Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It's time citizens shaped public policy : Y G Muralidharan

Deccan Herald: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
The lukewarm response of the citizens to an opportunity to offer their comments to the BDA's master plan 2031 for the city is attributed to lack of interest and apathy in civic matters. But the master plan is not an isolated case. Voter apathy is well known.
Increase in the tariff for electricity, water, transport, milk and other public utilities does not evoke much response from the public. Proposed laws go unnoticed, except by a section of the society whom it effects badly, like the private medical healthcare Bill. There are very few instances where citizens have participated in shaping public policy. The reasons are many and citizens alone are not to be blamed.
Public participation in our country is in its infancy and the State believes that the general public has little interest in policy deliberations and even lesser ability to provide useful inputs on policy. As a result, laws and policies are framed, and projects are implemented with least regard to public concern.
The existing convention envisages publishing the proposed law in the gazette, provide 30 days' time for the public to offer comments and suggestions. This system is working fairly well at the central level, but not so at the state level. The public is kept in dark about the draft law and its publication in the gazette. By the time a few concerned citizens get to know about the law, the last date for submitting their views would be over.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act's Section 4 [1][b] mandates all public authorities to pro-actively disclose all matters of proposed policies and programmes, besides providing the reasons for taking up these projects to those who would be affected.
Public authorities are supposed to place them in the website and use other forms of media to disseminate the contents. But it is alleged that both the BBMP and BDA are worst performers as far as their obligations under the RTI Act are concerned. It was reported that applications from the public seeking information about the steel flyover project were rejected by the BDA.
Providing information by itself will not ensure citizen participation as it will be only tokenism, as Sherry R Arnstein, the late American public policy researcher, called it. She recommended an 8-step "ladder of citizen participation" which includes manipulation, therapy, informing, consultation, placation, partnership, designated power and citizen control.
Effective public participation requires much more than information dissemination. State agencies need to have a public disclosure and participation policy. In some countries, there is the concept of 'civic engagement', which ensures transparency and accountability.
Such a policy should ensure that public agencies collect people's opinions, use public knowledge internally, and communicate back to the public as to how public knowledge has been used in decision-making processes. For this to happen, public authorities should realise that the role of citizens as receivers of state services is undergoing a massive change and authorities have to tune their functioning accordingly.
According to researchers John Gaventa and Camilo Valderrama, there is a shift from beneficiary to citizen, project to policy, consultation to decision-making, appraisal to implementation and micro to macro. The conflict between the State and the citizen needs to be resolved.
The State-centred conception of social policy often views citizens as beneficiaries or recipients of State-delivered services and programmes, whereas the market-led version focuses on the clients of social welfare as consumers. Citizens are questioning how much of their money is spent and for what purpose. Concerned citizens have approached courts with public interest litigations to question wasteful expenditure and many of them have been successful.
Democratic governance requires state support to citizens for effective participation. Citizens need capacity-building to comment on the proposed projects and policies. Public agencies need to come out with information leaflets, frequently asked questions, explanations of critical terms, etc. They need to organise public meetings and consultations to debrief the proposed policies.
Unless citizens are provided with proper information about the project or policy, how can they comment? This newspaper's campaign 'Citizens for Change' is an example of ensuring citizen participation. There are various forms of civic engagement, like citizens' juries, citizens' panels, focus group discussions, surveys, citizen advisory committees, public hearings, etc. Since each form has its own limitations, a judicious mix of these methods will be useful.
Citizen participation is not without pitfalls. There are certain difficulties that need to be addressed. For instance, public agencies and their staff may not be ready to share information as it may weaken their power and authority. Secondly, civic engagements are costly and time consuming. Third, a handful of citizens or civic groups may hijack the proceedings to their advantage. Despite these disadvantages, civic engagement in public policy needs to be structured and made mandatory.
(The writer is a member of the Central Consumer Protection Council)

Loya death serious issue, says SC, transfers all cases to itself

Times of India: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
The Supreme Court said on Monday that PILs seeking an independent probe into special CBI judge B H Loya's death raised serious issues which should be decided by looking objectively into all documents without being distracted by allegations. It transferred to itself two PILs on the matter that the Bombay high court was scheduled to hear on Tuesday.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also barred other HCs from entertaining any petition concerning Loya's case. Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Dushyant Dave conceded that "as of today the death appears to be a natural one", but said his clients had used the Right to Information Act to get many more documents on Loya's death which had not been produced by the Maharashtra government before the apex court.
These RTI documents raise serious suspicions about the circumstances leading to Loya's death," he claimed. The bench took a cue from Dave's admission and said, "If it is a natural death as of now, why cast aspersions? Let us look at the matter dispassionately and objectively." It also transferred two PILs pending before Bombay HC to itself.
The order followed high-octane arguments. A packed court room watched in silence as Maharashtra government's counsel Harish Salve presented documents, including statements of four district judges, in support of the state's stand that Loya suffered a heart attack and died a natural death. Dave attacked Salve and said the latter had violated professional ethics by appearing for the Maharashtra government despite having represented BJP chief Amit Shah.
Shah was one of the accused in the case concerning the "fake" encounter of inter-state gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh which was being tried by Loya at the time of his death. Shah was later discharged from the case.
The CJI-led bench said, "We are looking at the circumstances in which Loya died. Let it not be deflected by personal allegations. Several newspaper articles have raised a serious issue about Loya's death. We would like to look at all documents, both the ones produced by the state and those obtained through RTI by petitioners. We must know all facts. Let us look at these documents objectively and not get deflected by allegations." It posted the hearing on all PILs, including the transferred ones, on February 2.
Salve said two district judges had accompanied Loya for a wedding reception in Nagpur and they stayed together in a guesthouse where, in the early hours of December 1, 2014, Loya suffered a massive heart attack. "Loya was taken by the two district judges in a car to a hospital and then to another. These two judges were later joined by another two district judges. All of them have given statements during the discreet inquiry that they had been with Loya all along during his last hours and that there was no foul play or suspicion about the nature of death," he said.
"The claim in the media report that Loya was taken to hospital in a three-wheeler was completely baseless as the judges have stated in their statements that Loya was taken in a car to the hospital," Salve said, adding then Bombay HC chief justice Mohit Shah was informed about the developments on a realtime basis and the CJ had taken steps for adequate medical help to Loya, who could not be revived.
Dave vented his ire against Salve by questioning his ethics, and requested the SC not to permit Salve to argue in the case. He also criticised then CJ Mohit Shah in transferring the Sohrabuddin Sheikh trial judge.
"There is sufficient evidence to show Loya never stayed at the guesthouse. On November 24, 2014, Loya's security was withdrawn in Mumbai. Why were Loya's family members not called to the hospital? There are serious contradictions which require a deeper independent probe. No one has a personal interest in this case," Dave said.
"It is sad that Justice Mohit Shah transferred the first judge in the Sohrabuddin trial. The second judge (Loya) died. The third judge acquitted Amit Shah and others within a month of Loya's death," Dave said.

आरटीआई अधिनियम विकास व लोक सेवा वितरण के लिए बेहतर औजार: खुर्शीद

दैनिक जागरण: राजौरी: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
राज्य के मुख्य सूचना आयुक्त खुर्शीद अहमद गनेई ने राजौरी में पहुंच कर विभिन्न विभागों के अधिकारियों को सूचना के अधिकार से संबंधित विस्तार से जानकारी दी। उन्होंने कहा कि यह अधिनियम विकास व लोक सेवा वितरण के लिए बेहतर औजार साबित हो रहा है। इस बैठक में सचिव एसआईसी अशोक पंडिता भी मौजूद रहे।
राज्य के मुख्य सूचना आयुक्त खुर्शीद अहमद गनेई ने कहा कि आरटीआई अधिनियम से भ्रष्टाचार मुक्त समाज की स्थापना हो रही है। सूचना अधिकारी के तहत कोई भी व्यक्ति किसी भी प्रकार की जानकारी लेने का हकदार है और किसी भी विभाग का अधिकारी जानकारी देने से मना नहीं कर सकता है। विभाग के अधिकारियों को भी चाहिए कि वह अपनी जानकारी को न दबाएं और जो भी किसी भी प्रकार की जानकारी को हासिल करना चाहता है उसे तय समय पर ही जानकारी दें। उन्होंने कहा कि कुछ अधिकारी आरटीआई का नाम सुन कर ही डर जाते है इसमें डरने वाली कोई बात नहीं है। अगर अधिकारी ने सही ढंग से काम किया है तो वह जानकारी देगा अगर किसी ने काम ही सही ढंग से नहीं किया है तो वह जानकारी देने में आनाकानी करेगा। इस आनाकानी को खत्म करने के लिए ही इस कानून को लाया गया है। आरटीआई अधिनियम से विकास कार्यों की गुणवत्ता में काफी सुधार हो रहा है। इसके साथ साथ लोगों को हर प्रकार की जानकारी भी मिल रही है। उन्होंने कहा कि एक समय था जब किसी भी प्रकार की कोई भी जानकारी किसी भी आम आदमी को नहीं दी जाती थी, लेकिन अब कोई भी व्यक्ति किसी भी समय किसी भी प्रकार की जानकारी को हासिल कर सकता है। सुरक्षा से संबंधित किसी भी प्रकार की कोई भी जानकारी नहीं दी जा सकती है।
इस अवसर पर जिला आयुक्त डॉ. शाहिद इकबाल चौधरी ने कहा कि पिछले दो वर्ष में जिले के विभिन्न कार्यालय में 33 सौ आरटीई आवेदन आए थे। जिनमें से 32 सौ को निपटारा कर लिया गया है। इसके साथ साथ जिले के विभिन्न क्षेत्रों से 180 जागरूकता शिविरों का आयोजन करके लोगों को अधिनियम के संबंध में जागरूक करने का प्रयास किया गया है। इस अवसर पर जिले के विभिन्न विभागों के अधिकारी भी मौजूद रहे।

RTI: Indian Medical Association plant has no licence

Deccan Chronicle: Palakkad: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
Giving a shot in the arm for activists demanding decentralisation of the Indian Medical Association’s bio-medical waste processing plant, a document obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that the facility does not have dangerous and offensive trades (D&O) licence since March 2017. The Pudussery Panchayat which has been issuing the D&O licence to the IMA plant processing medical waste of than 6,000 private and 130 government hospitals says the plant officials had failed to produce relevant documents from fire and safety department for the licence.
RTI activist and BJP district secretary Rajeev P. who received the document said the environmental and political protesters were not for its closure but reducing the amount of the waste including aborted fetuses and surgically removed cancerous parts brought from all the private and government hospitals in Kerala to this plant named IMAGE.
“It is situated nearly 600 meters away from the water reservoir of Malampuzha Dam and within its catchment area. With irregularities out in the open, the water and soil from the water bodies in the region need to be tested, and an environmental impact study was done,” he said. "That this plant functions with two incinerators that burn waste in 900 degree Celsius did not have mandatory licences points to the fact that units needed to be set up in each district to process the medical waste.”

Legal opinion to university can’t be termed as confidential communication: SIC

Daily Excelsior: Jammu: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
State Information Commission has held that legal opinion to the university by the Standing Counsel cannot be termed as privileged and confidential communication by invoking the provisions of the Evidence Act and cannot be denied under J&K Right to Information Act.
The decision was taken in two 2nd appeals arisen out of the orders of the First Appellate Authority (Registrar University of Jammu) and the disposal of RTI applications filed by the appellant Dr Sapna Sharma by the PIO of the University of Jammu.
The appellant had requested for providing the copies of legal opinion obtained by the university in the regularization matter of Dr Bharti Prabhakar, Dr Pallavi Sachdeva and Dr Sandeep Singh besides the copy of communication of Department of Sociology applying for UGC-SAP and copy of minutes of DAC, Department of Sociology downgrading the post of Reader in 2005-06.
While rest of the information was provided to the appellant yet copies of the legal opinions tendered by the Standing Counsel of the university was not given on the ground of being third party information.
The issues before the State Information Commission in the 2nd appeals was whether legal opinion can be termed as information within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009; whether the legal opinion obtained by the university from its Standing Counsel can be categorized as privileged and confidential information and hence immune from disclosure and whether such information can be termed as information given in a fiduciary capacity and exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(e) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009.
Keeping in view judicial pronouncements and the orders of the Central Information Commission, the Information Commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir observed, “the legal advice tendered by the Standing Counsel to the university cannot be termed as privileged and confidential communication by invoking the provisions of the Evidence Act and the same cannot be denied under RTI Act in view of the overriding effect of the provisions of RTI Act over all other laws including the Evidence Act”.
“University cannot be said to be holding such information in fiduciary capacity so as to claim exemption under Section 8(1)(e) of J&K RTI Act, 2009. Only the Standing Counsel of the university can claim fiduciary relationship with the university in case the applicant directly seeks information from him”, the Information Commissioner said, adding “even the information held by a person in fiduciary capacity is to be disclosed in the larger public interest”.
While setting aside the orders of the PIO and FAA, the Information Commissioner directed the PIO to provide copies of legal opinions obtained by the university in the regularization matters of Dr Bharti Prabhakar, Dr Pallavi Sachdeva and Dr Sandeep Singh within a period of three weeks.

Which law protects info seekers? : By Madabhushi Sridhar

The Hans India: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
Security for RTI applicant is an important subject not dealt with by the RTI Act. Does it mean that Act cares not for the lives of the applicants? No. If a person’s life is under threat simply because he asked for some information, which is a legally guaranteed right, who should be responsible?
Harinder Dhingra filed an urgent petition saying that he was receiving multiple threats to his life and safety in the past 24 hours, to stop his efforts to secure information about the impersonation scandal in the appointments of LDCs and SSO (Inspectors) in ESIC, Faridabad. He also stated that because the ESIC was not implementing the orders of CIC, threats to him had been started. 
He wrote to the Commission that he filed representations to the official email IDs of Haryana police, the Ministry and the ESIC today (i.e, January 5, 2018). The appellant approached the Commission through his representative during the lunch time and also forwarded the copies of his representations to the three aforementioned public authorities.
The appellant filed various RTI applications wherein directions were issued on 24th March, 2017 which was partly compiled with by ESIC and the matter was also referred to the CBI. The Commission directed the ESIC to provide information regarding appointment/recruitment of Social Service Officers (Inspectors).
It was noticed that though there was a serious suspicion about impersonation, as visible from the contentions of both the parties, nothing tangible could come out of the exercise under RTI and other investigations. One of the reasons for this is weeding out of records like the copies of admit cards etc.
The officers representing the public authority represented to the Commission that the ESIC had learnt from its past experiences like this and was making foolproof arrangements to prevent any possibility of impersonation in the examination. The officers also submitted about the measures to increase the transparency and publish the results on website immediately after the completion of the evaluation along with the merit list to prevent the irregularities.
The Commission felt that there was a need to inquire into the allegations of impersonation and irregularities raised by the appellant. The Commission recommended a follow-up action on letter dated 09.08.2017 and reminder dated 30.09.2017 addressed to Joint Director (TFC), CBI, requesting them to use the services of the handwriting experts through CFSL to bring out the persons involved in the impersonation scandal in ESIC.
The Commission directed the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to inform the appellant when they would respond to the letter dated 25.09.2017 forwarded from the Additional Commissioner of ESIC and provide a certified copy of their conclusions to the appellant within 15 days from the date of preparing such letter/report, and the CPIO of ESIC is directed to forward this Order to CPIO concerned, Central Forensic Science Laboratory and follow-up accordingly. The Commission directs the respondent authority to inform the appellant about the progress in the investigation and action taken on the serious issue raised by the appellant.
The Commission also directed the public authority to provide certified copies of the extract of weeding out register and also directed the Chief Vigilance Officer, ESIC, to inform the status of inquiry, along with latest action status, within 15 days from the date of receipt of the order. Dhingra also submitted that: “I am pursuing this case of fraud played on deserving candidates, who lost out on the jobs to non-deserving candidates, which in turn turned this Mafia against me, who can be seen roaming around my residence enquiring about me.
The delay in not providing information by ESIC has exposed me to risk of being physically harmed and as such it is prayed that ESIC is directed to provide information and also put on public domain so that risk to the appellant is minimized.”
It was personally represented that after this Commission ordered the public authority to furnish the copies of report of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), who analysed the admit-cards and attendance sheets, and the orders were uploaded on the official website of the Commission on 30.12.2017, the threats started pouring in.
It was represented that some unidentified people passing by him, when he was walking in his colony, threatened him to stop pursuing the RTI cases, and were leaving the scene immediately, even when Dhingra was asking him to come home and discuss.
The appellant said that such incidents happened at different times involving different people in the last 24 hours. The Commission found that threats were serious in nature and risk to life and liberty of appellant increased. He also wanted the action-related information on his representation for protection filed before the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Chairman ESIC and the Director General of Police, Haryana.
In view of the urgency and seriousness of the matters, the Commission considered that this complaint of non-compliance as an immediate extension of second appeals in the above referred numbers and directed the authorities concerned to initiate measures to secure the life and liberty of the appellant and his family members and inform him the steps taken to assure him of protection. The CIC order says:
A.The Commission directs Shri Raj Kumar, IAS, Director General of ESIC, to take necessary measures to ensure the life and safety of the appellant Mr. Harinder Dhingra and his family members, and file compliance report within 48 hours.
B.The Commission directs Shri Arun Kumar, Insurance Commissioner, (Revenue & Benefit, Recruitment, Inspection & Actuarial, Pubic Relations, P&A Except E-II, E-IV & E-VI), Ministry of Labour and Employment, to initiate necessary steps to secure the life and safety of the appellant and his family members, besides instructing speedy investigation and strict action against the culprits, who are obviously behind the threats, and because any delay in investigation might increase the risk of appellant and others, and file compliance report within 48 hours. 
C.The Commission also directs Shri Baljit Singh Sandhu, Director General of Police, Haryana, to urgently act on this complaint and provide adequate security to Mr. Harinder Dhingra and his family members, besides, inform him the action taken and submit compliance report to the Commission within 48 hours.
D.The Commission also directs the CPIO, ESIC Hqrs., Faridabad, to comply the order dated 11.12.2017 and send the compliance report within 10 days.
The Whistle Blower Protection Bill 2011 is part of a drive to eliminate corruption in the country's bureaucracy and it was passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011 and by Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President's assent on 9 May 2014.
This is “an Act to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption or willful misuse of power or willful misuse of discretion against any public servant and to inquire or cause an inquiry into such disclosure and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto”. The salient features are:
  • What: It seeks to protect whistle blowers, i.e., persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense by a public servant.
  • Who: Anybody can be a whistle blower: Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organisation may make such a disclosure to the Central or the State Vigilance Commission.
  • Identity: It insists on disclosure of identity. Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant.
  • Confidentiality: However, the Act protected identity from disclosure: The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Act penalises any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant.
  • Penalising complainant: The Act has a controversial clause that prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints.
Whether this Act extends protection to the information seekers under RTI Act? Whether information seekers fall under the category of ‘persons who made disclosures to State or Central Vigilance Commissioner’?

RTI used mostly to settle personal scores: Information Commissioner Bimal Julka

Economic Times: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
The Right to Information Act, conceived as a tool for the common man to make the government more accountable towards administration and governance, has in the past few years seen an "unfortunate shift".
The number of people filing RTI applications asking about how government schemes are being implemented has shrunk, and it has largely become a weapon to dig out private details of people to settle personal scores, information commissioner Bimal Julka told state commissioners at a meeting on Saturday.
Julka urged them to help make RTI an effective tool to empower the common man and train officials in giving clear and concise replies.
"It is unfortunate that most of the RTI applications are directed at private interests, matrimonial disputes, knowing salaries and leave records of rivals and settling personal scores. That was not the intent of RTI," a state information officer who attended the meeting quoted Julka as saying.
Grievance redress was never the part of RTI the way it is now, but is increasingly becoming the reason for most people to file RTIs, he said at the meeting, which was presided over by chief information commissioner RK Mathur.
"The IC (information commissioner) told us that RTI is increasingly becoming about addressing one's own problems getting a refund of tax, or settling personal scores ... 
Nobody is asking about GST or Make in India. People don't even file first appeal. They directly go for complaints. Is their trust in the first appellate authorities going down," the state official said.

RTI Act, a vital tool for effective public service delivery: CIC

State Times: Rajouri: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
CIC, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai chairing a meeting at Rajouri.
Terming Right to Information Act as a vital tool for quality development and effective public services delivery, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Khurshid Ahmed Ganai on Monday called for implementation of the Act in letter and spirit.
The CIC was addressing the Roundtable of First Appellate Authorities (FAAs), Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) of District Rajouri.
Secretary J&K SIC Ashok Pandita, Deputy Commissioner Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, ADDC A S Chib, SSP Yougal Manhas, ADC Qayoom Mir, Addl SP Mohd Yousuf, media persons from electronic and print media besides all FPAs, PIOs and APIOs of various government departments attended the Roundtable.
Deliberating on the objectives of the Act the CIC said the Act envisages to provide a transparent and accountable governance to the people with greater aim of establishing a corruption free society. Linking corruption with lack of information in public domain, he said easy and increased flow of information will enable the public to question public spending and social auditing of the government’s projects and schemes, which in turn, will enhance the quality of development and effectiveness in delivery of public services.
The CIC called upon the PIOs and FAAs present in the Roundtable to go through the J&K RTI Act, 2009 and Rules carefully to ensure that they perform their duties in conformity with the provisions of the Act. He said that slackness in the implementation of Section 4 of the Act pertaining to mandatory and suo moto disclosure of information through websites is a big concern which needs to be addressed by all the Public Authorities. He also impressed upon them to establish dedicated RTI cells in their offices to facilitate applicants and ensure time bound replies. Earlier Dr Shahid informed that of 3,300 RTI applications received in the district in last two years more than 3,200 stands disposed off. He further informed that in past six months massive awareness has been carried in every nook and corner of the district in more than 180 Camps and implementation of RTI is monitored and reviewed on monthly basis by district administration.

AP government websites not complying with RTI Act norms

Deccan Chronicle: Vijayawada: Tuesday, January 23, 2018.
Not all the AP government websites are complying with the norms of  Right To Information (RTI) Act. An audit of websites done by a group of RTI activists shows that very few fared well.
Websites are the only interface between the public and government departments and they play an important role in disseminating information related to government schemes and programmes.
Information technology, electronics and the communication department website top the overall charts with a score of 39 points, followed by the department of agriculture with 38 points.
East Godavari district’s official website, the Chief Commissioner of land administration, and the Revenue department, share joint 3rd spot with 37 points.
Srikakulam district and West Godavari district websites stand last, having scored just 7 and 8 points respectively.
In the case of West God-avari http://www.westgodavari.org/index.html is not registered on the state portal. It’s unclear whether it is an official website or not and it’s also an unconfirmed website.
Around 30 indicators derived from Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act which stipulates voluntary disclosure of information, Section 4(2)-Section 4(3) of RTI Act which prescribe the method of dissemination of information and guidelines issued by National Informatics Centre, government of India,  government websites were  used for the audit.
Non-information, outdated information, misleading information, are all given zero points,  practical disclosure is awarded 1 point and full disclosure  is given 2 points. The maximum score any website can get is 60 points.
Out of a possible highest score of 60, only 10 websites scored more than 30 points. 7 websites scored below 15 out of a possible score of 60. Only 8 websites contain ‘information citizen charter’ on their websites. District handbooks which are published by the government are rich in information and uploaded only on four district websites, out of 19.  Out of 18 websites, only 11 websites have partial information about the district-­ level officials like the Collector and Joint collector and 7 other websites have no information. The details include  office address, contact details, etc.
“Providing information on websites in both Telugu and English saves a lot of resources both for public information officers and also citizens who want to avail of the Right to Information Act. Each Ministry must have a nodal website which contains all the useful links about the institutions under the ministry. Date of being updated must be prominently published in the websites from time to time,” an RTI activist who led the audit team told Deccan Chronicle.

Monday, January 22, 2018

RTI tool to transparent democracy: Chief Commissioner Banskota

Kathmandu Tribune: Kathmandu: Monday, January 22, 2018.
Chief Commissioner at the National Information Commission, Krishna Hari Banskota, has said the good governance and development are the bases of democracy.
Speaking in a regular meeting of the chiefs at the district based offices here Sunday, Banskota presented paper on principles and practice of right to information.
He added that RTI was an important tool to maintain good governance and transparency resulting in financial transparency with administrative reforms.
Similarly, Chief District Officer Rishiram Tiwari shared that he was committed to implementing the RTI in the office.
On the occasion, Chief Commissioner Banskota launched a book published by district election office.

RTI: Petrol bunks cannot be used for city's ODF status

Times of India: Madurai: Monday, January 22, 2018.
A RTI filed by the Tamil Nadu Petrol traders association found that no government order was passed to enable the public to utilise the toilets in the petrol bunks and other public places if the need arose, in order to declare the city open defecation free (ODF).
According to a press release, the president of the association, J Selvam has said that they had filed an RTI, based on a media report that the Madurai Corporation Commissioner in a press release,dated 7.12.2017 had asked the public to utilise the toilets in petrol bunks, in order to avoid defecating in the open in the city. The association has immediately filed an RTI in this regard on Dec 12, last year seeking a clarification. The reply from the information officer of the corporation dated, Jan 19, 2018, stated, that no such order was released, and that petrol bunks did not come under the control of the Madurai Corporation. Similarly, the toilets in private establishments also did not come under the control of the Madurai Corporation.
Hence, these toilets could not be used for the city's ODF drive, without the consent of the concerned persons.

Funds for tribals misappropriated: PIL

The Asian Age: Mumbai: Monday, January 22, 2018.
The allegations are based on information received under Right To Information (RTI).
The Bombay high court has asked the Tribal Welfare department to file its reply to the allegations by a petitioner who has alleged that the officials from the department have siphoned off nearly Rs 1,000 crore since 2010. The allegations are based on information received under Right To Information (RTI). The petitioner has said that officials have spent only a small portion of the funds and pocketed the remaining amount meant for various tribal welfare schemes in Nashik. The court expressed surprise at the revelations and asked the department to file a reply failing which it would ask the state tribal welfare department secretary to attend court.
A division bench of justices Naresh Patil and Nitin Sambre was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Munaf Tadvi, a member of the Adivasi Bachao Andolan, an NGO working for the uplitment of tribals living in and around Nashik. Advocate Swapnil Valave who appeared on behalf of the petitioner informed the court that Tadvi had stumbled upon the misappropriation when he had inquired about the use of Rs 1.25 crore that was meant for supplying power to some of the hamlets where the tribals lived.
He further said that the department had installed power lines in some hamlets but there was nothing of that sort. Mr Tadvi then filed RTI applications seeking information on how the funds received from the centre and state was spent. That is when he realised that nearly Rs 1000 cr funds meant for tribals had been misappropriated in 2010 and 2011 by the project officers and the tribal welfare department commissioner’s office.
After hearing the submissions, the court directed the project officer to submit a detailed report of the amount spent with details of projects and schemes where the funds were used. The bench further warned the officer to ensure that the reply against the allegations by the petitioner was filed by the next hearing failing which the secretary of the department would be called.

Cantonment Metro re-survey an eyewash: RTI

Deccan Chronicle: Bengaluru: Monday, January 22, 2018.
RTI responses reveal correspondence between the South Western Railway, Bengaluru division, and BMRCL on Cantonment Metro station alignment. Filed by activist and transport expert Sanjeev Dyamnavar, the documents reveal three issues.
Suspicious change in alignment
On May 11, former BMRCL MD Pradeep Singh Kharola wrote a letter to Divisional Railway Manager R.S. Saxena asking for land.
Mr Kharola wrote, "BMRCL is requiring land for construction of UG Cantonment station. Permanent land needed - 2472.448 square metres (0.61 acres) and temporary land for four years - 16234.407 square meters (4.01 acres). Apart from alignment, the structures like station entry/exit structures require large extent of land."
Pointing out the discrepancy, Dyamnavar said, "The two departments had a discussion on August 22, 2017. On August 24, BMRCL writes back saying that they have found alternative land at Bamboo Bazaar. This seems fishy as they changed the alignment without consultation of state government, elected representatives like MP P.C. Mohan and citizens."
He also pointed out that though BMRCL cited many technical excuses
of depth, curvature and length, the RTI mentions none of those reasons for the change of alignment.
Re-survey eyewash?
A September 20, 2017 letter by DRM to BMRCL reads, "Consequent upon approval of alternate location by High Power Committee, Board of Directors of BMRCL and as discussed during Joint Site inspection by DRM and MD in the presence of M.K. Sinha, MoUD on 13th September, the decision taken is confirmed. "
Rajkumar Dugar said, "In the correspondence, we can gather that Bamboo Bazaar alignment was predetermined. The re-survey of the old alignment held on November 11 was eyewash, as the change was secretly confirmed on September 20 itself between the two departments. They have been taking citizens on a ride and never seriously considered the original alignment."
Loss of open spaces for children.
"The playground is about four acres. Going by their requirements, they will need 50 % of the playground land temporarily and 70% will be unusable by children for 4-5 years during construction," Dyamnavar said.

Mahatma Gandhi assassination case records part of Indian heritage, says Delhi High Court

The Indian Express: New Delhi: Monday, January 22, 2018.
Terming the records pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination as part of India’s “cultural heritage”, the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre how it intends to collect and maintain the entire case information as was directed by transparency panel CIC. The poser by Justice Vibhu Bakhru came while hearing a plea by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) challenging an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had directed it to provide the police investigation’s original records including the case diaries and final charge sheet to an RTI applicant.
The CIC had also directed Delhi Police to provide information about efforts made by it to arrest three absconders Gangadhar Dahawate, Surya Dev Sharma and Gangadhar Yadav. The home ministry told the court that it was not the authority which had all the information and it would probably be available with the Ministry of Culture, the National Archives or Delhi Police.
It also told the court that the Ministry of Culture was working on collecting and preserving the information pertaining to the case as the directions were also issued to it by the CIC. The court, however, said if the records were not available with the home ministry, it can access or call for the same from other authorities.
It asked the home ministry how it intended to ensure maximum implementation of the objective of the CIC order. “Tell us how you are going to do it,” it queried and the ministry’s lawyer said he will have to seek instructions. The court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on February 12.
The CIC order had come on a plea by Odisha-based RTI applicant Hemant Panda who had told the commission that he was a researcher and interested in studying the records pertaining to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi who was shot dead on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a right-wing activist.
Panda had claimed that he had studied the records, including those in the repository of the National Archives of India (NAI), but could not find two important documents– the final charge sheet by Delhi Police and order of execution of Godse.
In his RTI application, Panda had raised three queries on which he needed clarity the efforts made to arrest the absconders in the case, the reasons for acquitting other two accused and whether a copy of final charge sheet and order of execution of Godse are missing from the records.
The CIC had directed Delhi Police to transfer its original records, which show its efforts to trace the absconders in the case, to the NAI for preservation.
The commission had also noted that there was “no official compilation of records at one place about his death”.
“The police have a duty to explain what efforts were taken to arrest three absconding accused or why they could not be traced. The Ministry of Home Affairs has an onerous responsibility to take up this task and place all of those records with the NAI for general access of the public,” the CIC had said.

11 patients die in Ggn's pvt hospitals daily, RTI reveals

Millennium Post: Gurugram: Monday, January 22, 2018.
With 3,643 deaths recorded in the last 11 months, statistics show that an average of 11 people lose their lives daily in major private hospitals of Gurugram.
The information was provided to activist Mohit Khatana by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, over an RTI petition filed by him.
With over 1,430 deaths Medanata Hospital leads the charts, with four deaths daily. Other hospitals in the list are Artemis at 715 deaths, Park with 505, Paras with 458, Fortis with 314 and Max with 221.
The data reflects how highly residents of Gurugram, as well as those of neighbouring states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, are dependant on the city's private hospitals.
Recently, Bhupendra Singh Yadav, the son of former Rajasthan minister, died of swine flu in one such private hospital.
"One of the reasons for such a high number of deaths is the large numbers of patients coming from outside areas.
"Most of them come in serious conditions that does not get adequate medical treatment in the hospital in their areas," said a senior doctor, requesting anonymity.
Even as ethical practices of private hospitals are being questioned, poor public healthcare has pushed patients towards the privates.
In a reply to one of Khatana's earlier RTI queries, it was revealed that the absence of a trauma centre led to over 10,000 patients being referred to Delhi government hospitals between 2004 and October 2017. Notwithstanding the controversies surrounding top hospitals, another RTI reply revealed that 224 private clinics in Gurugram were being run by quacks.
Taking cognisance of the issue, the Haryana government wishes to enforce the Clinical Establishment Act. However, the passage of the bill has been rocky, as doctors in private hospitals have expressed their dismay over the law and even threatened strikes.