Tuesday, March 03, 2015

‘No guidelines for appointing PSC chairpersons’

The Hindu: Bangalore: Tuesday, 03 March 2015.
There are no guidelines for making appointments to the posts of chairpersons and members of any State Public Service Commissions or the Union Public Service Commission, the State Advocate-General told the Karnataka High Court on Monday.
A-G Ravivarma Kumar made submissions on this during the hearing of a PIL petition, which sought a direction to the authorities concerned to frame guidelines prior to appointing the chairperson and other members of the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC).
He told the court that a request for framing guidelines has been sent to the Union government. Further hearing of the petition has been adjourned.
Ladies Club
The High Court on Monday stayed the order of the Karnataka Information Commission, which had declared the Ladies Club, Bengaluru as a “public authority” coming under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
Justice S. Abdul Nazeer passed the interim order on the petition filed by the club, which has questioned the January 23, 2015 order of the KIC. The KIC had passed the order on a complaint by one S. Umapathi. The KIC had also directed the club to appoint a ‘Public Information Officer’ as stipulated under Sec.5(1) and the ‘Appellate Authority’ under Sec.19(1) of the of RTI Act.

Activist denied info on environment clearance

Assam Tribune: Guwahatti: Tuesday, 03 March 2015.
It seems the State Level Environment Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of the State is trying to cover up some environment-related information of public interest. Or else, RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury sees no reason as to why it should deny him information on the environment clearance it has issued to the ‘B’ Category projects. The information assumes significance because of the presence of several such projects in the radius of 10 km from the Kaziranga National Park (KNP).
The ‘B’ Category projects include mining of minor mineral covering less than 50 hectares (like stone quarries and sand mining, etc), hydroelectric power projects of less than 50 MW, coal-based thermal power project of less than 50 MW, construction projects covering less than 2,00,000 square metres, township project in less than 50 hectares, and cement plant generating less than one million tonnes per annum.
The SEIAA, Assam, has not furnished the information under RTI Act, 2005, to Choudhury till date on the Environment Clearance (EC) issued to the Category ‘B’ projects between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014.
Choudhury filed an RTI application on November 6, 2014 seeking information on the number of ECs issued to the Category ‘B’ projects between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014.
Choudhry alleged that as the information was not furnished by SEIAA, a First Appeal in this regard was filed on Dec 29, 2014, with a request to provide him the information free of cost, as SEIAA has violated the stipulated time period of providing information within 30 days from receiving the RTI application.
But the chairman of SEIAA furnished him only half information on January 8, 2015. On the copies of the Environment Clearance, he was told, “Necessary cost shall be paid to the authority for photocopies of EC issued by SEIAA, Assam for B category projects. Amount required to be paid will be intimated to you later on.”
Choudhury contends that Section 7(6) of RTI Act, 2005, states “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (5), the person making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits specified in sub-section (1).”
The above information is important to know the number of projects (especially stone quarries) accorded environment clearance by the State government with prior approval of the National Board for Wildlife to operate within a 10-km radial distance from KNP. The government has turned a blind eye to the rampant mining in the adjoining Karbi Anglong hills.
The June 18, 2003 letter of the then Director of KNP, in this connection has been ignored by the State government, he said. On top of all these, none of the minutes of the last six meetings of National Board for Wildlife has any reference of the mining activities around KNP, and therefore, it is unlikely that any of the stone quarries has approval of NBWL, Choudhury said.

Are you a public body under RTI or not? CIC wants Delhi L-G's reply in 30 days

First post: New Delhi: Tuesday, 03 March 2015.
Asking the Delhi Lieutenant Governor's office to desist from adopting a flip-flop approach, the CIC has directed it to make clear within 30 days whether it considers itself a public authority under the Right to Information Act or not.
The case relates to an RTI applicant seeking to get from the Lt Governor's Office the communication exchanged with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Advocate General and Solicitor General in connection with the Khriki Extension raid where the then Law Minister Somnath Bharti's conduct came under question.
He had also sought copies of other communications exchanged between LG and some other authorities on various issues. In its reply, the office neither provided information nor did it dispute being a public authority under RTI Act.
The issue arose before Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu where officials representing the LG office cited a stay issued by Delhi High Court which was deciding on whether the office comes under the purview of the law.
"They (Lt Governor office) never raised the claim that the office of LG was not public authority under RTI Act, 2005, until recently when they obtained a stay order from the Delhi High Court," Acharyulu pointed out.
Stating that LG office was violating the fundamental right to equality given under Article 14 of the Constitution, he said, "Strangely, the office of LG took a peculiar stand that whenever it is feasible it will conduct itself as a 'public authority' under the RTI Act to give information, and whenever it is not, it will raise the claim that it is not a public authority."
Acharyulu directed LG office to inform and explain their contradictory stand and firm decision whether it wants to be public authority within 30 days.
"The people of Delhi have a right to know whether their LG office is public authority or not... This is needed because it will kick up unnecessary litigations and increase the pendency on Delhi High Court," he said.
Acharyulu said the position taken by LG office is not in accordance with the avowed policy called 'National Litigation Policy' wherein the state is advised to behave like a responsible litigant and to identify and withdraw unnecessary litigation.
When asked by Acharyulu whether LG office will respond to other appeals related to it before the Commission, officials said in spite of this stand that the matter of it being public authority under stay, it was ready to furnish information "to the extent feasible by them".
"But taking a U-turn to say that they are not public authority is whimsical and arbitrary intended only to deny information about certain questions and to certain people.
"For some RTI applications, citizens will get information about certain questions and to certain people because office of LG considers itself as public authority, and some RTI applicant citizens will not get because same office does not consider it as public authority," he said.
The Information Commissioner said even as they are producing a copy of the stay order received from the Delhi High Court, they agreed to comply with the orders of the CIC and follow RTI Act in half-a-dozen cases.
"I will give information whenever I like or whomever I like or whenever it is convenient to me, and if not, not. This is not the law. Parliament passed RTI law only to avoid this discriminatory attitude of the government offices. They should not act according to their whims and fancies in sharing information with public," he said.
The Commissioner said the office has been responding to RTI requests without protests so far whereas the office should have chosen to invoke the provisions of the RTI Act empowering them not to answer and taken the issue to higher court for clarification.
"By acquiescence the public authority has conceded that they are public authority. They cannot approbate or reprobate or blow hot and cold at a same time. It is against principle of natural justice," he said.

Monday, March 02, 2015

GU to ‘open’ its answer books

Ahmedabad Mirror: Ahmedabad: Monday, 02 March 2015.
Gujarat University will put on its website answer sheets of the final year students of professional courses like medicine, management, mass communication and a few others. The university will extend the exercise to other subjects depending on the outcome of the pilot project that begins later this year. Incidentally, Gujarat Technological University had initiated a similar project under which it had begun assessment and made available to its students their evaluated answer books. GTU's has received good feedback on it and is planning to expand its scope.
Vice Chancellor M N Patel said the university was digitalising its work gradually. Admissions, keeping record of office and a few other important functions have already been put online. Documents are being digitised with a view to making information readily available. Culling experience from these activities, the university has decided to put online the answer books of final semester students of professional courses. The idea is to make the evaluation system more transparent and teachers more vigilant while helping students to see their own answer books as well as others'. As these scripts will be available to juniors, they will benefit by referring to them, Patel said.
Some students use RTI route to access their evaluated answer sheets. This step will help them get direct access to them. The vice chancellor thinks there is a lot of potential for development work in the university, but the sheer number of students running into lakhs makes the work humongous and very challenging. "That is why we have taken this pilot project and based on the response, we will take further decision." The vice chancellor thinks there is a lot of potential for development work in the university, but the sheer number of students running into lakhs makes the work humongous and very challenging. "That is why we have taken this pilot project and based on the response, we will take further decision."
However, GTU is facing certain problems in its project. The answer scripts are sent to the evaluators in digital form, but they experience bandwidth issues. Students have welcomed the move, but are a bit guarded at the same time. Said BJ Medical Junior Doctor Association Hiren Rana, "It is a very good initiative, but there could be problems too. If we talk of medical examinations alone, each answer book could run into 70 or even 80 pages. There might be differences in presentation of answers and this could lead to controversies. Some people might even misuse the facility that is actually taken in good faith."
Another medical student, Nirav said, "As I understand, officials do upload answer keys in PG medical examination. We would welcome teachers evaluating the answer books with more responsibility but some people may misuse the facility." Some students are skeptical of the move though. "The university is talking of digitising evaluation process and taking other big steps. But its website has not been updated for a long time. A lot of information which we are expected to get online, is not uploaded. Why, the basic task of announcing results online does not happen on time. The university needs to focus on its basic functions first," said a student requesting anonymity.

186 abortions occur daily in Maharashtra

The Asian Age: Mumbai: Monday, 02 March 2015.
Some 91,231 women have undergone medical termination of pregnancy in the state in the last four years while there have been 1,036 maternal deaths. A latest RTI report procured from the public health department says that on an average 186 women are undergoing the procedure daily.
The high abortion rates show lack of awareness of family planning measures and the prevalence of daughter aversion in the state, according to non-government organisations working in the area.
Highlighting the reasons for the high number of abortion deaths, doctors said unchecked use of medical termination pills, post-abortion complications, frequent abortions and aborting a child after 20 weeks which is illegal were leading to complications and death.
The information on the rate of medical termination of pregnancy in the state and abortion deaths in the last four years has been furnished by RTI activist Chetan Kothari.
The year 2013-14 saw the highest number of abortions in which there were 30,117 cases while a total of 276 died during the procedure.
Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara, said many women died owing to frequent abortions. “Many women go for sex-selective abortions after undergoing sex determination tests, which are still illegally prevalent in many places. Daughter aversion is high in the state,” said Ms Shah.
Experts also pointed out that there was a lack of awareness on family planning measures among the common public. “During our field trips we have seen many women who are not aware of the presence of such a system. Even when they are, they are not allowed to demand it, as men are dominating their choices,” said Naureen Daruwala, programme director for NGO SNEHA.
“Then there are factors such as social stigma and embarrassment related to demanding contraception, which the government still has not been able to address,” she further added.
However, Archana Patil, additional director of the public health department, added that though the figures were significant, abortions were not always due to lack of awareness. “There are many cases in which abortion is necessary as there is a threat to the mother’s health or the child has been detected with an anomaly. A huge number of women are conceiving due to failure of contraceptives. Abortions are also performed in case of pregnancies owing to rape, which is adding to the numbers,” said Ms Patil.
Doctors said that negligence of the common man is adding to the problem.
“In the first trimester, that is in less than seven weeks of the pregnancy, the patient can undergo abortion with the use of pills, but that has to be used after tests. If the pregnancy is intra-uterine, the use of pills can lead to major complications, which women don’t realise,” said Dr Sonal Kunta, senior gynaecologist from Fortis Hospital, Mulund.
She added that abortion after seven weeks cannot be done without a specialised gynaecologist. “It is done through suction evacuation before 12 weeks and through surgical procedure after three months, but only after careful examinations,” added Dr Kunta. She later said that these procedures too could lead to complications such as perforation and excess bleeding which has to be taken care of immediately by the expert.
Dr Rajshri Katke, senior gynaecologist, Cama Hospital, said that only the help of registered gynaecologist at registered centres must be sought in case of abortions. “Unchecked use of any kind of pills or surgical procedure leads to such complications that can cause death,” said Dr Katke.

PGI official arrested for forging job documents

Hindustan Times: Chandigarh: Monday, 02 March 2015.
Police on Saturday arrested an assistant administrative officer (AAO) of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) for allegedly producing fake documents to get a job at the PGIMER in 2009.
The accused has been identified as Dinesh Kumar, a resident of Sector 24, Chandigarh. He was working as the AAO at the institute.
According to police, complainant Sanjay Trikha, an administration officer at the the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, levelled allegations against the accused for producing the false documents.
Police said the accused was earlier employed as an accountant with the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) on contractual basis.
He had applied for the post of the AAO at PGIMER in 2009, and to join the institute, he had to obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from the PSWC.
Though the NOC had to be submitted after signing the document by the PSWC, Dinesh himself signed the certificate and submit it to PGIMER.
The matter came to the fore after the employees’ union of the institute filed an RTI, which reads that an employee cannot submit the NOC. After receiving the complaint, the forensic lab team of Chandigarh Police found the signatures on the NOC fake, and that it didn’t belong to any official of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation.
Meanwhile, acting on the complaint, a case under section 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against accused at Sector-11 police station.

Book officials responsible for missing govt files: High Court

The Asian Age: Mumbai: Monday, 02 March 2015.
The Bombay high court has ordered registration of FIR against government officials who refused to furnish information under the RTI on the grounds of missing files. The HC has directed the deputy secretary of urban development department to lodge a police complaint against the concerned officers.
A division bench of the HC further directed that after filing the FIR, the investigation must be completed within six months and it should be headed by an officer not below the rank of deputy commissioner of police (DCP).
Justice Abhay Oka and Justice A.S. Gadkari imposed fines of Rs 15,000 on the state government for the lapse on part of officers that led to a UDD file going ‘missing’. As a result, information under RTI Act could not be provided to an advocate.
“The case in hand is a classic example as to how the government officers protecting their fellow officers tend to frustrate the basic intention of the legislature behind the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005,” said the judges in their order last week. The HC was hearing a petition filed by Sangli-based advocate Vivek Vishnupant Kulkarni (58), who is also an office- bearer of Swatantraya Veer Savarkar Pratishthan, a voluntary group which runs two schools.
The petitioner filed an application on September 5, 2008, with the Section and Information Officer of UDD seeking information under RTI in respect of a Government Resolution (GR) dated August 21, 1996. The resolution pertained to release of various lands in and around Sangli city that were acquired by the government under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976. He sought information about the documents on the basis of which the GR was issued. In a communication dated September 22, 2008, the UDD information officer told Mr Kulkarni the required information sought by him was not available on the department’s record.
Dissatisfied by the inaction, the petitioner filed an appeal on November 27, 2008, before the deputy secretary of UDD, who is the first appellate authority, but was told that the information was not available with the information officer.
Mr Kulkarni then filed a second appeal on June 15, 2009, before the Pune bench of state information commission. The August 18, 2011 judgement of the second appellate authority noted that Suresh Kakani, joint secretary, government of Maharashtra, had expressed inability to comply with the direction to provide information to the petitioner in view of the missing file.
The HC bench then noted that it was mandatory for officers concerned to set criminal law in motion and find out the culprits responsible for the missing file.
(Pl click for Judgement)

Lodhi Club map never approved, Rs 34-lakh dues pending, says RTI reply

Indian Express: Ludhiana: Monday, 02 March 2015.
A high-end entertainment club in the city, Lodhi Club, with over 3,000 members and membership fee running into lakhs, never got its building map approved from the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, and for years it has also failed to pay the pending amount of almost Rs 34 lakh.
This was accepted by the Ludhiana MC and Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) in its written reply to an RTI application which was filed by two city residents.
Further, an astonishing fact which has come to light is that the land in posh locality of I-block of BRS Nagar, where the club building stands, was not allotted to Lodhi Club. It was allotted to Ludhiana Aviation Club which was to be built by Civil Aerodrome, Sahnewal (domestic airport of Ludhiana) and it was further leased to Lodhi Club.
A copy of the notice issued by the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, dated June 5, 2006, to Civil Aerodrome, says that in May 1987 a piece of land measuring 12,507 square yards in BRS Nagar was allotted for construction of Ludhiana Aviation Club. The LIT states that it is a complete violation of lease agreement that the aviation club never came up and the land was used to build an entertainment club, and the change of land use was done without any permission from LIT.
The notice, accessed by Newsline, told Civil Aerodrome to file a reply within 15 days and also pay the pending amount of allotment fee of Rs 14.33 lakh.
The deputy commissioner of Ludhiana in his ex-officio capacity is the president of Lodhi Club.
Now in its RTI reply to city residents Arvind Sharma and Gagandeep Singh, MC and LIT have accepted that the land was allotted for Civil Aviation Club at the rate of Rs 65 per square yard in 1987 and till date the club has failed to pay the pending sum of Rs 34 lakh which includes pending allotment sum, enhancement fund and penalties imposed for years.
MC and LIT state that (all documents with Newsline) that till date there is no copy of the approved map of the club building available with MC or LIT and the map was never passed. For common people, it is mandatory to get maps approved from the civic body before carrying out any construction. The club also never took any water or sewage connection from the MC and is only paying Rs 1,500 per month as disposable charges, says MC reply.
“The club is also encroaching on green belt of MC and getting vehicles parked there. Hoardings of shops are being removed as per new advertising policy but a huge hoarding promoting liquor in front of club has not been touched. MC has said that it never gave any permission to the club to install large hoarding,” said Sharma, who filed the RTI application.
Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal, when contacted, said, “Lodhi Club is an old building in the city and it is not appropriate to comment on this legal issue. If they have not paid dues, MC should take action and recover the amount.”
The applicants had also asked the MC about the efforts made till date to recover the amount and employees given the responsibility but it did not reply to the query.

Paramedic college violated guidelines, reveals RTI

Times of India: Nainital: Monday, 02 March 2015.
Students of a paramedical institute in Haldwani have alleged that they have been cheated by the owner of the institute. The RTI filed by one of the students revealed that the institute which promises six different courses, including programs for operation theatre technician, X-Ray technician and nursing assistant, has violated norms of paramedic education.
The students told TOI that they were promised quality education and placement at the end of the one year course, however, even after it ended in August last year, the management kept postponing the final examinations which are still pending.
"We were promised placements in both public and private sector organizations but nothing has materialized," said Rohit Kumar (24), a student of diploma in medical laboratory technology at the Ratnashila Hospital and Paramedical Institute in Kathgharia, Haldwani.
The RTI revealed that the institute violated the Uttrakhand State Medical Faculty guidelines of having a minimum of a two year course for these subjects.
As per the guidelines laid by the Uttrakhand State Medical Faculty for paramedical courses like operation theatre technician, an applicant must have science subjects (PCB) in high school. The duration is also up to two years and not one year as stated in the institute's prospectus.
"The exams are scheduled for March and a notice has already been put up at the institute. Those who are blaming us should go and ask Karnataka State Open University about the delay in exams," said Ratna Pandey, manager of the institute.
Many students with humanities background were also given admission in various paramedical courses. "We paid Rs 45,000 as fee while the management had initially told us that the fee would be Rs 20,000. There was no faculty. We were even forced to do night duties in the name of internship," said Ashima Rawat (24), a student at the institute.
The students had submitted written requests to the district officials and police for action against the institute last month.

After 2-year delay, man receives RTI reply, 40,000 pages long

Times of India: Agra: Monday, 02 March 2015.
DK Joshi, an RTI activist, got the shock of his life recently when an RTI query that he had posted, evoked a reply that ran into a whopping 40,000 pages!
In 2012, Joshi had filed a query regarding the amount of electricity consumed by sewage treatment plants since 2000.
After a two-year delay, he finally got a response from the Jal Nigam. A few days back, the department sent him a wordy reply recorded in 11 bulky bundles of paper.
A not-so-amused Joshi says that even now, just one of the six questions that he had raised, has been answered.
"I got the reply only after the information commission intervened. And they have not even given a proper reply to my queries on zone-wise distribution of sewer lines and the names of agencies that are funding them," he said.
Joshi, who also serves as a member of the Supreme Court monitoring committee on water supply, drainage and sewerage in Agra, had sought details on sewer lines, sewerage treatment plants (STPs), main pumping stations (MPS) and sewerage pumping stations (SPS) laid in the city since January 2000 and the expenses incurred on their maintenance and electricity consumption.
He said that the rampant misuse of funds in water treatment activities had prompted his RTI query. "Despite so much of money being spent on the maintenance of STPs and SPS/MPS, untreated water is going directly into the Yamuna. Every year, a huge amount is sanctioned by the Central and the state governments to clean the river, but its condition continues to deteriorate," he said.
The only positive to come out of the entire affair, though, was that the Jal Nigam's two-year-delay in replying probably saved Joshi a few thousand rupees. Had the civic body replied to the RTI within the stipulated 30-day period, he would have been forced to bear the cost of printing of the 40,000-odd pages.
Meanwhile, the activist said that he would go through the voluminous reply sent to him and also petition the Supreme Court on the rampant rising pollution in the Yamuna.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Gujarat Information Commission raps SSNNL: Provide information in 48 hrs on issues of life and liberty

Counterview: Ahmedabad: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
In an order major policy implication, Gujarat's chief information commissioner (CIC) has said that officials of the Gujarat government must respond to a right to information (RTI) query involving “question of life and liberty” within 48 hours, instead of keeping things pending. And, the CIC added, if the entire information is not there, “the available information should be provided within 48 hours” while rest of it could be “furnished expeditiously.”
Responding to a complaint by Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) over failure of the state body Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) to respond to a query of “untimely” release of Narmada canal waters into Banas river in North Gujarat, which led to the death of a woman, CIC Balwant Singh said in the order, “If the respondent is of the opinion that the matter on which information has been sought does not involve the question of life and liberty, he should, in his reply, clearly specify the reasons for the same.”
The order further said, if the official is of the opinion that the matter on which information has been sought “does not involve the question of life and liberty”, in that case also complainant should be told within 48 hours that “information shall be provided within the maximum period of 30 days”, as required by the RTI law.
Rapping the SSNNL for not acting in accordance with the RTI law, which insists under section 7(1) that reply to the complainant should be provided within 48 hours from the date of receipt of the application if it on questions concerning “life and liberty”, Singh has has now sought the reply of the SSNNL's public information officer (PIO) in writing “within seven days” as to “why penalty under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act be not imposed on him”.
Jog in her complaint dated January 6, 2015 to the Gujarat Information Commission had said that she had sought information under RTI on November 29, 2014 from the PIO, SSNNL, Gandhinagar and the local PIO of the SSNNL office in Radhanpur about the reason for the “untimely” release of Narmada canal waters into Banas river, which in turn flooded with saltpans of the Little Rann of Kutch.
The release of water, she said, “risked” the life of more than 1,000 families in the Santalpur area of the Little Rann. In fact, she claimed, the release of water into Banas river and the Little Rann of Kutch led to “a situation of disaster.”
According to Jog, the saltpan workers or agariyas “had to be evacuated from the Rann, and in the process, one mother died while delivering the baby while she was being taken out of the Rann in emergency.”
She said, “As no information was given by the SSNNL regarding the next release of water, and since there was no assurance that they will not release water without informing the people living in the Little Rann well in advance, the life of more than 1,000 families was at risk.”
Giving details to Counterview, Jog said, “In our RTI application we had also sought information on who exactly ordered the release of water from Narmda canal into Banas river, whether the saltpan workers and villagers were told in advance about it, whether there is any timetable for the release of water, and why couldn't easily readable boards not be put up for such release.”
She added, “No sooner the RTI query was put up in November-end 2014, the SSNNL became alert and stopped the release of water. Meanwhile, we were orally told by relevant officials that they were instructed to release water by someone in the top, and they were only obeying orders. Obviously, the SSNNL official found it difficult to name this person.”

Over Rs 208 crore earmarked for training of babus

Business Standard: New Delhi: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
Over Rs 208 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Personnel for 2015-16 to augment its training facilities for bureaucrats.
In the budget presented today by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Rs 208.91 crore has been earmarked for the Ministry to meet establishment-related expenditure of Institute of Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM), here and Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie.
Both the ISTM and LBSNAA arrange several training programmes including foundation courses, refresher courses and mid-career training among others to equip all levels or grades of secretarial functionaries with adequate exposure to the latest rules and regulations and aptitude.
The grant include expenditure on domestic or overseas travel, course fees etc in respect of Central Secretariat Service and Central Secretariat Stenographers Service officials who are to undergo mandatory training at ISTM as a pre-condition for consideration for promotion to higher grade, according to the Demand of Grants of the Ministry.
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension had got Rs 205.66 crore in 2014-15. The allocation was revised to Rs 179.48 crore for the ongoing fiscal.
The Finance Minister has also proposed to increase by over Rs 13 crore to Rs 43.55 crore the budgetary allocation for Central Information Commission (CIC) and Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) for 2015-16.
The grant of Rs 43.55 crore is to meet establishment related expenditure of PESB and CIC. This also includes provision for construction of office building of the CIC, dak digitization, setting up of video conferencing facilities, preparation of publicity material on RTI, setting up of call centre and establishment of wing for transparency and accountability studies for the transparency watchdog.
The Finance Ministry had given Rs 30.32 crore for the CIC and PESB in the ongoing fiscal which was later revised to Rs 24 crore.

DC convenes public grievances camp at Sumbal

Rising Kashmir: Bandipora: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
With a view to make proactive disclosure under Section 4 of J&K Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2009, a Public Grievances Camp was held under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner(DC) Bandipora, Shah Faisal at Nowgam Sumbal.
During the camp, comprehensive report with regard to losses and relief provided to the families affected by devastating floods was presented before the public.
Among others, Assistant Commissioner Revenue, concerned officers, Panchayat members besides people including flood victims attended the camp.

NGOs received over Rs 11,000cr from abroad in 2012-13

The Sunday Guardian: New Delhi: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
Non governmental organisations working in the country received more than Rs 11,028 crore from foreign countries in 2012-2013. Rs 3,772 crore came from different sources in the United States, which leads the list of countries from where money came to the NGOs. It is followed by Germany (Rs 1,086 crore) and United Kingdom (Rs 1,061 crore). The other countries that gave funds to the NGOs working in India include Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, Australia, France, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, UAE etc. The top 10 NGOs that received maximum funding in 2012-13 were World Vision of India (Chennai), Indian Society of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Delhi), Rural Development Trust (Ananthapur), Caruna Bal Vikas (Chennai), Action Aid (Bangalore), Compassion East (Kolkata), Plan International (Delhi), Aga Khan Foundation (Delhi), SoS Children's Village of India (Delhi) and Pratham Education Foundation (Mumbai). This information was provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in response to an RTI filed by a social activist.
There was uproar in the country last year following an Intelligence Bureau report, identifying several-foreign funded NGOs which are negatively impacting economic development. The report revealed that a significant number of Indian NGOs, funded by foreign donors, were using people-centric issues to create an environment which often stalled development projects.
The Centre monitors the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions received by any person, including NGOs in the country, as part of the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA) 2010. The Act provides for NGOs to receive funds after registration or prior permission. Every application made by the NGOs is decided after getting inputs from the concerned security agencies. The NGOs receiving foreign funds are required to submit annual returns of their accounts. These are scrutinised from time to time. As per information, registrations of as many as 4,138 associations under FCRA were cancelled as they did not file their annual returns during 2006-07 to 2008-09.
So far, as many as 24 cases have been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), while 10 cases have been referred to the state police for investigation. Some of the NGOs against which CBI cases are pending are Tamil Nadu Muslim Muneetra Kazagham (Tamil Nadu), Reach (Tamil Nadu), Abdul Kalam Azad Islamic Awakening Centre (Delhi), Khwaja Khushal Charitable Trust (UP), Anjumane Hussamia Educational Association (Hyderabad), says the MHA reply to the RTI query.
The government also found many NGOs to be fake, following ground level inspection. West Bengal and Orissa had the maximum number of NGOs, eight each, that had either shut down or did not exist. Karnataka and Maharashtra had six such NGOs. Four such NGOs were found in combined Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, while there were two such NGOs in Punjab.
As per information, 10,343 NGOs did not file annual returns in any of the financial years from 2009-10 to 2011-12. The government has issued notices to these organisations.

Indian Express Power List 2015: Top 10 Activists

Indian Express: New Delhi: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
Anna Hazare: His 2011 campaign spawned AAP. As he protests against the Centre’s proposed changes in rules for land acquisition, he wields a lot of influence.
Aruna Roy: Ex-IAS officer, Magsaysay award winner and currently a Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan member, she has been seen as a leader on RTI, MNREGA for decades.
Kailash Satyarthi: He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his work against child labour.
Prabhakar Kelkar: The chief of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farm wing of the RSS, has hit out at the government over the land ordinance.
Sheikh Ghulam Rasool: Convenor of the J&K RTI movement, his work in the state has kept the establishment on its toes, including during the floods.
Baba Adhav: A doctor and trade unionist of Maharashtra, he has brought together head loaders, rag-pickers, domestic workers and other weaker groups for pro-Dalit social reform.
Jean Dreze: The economist-cum-activist is a key voice in the the Right to Food campaign. He was instrumental in framing MGNREGA.
Medha Patkar: Thanks to her land-centred movements, the Narmada Bachao Andolan founder will remain important this year as the land acquisition law is changed.
Priya Pillai: The Greenpeace campaigner is the face of adversarial civil society. Made headlines when she was offloaded from a plane while on her way to the UK.
Teesta Setalvad: Her standoff with the Gujarat government- and by extension the Centre- over a memorial for 2002 riot victims makes hers a test case on how the govt deals with adversaries.

ADC sensitizes PIOs about RTI Act implementation

The Northlines: Reasi: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Reasi Shiv Kumar Gupta today called a meeting of all the district level officers (PIOs) with an objective to sensitize them about RTI Act, its implications and mode of answering RTI applications timely. ADC said that every department should disclose the requisite information as required under the RTI Act under section 4 (1) (b) and the same to be put on their official websites and updated regularly for greater transparency. ADC added that the information should be displayed outside the rooms of the officers who have been appointed PIOs for the convenience of public. Such boards should be put in the offices of heads of departments and other offices as well. ADC informed RTI is an instrument for people to exercise their rights with regard to better governance. He called for creating awareness on its utilization in rural areas. Underlining the importance of RTI Act, ADC made the PIOs understand about the stringent penalties given under, besides highlighting the role and responsibilities of PIOs and APIOs. He appealed to all the officers to sincerely implement the RTI Act.

RTI kattas in Thane are a hit with residents

DNA: Thane: Sunday, March 01, 2015.
Shobha Subhedar is a freelance writer who writes columns for the newspaper Thane Vaibhav. An M.A in Marathi literature, she has also authored a book called ‘Tichyatil Stree’. Her book, published in Marathi, is a compilation of all her columns that appeared in the daily Navshakti over a span of four years.
Subhedar has made a successful transition to activism, as she holds fort during the RTI katta sessions at M H High School in Thane (W), twice a month. During these sessions she not only shares information about how to effectively use the Right to Information Act (2005), but also tries to ensure that the tool is used to benefit others.
Subhedar says that being a columnist, writing and commenting on what was happening in the society came naturally to her. She closely followed Anna Hazare’s movement that ensured that RTI act is passed. She says, “I feel that the RTI is the most powerful weapon that a common man can use to set things right. I realised that many of us did not know what the RTI is and how to use it. At RTI katta, we only discuss issues related to RTI.”
A slow start
Subhedar held the first session at Mahatma Gandhi garden in June 2009 on 1st Saturday. While banners were used to announce the event in advance, those who came did not stay for long. She used the local newspapers to inform people about the upcoming sessions. The sessions are now held at M H High School twice a month and are free of cost.
Over a period of time interest in the sessions grew. Subhedar, describing the initial sessions, says, “It was the month of June and it was raining heavily, yet people came to attend the session. In one of the sessions, a visually challenged person came and sat till the very end. I was amazed to see his interest.”
However the young generation that does not seem to be too interested in using the RTI according Subhedar. She adds, “I conduct several programmes in colleges and in the end, I ask the students to attend my RTI sessions. None of them show up. I feel that youngsters have the ability to change and should take an initiative in activities.”
Won’t charge a penny, says Subhedar
Subhedar is clear that she would not charge money for the sessions. While many have asked her to charge a basic fee of Rs 10, she has refused to do so. She explains, “I do not want to be like the organisations that take money but do not deliver anything. Also, I feel that only the people who are genuinely interested in filing a RTI must come.”
The sessions have not just focussed on sharing information, but also on using it to deliver tangible results. In 2009, six firemen lost their lives inside the lift when the 14th floor of Punarvaru building in Thane’s Samta Nagar caught fire. Subhedar says, “Questions like why there was no ladder to reach the 14h floor and how did the firemen not know that they must avoid using the lift came to mind. We discussed the issue at our RTI katta sessions and filed several RTIs.” The replies also helped the families of the deceased.
Giving social causes a push
RTI activism is not the only things that Subhedar does. She is also actively involved in a neem awareness campaign as a part of which she has distributed hundreds of neem saplings and seeds. She also works as a counsellor and motivational speaker. She is involved in a project that focuses on educating people at grassroots about the importance of keeping the wells clean.
While activism is an important part of her life, it is her family that gives her the strength to continue her work. Subhedar says, “My husband is an engineering consultant, my daughter is an architect while my son is pursuing his post graduation. They make my life meaningful.”
The sessions are conducted on the first and third Saturday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at the M H High School in Thane (W) and are open to all.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Builder, 6 SRA officials booked after man alleges land grab in Goregaon

Times of India: Mumbai: Saturday, 28 February 2015.
A developer, six officials of the Slum Rehabiliation Authority (SRA) and three others have been booked by the Vanrai police in a case of cheating and forgery. The complainant, Umesh Patel, 63, had approached a magistrate court at Borivali stating that an attempt was being made to grab his property located at Goregaon East. On the directions of the court, the police lodged an FIR. A detailed probe will be conducted before making any arrests, police said.
Patel, a Juhu resident, owned around 15986 sq metres of land at Hanuman Tekdi in Goregaon. According to his complaint, he sold 95% of the land (15219 sq metres) to Indu Constructions through its proprietor Nandkishore Bhandari. A conveyance deed was registered in 2006. Last year, Patel decided to sell the balance 767 sq metres of land to an acquaintance, H Naik. "The deal was ongoing when Naik found out that Bhandari was laying claim to the entire property, including the balance of 767 sq metres.
"Since the land was covered with slums, Bhandari had approached the SRA and submitted a scheme for development. On the basis of documents submitted by Bhandari, the SRA granted him a letter of intent (LOI) in December 2012," said Patel's counsel, Sachin Mhatre.
Naik then sent a notice to the SRA asking them to amend the LOI by deleting 767 sq metres of land which he was purchasing from Patel. The SRA responded that the 7/12 extracts of the entire property were in Bhandari's name.
"Through an RTI application, Patel accessed documents related to his deal with Bhandari. He suspected that his signature was forged on a deed of rectification in 2013," said Mhatre. The police were not willing to register his complaint. Patel then approached the Borivali magistrate court. In his complaint, he also accused certain SRA officials of being hand-in-glove with the developer.
Bhandari's business partner, Hitesh P, refuted the allegations. "We have filed a complaint against Patel at the Andheri magistrate court and the matter is still being heard. We had also sent legal notices to Patel, after learning about his property deal with Naik, but there was no response from him. We have all the necessary papers to support our claim," he said.
Officials from the Vanrai police station said they are in the process of procuring all concerned documents to verify claims made by both parties.

Unprepared PIOs annoy Information Commissioner

News Hub: Bangalore: Saturday, 28 February 2015.
Shankar R. Patil, Commissioner, Karnataka Information Commission, was exasperated with the lack of preparedness of the concerned Public Information Officers (PIOs) and their representatives at the Zilla Panchayat meeting hall here on Friday. Mr. Patil was here as part of his official State-wide tour for hearing cases at the respective district headquarters.
He got irritated when he understood that the representatives of PIOs in some cases did not have a basic knowledge either about the RTI Act or about the particular case in which they were the representing PIOs.
While hearing the cases, he observed that the concerned PIOs had furnished the information sought by the applicant only after knowing about his scheduled hearing at the district headquarters.
In some other cases, the absence of PIOs prompted him to issue stern notices to the delinquent officers seeking explanation as to why a penalty should not imposed on them under Section 20(1) of RTI Act.
In most of the cases, he ordered the respective PIOs to provide the information to applicant he sought within 10 days.
Considering the inadequacies of PIOs at the lower levels of the administrative apparatus across the State in handling applications under RTI Act, Shankar R Patil, Commissioner, Karnataka Information Commission, stressed on the need to inculcate a thorough knowledge about the Act among PIOs through proper training and workshops.
In many cases, people are denied simple information and forced to appeal before the concerned appellate authorities and then file petitions before the Information Commission, because of a dearth of knowledge about the Act among PIOs, he said.
This would lead not only to piling up of casesbefore the Information Commission , but also the denial of people’s right to information, he said.

‘Formulate record retention schedule’

The Hindu: Thiruvananthapuram: Saturday, 28 February 2015.
The government has issued orders stipulating that all public sector units and autonomous institutions in the State should formulate a record retention schedule so that when information is sought under the Right to Information Act (RTI), replies such as file ‘missing’ or ‘not traceable’ are not given.
Such a reply would defeat the very purpose of the RTI Act.
Unless proved that the record was destroyed in accordance with the prescribed destruction/retention policy, it is deemed that record continues to be held by the public authority.
‘‘Claims of file missing or not traceable have no legality as it is not recognised as exception by RTI Act,’’ the government order said.