Tuesday, September 26, 2017

RERA gets 1,390 complaints but acts on none

Mid-Day: Mumbai: Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
If you're a frustrated homebuyer thinking of knocking on the doors of the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), be warned: There's nobody home to listen to your complaint. As many as 1,390 complaints related to unregistered projects have been filed online in the last three months, but RERA is yet to take action in a single case.
Stuck at the first step
For those who have an issue with a property that is not registered, this is just the first step towards getting justice, as you require a RERA registration number to file any complaint with the authority.
For such cases, RERA has set up a separate online forum on which citizens can approach the regulatory body, seeking action against unregistered projects. But RERA has not taken action in any of the cases. This means hundreds of citizens can't even file complaints about their real property issues.
RTI discovery
This was discovered by activist Jeetendra Ghadge, who told mid-day, "The majority of ongoing projects are still unregistered with RERA. It's obvious that fraudulent developers have avoided registering their projects. Unfortunately, on the website, we can only file complaints for registered projects. This does not make any sense."
He filed a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to which he got a response on September 7, stating: "Though the total number of complaints is 1,390, it could be lesser, as there are multiple complaints against the same developers. Also, some are complaints of projects that are already registered under RERA. Others had not given details of projects, while a few are not even related to RERA."
The RTI reply further reads: "The scrutiny of complaints is still going on."
Ghadge alleged, "The RERA office has intentionally ignored my query asking for the names of the officials responsible for taking action on these complaints."
The other side
Asked to comment on the matter, RERA chairman Gautam Chatterjee told mid-day to speak to RERA secretary Vasant Prabhu, who did not reply to calls or messages.
However, an official from the regulatory body said, "The complaints will be scrutinised, but phase wise. As there are few more days till the final deadline for registration, we are waiting for developers to come forward, which has happened in some cases."
The source added, "Our priority is to give justice to those who have paid complaint fees and submitted necessary documents. We will also look at the source complaints."

Why unreformed BCCI got a fortune for IPL : By A L I Chougule

Free Press Journal: Tamil Nadu: Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
In most cricket playing nations in the world, it is next to impossible to find viable television audience for domestic cricket. But it’s a different case with Indian Premier League (IPL), a domestic league consumed primarily for its entertainment quotient. Earlier this month, the media rights television and digital of IPL were sold for humongous Rs. 16,347.5 crore ( $2.55 billion) for a period of five years. This is an increase of 158 per cent in value from the previous cycle. What’s more, with Star India paying a fortune to BCCI, the cricket board has also ended up making more money than it has in its entire history.
Interestingly, for five-year media rights Star has paid more than twice the amount Sony Pictures Network (SPN) had paid for 10 years. That’s largely because one property that Star badly missed in its sports portfolio was IPL. Star has a bouquet of 12 sports channels. It sources content from different properties across the world. Currently, it has the rights for Indian cricket, besides owning cricket rights for ICC, ECB (England), Cricket Australia and Asian Cricket Council. Star’s highly aggressive bid for IPL is in line with the network’s aggressive investment in sports properties over the past five years. This will give Star a complete monopoly over cricket in India.
What has stumped media analysts is that IPL is now more valuable than international cricket involving India. For instance, while Star pays Rs. 43 crore to BCCI for every international match played in India, BCCI will earn Rs. 54.49 crore per IPL match or Rs. 3,269.50 per season, against Rs. 820 crore before. That makes IPL a jewel in BCCI’s crown. But it is also a fact that not only IPL has been the most controversial league since its inception, it has also landed BCCI in all sorts of controversies and problems, including its current face-off with the Supreme Court over reforms. Two questions arise. One, has Star paid too much for a domestic league of 300 T-20 matches per season? Two, why star put a Rs. 8,465 crore premium on the consolidated rights over sum of individual property rights?
The price certainly looks stretched, notwithstanding the fact that IPL is the single largest and most impactful media property which has delivered high reach and viewership across demographics. Star’s recklessness can be explained by the fact that it expected aggressive bids from its rivals, both TV and digital networks. The fact that the most aggressive digital bid came from Facebook proves that apart from TV, cricket in India, particularly IPL, is a must-have property for growth of digital business as well. There are three revenue streams – television advertising, subscription (cable and DTH operators) and digital (advertising and digital). Television is the biggest revenue generator, followed by subscription, while digital is a growing business.
The first edition of IPL fetched Rs. 350 crore in advertising revenue for Sony; the last edition in 2017 clocked Rs. 1300 crore. Advertising revenue sees 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year growth. For IPL-10, the average 10-second ad rate was Rs. 6 lakh. Revenue from subscription accounts for about 40 per cent of advertising revenue. This gives a fair indication of how much money Sony must have made from TV rights on its investment of Rs. 8,200 crore. But the challenge for Star is too huge: Rs. 18,000 to 20,000 crore in five years, or about Rs. 3,500 to 4,000 crore a year. This will require increasing ad rates by over 200 to 250 per cent, besides pressuring cable TV and DTH operators to shell out more. It is one thing to say that premium assets are given more premiums for high impact properties like the IPL. But IPL is not an India-Pakistan or India-Australia World Cup match that delivers 10-plus television rating. While IPL is prime time entertainment, average rating for IPL games is around 3 TVR. How many advertisers would be willing to pay Rs. 15 lakh or more for a ten-second spot? Given tepid earnings of corporate India, it would be very challenging for Star to impose more than 200 per cent inflation on ad rates.
Whether Star makes money or not, BCCI has made a fortune. Each IPL franchise also stands to gain an additional Rs. 800 crore over five years. This will improve the financials of most of the struggling franchises. Players also stand to gain as their income will rise. But the bigger question is: what does it mean for the health of Indian cricket? Money has certainly flowed into the pockets of Indian cricketers, representing India at international level. But domestic cricketers remain poor cousins of contracted national players. Most of the domestic cricket is played on placid wickets. Outside of metros and tier-2 cities, cricket facilities in smaller centres and at district level are dismal. If health of domestic cricket remains poor, it will impact both Indian and global cricket.
BCCI is an epitome of opaqueness. It is in a state of mess and does not come under the RTI act. Though it earns thousands of crore, it is also not required to make its balance sheet public. One year after the SC judgement asking BCCI to implement reforms recommended by Lodha Committee, the board has not made any progress in implementing any of the reforms. It has continued to defy the SC order and the SC appointed committee of administrators has also not been able to take the reform agenda forward. BCCI rides on money power, while Indian cricket rides on star players. Not many, including many of the respected former players, speak about conflicts of interests, violations of norms, procedures and malpractices in the board.
Money continues to flow into BCCI coffers, but money alone will not improve the image of Indian cricket as long as the BCCI does not put its house in order. Interestingly, not long ago Star had withdrawn its sponsorship of the national team jersey citing turmoil in BCCI. Meanwhile, with Star India’s rights for BCCI’s bilateral cricket coming to an end on March 31, 2018, it will be interesting to see whether Star will renew its India rights to retain its monopoly on cricket in India and at what price. The bigger question is: when will BCCI fall in line and become a transparent cricket administrator.
The author is a Mumbai-based senior journalist

Who lied about Jayalalithaa's health? RTI reply contradicts TN minister's claims

Oneindia: Tamil Nadu: Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
A reply from the Tamil Nadu government under Right to Information act contradicts claims made by Forest Minister C Sreenivasan on Jayalalithaa's time in Apollo Hospital last year. While the minister claimed that the party, as well as the government, lied about Jayalalithaa's condition, the RTI reply claims that the then Chief Minister had met officials and oversaw meetings on Cauvery issue. Who really is lying to the people of Tamil Nadu has now become the big question.
On Friday, Tamil Nadu minister Sreenivasan made startling claims about how none ever met Jayalalithaa in the hospital but lied about her improving health, consumption of food and interaction with officials. An RTI query acquired by a Bengaluru-based activist dated June 2017 contradicts the minister's statements.
Even as the debate over the truth about Jayalalithaa in Apollo rages on TTV Dinakaran on Monday claimed that videos of the late Chief Minister in the hospital have been recorded. "We have videos of Jayalalithaa watching TV in the hospital. We are willing to hand it over to the probe committee. Let a senior judge lead the investigations," TTV Dinakaran said. He added that Jayalalithaa was dressed informally and hence the video was not fit to be made public.
A letter of reply from Joint Secretary to Tamil Nadu government, P M Ambalavanan, dated June 16, 2017, details meetings that Jayalalithaa is said to have held with officials. "The late Chief Minister interacted with family and government officials on some important issues including the Cauvery issue. The late Chief Minister's clinical course deteriorated later and subsequently recovered substantially to being able to take food orally," the reply to an RTI query states.
This is in sheer contradiction to Sreenivasan's claims that nobody was allowed to meet J Jayalalithaa when she was at the Apollo hospital. He had alleged that the government, as well as the party, had lied about her health status and apologized to the people for lying.
The contradiction makes it clear that either the government of Tamil Nadu had lied in the RTI query or the minister was lying to the public. With many unanswered questions already raising suspicion over Jayalalithaa's death, the latest revelation from Sreenivasan only fuelled further speculation.
The reply to the RTI query also states that Jayalalithaa's recorded time of death was 11.30 PM. This is yet again a contradiction to O Panneerselvam's claim of Jayalalithaa passing away on the evening of December 5.
"No information, unless specified otherwise, can be denied under the RTI. If there is a delay in providing information under the RTI, a maximum penalty of Rs 20,000 can be imposed on the Public information officer. The same will apply to false information," said activist Narasimhamurthy. An advocate, Murthy had sought information regarding Jayalalithaa's health condition, medical expenses, the cost to the ex-chequer and details of doctors who treated her. He received a reply in June where information about her health was denied since the matter was 'private'.

CIC Pulls up Child Rights Protection Body for Refusing to Reveal Basic Information

The Wire: New Delhi: Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has called into question the conduct of the chief public information officer (CPIO) and of a consultant and an adviser at the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), for denying information to an appellant, Ajit Kumar Singh, about the the number of complaints received by the panel, the decisions in the cases where the accused were found guilty and the relief that was granted to them.
While the NCPCR’s mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the child rights perspective as enshrined in the constitution of India and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the denial of information by the commission has raised doubts about the transparency of the organisation.
The CPIO, G. Suresh, in his reply on May 17, stated that the “information sought by the appellant was not disclosable as per exemption under section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act”.  However, the central information commissioner, M. Sridhar Acharyulu, held, “The NCPCR uses a privacy exception to refuse entire information en bloc. No effort is done to provide information which could have been disclosed on their own under Section 4(1)(b)”. The CIC further clarified that “except the name of the child, nothing could be denied”.
Consultant, adviser misguiding NCPCR
Acharyulu also raised questions about the conduct of the the adviser, Rakesh Bhartiya, and consultant, Raman Gaur, appointed by the NCPCR. He said that both Bhartiya and Gaur misguided the commission to deny the information.
“These two experienced seniors did not even provide reasons to justify the denial. They failed to perform their duty to separate information that can be given from the information that cannot be given, as prescribed under Section 10(1) of the RTI Act. They do not know that Section 10 provides for severability,” the interim order of the CIC said.
Stating that the CPIO, adviser and consultant had not only refused to divulge information “without forwarding any justification”, Acharyulu said they had also “bluntly rejected the entire information, abusing section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.”
“It is most unfortunate that the consultant and advisor have guided the CPIO and the public authority to breach the RTI Act,” he added.
Questions pertained to core functioning of the NCPCR
Going into the merits of the plea, the CIC said, “When the appellant was not seeking names and personal information and wanted information about the number of cases left out without any action, or action taken and pending before the commission for years, public authority cannot invoke Section 8(1)(j) at all.”
He said the question raised by the appellant about the action taken by the NCPCR on four-year-old complaints was in “public interest” and related to its “core function”.
The CIC also directed the NCPCR to provide, within 15 days, information regarding cases pending for over two years pertaining to the Bihar circle and the details of disposal of cases where the accused were found guilty, after removing names and personal details of children.
It also directed the CPIO, the adviser and the senior consultant, who appeared in the matter as “deemed PIOs”, to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon them for illegal obstruction of information.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sexual Molestation In NCW: CIC Asks Member Secretary To Look Into Commission’s Anti-RTI Atttitude

Live Law: Monday September 25 2017.
The Central Information Commission has asked Satbir Bedi, member secretary, National Commission for Women, to look into the anti-RTI working in the organisation where a contractual research assistant was allegedly sexually harassed by the NCW deputy and denied information that she had sought after being thrown out of job, leading to further harassment. Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu also directed the NCW to “immediately find better equipped, well-trained officers who can properly act under the RTI Act and not to entrust its CPIO RC Ahuja any RTI work, until he is trained and understood the RTI Act, his duties, rights of people and its rules etc”. 
He rejected the request of the NCW to waive the compensation of Rs. 50,000 it was directed to pay the victim for the suffering caused due to denial of information sought under the RTI Act. “The request of the CPIO to waive compensation of Rs.50,000 has no basis, hence not acceptable. The compensation shall be paid within 20 days from the date of receipt of this order and send compliance report to the Commission along with certified copy of the acknowledgement of receipt of compensation by the appellant,” he ordered. It also upheld the penalty of Rs. 25,000 imposed on the accused deputy secretary, as it said, “Being an accused in the complaint of sexual harassment filed by appellant, Mr VVB Raju, though recused from hearing first did not allow her access to most of the information. 
The Commission, hence, concluded on the guilt of Mr VVB Raju, as deemed PIO under RTI Act. Yet his prayer was re-considered. But further submissions, his complaints and petitions, response of Mrs Vandana Gupta (the first appellate authority who was abruptly removed), petition by Mr Ahuja (CPIO) proved that Mr VVB Raju is obstructing the access from behind the screen and, hence, the fine imposed is confirmed and the penalty from him shall be collected.” The CIC was disquieted at how the research assistant was thrown out of job when she raised her voice against the harassment by the deputy secretary and then denied information under the RTI Act on flimsy grounds. 
The woman had sought her performance file to check if there was some complaint against her, as alleged by the deputy secretary before throwing her out of work, the service record of the deputy secretary, statement of witnesses before the internal complaints committee etc. While the performance file was shared with her on the CIC’s order, the service record/ ACR of the accused and statement of witnesses was not shared on the ground that it was a third party information, even as the CIC noted that the witnesses were enormously rewarded with increased remuneration without any justification. 
The CIC noted that first appellate authority Ms Vandana Gupta was removed before she could decide the victim’s first appeal against denial of information and for other wrongs under the RTI Act”. It also sought answers to whether the first appellate authority was abruptly removed before the victim’s complaint could be fairly decided....
Abusive Language Used By CPIO The CIC took strong note of the NCW, though CPIO RC Ahuja for passing an order without hearing them and for placing the matter before a larger bench....
“The CIC heard the second appeal after duly issuing notices to appellant (victim) and public authority. When appellant could receive the notice, it is not known why public authority, which as a well-known office could not receive it,” the NCW had said. To this, the CIC said, “The allegation that CIC decided without affording opportunity to public authority is also factually wrong, because the CIC issued a notice to explain the denial of information, to both the CPIO and also deemed CPIO Mr. Raju on June 16. 
These notices were received by them, their explanations were duly reached, considered and only after personal hearing of these two officers, which were totally not convincing, the penalties were imposed. Hence, the allegation that they were not accorded opportunity to be heard is false and mischievous.” The commission directed “the CPIO Mr. Ahuja to provide certified copies of appellant’s latest ACR and related documents. A part of the file of Mr. VVB Raju including copies of his educational qualifications, Ms. Smita Jha and Mr. Ishwar Chandra (who were removed like the victim from the job but then reinstated), shall be allowed for inspection by the appellant and certified copies of the same shall be of the same shall be given free of cost, within two weeks from the date of receipt of this order”.
“The Commission considers that Mr RC Ahuja has used abusive language, made reckless allegations and disrespectful remarks reflecting an attitude which could be a big obstruction to the access to information in general. Hence, the Commission records admonition against Mr. Ahuja and warns him to get trained and learn to respect applicants and authorities under the RTI Act and respect the provisions of transparency,” the CIC ordered.

Wife of rape accused Hari Shukla seeks justice for husband lodged at Thane central jail.

Free Press Journal: Kainaz Choksey: Mumbai: Monday, September 25, 2017.
The wife of rape accused Raj alias Hari Shankar Awadh Bihari Shukla (35) has filed an inquiry under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to seek justice for her husband who is lodged at Thane central jail. Hari, a school teacher, was arrested on December 14, 2016, on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl from Navi Mumbai’s Mahatma Gandhi Mission high school.
As per the RTI, Shukla was arrested by Nerul police. As per a September 10 DNA report clearly states that Shukla is excluded as be the father of the victim’s baby. As per the RTI copy available with the Free Press Journal, Shukla is not the father of the said foetus. The wife has asked why the police filed a release of the accused when evidence was deficient (Section 169) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) report before the concerned trial court in the favour of the applicant. The RTI aslo questions why the investigating officer did not probe who the biological father of the child was. The RTI further questions why the concerned authorities were hiding the fact in the chargesheet.
Anjali Shukla (35), the wife of Hari Shankar, in her RTI also has asked who was pressurising the investigating officer for not probing the matter? It further goes on to question why the investigating officer had not conducted any inquiry into the victim’s cousin brother whose name was taken by the victim’s mother and victim herself during sonography?
Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Anjali said, “My husband is on an indefinite hunger strike for the last 26 days. He is being threatened by the Thane jail authorities to break his fast. However, justice has been denied to him despite the DNA reports which state clearly that he is not the father of the victim’s child. If my husband does not get justice, I shall be sitting on an indefinite hunger strike outside Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office.”
“My husband had given a written application to the enforcement agencies seeking justice or to allow him to die inside the jail. The minor girl’s cousin is responsible for it. But the police are not doing their job. The jail authorities are saying that they will allow me to meet him, only if he calls off the hunger strike, “said Anjali.
Anjali further alleged, “Twice a week, I wait outside the Thane jail in the hope that the authorities will allow me to meet him. But I am turned away. My two children are suffering because of the apathy of the police and jail authorities.” Meanwhile, the court has passed an order on Friday seeking another DNA test of Hari Shankar. The DNA sample will be sent to a private laboratory at Hyderabad.
Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Nitin Vayachal, Superintendent of Thane jail said, “Anjali Shukla has been making unnecessary allegations. She is not being allowed to meet her husband as per the jail manual. It is my responsibility to take care of the health of the prisoners inside the jail and do whatever is necessary.”

Want information, pay Rs 1.07 lakh first: Western Railway.

Free Press Journal: FPJ Bureau | Indore: Monday, September 25, 2017
Cocking a snook on Prime Minister’s digital dream, the Western Railway insists on hard copy of chief information commissioner (CIC) for providing information sought through RTI by an applicant.
Moreover, in a move to avoid reply to the RTI application, officials of Western Railway asked the applicant to pay fees for the information at the rate of Rs 1000 per page along with service tax.
Much to the shock of RTI applicant Siddharth Khandelwal, a resident of Sikh Mohalla, the railway officials asked him to pay a total sum of Rs 1.07 lakh for getting the information, which is of 94 pages.
“I filed an RTI application in April seeking information on the reserved quota in Avantika Express along with information of seats allotted to the passengers on April 28, this year,” Siddharth said.
WR demands Rs 1.07 lakh for providing information
He said that the application was filed to get the knowledge of reserved quota in trains but instead of giving the information, the railway officials asked me to pay over one lakh rupees for giving attested copies of the passengers chart.
“Railway’s appellate authority gave me a reference of a circular over the charges and fees for information under RTI but that circular was not sent to any public information officer (PIC) for their knowledge,” Siddharth said.
The RTI application said when he told the railway officials about the CIC order over an appeal no CIC/VS/A/2015/900652 in which CIC directed the railways to take steps to amend the rules regarding copying charges suitably to bring them in conformity with the letter and spirit of the RTI Act and Rules.
“Surprisingly, the railway officers denied to have any copy of such orders and they didn’t even rely on the copy I provided them with the words that they didn’t receive any copy from the CIC so far,” he added.

25 ex-Legislators, 3 former MPs in list of defaulters of Estates Dept.

Daily Excelsior: Mohinder Verma: Jammu : Monday, September 25, 2017.
Owe over Rs 23 lakh to Govt for official accommodation
Twenty five former Legislators and three former Members of Parliament are in the list of defaulters of the Estates Department for their failure to pay timely rent for the official accommodation which was actually allotted to them when they were sitting members of Legislature and Parliament but have been retained even after relinquishing the offices. An amount of over Rs 23 lakh is outstanding against them mainly because of the inability of the Government to enforce the framework approved by the State Administrative Council headed by Governor N N Vohra early last year.
This has come to the fore from the information provided by the Deputy Director Estates Jammu-cum-Public Information Officer Satish Kumar Sharma in reply to an application filed by Advocate Irtiza Mushtaq under Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act.
As per the information provided vide Communication No.DDE/J/2017/ RTI/950 dated September 16, 2017, a total of 19 former MLAs, 6 former MLCs and three former Members of Parliament have defaulted in payment of timely rent for the Government accommodation provided to them by the Estates Department in different locations of Jammu like Gandhi Nagar, Wazarat Road, Rehari, Talab Tillo, Ahata Amar Singh and Company Bagh when they were sitting members of Legislature and Parliament.
Though as per the law governing allotment of accommodation to the Legislators and Members of Parliament and the framework approved by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor N N Vohra, the members of State Legislature or Parliament are supposed to vacate the official quarters and bungalows on relinquishing of the office yet these 28 former Legislators and former Members of Parliament are still occupying the Estates Department accommodation in blatant violation of rules.
“It is unbecoming on the part of these ex-Legislators and ex-Members of Parliament to not only retain the Government accommodation but also default in timely payment of rent to the Estates Department”, official sources regretted, adding “it is a matter of concern that the public functionaries, who are supposed to be role model for the common masses not only when they are the members of either of the Houses of the State Legislature or Parliament but even after demitting the office, are acting in an inappropriate manner”.
As per the information, maximum amount of Rs 2,60,460 is outstanding against former MLA Gh Mohi-ud-Din, who has retained Estates Department quarter at Talab Tillo, as on ending July 2017. He is followed by family of former MLA Mohd Sharif Bhat with an outstanding rent to the tune of Rs 2,41,280 for the quarter allotted at Gandhi Nagar. The third highest defaulter is former MLA Syed Abdul Rashid, who owes an amount of Rs 2,11,960 to the Estates Department for the quarter allotted at Talab Tillo.
The outstanding against former MLA from Udhampur Balwant Singh Mankotia is to the tune of Rs 1,17,280 while as former MLA and Minister Gharu Ram Choudhary has defaulted in payment of Rs 1,40,530 rent for the accommodation allotted at Gandhi Nagar.
Similarly, an amount of Rs 1, 35,060 is outstanding against former MLA Ashok Kumar Sharma; Rs 1,41,960 against former MLA Sheikh Rafiq Ahmed, Rs 1,87,460 against former MLA Abdul Rashid Mir; Rs 1,65,660 against former Member of Parliament T S Bajwa; Rs 1,75,360 against former MLA Mohd Aslam Khan; Rs 1,56,860 against former MLA Sartaz Madni and Rs 1,13,280 against former MLA Chaman Lal Gupta.
The other defaulters are former MLC Syed Mohd Rafiq Shah, former MLA Ghulam Qadir Wani, former MLA Jalal-ud-Din Qazi, former MLA Yogesh Sawhney, former MLC Mohd Iqbal Bhat, former MLA Harsh Dev Singh, former Member of Parliament Madan Lal Sharma, former MLA Ajay Sadhotra, former MP Mehboob Beigh, former MLA Manohar Lal Sharma, former MLC Ravinder Kumar Sharma and former MLA Ashwani Kumar.
Only two former MLAs Thakur Randhir Singh and Jagjivan Ram have nothing outstanding against them for the accommodation in their possession at Wazarat Road and Gandhi Nagar.
Stating that Government was also responsible for the prevailing situation, sources said, “the Government has failed to enforce the framework to rationalize retention of facilities like Government accommodation which was approved by the State Administrative Council headed by Governor N N Vohra in the month of March 2016”.
As per the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) approved by the Governor, the permissible period for retention of Government accommodation in case of expiry of the term/termination of appointment/relinquishing of office of constitutional dignitaries, the Ministers/Legislators and other is one month. Had there been strict compliance to these SOPs the prevailing situation could have been avoided.

Noyyal encroachment issue: trouble brewing for administration.

The Hindu: Coimbotore: Monday, September 25, 2017.
The district administration, the Collector in particular, appears to be in trouble in the issue related to removal of encroachments in the River Noyyal basin.
The Collector, who was the third respondent in a case related to the removal of encroachments, gave an assurance to the First Bench of the Madras High Court on September 20, 2016 that within a year - September 20, 2017 - he would remove all encroachments
Taking note of his assurance, the Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul disposed of the petition directing the Collector to file periodical reports by also marking copies to the petitioner, Coimbatore Consumer Cause.
The consumer body had filed a writ petition seeking a direction to the Revenue Department, Public Works Department, the Coimbatore Collector and also Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner to remove encroachments along the river and also the tanks that form part of the Noyyal basin.
In the past year, since the court’s direction, the consumer body said it had not got any copy of the compliance report the district administration was supposed to have submitted to the court.
The consumer body also said that the administration had also failed to furnish it the list of water bodies to be removed of encroachments - details it had sought under the Right to Information Act. The district administration had simply forwarded the RTI query to the Public Works Department and asked it to mark a copy. The PWD was yet to respond, though.
The consumer body’s secretary, K. Kathirmathiyon, said the very fact that the administration did not have a list of water bodies to be removed of encroachments and that too towards the end of the one-year period, forced one to suspect its intent to remove encroachments.
The consumer body would move a contempt petition before the court to ensure that its directions were complied with, he added.
Collector T.N. Hariharan did not respond to calls or messages.

Disclose DHJS exam interview marks under RTI: HC

PTI News : New Delhi Monday, September 25, 2017.
The Delhi High Court has directed its information officer to disclose under the RTI, the marks awarded by an interview panel to candidates of Delhi Higher Judicial Service (DHJS) examination held in 2013.
The court said when the results of the examination have been placed in public domain, there was no question of claiming any exemption under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
The court passed the order while disposing of a plea of one of the candidates who had appeared in the 2013 DHJS exam and had sought information on viva voce (interview) marks awarded by the interview committee to other candidates.
He approached the high court challenging the Central Information Commission's order rejecting his appeal under the RTI Act, which was preferred against an order of the first appellate authority.
"The present petition is disposed of by directing the respondent to disclose a tabulated statement of the marks awarded to all candidates by the interview panel as available on record," Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.
The court noted that the controversy essentially remained with regard to the viva voce marks awarded by the interview committee to other candidates.
It said that in this case, the issue is not regarding any confidential gradings, but results of a public examination for selecting candidates for appointment to the DHJS examination.
"The results of the examination have been placed in public domain and, there is no question of claiming any exemption under Section 8(1)(e) of the Act," the court said.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the high court had submitted before the CIC that although the information regarding the marks awarded by the interview committee was not traceable earlier, it had been traced and was now available with the PIO.
This was also informed to petitioner Mukesh Kumar, who was represented by advocate Dharmendra Kumar Mishra, in another proceeding which was instituted by him before the high court.
Regarding the petitioner's request for the break-up of the interview marks, the court said it does not find any reason why such information ought to be withheld from him.
"Clearly, the names of the members of the interview panel are required to be redacted, ... which member of the interview board awarded what marks to the candidates is not required to be disclosed," it said.
The court said as the handwritten marks awarded by the panel was concerned, they were part of the working papers of the interview panel and cannot be disclosed.
It said disclosure of such handwritten record would also inevitably disclose the identity of the panel's members which cannot be disclosed to the petitioner.
The petitioner has said the interviews were conducted from May 18 to May 21, 2015 and the final result was declared on July 20, 2015. He filed an application before the PIO of the high court on July 28, 2015 seeking certain information.

Delhi Government answers RTIs with blank spaces.

New Indian Express: Ankur Sharma: New Delhi: Monday September 25 2017
Delhi government officials are turning Right to Information (RTI) into a joke. RTIs filed by The Sunday Standard seeking details of compensation awarded to the kin of police personnel who died in the line of duty came back blank from a Sub-divisional Magistrate’s (SDM) office.A reply to an RTI query filed.
The section ‘Reason for not giving further information is…’ was left blank, as were all other reply columns. This apathy is despite Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal proclaiming strict action against officials who don’t handle RTIs seriously.
Similarly, another reply to an RTI query filed by this paper didn’t even use an envelope. The reply was not clearly visible due to multiple stamps and bad handling.
The Delhi government’s handling of RTI applications has been a subject of ridicule these days. “E-mails are being received at official e-mail IDs of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Administrative Reforms with complaints that departments are not responding to online RTI applications filed by citizens,” says an official communication sent to all officers, accessed by The Sunday Standard.
“Any delay in responding/handling of RTI applications can make concerned PIOs liable for penalty and disciplinary action as mandated under Section 20 of the RTI Act. 2005,” the communication states. “It may also be noted clearly that departmental action/disciplinary proceedings can also be initiated against the nodal officers under normal service rules in case of inappropriate handling of online applications,” it adds.
Officials say there has been a 40 percent hike in RTI applications in the last six months. An IAS officer working with the Delhi government said they are unable to prepare proper replies due to a staff crunch. Officials have been told to brief the staff dealing with RTI properly, he added.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Government files related to Sidco ex-MD missing

Times of India: Thiruvananthapuram: Sunday, September 24, 2017.
The government files regarding the appointment of Kerala Small Industries Development Corporation's (Sidco) former managing director Saji Basheer, an accused in several vigilance cases, has gone missing from industries department, said a reply to an RTI application by a private petitioner.
Informing that the particular file containing government order and other documents related to Basheer's appointment as Sidco MD could not be traced the RTI reply to Dileep S, a native of Chalai in the capital city, and dated September 8, 2017, said efforts were being taken to trace the file adding that it may have been misplaced in some other department in the secretariat.
There are several vigilance cases pending against Basheer, who got appointed as the Sidco MD on a regular basis in 2011, the latest being a vigilance and anti-corruption bureau (VACB) recommendation of a probe early this year over massive hiring.
Though he was moved out of Sidco and posted as managing director, Kerala State Industrial Enterprises (KSIE) in 2015, the LDF government had terminated his service after several allegations of nepotism and corruption.
In September last year, VACB launched a probe against Basheer, on suspicion of amassing wealth through corrupt means and his properties were raided.

Milk adulteration: 37 per cent of samples collected in one year fail FDA test

The Indian Express: Pune: Sunday, September 24, 2017.
An RTI application filed by The Indian Express with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) revealed that milk adulteration continues unabated in Pune, with more than 37 per cent of milk samples failing the FDA’s quality test in the last one year.
BACK in 2007, Maharashtra had emerged as a major centre for milk adulteration, and 10 years later, the situation doesn’t seem to have changed much. An RTI application filed by The Indian Express with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) revealed that milk adulteration continues unabated in Pune, with more than 37 per cent of milk samples failing the FDA’s quality test in the last one year.
Last year, the FDA had collected 142 milk samples for testing, of which 53 failed the test, revealed the reply to the RTI query. The samples were collected from both dairies and shops, and results of 17 samples are yet to be received by the office.
The standard parameters for testing milk checking for fat content, urea content, presence of foreign objects and more is listed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The local unit of the FDA collects samples to test them regularly. FSSAI has also laid down certain norms regarding the hygiene of the collection centres as well as the temperature at which milk has to be pasteurised and stored. Flavoured milk, paneer and milk powder are also tested and if some of the samples are found substandard, action is initiated against the dairies they came from.
In cases where the milk was found to be substandard, FDA officials have filed cases before the adjudication officers, and in some cases compounding fees of Rs 10,000 has been levied.
Samples from popular dairies such as Gokul and Katraj were taken for testing and found to be consistent with the set standards. Several samples collected from smaller dairies, which procure milk from unorganised players, failed the quality test. Of the 2.50 crore litres of milk collected daily in Maharashtra, around 1.25 crore litres is by the organised sector while the rest is from unorganised players.
The FSSAI has mandated licensing norms for dairies and most of the organised dairies, both cooperative and private, have to renew them on an annual basis. Reports about adulteration in smaller dairies is a matter of concern for Pune residents as many of them depend on such dairies for their milk supply, and these dairies also procure milk for larger dairies.
However, Rajiv Mitra, managing director of the Phaltan-based Govind Milk and Milk Products, assured that established players have multiple levels of checking, which help them weed out adulterated milk right at the source. “Other than fats, solid-not-fat and proteins, we also check for antibiotics and alcohol in milk. In case the milk is found to contain alcohol or antibiotics, we reject them at the procurement centre itself,” he said. Mitra claimed that chances of adulteration at the processing plants of major milk producers were non-existent due to the quality standards maintained by them.
Consumer rights activist Sudhakar Velankar, on the other hand, pointed out that most of the adulteration takes place while the milk is being sold door-to-door and the samples should be checked “at the sale point rather than at dairies”. Meanwhile, concerned citizens have called for widening the testing net to include both organised and unorganised players in the market.
Pune-based activist Vijay Kumbhar demanded that the names of dairies and milk producers, which fail the quality test, should be posted online to raise awareness about the issue. “This was a standard practice earlier, but it has been stopped now,” he said.

Rs 534 crore SBI education loan subsidy fails to reach students

Times of India: Chennai: Sunday, September 24, 2017.
State Bank of India has failed to remit more than Rs 534 crore, which it had received from the Centre as interest subsidy for education loans, into the accounts of eligible students for seven years -from 2009 to 2016.The subsidy paid to the SBI by the Union ministry for human resources development (MHRD) did not reach the education loan accounts of poor students, figures accessed by TOI through an RTI response shows.
Under the Central Sector Interest Subsidy (CSIS) scheme, students, with an annual family income of less than `4.5 lakh, get full waiver on the interest component of their education loan during the course period. Banks, which give the loan, have to claim the subsidy from the MHRD through a portal maintained by Canara Bank.
In response to an RTI application filed by TOI, SBI stated that they claimed `2,333.60 crore from the Centre as interest subsidy under the scheme. Of this, only`1,799.31crore was deposited into the accounts of student, the RTI response shows. The gap between what was claimed from the Centre and what was deposited kept growing through the years.
In 2009-10, SBI claimed `86.92 crore of which `7.95 crore was not deposited. In 2010-11, it rose to Rs 20.06 crore, and for the year 2011 12 the unpaid subsidy was Rs 54.54 crore. The year 2012-13 saw the sum dip to Rs 51.74 crore, and in 2013-14 it rose phenomenally to Rs 101.94 crore. In 2014-14, it fell to Rs 17.12 crore, only to rise to Rs 280.94 crore for the year 201516.
A separate RTI response from Canara bank indicated that Rs 2,330 crore had been claimed by SBI during this period. "If money has been claimed, it has to be deposited in the student loan accounts," said a senior official from Canara bank, who deals with the claims portal.
This directly impacts poor students across the country , as they are forced to repay up to 40% extra of their loan amount. "We get a number of complaints of shortpayment of interest subsidy , especially by SBI, on e-mail from students," said K Srinivasan, a former banker, who runs the Education Loan Task Force (ELTF), an organisation which aids students to resolve such issues with bank.
Many have complained to SBI that they are being forced to pay a higher loan amount despite being eligible for sub sidy. Neelotpal Mishra (29), a resident of Noida, took a loan from SBI Jhanjhar in Bihar in 2010 to fund his engineering education. "Statement from Canara Bank showed I was eligible for Rs 2.86 lakh interest subsidy. But SBI deposited only Rs 66,000, that too two years later. Now my loan repayment has shot up to Rs 6 lakh, whereas it should be only Rs 4 lakhs. Bank managers are not responding to my complaints and documents," he told TOI.
Srinivasan said this was extremely poor mismanagement of loans by SBI. "Banks are blaming students for poor repayment and selling the `bad' loans to Asset Restructuring Companies (ARC) like Reliance. But the rightful money is not being given to the students. If the money is excess claim, it should be returned to the government," he said, calling for a high level enquiry .
In response to a specific email questionnaire regarding the Rs 534 crore by this correspondent, the assistant general manager (AGM), Personal Banking Business Unit (PBBU) of SBI corporate office in Mumbai, said: " Any amount of subsidy , as and when received from the government , is being credited to respective accounts of the borrowers."

Irregularities alleged in election expenditure

Hindu: Madurai: Sunday, September 24, 2017.
Scrutiny through RTI indicates irregularities in the form of inflated bills and bills from non-existent entities
Details scrutinised through Right to Information (RTI) Act on money spent to conduct elections in Madurai South Assembly constituency in 2016 has indicated widespread irregularities, particularly in the form of inflated expenditure and bills from reportedly non-existent business entities.
K. Hakkim, a Madurai-based RTI activist, recently obtained permission through the Act to see the expenditure records maintained at Madurai Corporation Zone 3’s Assistant Commissioner Office, who acted as the Returning Officer (RO) of the constituency. “I was shown only the accounts for Rs. 41.03 lakh spent directly under the control of RO under one of the eight heads of accounts maintained for election expenditure. For other expenditure, I was asked to approach Collector’s office,” he said. The glaring things that got Mr. Hakkim’s attention in perusing the roughly 2,600- page document, of which he managed to get copies of 334 pages, were the expenditures on fuel and vehicles, flex banners, postcards and food items.
Stating that Rs. 25.87 lakh was spent on salaries for 2,418 personnel deployed on election duty, he said that another considerable chunk of Rs. 6.69 lakh was spent on fuel for government vehicles or renting private vehicles. “Even if you apply a rough calculation of Rs. 10 per kilometre, which is the usual rent charged by vehicles, the officials seem to have travelled 66,900 km while the whole constituency is just around 10 to 15 square kilometre,” he said.
Similarly, he said that Rs. 1.06 lakh was spent on providing water cans, chairs and tubelights in the 213 polling booths located in 56 locations on the election day, which comes to an average of Rs. 500 per booth. “Since most booths are located in schools, expectation is that chairs and tubelights would already be available. If so, why Rs. 500 for one or two water cans,” he asked.
Importantly, he alleged that at least three shops, from which bills were obtained to the tune of Rs. 80,000 for printing flex banners, papers, post ards and stamps, which were reportedly bought for Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) awareness campaign, were non-existent.
“Postcards and stamps would ideally be bought from post offices. However, postcards and stamps worth Rs. 10,000 were bought from a seemingly non-existent stationery shop,” he said, adding that Rs. 1 lakh was spent on hiring LED televisions, for which only a hand-written voucher was available.
Similarly, he pointed to Rs. 2 lakh spent on flex banners, Rs. 24,000 for making a polling booth as model polling booth, and Rs. 22,500 as salary for those deployed in booths to push wheelchairs for physically-challenged voters, which sounded unreasonable.
“This is only a fraction of the expenditure in just one of the 234 constituencies in Tamil Nadu. My RTI requests to obtain expenditure at State and District level are being stalled. A thorough audit and investigation is required,” he said.
A senior official associated with District Election Office in the Collectorate during election said that audits of election expenditure was conducted at three different levels by the Local Fund Audit office in district, then by the audit wing of Chief Electoral Officer in the State, and finally by the Accountant General’s office.
The officer acknowledged that the CEO’s office has already raised objections for lakhs of rupees spent in 10 constituencies in the district, particularly those coming under Madurai Corporation.