Sunday, October 04, 2015

Put occupants, waitlisted officers' housing allotment details online: Info body to Mumbai Police

DNA: Mumbai: Sunday, 04 October 2015.
Just how many police officers are occupying government-allotted houses will now be in public domain.
In an order that will give more transparency in the allotment and waiting list procedure in the force, the state information commission has ordered that the list of houses be put up on the force's website in two months.
The order was passed by Ajitkumar Jain, information commissioner (Brihanmumbai bench) on September 7 on an application made by Kurla resident Nishant Ghadge. Ghadge, in his application, had sought details on the number of government flats, list of people who have been allotted those flats, those who are yet to get and those who have been staying there.
"Despite repeated sloganeering by politicians, housing continues to be an issue for policemen. The number of houses is half their strength in the force. There are many who have not received a house for a very long time. There are times when officers do not vacate the flats allotted to them even after the stipulated time period is over. In such cases, those who have not received any house continue to feel homeless. When I met an officer he told me all this and, hence, I decided to file an RTI application," said Ghadge.
"There are charges of bribery in allotment and no transparency. While senior officers make sure they get their houses, the situation is the opposite for lower-rung officers."
In the order, the commission asked that the information be put up online under section 4 (3), which pertains to suo motu disclosure in a way that it is easily accessible to the public. It is also the way in which the applicant had sought details. When contacted, Mumbai police commissioner Ahmad Javed said, "Let me peruse the order, only then I can respond."

Towels Worth Lakhs for Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

Indian Express: Bengaluru: Sunday, 04 October 2015.
The towel, an integral part of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s attire, may rest lightly on his shoulder, but seems to be a heavy burden on the exchequer. Since April, an amount of Rs 9.57 lakh was spent on purchasing fabrics, which also included the chief minister’s favourite ‘gamcha’.
The government had spent Rs 4.78 lakh to procure towels and an additional Rs 4.79 lakh was spent on purchasing bed linens and blankets for the house  since April. According to information obtained by RTI activist Marilingegowda Maali Patil, the expenditure incurred includes the ‘gamcha’ or towel, bath towels, face towels, foot mats, pillow covers, bed sheets, bed covers and blankets for his house.  Seemingly, the conclusion drawn by his office is to begin right from the basics if the very fabric within the house is impeccable, it will obviously reflect on the very fabric of the society too.
During the same period, Rs 39.73 lakh was spent on the CM’s official residence that included the construction of a  compound wall and other repair works. While Siddaramaiah took care of the ‘fabric’, his ministers seem to have been busy strengthening the very foundation, if not of the state, but their homes. In all, Rs 1.71 crore was spent on the official residences of Public Works Department Minister H C Mahadevappa, Rural Development Minister H K Patil, Industries Minister R V Deshpande, Home Minister K J George and Forest Minister Ramanath Rai.
Mahadevappa topped the list with Rs 58.74 lakh in 2013-2014, followed by H K Patil with Rs 39.15 lakh (2013-2014, 2014-2015), Deshpande spentRs 37.72 lakh (2013-14, 2014-2015), George’s bill amounted to  Rs 25.39 lakh (2013 to current year) and Rai’s expenses amounted to Rs 10.86 lakh (2013-2014, 2014-2015).
When contacted, Rai said he had not asked for any repair works at his official residence. “They must have taken up the repair works before handing over the house to me. Unlike the houses of other ministers, mine was repaired and handed over to me,” he said. While George denied spending such amounts, Deshpande said that his official residence was like a ‘ghost house’ when it was allotted to him and needed immediate renovation.“It was in a very bad shape. I had asked for the repair works to be carried out and it was the responsibility of the PWD to estimate the cost and carry out the work,” said Deshpande.

Pondy govt has failed to effectively implement RTI:AIADMK

Business Standard: Puducherry: Sunday, 04 October 2015.
AIADMK today alleged that the Rangasamy-led AINRC government has failed to effectively implement provisions of the Right to Education Act which guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats in the schools for children of poor families.
Addressing reporters herey, Deputy leader of the AIADMK's Legislature wing A.Anbalagan claimed that government had not been able to bring all the private medical colleges under the provisions of statutes and in getting 50 per cent quota of seats both in the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education.
"Any move to encourage private universities would be injurious to student community as the managements will run roughshod', he said and asked the government to immediately drop any proposal to encourage private players to set up universities in the Union Territory.

Gujarat RTI commissioner to govt: Proactively disclose climate change facts on "website" within 30 days

COUNTERVIEW: Ahmedabad: Sunday, 04 October 2015.
The Gujarat Information Commission (GIC), the state's official watchdog of the right to information (RTI) Act, has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government failing to make public disclosure of the relevant information of the climate change department on its website. Issued in September third week, it would force the state government to set up climate change website, which till date does not exist.
 The CIC order wants the secretary, climate change, to ensure that “the requirements of the proactive disclosure under RTI Act are fully operationalised within a period of 90 days from the receipt of this order.”
The order would force the Gujarat government to finally come up with a climate change department website. Though the department was set up in 2010 amidst much fanfare, with Narendra Modi, then chief minister of India, declaring that the state is the first in India to take the initiative, till date there is no website for the department.
In fact, a click on "climate change department" on the official website of the state government takes one to the Gujarat Energy Development Agency, the state outfit meant to promote alternative energy set up decades ago.
The order states, “The state government is directed to maintain and update the proactive disclosure material in letter and spirit of the provisions of the RTI Act.”
Agreeing that a copy of the proactive disclosure material is stated to have been put up on the notice board of the department, the GIC order, which has been signed by Balwant Singh, state information commissioner, says the dissemination of public disclosure should be “communicated to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts, the internet or any other means.”
Singh came up with his order in response to an RTI complaint by Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, a Gujarat-based NGO. He said, it should be the “constant endeavour of every public authority” to take steps “to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means or communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.”
Pandya had wanted the Gujarat government “maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the RTI and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources.”
Pandya wanted the state government to disclose the climate change department's “norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; and the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions.”
The online proactive disclosure, Pandya had insisted, should include “a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control”, as also “the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof.”
Other information should include, he said, about meetings of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies which exist under the department, their minutes, the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, budget allocation, proposed expenditures, the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, and son.
The GIC said, “All materials shall be disseminated taking into consideration the cost effectiveness, local language and the most effective method of communication in that local area and the information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format", and be available “free or at such cost of the medium or the print cost price as may be prescribed.”

Teaching Muslim youths to earn rightful benefits using RTI

Times of India: Lucknow: Sunday, 04 October 2015.
Instead of going to 'netas' and political parties to know benefits one is entitled to as member of the minorities, it is advisable to seek RTI. Muslim men and women above 20 years of age will learn to seek RTI on minority welfare schemes of the Centre and state in a three-hour training session on the Right to Information (RTI) Act on Sunday. The participants will be tutored on various clauses of the Act and taught drafting the application, appeals and complaints in the right format. A booklet on RTI in Urdu with eight `success stories' will keep the youth going for long.
UP information commissioner (IC), Hafiz Usman, who will be the chief guest said, "RTI should be used as a tool against corruption." The Act treats information seekers as equals and not as vote-bank and this is the message that will reach 100-odd madrassas, the hub of Muslim youths in the first training session to be held on RTI exclusively for members of their community.
The first session of the training programme will be held in Lucknow though participants will be from all over the state. "Men and women from ordinary walks of life can sit in the session and learn," said one of the trainers Najibur Rahman Nadvi. After each session participants will learn to write applications and how to make first and second appeals and complaints. Each application will be checked and mistakes pointed out to participants.
Youth will be encouraged to use RTI to know what schemes they are entitled to benefit under and in case they have been kept away from the benefits, what are the reasons. The organisers said they will hold similar sessions in other districts too in future.
"It was information sought via RTI on Waqf properties that made us file petition in the Supreme Court in September 2013," said RTI activist Salim Baig, adding, "UPA government announced Waqf Nigam after we questioned it using RTI." Eight success stories on RTI that the 30-page booklet contains were the ones sought by Muslim activists.
Implementation of RTI Act in UP completes 10 years in October. The session, therefore, will also take stock of RTI implementation in UP.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Candidates cry foul over 2012 Rajasthan Administrative Services exam marking

Zee News: Kota: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
Scores of candidates who appeared for the 2012 Rajasthan Administrative Services exam are claiming glaring discrepancies in the marking of their answer sheets after accessing the same using RTI applications.
Several of these candidates, who have successfully cleared the exam whose result was announced in July this year, said that their ranking has suffered due to the alleged inconsistency in the marking pattern wherein the same answer has been ticked correct in one script but marked as incorrect in another.
Charging that the scripts obtained by them shows that the marking for the RAS 2012 was done without a model answer key, these candidates are now demanding a CBI inquiry into the matter and have formed an 'RAS Pariksha Sangharsh Samiti' to pursue the matter.
"After the RAS 2012 results were declared, around 300 candidates who got selected but were not satisfied with their ranking acquired the answer sheets through RTI," said Ravindra Mohan Sharma, the president of the Samiti.
"Shocking state of wrong and incorrect marking was found in these answer sheets, clearly indicating that they were checked without model answer keys," he added.
Jyoti, a teacher at a government school here, said, "Several of my correct answers have been ticked as wrong, causing me a loss of over 20 marks." Having appeared for RAS 2012, Jyoti, too, had accessed her answer sheets using RTI after she was selected for the allied services.
Another teacher at the government senior secondary school, Rajkumari, who similarly obtained her answer sheets using RTI, said that many of her correct answers were marked incorrect while, in other places, she was not marked properly.
Meanwhile, one Alok Sharma, who said he was placed 65th in RAS 2010 but qualified at 440th in the 2012 exam, claimed that incorrect marking had cost him between 50 to 60 marks.
"The marking pattern of the commission has left hundreds of eligible candidates shocked and disappointed," he said. Sharma claimed that the instances of inconsistent marking points to a "selection scam".
He said that over 17,000 candidates had appeared in RAS 2012 main exams of which 3,000 had qualified for the interview. The process had finally seen 1,211 candidates being selected to the prestigious state service.
Some candidates have further claimed that they have received threats after they posted images of the answer sheets obtained through RTI on social media.
The allegations by these candidates come even as the CBI is investigating massive irregularities in the alleged Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh.

Crop insured without farmers' consent in Chhattisgarh

Business Standard: Raipur: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
Hirasingh Markam, a farmer in Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari district, was elated that he did not owe any debt during kharif season 2014-15.
He had not taken farm loan under the government scheme to keep himself debt-free. But when he received the statement from the agriculture credit cooperative society, he was shunned.
The document underlined that an amount of Rs 4,000 had been deducted from his Kisan Credit Card (KCC) account that he had to repay.
Markam, who owned 10 acres of land in Nagri of Dhamtari district, approached the authorities and informed that he had not availed the farm loan and hence was ineligible for crop insurance.
The crop insurance was mandatory for those farmers who had taken loan. Ironically, the authorities said a loan had been sanctioned in his name (not disbursed) and hence he was covered under the crop insurance scheme.
"This was not a single incident, over a million farmers across the state had been duped in the name of crop insurance," Ramashankar Gupta, Right to Information (RTI) activist, said.
After collecting relevant documents and details through the RTI Act, Gupta alleged that the entire exercise was to help the private insurance companies that were engaged in crop insurance scheme last year, Gupta said.
According to Gupta, Rs 335 crore premium amount was deducted from the farmers’ account without their consent and paid to the insurance companies.
He added that the crops that were not notified under the scheme were also covered and premium deducted from the farmers’ account. Moreover, a farmer taking crop in two acres of land was forced to pay premium for 10 acres of land that had been mentioned in the KCC records.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Ajit Jogi had demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter.
"The farmers did not know and their farm, crops were insured,” Jogi said.
The scheme was weather based but the insurance companies did not install the required instrument for rainfall measurement and denied claims to farmers, he added. Besides the private insurance companies, the senior officials of the agriculture department and administration were also accountable, Jogi said.
Chhattisgarh’s agriculture minister Brijmohan Agrawal denied speaking on the issue.

Govt yet to issue notification for Mihan PAPs’ rehab

Times of India: Nagpur: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
The state cabinet had announced a Rs740 crore additional relief package for Mihan project affected persons (PAPs) with much fanfare in July 2015. Even though more than two months have passed, the government is yet to issue a notification in this regard. The PAPs, who have been denied their due, are now in agitation mode.
Natraj Pillai, the leader of the Mihan Prakalpgrast Punarvasan Samiti (MPPS), said that the PAPs had decided to conduct a peaceful agitation. "Rajkumar Pande will go to Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) office everyday and present a rose to the officials. He will be accompanied by Suresh Shambharkar and they will seek information under Right to Information (RTI) Act," he said adding that it was the job of MADC officials to know the latest status of the notification.
Pillai further said that some PAPs were living in dilapidated houses. "The houses have not been repaired for last 15 years because the PAPs knew that they would be relocated and the money spent on repairs will not be reimbursed by the government. If any accident happens, MADC and the government will be responsible," he said.
The PAP leader also charged MADC with apathy towards vocational training of PAPs. "MADC so far has signed agreements with 20 companies and hundreds of people have been recruited. But, not a single PAP has been given a job," he said.
Sanjay Bonde, a nominated BJP corporator of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), who is a member of the samiti, said that he had talked to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis but did not get any information regarding the reasons for pendency of the notification. "If it comes to that, I will lead the agitation. The stir will be against the callous government officials. Our party does not stop us from agitating against the administration for public causes," he said.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the proposal was pending with the finance ministry. "It will issue the GR very soon," he said without giving reasons for the delay.
The government's apathy towards rehabilitation is delaying the Mihan project. The government was forced to go in for extra compensation as the remaining PAPs were not ready to relocate until they got satisfactory compensation.

Health officers booked for accepting allowance without valid degrees

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
BMTF registers FIR after RTI activist files query on officials' qualifications.
The Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) registered an FIR against 12 BBMP health officers and other BBMP officials on Thursday. Reason: The officers have been getting post-graduation allowance even though the masters degree from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences is not recognised as a PG course.
The BBMP medical health officers are in dock after an RTI activist sought information on their educational qualifications. It was found many health officers have provided unrecognised post-graduation (PG) certificates to the BBMP administration to seek PG allowances which are provided to the medical health officers. As per Medical Council of India's post graduate medical education regulation 2000, Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Diploma in Public Health (DPI) are not considered PG qualifications in public health.
The 11 accused medical health officers listed in the FIR are Dr Vedavathi BJ, Dr Sujatha S, Dr G Dhanalakshmi, Dr Komala K R, Dr N Bhagyalakshmi, Dr Nayanatara N Patil, Kalavathi Devi L, Dr Sunitha B, Dr Sandya Rani, Dr Sanghamitra and BBMP officials and others.
Speaking to BM, Udaya Shankar P, an RTI activist, said, "A few months ago, I had complained to the BBMP health officials about an encroachment on the Rajakaluve in DJ Halli where some residential and commercial establishments were raised. But the health officer did not take it seriously. When asked to lodge a complaint against these encroachers, they did not take any action. Later, I applied for an RTI asking the list of BBMP health officers and their educational qualification. I got to know that many health officers do not have the recognised PG degrees but were still taking the allowances. They were also given promotions from assistant surgeons to medical officers of health (MOH), for which they were not eligible."
The RTI reply sought on the recognised and unrecognised courses from the Directorate of Medical Education (DME), stated, "According to the DME, three years postgraduate course in community medicine exists in postgraduate seat matrix of government of Karnataka and courses such as MPH (2 years) and DPH (1 year) do not exist in postgraduate seat matrix of government of Karnataka."
"I asked the BBMP administrator then to not consider MPH for promotion as per MCI postgraduate medical education regulation 2000, as MPH is not a PG qualification on public health. I also asked him to withhold the PG allowance of Rs 8,000 to the doctors and recover the arrears of the allowance amount already paid since two years. The BMTF has to conduct a detailed enquiry against the officials for the negligence and injustice from which the BBMP has spent and lost crores from these tainted health officers," said Shankar.
When BM contacted one of the medical health officers, Sujatha, she said, "I know about the complaint that is lodged with BMTF but I don't want to comment on it." The phone numbers of the other medical health officers were either switched off or not reachable when contacted.
BMTF superintendent of police P Shivakumar said, "There are 12 health officers who are accused of taking PG allowance by providing unrecognised certificates. We have registered a complaint and booked a cheating case against the accused, who include BBMP officials. The investigation is on and we have to verify in detail who are involved in this case."

Bhaskar got his info on email platter

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
Bhaskar's name was on the official list of mail recipients and he had been receiving information on his mail id,
A key accused in cases being probed by the SIT (special investigation team), V Bhaskar had managed to outsmart even the anti-corruption watchdog brass as every bit of information on the cases the people involved, and action taken by brass had been reaching him by default. Bhaskar's name was on the official list of mail recipients and had been receiving information on his mail id,
Access to such information, said insiders, was enough to lay trap to ensnare their prey officials facing inquiries. The names of all officials facing inquiries are mentioned in the public grievances, raids and traps sent out regularly from the Lokayukta office. This information used to reach Bhaskar and company, sources said.
"Most of the mails sent out by the Lokayukta office have been reaching them and, shockingly, has not stopped even after their arrest. This should be going on for several months and most of the information reached them well in advance, which could have been used for their personal gains. Hoodwinking officials, he had managed to ensure his name was in the list of people to whom information was disseminated from the lokayukta office," a source, who did not want to be named, told Bangalore Mirror.
Information sourcing was well planned
Strangely, even after his arrest by SIT, Upa Lokayukta Justice Subhash B Adi's recent order sent on Thursday from his official ID (Subhash B Adi too has reached Bhaskar. It seems Bhaskar and co, who are the accused in the scam, had put in a well-planned mechanism to source every bit of information from the Lokayukta office. Besides the office of PRO and the RTI route, they had put in place this mechanism to get information sent from the office.
With most cases pertaining to an accused or a government body, sources said, the information reaching their fingertips helped them. With the information obtained like this and taking names of Justice Y Bhaskar Rao and his son Ashwin, one could do a lot, the source explained. "Inclusion of any email ID to receive the Lokayukta brass communication happens after an approval of the brass. Bhaskar's name seems to have been included in the personnel section, who in turn could have done it for the purpose of passing information.
However, extra care should be taken as the mails go in the names of the brass, in this case, Upa Lokayukta. More care before sending information could prevent such things as misusing the information sent out through official IDs not only expose the accused smartness, but also the Lokayukta office's ignorance," the source added. A senior official said the act of sending the email to Bhaskar, even if done inadvertently, would be checked immediately.

RTI Losing Lustre, Thanks to Official Apathy

Indian Express: Thiruvananthapuram: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
Right to Information (RTI) Act, the groundbreaking legislation which has virtually ushered in a revolution of sorts, is fast losing its sheen in the state as the Information Commissioners are taking a lenient approach towards the Public Information Officers (PIOs) who are to respond to the RTI queries. And the outcome? the flow of information which could have benefited the public is impeded, heavily. It is the political affiliation of the Commissioners that is marring the purity of the Act, alleges the RTI activists.
“The PIOs dispense with the information when they fear that they will be penalised by the Commission for not doing so. If that fear were not there, there would be no pressure to give out the information sought which will render the Act meaningless,” said RTI activist D B Binu, general secretary, RTI Kerala Federation.
He pointed out that the RTI Act clearly stated that the Information Commissioners should not have political affiliation. “But following Namith Sharma vs Union of India case, another interpretation was brought which says the Commissioners will have to shed their political affiliations, once they take the oath. But in reality, we cannot simply assume that they would do it. In many cases, they assume the position because of their political leanings. And hence, they will not be in a position to prevent the intervention of political parties,” Binu said.
Another aspect that works against the RTI Act is that majority of the information sought through RTI query pertains to information on corruption, according to RTI activist Rasheed Anappara. “I constantly came under attack for seeking a mine of information through RTI,” he said.
An official document accessed from the State  Information Commission revealed that 10,162 complaint petitions and 14,005 appeal petitions were filed from 2006-2014.“The  pending list clearly shows that the petitioner is not going to get his questions answered immediately. Which means the information that has to be given out in 30 days or 48 hours will take years to come into the public domain,” Binu said.
The document also showed that 8,109 complaint petitions and 8,498 appeal petitions had been disposed of. “They just close the case directing the PIOs to shell out information,” he said. In fact an RTI applicant approaches the commission after he fails to get the answers to his queries through normal procedure. First they file the complaint petition and if it fails to elicit a reply, they go in for the appeal petition. Chief Information Officer Sibi Mathews, though, could not be reached for his comment. A retired Information Commissioner known for his chutzpah,  who asked not to be named, said, “To implement it properly, Commissioners should have a sense of commitment. Besides, if Commissioners are giving the cold shoulder in implementing RTI Act, it’s the government which has to look into whether the RTI Act is being implemented,” he said.

Can Travel on EMUs With Reserved Rail Ticket, Reveals RTI

Indian Express: Chennai: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
If you have a reserved ticket on the Pandian Express from Madurai to Chennai Egmore and get down at Tambaram to board a suburban train to Saidapet, you no longer need to buy a suburban train ticket. From July 30 this year, Indian Railways has decided to allow passengers holding reserved Mail/Express tickets to travel in suburban trains with the same ticket.
The only condition is that the destination station on the reserved ticket should be beyond the destination of the suburban journey.
This policy change, quite surprisingly, came to light not via an official press release or circular, but through a reply to an RTI petition filed by a resident of Chromepet in Chennai.
Earlier a number of passengers who followed this procedure were fined by the Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTE), who demanded to see the separate ticket for suburban trains. For example, for a person living in Chromepet, it would be simpler to get down at Tambaram and take a suburban train, rather than going all the way to Egmore and travelling back to Chromepet. Passengers would think that logically, they could be allowed to travel in an EMU train till Chromepet as it was before Egmore, but the earlier railway rules mandated buying a unreserved suburban ticket for the journey.
Many, especially those alighting after overnight journeys, would avoid buying a suburban ticket at the deserted station counters at odd hours and then face a fine. That, however, has now been changed. The RTI reply brings to light how the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) of the Railways does not allow reservation up to an intermediate station for a distance less than 501 km.
“There have been many passengers who in the past were not informed of this and have had to face fines. This will bring relief to them,” said, Srinivasan Nambi, a resident of Chennai in an Facebook post.
A railway official said that this would benefit thousands, as many were in the habit of getting down from their passenger trains at Arakkonam and taking a local to Avadi instead of travelling up to Central, similar to the Tambaram-Chromepet-Egmore example.

MIC to observe RTI Week 2015 Imphal: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
Manipur Information Commission (MIC) will be observing the Right to Information Week 2015 from October 5-12 with the objective of popularizing the RTI Act, 2005 and spreading awareness amongst stakeholders.
The opening ceremony of RTI Week is scheduled to be held at the auditorium of Manipur Film Development Corporation (MFDC), Palace Compound.
A day-long State Level Workshop on various aspects of the RTI Act will be held on the opening day.
The MIC secretary has informed that a workshop at Bishnupur District Headquarter will be held on October 7, a quiz competition at the State Guest House, Sanjenthong Imphal on October 9 where a valedictory functions will be held on October 12.
All the departments of SPIO, ASPIO, FAA, interested person(s) and RTI activists, school/college students have been invited to attend the observation.

Delhi's private hospitals give cold shoulder to the poor : This startling revelation was revealed by a Delhi government's reply to an RTI application.

India Today: New Delhi: Saturday, 03 October 2015.
No country for the poor, is what the National capital is fast becoming so far as access to quality healthcare goes. This startling revelation was revealed by a Delhi government's reply to an RTI application.
According to the reply, the Delhi government has informed that all such private hospitals in Delhi that are obligated to treat Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) patients in lieu of having allotted government land in cheap rates, admitted a measley number of such patients per year since 2010. According to Delhi government records the city has got 42 such hospitals.
In response to an RTI filed by the India chapter of corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), the Directorate of Health Services informed that since January 2010, all these hospitals had treated 500 to 850 such patients in an average every year till 2014 their in patient departments (IPD). From January to May this year, they treated around nine patients on an average from the economically weaker sections of the society.
Another shocking RTI revelation revealed that these hospitals had almost failed to cater to the poor sections of government servants. From April 2011 to March 2015 the number of patients from C and D groups of government servants who got treatment at these 42 hospitals in their OPD was 4, 27, 18, 26 and 35 in the corresponding years. Interestingly, only 2 patients of these classes were treated in the IPDs of these hospitals in 2010-11; 7 in 2011-12; 1 and 2 in the subsequent years; and none between April 2014 to March 2015.
While Class C includes head clerks and section heads, police head constables, army havildars among others, Class D includes manual workers, lower division clerks, drivers to name a few.
Ironically, the Directorate of Health Services has denied having any knowledge of the number of such private hospitals which got land at subsidised rates from the government and that they were under obligation to treat EWS patients free of cost.
While Mail Today contacted several of these hospitals, such as Max Hospital, Rockland Hospital and Apollo Hospital, they refused to comment. TI also told Mail Today that they had also written to Delhi's health minister Satyendra Jain, but got no response from him. "We wrote to the minister highligting these problems on August 5, but we have not heard from him since," said Ashutosh Kumar Mishra, Executive Director of TI-India.
"This is an extremely sad situation where these patients are denied treatment in hospitals, though the condition is now improving in some of the hospitals," EWS Monitoring Committee member Ashok Aggarwal told Mail Today.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Akola barrage project cost rose 188% in two years

Times of India: Mumbai: Friday, 02 October 2015.
Virtually every irrigation project approved in the past decade seems to be riddled with irregularities as more dirt emerges in the mega dam scam. The latest revelations pertain to the Purna Barrage-2 project (Nerdhamna) in Akola district. Its cost unexpectedly increased from Rs 182 crore to Rs 525 crore between 2009 and 2011.
Documents procured by the Nagpur-based NGO Jan Manch under the Right to Information Act show the project was approved, tender process initiated and advance money hurriedly sanctioned to the contractor. The proposal to sanction a mobilization advance of Rs 28 crore to the contractor travelled across four districts and was approved within three days. The Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) pushed the project through despite knowing the barrage's design was still tentative.
The chief engineer, Amravati, had requested WAPCOS, a public sector consultant under the Union water resources ministry, to design the barrage as the state central design organization had no experience to design such a huge structure on black cotton soil. "Instead of waiting for the design, VIDC officials, allegedly under political pressure, floated and awarded the tender to a joint venture company, SMS Infrastructure-D Thakkar Constructions," said official sources. SMS Infrastructure is owned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ajay Sancheti.
In 2011, WAPCOS finally submitted the design two years after the tender was awarded and work on the project was already 40% complete. In August 2011, the executive engineer, Akola irrigation division, informed the contractor that the project cost had now shot up to Rs 521.5 crore because of the new design. "Since 30% to 40% work is completed as compared to revised cost, you are requested to accelerate and submit the work programme by increasing machinery, manpower and raw material at site so as to complete the work at the earliest," said the letter to the contractor.
But when the contractor demanded payment for the excess work, the executive engineer wrote back that he had still to take sanction for the excess work from the VIDC headquarters in Nagpur. "This is illegal. How can a new design at inflated cost be allowed without the approval of VIDC?" said sources.
Soon after the tender was awarded in 2009, VIDC quickly sanctioned a mobilization advance to the contractor. The tender document had no provision for sanctioning such advance money. However, a subsequent government resolution said it was releasing the advance payment because the contractor had asked for it.
Official documents show the proposal file to release money to the contractor travelled swiftly across four districts within just three days. The file moved from the division and circle office in Akola to the chief engineer's office in Amravati, from where it was sent to the VIDC headquarters in Nagpur. From Nagpur, the file reached Mantralaya in Mumbai, where the then water resources minister Ajit Pawar gave the final nod. The entire process was completed between March 24-26, 2009.
Documents also show that none of the three bidders "qualified" to execute the work. Tender conditions stipulated past five years' experience of various construction activities. However, a contractor produced undated certificates of experience. "It was found the certificate of work of the winning bidder was completed in 1999," said Jan Manch. RTI documents also show that two of the three bidders were associates in concerns with common directors. The NGO alleged that many of the certificates are also forged.
Jan Manch said it asked the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) to investigate the project, along with several others. But top ACB officials said they will require the permission of the state government, especially since BJP heavyweights are involved.

Police dept to pay for delay in giving info under RTI Act

Chandigarh Tribune: Amritsar: Friday, 02 October 2015.
The Chief Information Commission (CIC), Punjab, has imposed a penalty of Rs 2,000 on the office of the Director-General of Police for the delay in providing information regarding enhancement in the strength of the police force in the state. It took the DGP's office around one year to provide this information to a city-based RTI applicant. Incidentally, the RTI reply, too, gave vague information about the staff strength in the police department from 2004 to 2014.
Amritsar-based social activist Parbodh C. Bali had filed an RTI application on July 1, 2014 asking about the measures and the policy adopted by the police department to recruit its staff. He was curious to know about the sanctioned posts of OR (other rank) staff, like constables and head constables, which were lying unfilled year-wise from 2005 to 2014. He had also questioned the police about the difficulties analysed due to shortage of OR staff.
After a lapse of 30 days, Bali was asked to furnish the cost of information, to which he protested. Consequently, the Chief Information Commission ordered the police department to supply information free of cost. This time, the information was not provided fully. The public information officer of the police department made an excuse that does not fall under the purview of the RTI Act.
Bali said this was again contested by him and the decision went in his favour. Besides, the CIC ordered the office of the Director General of Police, Punjab, to shell out a compensation of Rs 2,000 to Bali for delayed supply of information, mental agony, detriment suffered and the slack behaviour of the PIO.
“I got the information on September 24, 2015. It has come out that the DGP, Punjab, has since 2005 never made any proposal to the government about requirement of constables but has appointed 18,239 constables during this period. This implied that these constables were appointed without any proposal and analyses. It shows that there is no law and rules in the DGP's office to analyse the need and fulfilling of posts” he said.
“I will again question the police on this aspect. Yet, I am relieved that the state information commission decided the matter on genuine grounds and arguments”, he added.

RTI queries hit 'no info' wall

Times of India: Kochi: Friday, 02 October 2015.
The relatives of Fort Kochi boat tragedy victims have not yet received documents required to file a suit for compensation.
Though they have submitted RTI applications seeking documents regarding the ill-fated boat, authorities, including the Kochi corporation, police, Cochin Port Trust, ports department and Oriental Insurance Company Ltd have not yet responded even after a fortnight.
This has given room to apprehension that authorities may be delaying it to 'manipulate' documents.
According to RTI activist advocate D B Binu, who has submitted an RTI application seeking documents regarding the ferry and fishing boats involved in the accident, authorities should have responded to the RTI application within 48 hours.
"As per clauses in the RTI Act, a reply to the RTI application should be given within 48 hours if it affects the life and liberty of people. None of the authorities have responded to the application by relatives," said Binu.
Though the police gave a copy of the first investigation report (FIR) to Peter, father of Sebastian Shilton who was killed in the accident, it is not enough to move court for seeking adequate compensation from respondents.
"It has been a fortnight since I gave the RTI application. Of all the documents sought, I only got a copy of the FIR. But it doesn't even have important details like the number of deaths," said Peter.
"Police have not given copies of scene 'mahassar', autopsy report, deposition statements of witnesses, etc.," he said.
A few days ago, ADGP P Padmakumar, the officer probing the case, had held a meeting with the relatives and locals as part of the investigation.
"At the meeting, I took up the issue. The ADGP gave us assurance that he would ask the Mattancherry police to provide all documents immediately. When the relatives approached the police, they said they have not received any instructions in this regard," said Hycinth, president, Mother Teresa Global Foundation, and former councillor of Kochi corporation.
ADGP Padmakumar told TOI that he would look in to the issue. "I had given the assurance to relatives. I will check it now," he said.
While the corporation has failed to provide the details of the agreement with the boat operator, the ports department is delaying replies to queries on safety measures in the boat and the names of officials who conducted inspections.
"We had submitted an RTI application to Oriental Insurance Company, which is said to have provided insurance coverage for the boat. But, they have not responded. This underlines the allegations that authorities are taking time to forge documents," Binu said.

Govt did not respond on tribal rights report for 8 months: RTI

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Friday, 02 October 2015.
A central ministry has been stalling the implementation of a high-level government panel report on tribal rights by simply not expressing its opinion on the recommendations to impose tough norms to protect tribespeople from land alienation.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has not responded in the past eight months to a slew of letters from the tribal affairs ministry (MoTA) asking for its comments on the report, HT has learnt through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The panel headed by Prof Virginius Xaxa from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was constituted by the UPA government to suggest policy interventions to improve the socio-economic, health and educational status of tribals on the lines of the Sachar Committee for Muslims.
The committee submitted its report to the NDA government last May, suggesting several tough measures to be inserted into the Land Acquisition Act. Prohibition on non-tribals, including private companies, taking over tribal land, making gram sabha consent compulsory for acquisition of land even for government use and introduction of penalties against deliberate flouting of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) were among the recommendations.
The environment ministry in the past tried to do away with the gram sabha consent clause on diverting forestland for industrial purposes, a requirement under the FRA which some see as a hurdle to the NDA government’s economic development push.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the tribal affairs ministry in December last year to get comments from various ministries and state governments before a final decision on the report.
Government documents reveal except the environment ministry, all the key ministries and state governments have sent their comments to the tribal affairs ministry, most of them endorsing the panel’s findings.
The government’s own think tank, NITI Aayog, has said the two ministries should work together to prevent FRA violation during the diversion of forestland for industrial use.
The environment ministry said in a letter this year that it had not received a copy of the report only after the tribal affairs ministry threatened to go ahead with a decision on the recommendations.
“We had sent a copy of the report to all the ministries and states in December itself. When they (MoEFCC) got back to us, we sent them another copy but we did not get any response even then,” said a tribal affairs ministry official.
The environment ministry’s assistant inspector general (forests policy) SN Mishra initially expressed his ignorance about the report, but later told HT his ministry was finalising its comments on it.
It’s been 16 months since the committee submitted its report, but it has not been made public. “We were waiting for comments from all the stakeholders. We will now put up thereport for a final decision without waiting any further,” said the tribal affairs ministry official.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

CIC Directive to Centre on Polavaram Tribal Rights' Protection

Indian Express: Hyderabad: Thursday, 01 October 2015.
Central Information Commissioner (CIC) M Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar) has directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to inform whether forest rights of tribal people were recognised, and the written consent of the gram sabhas were obtained for the rehabilitation package under the Polavaram Irrigation Project.
The direction of CIC was in response to appellant D Suresh Kumar, who filed an RTI application with Forest Conservation Division of Union Environment and Forests ministry on November 10, 2014 seeking detailed information about Forest Clearance granted to the Polavaram Project.
Suresh Kumar, in his petition, sought copies of the report given by the special officer sent by the ministry and action taken thereon regarding the rights of the tribal people. He also sought the correspondence copies between the Centre and AP government. He contended that pursuant to grant of Stage-II Forest Clearance for Polavaram project, the MoEF received various representations from the affected villages of Polavaram project complaining about the non-implementation of Forest Right Act(FRA).
On this, the ministry after various communications with AP government about the non-implementation of FRA, on  February 2, 2011, sent a letter to the then AP government stating that the Director General of Forest & Secretary (DGF&SS) would shortly visit the villages affected by the said project to have on the spot assessment of the matter.
Seeking relevant documents, Suresh Kumar had earlier filed an RTI Application at the Ministry of Environment and Forests, alleging that the government claimed all powers over forests against the people living in it.The CIC held that there was no reason to deny this information to the appellant.

Activists, N-power Station Spar Over Volcano Study

Indian Express: Chennai: Thursday, 01 October 2015.
The refusal to make public a study commissioned by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) to check the claimed presence of a sub-surface volcano near the nuclear power station has sparked a controversy. Environment activists believe that the report might confirm their suspicions on this. BHAVINI runs the Kalpakkam nuclear power station.
The environment activist group Poovulagin Nanbargal (PN) which filed the RTI appeal argued that the report might confirm their fears about presence of a volcano near the nuclear station. “If a volcano is indeed present off the coast, then the atomic power station must have added safety features as was the case in Japan,” said G Sunderrajan, coordinator of PN.
In 2013, officials of the Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station representing the NPCIL had wanted to debunk the volcano theory raised by M Vetriselvan, a lawyer and PN member, in a writ petition in the Madras HC.
In the counter-affidavit, the station director, MAPS, Kalpakkam had stated that Rs 12.08 lakh had been set aside for a study by expert agencies to ‘allay doubts on the existence of the alleged volcano’. He added that Indian history of the past 500-700 years had no mention of any volcanic activity near Kalpakkam or Pondy coast.
The AERB was aware of information in the Smithsonian Global Volcanism programme official website about a volcano 100-110 km from Kalpakkam, the board’s chief public information officer Dr Pankaj Tandon had replied in an RTI in 2013.
The study was done by the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, which replied in the RTI filed in August this year that the report had been submitted to BHAVINI.
Both BHAVINI and NGRI refused to provide a copy of the report under the RTI, citing confidentiality.
“This study was done using public funds and they are bound to show it to the public,” said Sunderrajan. Officials of BHAVINI were not available to comment.