buses pressed into service. Hired vehicles from this region received over Rs. 3.22 crore. The second largest number was hired from Medak region, followed by Karimnagar and the Secunderabad regions. Nearly a third of the fleet with the 15 depots of Hyderabad district were diverted for the public meeting.
“Express, Pallevelugu and City type buses were provided. The number of people travelled cannot be recorded in such cases,” the reply reads.
Explaining the reason for requesting information, Mr Masood said, “the public faced a lot of problems that day as nearly 70% of the fleet was diverted for the public meeting. While it is good that the payment was made, the larger issue is that the government should work towards improving the fleet, injecting funds and helping the TSRTC to become profitable.”
While the RTI response did not mention whether concessions or discounts were made, officials clarified that the payment was taken in advance. “We have not given any concessions. It would have been problematic if discounts were extended as revenue would take a beating. On an average, the revenue per day is between Rs. 10 crore and Rs. 11 crore. However, it would do the TSRTC good in terms of revenue if the government permits us to lease buses for similar events.”
However, transport researcher G S R Chaitanya offers a different perspective, “Many villages get just one or two buses a day and these are the only means for a lot to access jobs, education and health care. While TSRTC needs the revenue, extra money should not come at the expense of passengers convenience.”

Vacant posts keep 41,000 RTI pleas pending in state

Times of India: Pune: Sunday, June 23, 2019.
Access to information, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, is not easy in the state as despite a sanctioned strength of eight state information commissioners (SICs), Maharashtra, right now, has just five including the state chief information commissioner, Sumit Mullick.
The state information commission has 41,140 appeals and complaints pending. And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the government is yet to appoint the three remaining SICs.
In addition to Mullick, Maharashtra is supposed to have seven other SICs for Konkan, Greater Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Amravati.
However, the benches for Konkan, Pune and Nagpur have been lying vacant and the existing SICs have been given additional charge.
“The number of pending appeals will keep rising unless there is a way to address this pendency,” said former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. He has sent several letters to the government to address this situation.
Mullick, who is following up on the appointments, told TOI on Wednesday that a committee will select the candidates for the three vacant posts. “We know there has been a delay, but we should be able to speed up the work soon.
The commissioners would be appointed and the cases would be cleared,” he assured.
RTI activists, meanwhile, said cases pending for months and years is in contradiction to the very Act. “People come to seek information here. There is no point in making them wait for so long,” said an RTI activist.
People usually apply to the SICs when their efforts to gain information from government offices, using RTI applications, fail.
If the average rate of disposal is about 500-700 cases, the mounting pendency means it would take over a year to resolve the existing cases and the fresh appeals.
However, Mullick said all the cases that are similar are being clubbed together and the verdict is given commonly. This is being done by all the five commissioners.
The other mandate of sharing the Right To Information (RTI) appeals and replies on the respective government websites too has not been complied with, he added.
With the assembly elections scheduled in October, the government would have to speed up the SIC appointments as the model code of conduct will come into force from September.
It will have to ensure that all the RTI application and RTI replies are put up on the websites.
“It should be in an easy search format that enables individuals to understand the query and the reply,” said Gandhi.
Mullick plans a to hold revenue division-wise meeting with revenue officials and direct them to put up the applications and replies online or face punitive action under the Act.
In February this year, the state government was planning to appoint a three-member search committee to recommend people for the posts of state CIC and information commissioners, who needed not be necessarily bureaucrats, to help clear over 35,000 RTI pending appeals then.
A government resolution in this regard was issued on February 22, days after the Supreme Court (SC) directed that the appointments of state chief information commissioner and information commissioners would no longer be restricted to bureaucrats.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Centre spent ₹140 crore in last 5 years to organise Yoga Days; 2019 budget doubled to ₹40 cr

The Hindu BusinessLine: National: Saturday, June 22, 2019.
International Yoga Day is now akin to a national festival and the Centre and the States leave no stone unturned to make it a success. The Centre has spent about Rs.140 crore on Yoga Day in the last five years.
The fifth International Yoga Day was organised on Friday and the main event in Ranchi, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saw a turnout of over 30,000 people.
According to official sources from the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), about Rs.40 crore was spent on this year’s International Yoga Day. This is double the amount spent last year, which stood at Rs.20 crore.
A reply to a RTI filed by BusinessLine revealed that the Centre had spent over Rs.73 crore to organise the event during 2015-2017.
The RTI also revealed that apart from publicity, other major expense heads are calorie-laden snacks and sweets, supply of drinking water, mementos, stationery, setting up tents and other equipment, hiring transport and providing lodging and boarding for guests.
A case in point is expenditure incurred by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga in 2016. Over Rs.8 lakh was spent in three days, from June 20-22, under the head of ‘Catering services for VIP’ including breakfast, mid-meal, lunch, evening tea and dinner, for about 10,000 people.
A senior AYUSH official said, “It is yet not possible to ascertain the exact break-up of expenditure for 2019, as it is in the process of being calculated. But budget for us has never been a problem.”
A chunk of the AYUSH Ministry’s spending was on publicising the Yoga Day event both on Doordarshan and private channels, through radio jingles, print advertisements in major English and regional language newspapers as well as putting up hoardings including at key locations in New Delhi.
“AYUSH was allocated Rs.64 crore for the publicity component for International Yoga Day last year, of which we have incurred the required expenditure,” said the official.
In 2019-20, allocation for the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) component in AYUSH is Rs.52.60 crore.
Another Rs.16 crore has been allocated for ‘International Co-operation, to support budgets of embassies that organise Yoga Day programmes.

Over 12,000 farmers died of suicide in three years: Subhash Deshmukh

The Hindu: Mumbai: Saturday, June 22, 2019.
610 deaths reported in Maharashtra between January and March this year
Despite spending over ₹19,000 crore on farm loan waiver, a total of 12,021 farmers have died in the State due to suicide between 2015 and 2018, the government said in Assembly on Friday.
In a written reply, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Subhash Deshmukh further admitted that the first three months of this year saw 610 deaths of farmers.
Replying to the discussion on the Governor’s address, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had on Thursday told the House that over 50 lakh farmers would benefit from the loan waiver scheme and ₹24,000 crore will be spent for this. Of the total number, 43.32 lakh farmers have actually received benefits worth ₹19,000 crore.
Despite the loan waiver scheme and increasing expenditure on the agriculture sector, the farmer deaths in the state have not stopped. As per Mr. Deshmukh’s reply, out of 12,021 farmer suicides, a total of 6,888 cases qualified for compensation as per the norms. “Out of these, kin of farmers in 6,845 cases have been paid ₹1 lakh aid,” said the reply.
In 2019, out of 610 cases, till now only 192 cases are eligible for compensation, while 96 were declared ineligible. “Rest 323 cases are pending for inquiry,” said the miniser.
Mr. Deshmukh said that norms to decide whether the person committing suicide was a farmer were changed in 2006 to give compensation to the deceased. “The person committed suicide is considered a farmer, even if any person in the family has a name on farmland documents. Also the deceased person is considered eligible for compensation in case the person or any member of the family has availed loan from nationalised or cooperative banks, cooperative credit societies or licensed money lenders,” it added.
In January 2019, Jeetendra Ghatge, a social activist had filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) seeking details of farmers who committed suicides from year 2014 to 2018.

How Much Is India Spending On Its Public Libraries?

IndiaSpend: Bengaluru: Saturday, June 22, 2019.
On a recent walk in Bengaluru, we found that a branch of JustBooks, a private lending library chain, had been relocated from an isolated stretch at a crossroads to a location facing a neighbourhood park in Kalyan Nagar in northern Bengaluru. While the earlier location did not attract too many visitors, the new one was filled with people of different age groups, many of them park-goers who had happened to notice the library for the first time. While models such as JustBooks attempt to foster a library culture through private investment, this was the role public libraries were meant to play—free and open spaces meant to provide information and access to information resources for all.
Public libraries were also meant to be well-funded; to be continuously upgraded  and improve their facilities to keep up with the changing times, as we wrote in our 2018 paper, A Policy Review of Public Libraries in India. The library cess or public library tax, a surcharge of property tax paid to the local government, city corporation or village panchayat was meant to finance them. But the question arises: how much money is India actually spending on its public libraries?
We filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act when we discovered, after analysing the data on public libraries, that there were no official documents available on per capita expenditure on public libraries. The RTI was redirected from the ministry of culture to several central libraries in the country including the National Library of India at Belvedere Estate, Kolkata, the Delhi Public Library, and the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF), Kolkata. However, no information was forthcoming. While a few libraries were able to provide details of their individual expenditure, there was no information on annual national public library expenditure.
Public libraries in India
The first public libraries act, the Madras Public Library Act, was passed in 1948. Its goal was to introduce legal provisions for offering public library services, for the public and funded by the public.
India’s public library movement, which was pioneered by the likes of Maharaja Sayajirao III Gaekwad of Baroda, American library administrator William Alanson Borden, and mathematician and librarian S R Ranganathan, began in the late 19th century. The movement was part of pre-Independence social movements for literacy development that took place in several states such as Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and included initiatives such as a boat-library in Andhra Pradesh, and books on bullock carts in the then Madras state.
After Independence, there have been a few government initiatives for public libraries, such as the National Mission on Public Libraries, improving school library services as part of five-year plans for education and assistance, and provision of grants by the RRRLF for library programmes aimed at training and development. A few public libraries in villages and talukas have also been given financial aid in the construction of buildings and upkeep of facilities. However, these programmes have been ad-hoc and not administered with concerted efforts by the ministry of culture, which manages the National Library of India and the National Archives of India.
Several libraries remain in poor conditions with no concerted programmes--for example, Livemint reported in May 2013 on a  poorly functioning district library in the West Champaran district of Bihar that housed 12,000 tattered books, managed by a librarian who was paid Rs 700 per month--the cost of a meal for one at a mid-range restaurant in a metro city. Nevertheless, several students visited the library daily to study for their exams.
There were 70,817 libraries in rural areas and 4,580 in urban areas serving a population of more than 830 million and 370 million, respectively, according to the 2011 Census where libraries were notified (officially identified) for the first time. These numbers roughly translate to one rural library for every 11,500 people, and one urban library for over 80,000 people. However, there is no precise information on the functionality and level of service capabilities of these libraries--the rural libraries could be a room with a few books, while others could be running through the support of private donors or NGOs.
After the launch of the National Mission on Libraries in 2014, which intended to develop a conducive ecosystem by setting up model libraries, building capacity and undertaking detailed surveys, the culture ministry undertook another official census of libraries to study the practices and performance of the public library system. This was known as the ‘Qualitative and Quantitative Survey of Libraries’, and began with the preparation of baseline data of 5,000 libraries. However, there have been no updates on the findings since 2014, and the outcome of the survey is unclear. The numbers too appear contradictory, as presently the total number of registered libraries in India is 5,478 according to the records of the National Mission of Libraries, but the numbers are much higher in other surveys.
The functioning of public libraries
In India, there is no uniform, country-wide system of administration for public libraries.
Public libraries are run by state governments using taxes from local administrative bodies, such as city corporations or village councils. Of India’s 29 states and seven union territories, 19 states have passed state library legislation, of which only five have the provision of a library cess or tax levy.
Percentage of library cess from states
States with lower literacy rates did not have library legislation until recent years—Bihar and Chhattisgarh passed legislation in 2008 and Arunachal Pradesh in 2009, yet both are still without a library cess.
At the state level, there are several departments that manage public libraries—in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, libraries are regulated by the department of public libraries; in Tripura and Haryana, libraries are managed by the department of education, while those in Mizoram and Goa report to the department of art and culture.
Local library authorities are supposed to record and publish the expenditure and provision of library services available to the public, but we found that most do not.
Some districts, such as Vellore in Tamil Nadu, have been publishing statistics about public libraries annually in their District Statistical Handbook, which is also available on these districts’ websites. If such information were available for all the districts, it would go a long way in informing the public about this important service.
Financial autonomy is imperative for the proper functioning of public libraries. Except for the five states that collect library tax—Tamil Nadu, united Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Goa (see map)—the other 14 state laws have no teeth to secure financial security for public libraries. This makes it difficult for the libraries to expand their services. Also, the low expenditure versus high population in many states means that the number of libraries is not adequate to cover the entire population, as The Indian Express reported on May 31, 2017.Source: Vellore District Statistical Handbook, 2016-2017
Growth of literacy and public libraries
Literacy development is closely linked to public spending on arts, culture and libraries. In India, the literacy rate has consistently risen since 1951; however, the number of public libraries, their expansion and coverage have not developed alongside.
There is no relationship between a state’s capacity to spend on libraries and its willingness to do so, studies have revealed. There may also not be a straightforward relationship between a state’s capacity to spend on libraries and the funding it receives, and its willingness to spend on libraries, as the latter depends on a state’s education and literacy policies. For instance, the southern states, especially Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, have always had higher levels of public library development, with around 2,000 libraries each (see data below), far higher than the numbers in Bihar, which has a larger population. But these states have not always had large central government assistance for this purpose. On the other hand, many states have also failed to even seek funding from the Centre for the development of public libraries.
Central financial assistance released to public libraries in India
Public libraries in the US, UK and other European countries use library resources to cater to large populations. In the US, for example, the public library system provides services to 95.6% of the total population and spends $35.96 per capita annually, whereas in India the per capita expenditure on the development of public libraries translates to 7 paise. The funding for libraries in the US is primarily local—80% of the funding comes from local councils rather than national funds.
In Europe, 83% of the budget for public libraries comes from local municipalities, according to a survey of 425 libraries. Many developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America spend way less or have few statistics on their per capita expenditure on public libraries. For example, in Nigeria, spending on public libraries works out to approximately NGN 5.00 (about 4 cents in the US), according to a study by Unnuma Opara, released in 2008.
The Legislative Council Commission, 2016; Sethumadhavrao, 2016Public libraries are regarded by scholars as far more than a repository for books. They are seen as a landmark, a catalyst for urban development, a space for social interaction and a vital hub of the public domain as an experience. In today’s information age, libraries in many countries are exploring, along with traditional library services, a range of activities such as hosting of events, digital services, engagement with the public especially with neglected communities that need support, and creating a knowledge economy that can give access to education.
For libraries in India to serve broader functions, investments in public libraries should be increased, while also making concerted efforts to systematically improve the functioning and services provided by  libraries.

Publish details of ministers’ fuel expenditure online: Info commission

Times of India: Chandigarh: Saturday, June 22, 2019.
The Punjab State Information Commission has directed the transport department to upload the details of fuel expenditure incurred on ministers’ official vehicles every quarter.
The direction was issued by information commissioner (IC) Khushwant Singh while hearing a case filed by Zirakpur-resident Karan Singh, who had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from Punjab transport commissioner about the government vehicles attached with a former minister.
The petitioner had asked for the information including month-wise expense incurred on each vehicle, per month distance covered by each vehicle, and details of drivers of each attached vehicle. The petitioner was denied the information, following which he filed appeal before the first appellant authority which took no decision on the appeal. Thereafter, he approached the commission.
The transport department has been asked to proactively publish and upload the information on the official website regarding monthly fuel expenses and kilometers travelled by all the ministers. The direction, however, is not applicable to the vehicles used by the security wing.
The transport department has been directed to upload the information from January 1, 2012 onwards, which is to be updated quarterly. The department has been asked to a take cue from prime minister office website which regularly upload details of expenditure incurred on the PM’s foreign visits.
The IC referred to section 4(2) of the RTI Act which states: “It shall be a constant endeavor of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.”
While issuing the direction the commission also referred to Section 19(8)(a)(iii) of the RTI Act, which empowers the Central Information Commission or state information commission to require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including by publishing certain information or categories of information.
Taking the complexity involved in implement the order, IC Kushwant Singh has instructed the transport department to prepare a roadmap and submit it at the next date of hearing to ensure implementation of the order at earliest. The case is schedule for hearing on August 6.