Thursday, April 24, 2014

District Collector receives just 1,230 plaints on missing voter names

DNA: Pune: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Pune district collector Saurabh Rao, on Tuesday, said that the Election Office has received applications of 1,230 voters regarding missing names from the voters' list with maximum complaints from Kasba Peth constituency. Rao also said that he will be submitting a report on these complaints to the Election Commission in next couple of days.
Interacting with media, Rao said that a preliminary report in this regard has been already submitted to the chief electoral officer. "Out of total number of complaints that we have received so far, majority of the complaints are regarding deletion of names from the voters' list. There are some complains where names of one or two members of family are deleted and we are going to carry out an inquiry regarding such deletion. We are scrutinising each and every complaint," Rao added.
Out of the total applications received so far, maximum of 112 applications are from Kasba Peth constituency, 107 are from Cantonment, 96 from Parvati, 80 applications from Kothrud, 45 from Shivajinagar and 27 are from Wadgaon Sheri constituency. The election office has also received 13 complaints on e-mail and 10 RTI applications. Apart from these applications, ten RTI applications have been filed with the Election Office, one writ-petition and one PIL has also been filed regarding missing names from the voters' list.
Will probably opt for decentralisation method
Based on the experience of April 17 when the website of the Chief Electoral Office was crashed due to heavy traffic on the site, Saurabh Rao said, " Decentralisation is the method where voters list can also be made available at other government website and I have made that suggestion to the Chief Electoral Office for the upcoming phase of voting in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Aurangabad."

HMR urged to make public project report

The Hindu: Hayderabad: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Questioning the ‘non-disclosure’ of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR) project by its authorities, Country Club India Ltd (CCIL) CMD, Y. Rajeev Reddy, demanded that the document be made fully available to the public.
Mr. Reddy, who is currently involved in a court case with HMR authorities concerning his property at Begumpet, stated that the government body had replied to a RTI that the DPR was an intellectual property, and hence could not be given.
“On what basis is it intellectual property? HMR is a public body, and thus all information should be made public. They have only given us an extract,” he said at a press conference here on Wednesday.
Mr. Reddy alleged that HMR authorities were targeting his property. “Last year in June, they asked me to give 3,500 sq. yards of my property but later, they suddenly decreased it to 150 sq. yards, stating that it was brought down keeping in mind our interests. There is no transparency in their words,” he claimed.

Water defaulters owe NMC Rs 104cr

Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Like the property tax department, the civic body's water works department (WWD) has also performed poorly in recovering bills. The city has 2,07,924 connections, of which 1.84 lakh are domestic consumers, 3,887 commercial, 43,134 institutional and 15,147 in slums.
Responses to RTI queries by activist Sanjay Agrawal reveal the WWD has outstanding dues of over Rs 104.96 crore from 79,937 connection holders across the city. Interestingly, NMC itself is included in the defaulters list, along with the police commissioner's office, forest department, railway, AG office and central government's public works department.
WWD has also admitted that in 2013-14 the department raised demand notes for Rs 82.44 crore but failed to recover the bills fully. This, and the Rs 104 cr arrears, has raised serious questions over recovery process of the department.
The defaulters list says NMC has outstanding bills of Rs 27.32 lakh, while the railways have not paid Rs 15.20 lakh. City police too has failed to clear outstanding water bills of Rs 42.28 lakh. Another civic agency, Nagpur Improvement Trust, has defaulted on Rs 5.58 lakh water bills. Neeri too features in the list with Rs55.16 lakh outstanding water dues. The biggest defaulter among government departments is the forest department. The department has to pay Rs 1.69 crore as water dues.

Punjab roads kill 9 every day

Times of India: Chandigarh: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
The killer roads of Punjab have snuffed out 9 lives every day for the last 5 years. According to National Crime Records of Bureau (NCRB), 17,079 people have died in this period, which saw promises of revamping of these arteries during two bitterly-fought polls - Lok Sabha in 2009 and Punjab assembly in 2012.
Baring the grim picture further, a 2013 'Road Accidents in India' Union ministry report says that the chances of getting killed in a road accident in India are the highest in Amritsar followed by Ludhiana. Road fatalities have become the reality of the life of Amritsar's Balwinder Kaur, a widow barely in her 20s. She was bereaved once again when a truck carrying her father-in-law rammed a tractor emerging from the fields on to the enter single-lane state highway (SH 25) last week.
Her village Dhund (meaning fog) has become a metaphor for gloom as she has lost 72 people in her neighborhood, including her husband and 14 cousins, since 2009 in road accidents. "These Akalis made road promised then. They are making them now again. Kuj ni badleya. Saare Punjab di sadka ch mauta hi mauta (But nothing has changed. All Punjab roads are seeing death after that)," she weeps inconsolably.
Till December last year, 29,361 accidents had taken place that left 42,000 critically injured. These figures are startling if one compares them to the lives lost even during the dark 10-year-long period of terrorism in Punjab. From 1981 to 1995, the state saw 21,532 people, over 8000 terrorists and 1,746 cops lose their lives.
It comes as no surprise that Congress candidate Capt Amarinder Singh is largely tearing into the Akalis on basic issues concerning roads and unmanned railway level crossings in Amritsar, the constituency being dubbed as mother of all battles in Punjab.
"Sukhbir Badal is in transport business for so long. He talks of development alone. He must explain these deaths. When the sitting MP Navjot Sidhu talked of diversion of Centre funds here, they choked his voice." says Amarinder.
But, the ex-CM's wife Preneet Kaur, a sitting MP in Patiala, and Ludhiana candidate Ravneet Bittu too are under similar attack from their opponents and locals.
After all, Kaur's constituency, a city known for the famous Patiala peg, tops the list of accidents, among all districts, at more than 400 such cases per year.
The traffic department's Rs 20-crore fine generation reveals that most of the violations recorded are only static, such as those for black film, no number plate and pollution certificate.
Overspeeding, drunken driving, and no seat belt are hardly a violation with just about 570 cops and 55,000 km of roads in Punjab.
An RTI query by a Ropar-based activist and advocate Dinesh Chadha in 2013 revealed that the test for a driving license in Punjab lasts only 16 seconds.
"No wonder we lose 14 lives every day in the state. Hardly 1% of Punjab roads are desgined with proper intersections, driving signs, speed breakers or turns." says Navdeep Asija, IITian and Fazilka-based technical adviser to safe transport society, Punjab government.
In a state, where Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal is annually distributing 1.52 lakh bicycles to girl students in villages, there is no passage for non motor transport and rural-urban accident ratio stands at 65:35, says a Road Safety report by Asija.
"While the development takes place in their big towns every election, we, the farmers, who supply grains continue to lose our lives," grimaces 72-year-old Patwant Singh

Hawal Massacre: Time Bound Enquiry Ordered

Kashmir Life: Srinagar: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Taking serious note of the Hawal Massacre that took place on May 21, 1990, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has ordered the time bound enquiry into the massacre and has sort report within a period of two months.
The petition in this regard was filed by chairman International Forum for Justice and Human Rights – JK (IFJHR-JK), Muhammad Ahsan Untoo on 26-03-2013 to seek investigation into the Hawal Massacre, compensation to the kins and the persons injured therein and also to build a memoriam in the name of martyred persons.
The case was listed before the acting chairperson of the SHRC on 28-02-2014 over which the commission came up with the decision to entrust enquiry to its investigative wing.
“Despite various communications addressed to DGP J&K, Div Commissioner Kashmir and also DO’s from Secretary of the Commission, authorities are unmoved to respond to any of the communication of the commission. In view of the insensitive approach adopted by the authorities, the commission has left with no option but to entrust the enquiry to investigative wing of this commission,” the SHRC order reads.
The order further says: “Accordingly, IGP SHRC is directed to get the matter investigated from SP SHRC who shall investigate the matter and furnish the report within two months. Registry is directed to provide all relevant papers to the investigating officer put up on 01-05-2014.”
The commission has fixed the next date for hearing on the same day as 01-05-2014.
It is worth to mention here that chairman IFJHR-JK, Muhammad Ahsan Untoo had also sought information regarding the killing of Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq and other persons (also known as Hawal Massacre) killed by security forces on May 21, 1990 through Right to Information Act (RTI) before the office of the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir seeking “enquiry commission report” of the Hawal Massacre.
The reply to this RTI was provided to Untoo vide letter No. HQ/RTI/2013/S-32/563 dated 02-07-2013 submitted that a criminal case under FIR No. 35/1990 was registered in Police Station Nowhatta with regard to that incident. “However, there is no information with the department as to whether there was any enquiry either judicial or magisterial ordered by the government or not,” the reply read.
Pertinently, the Hawal Massacre was third of its kind in the year 1990 following the Gaw Kadal Massacre on January 21, 1990 and Handwara that took place on 25th of the same month.

Did forest department pass off two tiger killings as one?

Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
On May 18, 2012, forest department officials said they found a tiger in Borda near Chandrapur butchered into 11 pieces. Three months later, in September, Durgapur police arrested four local poachers from Jambharla village and seized four tiger claws along with 18 whiskers. Forest department claimed quoting Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, report that these were from the tiger killed at Borda. At the time, the Hyderabad could not identify even the sex of tiger from the samples seized from poachers.
From the information received recently by city RTI activist Avinash Prabhune, it can be inferred that Jambharla tiger might be another individual and samples of Borda tiger might have been sent twice by forest officials, ostensibly to calm down the furore over frequent poaching incidents then. Otherwise, how could it happen that CCMB failed to establish identity from seven samples of Jambharla tiger sent by police and animal husbandry departments, but identified it through one sample sent by the forest department?
RTI reveals that 86 tiger part samples were sent by the forest officials in the last two years. These samples related to 16 tigers that includes four males, four females and eight unidentified. Though officially, more than 20 tigers have died in the state during the period.
An analysis of the information shows that on May 25, 2012, samples sent to CCMB by deputy conservator of Chandrapur showed Borda tiger to be a male. On September 17, police arrested four poachers with tiger claws and later recovered bones from forest near Jambharla. Then investigating officer (IO) ND Kursange, now posted in Nagpur, says, "In Jambharla case, we had sent some samples to CCMB after collecting it from the Durgapur police. We doubted that the parts found in Jambharla were that of Borda tiger. DNA report pointed out that Borda and Jambharla samples were of one male."
Shockingly, when Kursange was told that Jambharla samples sent by police had failed to establish tiger identity, he said, "This may be because police sent the samples to a Kolkata-based research laboratory." He was perplexed when told that police too sent the samples to CCMB. "If this is true then there is complete contradiction. Poaching of two tigers cannot be ruled out, but I can't say anything now," he said.
Interestingly, then investigating officer deputy SP SN Sheikh says, "In October, we had sent at least six samples of Jambharla tiger to CCMB. Now that I have been transferred to Buldhana, I don't know the result." He too was surprised over the mismatch. CCMB report also reveals that assistant commissioner of animal husbandry polyclinic at Chandrapur sent one sample to CCMB. A report sent to both police and polyclinic on January 2, 2014, says CCMB could not establish identity of individual/sex due to insufficient DNA.
"If the CCMB could determine sex of the animal from just one sample sent by Chandrapur DyCF on September 17 (probably Jambharla bones seized by the police), why could it not ascertain the same from six samples sent by the police. The reason is simple. The samples sent by DyCF must have been parts of the Borda tiger itself and not Jambharla at all," alleged Prabhune.
·       On May 18, 2012 a tiger carcass was found butchered into 11 pieces in Borda, 13km from Chandrapur
·       In September, police arrested four persons with tiger claws and whiskers and also seized tiger body parts from Jambharla in Chandrapur
·       Forest officials collected these samples from police and sent to CCMB, which said they were from one individual male
·       Police and animal husbandry departments too sent Jambharla samples to CCMB but the centre failed to identify the individual and its sex
·       Samples sent by forest department could be parts of Borda tiger and not Jambharla. Hence the mismatch in results
·       Interestingly, date of report sent by CCMB for both May and September samples is stated as November 1, 2012. How is it possible?

Over 60 sexual harassment cases against Delhi Police personnel

Deccan Herald: New Delhi: Thursday, April 24, 2014.
From showing porn film to use of filthy language were among the 62 sexual harassment charges levelled against Delhi Police personnel including an Assistant Commissioner of Police who was "compulsorily retired".
Of these 62 cases registered between 2003 and 2013, accused in eight cases were acquitted and charges in four cases could not be substantiated, according to a reply received from Delhi Police in response to an RTI query.
There were also certain anonymous complaints against police personnel for alleged sexual harassment which were pending enquiries, it said adding that records between 2003-2006 in Delhi Police's security branch were not traceable.
One of the sexual harassment cases was filed against an ACP in 2009 with the office of 1st battalion of Delhi Armed Police, New Police Line, Kingsway camp.
He has been compulsorily retired from service vide an order of Ministry of Home Affairs dated January 21, 2013, Delhi Police said in response to the RTI query.
In a complaint received last year by Police Control Room (PCR) branch, a woman constable alleged that her colleague "used to shown porn film and use filthy language during duty".
A departmental enquiry has been ordered in the matter, the reply said.
In three other complaints (two from anonymous complainant) received last year in the PCR branch, it was alleged that women staff were sexually harassed and experienced "indecent behaviour" from their male counterparts.
Authorities ordered enquiries in all such cases and the same was yet to be completed."There were 13 cases of alleged sexual harassment registered under West District. In one of the FIRs registered in 2003, the accused (constable) expired and the proceedings was abated by court on April 28, 2008," it said.
Sixteen cases of alleged sexual harassment were registered under North West district of Delhi Police against its personnel. The information on the nature of complaint and action taken on them were denied by the authorities citing Section 8 1 (j) of the RTI Act.
The Section bars disclosure of "information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual".
Delhi Police has a committee to look into cases of sexual harassment at work place. "All the cases received in sexual harassment committee are looked into on priority basis," a senior Delhi Police official said.Delhi Police has a strength of about 80,000 personnel.
A complaint was received from a woman constable saying "someone has written bad words on the door of (office) room" of the then Establishment branch 11th-15th battalion under New Police Line, Kingsway Camp in 2010. Following which, an FIR was registered at Police Station Mukherjee Nagar, the reply said.
Seven cases of alleged sexual harassment were registered in North East district of Delhi Police.
"The record of complaints (sexual harassment) from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2006 is not found traceable. However, as per available record from January 1, 2007 to till date, no complaint of sexual harassment has been received against any police personnel," Delhi Police security branch said in its reply.
One of the FIRs filed in Aman Vihar police station under outer district last year by two women constables against their two male colleagues has resulted in compromise."They (accused) were also dealt with departmentally in which they both have been awarded the punishment of forfeiture of three years approved service permanently.
"Later on, they have been acquitted in the said criminal case on the compromise between both the parties," it said.
There were no cases of sexual harassment in Delhi Police's crime branch, Police Training College, Economic Offences Wing, Traffic (headquarters), Special Police Unit for Women and Children, IGI airport, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Provisioning and Logistics, Recruitment cell and licensing branch, according to the reply.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Police complicity a trend in targeted communal violence: Wajahat Habibullah Aligarh: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Mr. Wajahat Habib Ullah delivering the IVth KP Sing Memorial Lecture at AMU.
The former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, today expressed his concern on incidents of “targeted communal violence” in the country in which the police force had reportedly played a dubious role.
Delivering the fourth K. P. Singh Memorial Lecture on “India’s Emergence as a Nation: Its Triumphs and Tragedies” at the Aligarh Muslim University today, Habibullah made a scathing attack on the partiality of the police force saying, “Disturbingly, all cases of communal violence investigated by the National Commission for Minorities followed a trend of police complicity, wherein the police had colluded not only with the dominant community but also with aggressive groups to perpetrate violence”.
Elaborating the short comings in the justice delivery system, which presently prevails as far as victims of communal riots are concerned, Habibullah, who is also a former Secretary to the Government of India, said, “Existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have proved inadequate in addressing targeted violence in the country”.
Habibullah said that in the year 1986, the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi had himself taken the initiative in investigating the role of the police in the communal violence in Hashimpura in district Meerut, following the custodial death of 40 Muslim youth. He pointed out that despite the then Prime Minister’s intervention, “this case still lingers in the session courts and all accused policemen continued in regular service and many of them retired with honours”.
Habibullah regretted that the country lost an opportunity of containing such targeted violence when the “Communal and Targeted Violence Prevention Bill” was torpedoed in the last session of the Parliament. Habibullah said, “The most remarkable of the proposed legislation was that it held public servants accountable for their negligence or willful failure in controlling riots. This bill would have also given the right to the victims to be heard during the procedure of trial and made more victim friendly including the provision of victim protection”.
Expressing his dismay over the manner in which this important piece of legislation was shot down by certain vested interest, Habibullah said, “The Draft Bill which failed to get approval of the Parliament, was attacked by right-wing groups for being ‘anti-Hindu’, though Hindu minorities too, were covered under the bill in states where they form a minority population”.
Habibullah lamented, “The government and civil society at large overlooked the need to address the discrimination, exclusionary practices and insecurities faced by the Muslim community on a daily basis. The Muslim community is clueless with how to deal with an open and certain discrimination”.  
Referring to the economic plight of the Muslims, despite the advent of a number of poverty alleviation programmes meant for their economic emancipation, Habibullah said, “Compared to the SCs and STs and other social and religious groups, while urban poverty in 2011 was the highest among Muslims, rural poverty among Muslims was also higher than that of other religious groups and of other Backward castes (OBCs). Besides, as will be evident from statistics, the rate of decline in poverty has also been the slowest in the Muslim community even when compared to the SCs and STs”.
Referring to a recent official report on urban literacy, Habibullah said, “If we compare the rate of increases in literacy among Muslims with other social and religious groups including the SCs, it is once again the lowest”.
Quoting from the Justice Ranganath Mishra Report on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Habibullah said, “The condition of Muslims in general are lower than Hindu OBCs who have the benefit of reservation and recent attempts by the central government to introduce 4.5 reservation to Muslim OBCs within the OBC quota have met with resistance”.
Quoting again from the Ranganathan Mishra Committee Report, Habibullah said, “Muslims have been denied of equal participation in the development process”.
Referring to the impact of the follow up measures, following the recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee Report, Habibullah said that there was no denying that various flagship programmes for minority development had been initiated by the central government with the objective of alleviating the miserable economic condition of the Muslims. These remedial measures may have led to a limited amelioration in the economic condition of the Muslims, but tardy implementation was a big hurdle in getting the desired results.
Citing the findings of a recent report based on a study by the Centre For Equity Studies on the Impact of the Sachar Committee Follow Up measures, Habibullah said, “The study which covers three districts in the states of West Bengal, Bihar and Haryana indicates that despite focus on minority districts, Muslim communities were not benefitting much because officials were often under orders to avoid Muslim villages”.
Habibullah said, “Instead of spending funds to upgrade schools in Muslim villages, these funds were spent on neighbouring non-Muslim villages”.
Referring to the political impact of this harsh reality of exclusion felt by the Muslim community, Habibullah said, “There is now a growing political consciousness in the Muslim community which has made a decisive use of its franchise in election”.
Habibullah said that in a democracy no group should feel excluded because this could only lead to the weakening of the nation as a whole. “Europe had to pay a heavy price for cleaving to a narrow concept of nationhood and the European had to ultimately undertake fitful step towards building a multi-nationality state”.
He called upon every section of Indian society to take upon the Right to Information Act for ensuring accountability and transparency in governance. This Act, he said, was among the world’s strongest weapons for ensuring justice to all sections of the people.
In his presidential remarks on Habibullah’s address, the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah said that the challenges facing the Muslim community could only be fully addressed if the community itself was prepared to play its due role in poverty elimination. Shah said, “The major thrust of the Muslim community has to be on education and this objective could largely be achieved by reforming and improving the quality of education of Muslim Madrasas all over the country”. He said that AMU has started a Bridge Course for Madrasa pass outs to enable them join the mainstream courses in the University.
Shah said that as far as discrimination was concerned, “Muslims do not need just riot free society but more so they need a discrimination-free society”.
Earlier, Dr. Tariq Islam, Coordinator, K. P. Singh Memorial Lecture welcomed the guests.
Prof. Wasi Haider highlighted the works and contributions of Prof. K. P. Singh. He said that K. P. Singh was a great soldier of secularism. He had a liberal and left values. He donated his body to the J. N. Medical College Hospital of the University for academic purposes.
AMU Pro-Vice Chancellor, Brigadier (Retd.) Syed Ahmad Ali graced the lecture. On this occasion, Prof. K. P. Singh’s family was also present in the lecture.

RTI Activists Fighting System to Bring Changes

Ranchi Express: Ranchi: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act is often recognised for its failure to bring changes in the system. However, there are few exceptions that shows the path to those willing to bring positive changes in the system and in the lives of common people.
The only thing needed is the will to change, realising the power, the Act bestows on a common man and above all invoking the act. The Act has been used in a much effective manner for exposing discrepancies in MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act) schemes and bringing the wrongdoers to their knees.
In 2011, an RTI activist Md Saadiq Ansari, exposed the alleged wrongdoings of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Bariyarpur village under Madhwadih panchayat in Giridih. To the dismay of Ansari, people were made to shell out 30 per cent of their total MNREGA payments as ‘personal commission’ (PC) to get their payments released thus forcing the activist to shoot a letter to officials at block level to the Chief Secretary of Jharkhand. However, things did not move as wished and it compelled Ansari to invoke RTI to ascertain official position on PC for getting payments released.

HPS gets stay order

The Hindu: Hayderabad: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Justice Ramesh Ranganathan of A.P. High Court on Monday stayed the orders of State Information Commission which had directed two private educational institutions to furnish the information sought by a citizen under Right to Information Act.
The Judge was dealing with writ petitions filed by Hyderabad Public School and Loyola Academy.

TNSTC employees forced to work extra hours: Plea

Times of India: Madurai: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
A writ petition has been filed at the Madras high court Madurai bench against additional working hours in the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC).
P Palanisamy, a driver in TNSTC, Kumbakonam division (Pudukkottai) has filed the petition stating that workers are required to work for more than 20 hours. He is also the zonal secretary of Arvind Kejriwal Tamil Nadu General Workers Union. During their journey, they have an interval of 15 to 30 minutes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On many days they missed their foods, Palanisamy said.
As per Section 13 of the Tamil Nadu Transport Motor Workers Act, 1961, no worker should be required or allowed to work for more than eight hours per day and 48 hours in a week. During festive season, the working hours can be extended to 10 hours and 54 hours respectively, said advocate P Ganapathi Subramanian.
Further, a worker who works for more than five hours, should be given rest for at least 30 minutes as per Section 15 of the Act, he said. Contrary to this, the workers are required to work for more than 21 hours per day and 63 hours in a week. Palanisamy obtained information regarding this under the Right to Information Act, which disclosed the illegal duty hours of the bus drivers.
Continuous driving makes the drivers lose their concentration. Further, it causes fatal accidents. Apart from it, the drivers are subjected to various health hazards. Generally, their lives are at stake, the zonal secretary said. The additional working hours affects the drivers' right to sleep, which is, according to the Supreme Court's judgment, a fundamental right coming under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, he said. Further, the workers are not provided extra wages for their overtime.
Twice the wages should be given as per the above said Act, Subramanian said. Accusing the commissioner of labour, he said the chief inspector/deputy commissioner of labour (minimum wages) should ensure the provisions of the above said Act is followed in letter and spirit, but, the concerned officer is never exercised his powers. Hence, the petition has sought court's intervention in ascertaining the working hours and to ensure wages for them. Further it has sought court's help to restrain the transport corporation from engaging them in more working hours.
When the matter came up for hearing, the court directed the state's transport secretary, deputy commissioner of labour, managing director of TNSTC (Kumbakonam) and general manager of it to give their replies and adjourned the matter.

Report on missing names will be sent to chief electoral officer by tomorrow

Times of India: Pune: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
District collector Saurabh Rao on Tuesday said he will submit a report about the names missing from the voters' list to the chief electoral officer (CEO) Maharashtra in two days.
"We have already initiated scrutiny of all complaints received in last four days. A report based on the facts will be prepared and submitted to the CEO by Thursday. The report will then be sent to the election commission," Rao said.
Thousands of voters in the city failed to cast their votes for the Lok Sabha poll on April 17 as they could not find their names in the electoral rolls. They had agitated at the Council Hall, following which the district collector appealed to them to file written complaints.
The administration, till Monday, had received 586 written complaints from citizens. Thirteen complaints were received through e-mails and 10 complaints were received in the form of applications under the Right to Information (RTI) act. A total of 1,253 voters registered grievances with the administration.
"While most complaints are pertaining to missing of names from the list, there are some complaints about names not included in the electoral roll despite submission of prescribed form and some names missing when names of other family members are listed in the roll. Every complaint is a unique case. Hence, we are investigating each case to ascertain the reasons," Rao said.
Among the six assembly constituencies in Pune Lok Sabha constituency, most complaints were from Kasba Peth (112), followed by Pune Cantonment (107), Parvati (96), Kothrud (80), Shivajinagar (45) and Vadgaon Sheri (27).

Whistleblower alleged kickbacks, favours in ‘thin client’ procurement; NDA never completed inquiry

Indian Express: Pune: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Lieutenant Commander Gutta Sowjanya Sree had gone around the NDA recording statements of people involved in the procurement of 2,100 ‘thin clients’ (customised laptops) within the NDA in the year 2010. The academy, based on her allegations, had constituted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) on April 11, 2011.
Newsline reported the matter on July 4,  2013.
The CoI said the “alleged irregularities in the procurement, receipt, issue and accounting of IT stationery at MIS cell, including the receipt of any illegal considerations”, pertained to procurement of 2,100 laptops for NDA cadets and procurement of 155 desktops and printer cartridges for the academy. The CoI had recorded the statements of whistleblower Lt Cdr Gutta along with those of the accused a woman officer of Major rank, her husband and witnesses (a lower division clerk, a stores keeper and representatives of private companies software majors who supplied the said items to the NDA).
The serious allegations investigated by the CoI involved waiving of liquidated damage (LD) of Rs 20 lakh to a software giant despite a delay in the delivery of laptops by more than seven weeks. “Thin clients started coming in the first week of December 2010 and the delivery of all the items was completed in January 2011, but opening board was held on November 15, 2010, and acceptance test procedures (ATP) board was assembled on November 26, 2010.”
The whistleblower had also alleged on record that payments were made to a firm without the completion of the assigned work designing of intranet website. The more serious allegation involved payment of around Rs 50 lakh as kickback from “all the files”. The CoI, presided over by an officer of Colonel rank, had also recorded statements pertaining to irregularities regarding procuring refilled printer cartridges in the NDA in 2010-11, when as per rules, used cartridges had to be destroyed. “After an earlier CoI, non-accountability of cartridges of up to Rs 10 lakh had come out,” the whistleblower had noted.
All the accused denied wrongdoings “on record” and have been posted out.
In July 2013, an RTI application filed by The Indian Express had revealed that the NDA never brought the CoI to its logical conclusion. The reply said the proceedings were never forwarded to the HQ, Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), NDA’s Delhi bosses.

RTI query on government nominated MLCs stonewalled

Times of India: Nagpur: Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
One of the UPA government's boasts on 'clean' governance relates to the Right To Information Act that it brought about in 2005. Yet, it is found that getting information from the government remains a cumbersome process. Often such an effort meets dead-end. A city-based social activist Sampat Ramteke discovered this when he sought information on criteria for getting nomination as member of the state legislative council from governor's quota.
Under Article 171 section 5, the governor has the powers to nominate 12 persons as members of the Maharashtra legislative council. The term of 12 such members expired on March 12 and the governor is expected to nominate a new batch soon after Lok Sabha election process ends on May 16. As per the stipulated norms, the nominee selected by him should be an eminent person from the field of literature, arts, social service, sciences or the cooperative movement.
The 12 governor nominees whose term has ended are Subhash Chavan, Mohan Joshi, Alka Desai, Suresh Navle, Charansingh Sapra and M M Sheikh (all from Congress). The six from NCP are Fauzia Khan, Vidya Chavan, Ram Pandagale, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Ramesh Shendge and Sumant Gaikwad.
Ramteke is president of Sickle Society of India. He has strived for years to bring to the national conscience problems of sickle cell anaemia, a blood disease typical to a section of the society mainly in Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh belt. In his RTI application sent on March 27, he had specifically sought details of educational and other qualification of the 12 retiring members and the area of their work. He had also sought information on documents that needed to be selected for getting the governor's nomination and details of the nomination process.
Much to Ramteke's chagrin, his application was passed on by the governor's office to the chief minister's secretariat on April 1 with a plea that CM secretariat is the right quarter to get the information sought. But a week later, the CM secretariat said it could not help in the matter and passed on the application to the legislative secretariat. "Time is running out for the next batch selection by the governor. I have little hope of getting the specific information," Ramteke rued. "I have observed that the ruling parties while recommending the names to the governor do not follow the set norms. Hence the selection process is unconstitutional. It is the political leaders or those that the ruling party wants to favour who get the nomination," Ramteke alleged.
The dubious dozen
The 12 governor nominees whose term in state legislative council ended on March 12 are Subhash Chavan, Mohan Joshi, Alka Desai, Suresh Navle, Charansingh Sapra and M M Sheikh (all from Congress). Fauzia Khan, Vidya Chavan, Ram Pandagale, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Ramesh Shendge and Sumant Gaikwad
Typically, all of them are politically connected and would not fit into class of litterateurs, artists or scientists
Will the next batch the governor nominates in May be again politically motivated, asks RTI applicant Sampat Ramteke

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Supreme Court wants more clarity on clinical trials

Business Standard: New Delhi: Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Union health ministry to make drug companies that  want to experiment with new formulations answer three queries in a format to be prepared by the technical committee.
The pharmaceutical companies must specify whether the risk involved in testing the new formulations on human beings is justified by the benefits expected from the exercise, whether there are unmet needs for the drug in this country necessitating the innovation and whether safer are methods available.
The court stated that by demanding responses on these three parameters, a lot of confusion can be obviated. The Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha gave two months’ time to the government to follow the order.
The order was passed in the public interest petition moved by Swasthya Adhikar Manch alleging deaths and injuries to poor people in Madhya Pradesh, where unmonitored experiments were allegedly organised on without getting informed consent from the subjects.
Counsel Sanjay Parikh mentioned a news report in which it was alleged that 254 persons died in 15 years in US-funded clinical trials conducted on a control group without screening.
While the government objected to mentions of news reports, the court allowed Parikh to file an application including the report, which will be considered in the next hearing.
When Parikh alleged that neither the government nor the sponsors gave compensation for the deaths and permanent injuries, the judges suggested that the compensation could be paid first by the government and it could be recovered from the companies. Victims could be informed about compensation rights through ads or opening an office where they can record their claims.
Parikh argued that in the past few years, there were 125 deaths resulting from experiments with one chemical alone and compensation was given only for five deaths. Adequate information regarding compensation to the death and injury cases was not coming forth and there were inconsistencies in what the government stated in the court and what was available from right to information queries.
Additional Solicitor- General Siddharth Luthra said committees have been constituted to look into the claims for compensation. When it was pointed out that years have gone by without any decision, the counsel explained that the government had to see whether the victims have already availed of insurance benefits and assess the actual degree of damage suffered in each case.
He said those who suffered injuries are given treatment. The judges observed that sometimes deaths would be preferred then continue with the suffering.

Reliance Life terminates AB Capital, lodges criminal complaints after Moneylife expose

Moneylife: Pune: Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
One of the biggest examples of systematic, fraudulent mis-selling of insurance policies, that has only led to a regulatory rap on the knuckles is that of AB Capital, a corporate agent of Reliance Life insurance, which has sold insurance policies to thousands of persons across the country on the fake assurance that they will get an interest free (or very low interest) loan that is equal to 10 times the premium paid.
Moneylife began to take up these cases in the early part of 2013 and wrote to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) for the first time in July 2013. We have received complaints from all over India from people who did an internet search to figure out how to redress grievances.  Some of these had even borrowed money to pay the premium in order to obtain the interest free loan. While some of those, who were duped, are not financial savvy, many included software engineers from leading companies. Clearly the fraudsters had a sophisticated technique of convincing people.
Thanks to the regulator’s pressure, 95% of the complaints forwarded by Moneylife Foundation to Reliance Life have received refunds. However, the flood of complaints shows no sign of stopping. We were convinced that complaints which came to us are just a drop in the ocean. Queries to IRDA, about this rampant cheating in July 2013 and January 2014 elicited no response, forcing us to file a Right to Information (RTI) application at the end of January.
Following a first appeal, we received a detailed response with some stunning revelations.
First, while IRDA did not respond to us, it had been pushing Reliance Life to redress grievances. Secondly, Reliance Life told IRDA that until 22 August 2013 it had received 2,141 complaints against its corporate agent AB Capital. These are a vast multiple of those who approached Moneylife Foundation and had their complaints redressed. It is not clear whether all 2,141 cases have been redressed by Reliance Life.
Thirdly, Reliance Life told IRDA, “AB Capital has already terminated those employees, who indulged in mis-selling and has also lodged criminal complaints (NC) against such employees. Five salesmen have been arrested so far. Considering, the large number of complaints received against the corporate agent, the company terminated the agreement with AB Capital on 8th July.” Moneylife Foundation started taking AB Capital complaints to Reliance Life in June 2013.
Fourthly, Reliance Life has told IRDA that there are no more complaints pending about AB Capital. However, this is clearly incorrect, since Moneylife Foundation continues to receive fresh complaints even today. So far, Reliance Life has paid over Rs22 lakh to 31 people duped by AB Capital based on complaints sent by Moneylife Foundation. The amounts range from Rs30,000 to Rs2 lakh each.
In fact, while IRDA has not obtained all the details of the total extent of mis-selling by Reliance Life’s agent, or the correct data on redress, it has also not initiated any action against the company. On the contrary, Reliance Life seems to be comfortable enough to demand greater proof from victims of mis-selling. In a few recent cases, it only redressed complaints from those who had taken the precaution of making voice recordings of the telecallers and were able to provide proof.
This is clearly an issue on which the insurance regulator also needs to be held accountable for dragging its feet over the massive fraudulent actions by insurance agents.  So far IRDA has done nothing beyond sending letters and asking for data and information. Were the regulator been more pro-active or the Finance ministry and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs more diligent in their supervision, we would have seen some attempt to make companies more accountable for fraud and mis-selling by their agents.
But this is clearly another long battle along with better financial literacy among those who buy insurance.

Minority report: Failed by government and schools

Times of India: New Delhi: Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
Education is the key to leadership, and the backwardness of Muslims demonstrates a lack of it.
The enrolment of Muslim girls in schools has declined, but backwardness alone is not to blame as the availability and accessibility of both public and private schools are inadequate. Many Muslim parents have reported facing discrimination and visible hostility from teachers and school authorities while trying to seek admission for children.
The dismal condition of government and municipal schools is no secret, so some Muslim parents opt for madrassas over schools. "The teachers remain absent and the quality of education is poor. It's better for children to attend madrassas as these days they also impart (modern) education and students can get placed as translators in Gulf countries," said Shariq Khan, a resident of Seelampur. The BabulUloom Madrassa that has more than 180 students is a few kilometres away from his residence.
A study by the Institute of Objective Studies shows how Muslim children whose parents meet criteria of income, proximity and educational background were denied admission on flimsy grounds in formal schools.
In 2012, social activist Abdul Khaliq used RTI to collect information about the number of Muslim children enrolled in nursery in Delhi's private schools. "The bias was clear. Of the 92 schools that provided information, 17 admitted only one Muslim child each and around 20 had no Muslim student that year. The other schools had only five or six students each," he said.
The study claims that one reason for the high college dropout rate among Muslims is that they study in nearby areas, and don't get to mix with children from other communities at the school level. College delivers a culture shock. However, enthusiasm for good English-medium secular education is strong in the middleclass Muslim residents of these areas.
Kachchi Khajuri that lies along the Pushta Road linking Delhi with Uttar Pradesh demonstrates the plight of Muslim children. Across the road from it is Pucci Khajuri, a Gujjar-dominated colony. Kachchi Khajuri is almost entirely a Muslim area and does not have a Delhi government school. Its children attend school on the other side where, besides schools, there are roads and covered drains.
In Okhla and Zakir Nagar wards, people allege their children are asked whether they have seen a terrorist, live next door to one, of if their father knows a member of Indian Mujahideen.
"It's really disturbing when parents come complaining about such questions, but with whom can they take it up when profiling of children from this area is so common," said Amanatullah Khan, AAP worker and a resident of Batla House.
There are some success stories too. For instance, after the amazing transformation of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya-2, Zeenat Mahal, a century-old Urdu-medium school for girls, parents no longer need to look for schools outside their area.
Until a few years ago, the school ranked among the 200 worst-performing government schools in Delhi with its pass percentage around 50%. But in 2008, its pass rate was 100% and it topped among non-Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas (RPVV), standing fifth among all government schools. The good work continues.

Builders allotted grazing land

Times of India: Noida: Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
In response to an RTI, Noida Authority has replied that a large portion of grazing and forest land has been allotted to several developers in Noida. Construction is being carried out on these lands in various sectors, including 117, 113, 79, 77 and 79.
The Supreme Court in January 2011 had banned diversion of grazing land and forest land for commercial purpose and had also ordered that the government must provide compensation if any pasture area was used for urgent community needs like hospitals and schools.
A Noida resident, Gopal Saxena, had filed an RTI with Noida Authority seeking details of land used for commercial purposes in sectors 113, 117, 74 and 79. Replying to this, the Authority revealed that there is 19,470 sq metres, 54,260 sq metres, 19,470 sq metres forest land respectively in sectors 113, 117 and 79. They had earlier stated that about 1,40,000 sq metres of grazing land in Sector 77 had been allotted to seven realtors, who have been developing group housings projects on the land.
However, developers' claim that the grazing lands have either been used for development of roads or greenbelts around their projects. The applicant has demanded a detailed probe in the issue.
"If we receive any complaint, we will initiate a detailed investigation. We will examine on what ground the land use was changed and what was the process adopted for the change of land use. If we find any irregularities in the entire investigation, the matter will be brought to the knowledge of the state government and stringent action will be taken," said AV Rajamauli, Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate.
According to Authority sources, grazing land had been allotted to realtors under the UP Industrial Act 1976 even though the apex court had banned non-grazing activities on grazing land.
"Any attempt by either the villagers or others to encroach upon or illegally convert the grazing land to housing projects or for other non-grazing use should be resisted and firm action will be taken," the court had said.
"Grazing land can be used for building schools or hospitals in special cases. In such cases, land will be made available only when land is not available anywhere else," said S D Kautilya, senior advocate, Allahabad high court.

Cases’ info to be made public

Pune Mirror: Pune: Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
The RTI activist had filed 47 applications; kin not to pursue case against cops and politicians mentioned in the suicide note.
Amonth after 53-year-old old Right to Information (RTI) activist Vilas Dattatrey Baravkar committed suicide in his Chakan home alleging in his four-page suicide note that his opponents and even the police were against him for several years, State Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad has ordered the information sought by Baravkar to be made public, while National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) lamented the increasing attacks against whistleblowers in the state.
State Information Commissioner office in Pune has consolidated information on RTI applications filed by Baravkar he filed 47 applications in various departments, including Pune and Raigad Police Superintendent's office, Khed Tehsildar, Director General of Police and Assistant Registrar Khed.
Speaking to Mirror, State Information Commissioner, Pune, Ravindra Jadhav, said the applications filed by Baravkar have been sorted on the basis of departments they were directed to. "Out of 47 applications filed by Baravkar, 25 orders have already been issued.
Out of 22 pending applications, 14 have been directed to Pune Rural Police Superintendent and two applications to Raigad Police Superintendent's office, three to Khed Tehsildar, two to Director General of Police and one application to Assistant Registrar of Khed office. All the concerned offices have been asked to upload information sought by Baravkar on their respective websites."
When asked how many departments have complied with the order issued by his department, Jadhav said that he would "sensitise the concerned departments to upload the information on their websites". Meanwhile, National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) has written a letter to Gaikwad to issue a press release once the information is disclosed by the concerned departments.
NCPRI has mentioned in the letter that Baravkar in his suicide note had named 52 persons, including senior police officers, relatives and villagers, whose vested interests were adversely affected by his RTI interventions.
While expressing serious concern about the increasing attacks against whistleblowers in the State, NCPRI said that it reflects the failure of the State to ensure the practical realisation of the national motto 'Satyamev Jayate'. Meanwhile, fearing victimisation, Baravkar's family has decided not to pursue case against cops and politicians mentioned in the suicide note who may have abetted his death.
Sunil Shevkari, Baravkar's son-in-law told Mirror, "We have unanimously decided not to pursue the case against people mentioned in his note as we fear it may create new enemies, and we do not want that," adding that the family has forgiven them.
Additional Superintendent of Police Vijaykumar Magar, who is investigating the case, said, "We have so far recorded statements of family members and few neighbours, and further investigation is on."

Monday, April 21, 2014

MC looks away as candidates smile from illegal hoardings

Hindustan Times: Ludhiana: Monday, April 21, 2014.
While the municipal corporation (MC) has given permission to political parties to install hoardings of only a particular size, that too, only on private properties, parties continue to install hoardings of larger sizes with impunity.
As per norms of the MC, only hoardings maximum 20 x10 feet can be installed at private properties, after permission.
But several hoarding across the city, including those at Dugri Bridge and near Verka Milk Plant, are glaring examples of violation of norms, which the MC has failed to act against.
Maximum number of permission for installing hoardings have been sought by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Manpreet Singh Ayali, followed by Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu and then independent candidate Simarjit Singh Bains.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate HS Phoolka has applied for least number of hoardings and has been campaigning through rallies.
Through a Right to Information (RTI) application, Kuldeep Khaira, a city resident, had sought the number of permissions granted to different political parties in different areas of the city.
However, he was provided infor mation of only Atam Nagar constituency.
Out of the total 40 per missions, 23 were granted to Ayali, while rest were given to Bains. No other party has taken the permission to install hoardings in this constituency.
 “While the candidate of ruling alliance has been provided with more permissions to install hoardings, others are not given a fair chance. There should be a level playing field for all,” Khaira added.
According to sources, there are nearly 200 sites in Ludhiana where per mission for putting up hoardings had been given to various candidates.
MC superintendents have been made in charges of different constituencies where they are required to remove unauthorised hoardings and posters.
Rajeev Bhardwaj, superintendent of Zone A and responsible for Ludhiana north constituency, claimed that there were no violations in his zone, adding that whenever a hoarding of a prohibited size was seen, it was brought down.