Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Staff crunch, poor upkeep hit Bhopal gas tragedy research institute

Hindustan Times: Bhopal: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
A national level research institute meant to study the impact of Bhopal gas tragedy on health of the survivors and environment around the abandoned Union Carbide factory is limping with staff crunch, poor facilities and little progress on research front. Gas survivors' organisations have claimed on basis of documents obtained through Right to Information (RTI) that during the last four year since its inception, the National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) has failed to complete even a single research. During the last four years, only 412 patients have benefitted in form of clinical treatment for eye and pulmonary problems.
The NIREH, an Indian council of Medical Research (ICMR) centre, was set up on the campus of the Kamla Nehru Hospital in year 2010 as a Union government initiative to find out the long term impact of the Bhopal gas tragedy on people and environment of the city. However, the institute has failed to make any positive impact for the gas survivors, organisations have said.
Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha alleged "Of the 10 research proposals listed, only one project is working. Two other projects are being carried out by external researchers at their own work places." He further said that of the sanctioned 184 posts, only 44 have been filled and even their academic qualification/expertise remains questionable.
Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action (BGIA) said that the institute does not have a full time director. Of the five scientists currently in NIREH, four have not published a single research paper in international journals in their entire career and two have faced disciplinary action.
She also said that in violation of ICMR's ethical code, research on survivors of the gas disaster is being carried out without their informed consent which has led to two of research projects being stopped midway. Satinath Sarangi, also of BGIA, alleged that out of the six clinical research wings, only one (pulmonary department) is functional.
Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh alleged that despite expenditure of Rs. 8 crore on renovation, no laboratory at NIREH is in working condition.
Recently, during the 5th anniversary celebrations of the institute, the gas survivors' organisations had submitted a memorandum to the acting director of the institute, Dr Manoj Pandey. "There has been no response from him," Dhingra said. The repeated attempts of HT to contact Dr Pandey also were in vain as he did not respond to phone calls and text message.

No respite from HC to 2,700 Shastri Nagar shopkeepers.

Times of India: Meerut: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
The Allahabad high court has dismissed the appeal of the Shastri Nagar Central Market Association, which had petitioned the court to regularize 2,700 business establishments that had come up in a residential area.
These shops were in an area developed by the Awas Vikas Parishad as residential establishments in early 1970s. In the last four decades, many of them gradually changed into commercial centres.
Association secretary Vinod Arora said, "We had petitioned the court to regularize the commercial set-ups as the authorities, in all these years, never thought of developing commercial set-ups, schools or hospitals. That was why residential areas became commercial zones. However, the HC has dismissed the petition, saying it could be filed as a Public Interest Litigation. So a few of us have again filed those."
Markets cannot come up in residential areas, under the Parishad Regulation Act, 1965. There is also no provision of compounding charges on the change of land use (CLU) under this act and demolition is the only course of action under the law.
In November 2011, an RTI application was filed in the office of PV Jaganmohan, then housing commissioner of the state, demanding information on the number of residential properties in which CLU was done between 1995 and 2011.
On the basis of the response to that application, objections were raised at the office of Umesh Mittal, appellate authority, Awas Vikas, Meerut.
The RTI applicant, Lokesh Khurana, was informed that the housing belt developed in the areas of Shastri Nagar and Jagriti Vihar had been converted unlawfully into commercial properties, resulting in chaos in the area. Bank offices, massive showrooms and hotels had come up in space meant for homes.
Another noticeable legal loophole is that under the Awas Vikas Act, a property that undergoes CLU does not remain freehold property. The ground reality, however, is that properties which are entirely commercial ones have been given freehold property status by the Awas Vikas Authority, resulting in unprecedented escalation of property cost in this area.
The Awas Vikas authorities were given three weeks by the court in Nov 2012 to explain the lapses. The authority accepted all the irregularities, and also mentioned that there was no provision to regularize these.
The Awas Vikas Authority accepted then that CLU has been done on 2,700 properties and said that sufficient police force was not available to demolish these. Then DIG of Meerut, Prem Prakash, said that no forces were requested from his office.
Soon afterwards, the authority issued a notice in newspapers to all owners of properties whose land use was changed, directing them to reconvert their properties into residential ones or face demolition.
Since no action was taken in two years, on May 27 this year Lokesh Khurana filed another petition in the Allahabad high court, drawing attention to the setting up of even more commercial establishments in the area.
Superintending engineer Umesh Mittal of the Awas Vikas Parishad told TOI that action was being taken in accordance with the master plan 2021, and fresh notice was issued in the month of September. "All commercial property owners have been given six month notices, after which their properties will be sealed," he said.

Delay in appointing CIC - Amandeep Singh

Kashmir Times: Srinagar: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
The Right to Information Act is under threat once again! This time due to the Government not appointing a Chief Information Commissioner. How can the Central Information Commission (CIC), responsible for adjudicating RTI appeals, function effectively without a Chief Information Commissioner? For the first time since the landmark legislation was passed in 2005, there is no Chief Information Commissioner in the CIC. The post has remained vacant since August 22, 2014.
This massive delay in appointing a new Chief is severely hampering the working of the Information Commission. There is already a huge backlog in the Commission with close to 25,000 appeals and complaints pending. This ever-increasing backlog of cases challenges the citizen’s fundamental Right to Information and creates roadblocks in fighting corruption, big and small.
The BJP which cashed in on ‘anti-corruption’ slogan and the innumerable scams of the Congress to win the elections seems to have forgotten its quest for transparency soon after winning the elections. The headless Information Commission is an example. How then can such a key institution to fight corruption remain rudderless? One reason offered by the government for the delay is that there is no Leader of Opposition. However, the RTI Act clearly states that in the absence of a recognised Leader of Opposition, the leader of the single largest opposition party should be part of the committee to appoint the new chief.
The RTI Act is one of the most empowering legislations for citizens and there are millions of examples from across the country on how people have successfully used RTI to hold the government accountable. The government should, therefore, immediately begin the process to appoint a Chief Information Commissioner without further delay.

Ready to give details through RTI: Dr Qasba

Greater Kashmir: Srinagar: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Dr GN Qasba on Tuesday said it has utilized 36080 litres of phenyl in flood hit areas of the summer capital and maintained that details about its distribution can be obtained by anyone through RTI.
“SMC till date has received 196 barrels of phenyl from different quarters out of which 164 barrels (36080 litres) have been distributed. Besides the SMC has kept a provision for distribution of phenyl among general public. Phenyl has also been supplied to various schools, colleges, offices, judiciary, police stations, health centres hospitals, government offices on the requisition of the concerned authorities,” Dr Qasba said.
“People who are interested in taking details about distribution and utilization of the disinfectants including phenyl (litre wise) can approach this office through RTI. RTI shall be accepted through email,” he said.
The SMC Commissioner said if anyone needs phenyl he can come to Central Municipal office and approach stores officer.

RTI reveals irregularity in number of road constructions in Mandi district

Hindustan Times: Mandi: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
Right to Information (RTI) activist and prominent social worker Sant Ram has revealed that as many as 20 roads, constructed by spending more than `20 crore, in Seraj segment of the district are either not built as per detailed project report (DPR) specifications or some incomplete roads have been declared fit for traffic in papers, whereas these roads are not even fit for two-wheelers.
Ram said he obtained the information from public works department (PWD) and Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) for the comparative study and demanded inspection of the roads under the RTI Act from PWD to reveal the actual condition of the roads.
He added both the departments tried to hide the information in the beginning but he struggled to get the information and maximum information could be collected after filing appeal with state chief information commissioner, Shimla.
He also wrote to chief minister Virbhadra Singh and informed about the possible embezzlement of worth rupees crore in the construction of these roads but no action was initiated.
He added that few of these roads were not constructed up to the marks but shown completed in the papers and later on extra budget was spend in the name of repair works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
Meanwhile, maximum of these roads were either dedicated or laid foundation stones by the previous government leaders in haste prior to the state assembly elections 2012.
Ram said he had served PWD department a legal notice through his advocate Deshraj Sharma to complete the roads according to the approved DPR without extra budget or he will file petition against the anomalies and possible embezzlement in the Himachal Pradesh high court.

Chuck Facebook, file RTI queries: Teenager sets an example by making a difference

Firstpost: New Delhi: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
How many times did former prime minister Manmohan Singh address the public during his 10-year tenure? The answer is 1,300 times.
That's what the reply to an RTI query by Himadrish Suwan from the Prime Minister's office said.
"The reply was quite amusing. From 24 June, 2004 to 31 May, 2013, the then prime minister spoke 1,300 times on different issues. Interestingly, the PMO even included Singh's one-line replies to media queries in the list of speeches,” he told Firstpost.
The query of the 17-year-old almost made the prime minister's office accept that the former prime minister speaking even two sentences was a like delivering a speech!
Meet Suwan, the RTI warrior, who has just been honoured with the Young Achiever's Award by the International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP). The award for information activism came on the recommendation of the Confederation of Indian Universities on the World Teachers' Day.
Suwan, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science from Shaheed Bhagat Singh College of Delhi University, has so far filed 100 RTIs "in the larger interest of people". He thinks RTI is a formidable tool to fight corruption. It can bring in transparency and accountability. It will also build pressure on authorities, the teenager added.
"I file an RTI query whenever I face problems in getting something done by the government officials. It puts pressure on public authorities and makes them answerable," he said.
When Suwan was 15, he sought a reply from the railway ministry on the pathetic condition of the New Delhi-Ranchi Rajdhani Express. He used to take the train often to go to Ranchi to meet his grandparents during vacations.
The Indian Railways swung into action once the RTI was filed and changed 16 ICF coaches with LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches, which are ideal for high-speed trains. The LHB coaches are anti-telescopic and in situation of derailment or collision it prevents the bogies from turning turtle.
"I wrote to the Railway Ministry in April 2012 asking it why the 20-year-old ICF coaches of New Delhi-Ranchi Rajdhani had not been changed with better equipped LHB coaches. Who will be responsible if any accident occurs? I also brought the pathetic condition of toilets and interiors of the old coaches into the notice of the ministry. The then Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal assured me that the coaches would soon be changed and when it was done, I was informed by the ministry,” he said.
The worst traffic jam at IGNOU Road near Saket, where he stays, forced him to file a query with the Delhi Police. "The reason for the traffic jam was absence of a divider and lack of traffic police on the busy road. How can an ambulance with a critically ill patient pass through the area? I asked the police," he said adding, “Few days later, I saw the impact. Two policemen were permanently deployed there to control the traffic and a makeshift barricade was erected”.
When asked who inspired him to file RTI queries, he said he learnt the procedure from one of his friends who is also involved in RTI activism. "Instead of wasting time on Facebook, it is better to devote time to such constructive work which is in the larger interest of the society," Suwan said.
Does this not come in the way of his studies? The boy, with a good academic performance so far, said, "I draft RTIs in my free time. If you have your question ready, it takes few minutes to file an RTI. Everything is online. You need to type your questions and furnish other details in the given format on RTI website - https://rtionline.gov.in/"
Although Suwan is disappointed with the decline in the number of RTIs filed every year.
“Of 10 applicants, only four applicants get satisfactory replies. Government officials either sideline the rest six RTI applications citing various lame excuses or they give inadequate information. Applicants need to make repeated attempts to get information," he added.
“The benefits of the RTI Act, which completed five years on Tuesday, have not seeped fully into the core of society in many parts in India. Yet, it is increasingly being used by the common man - from an elementary school teacher to college students," he said.
Suwan's mother is a teacher in a private school here and father is a businessman. Once done with studies Suwan wants to become a judge.

Maharashtra: Government removed state Anti Corruption Bureau from RTI ambit on election eve

Economic Times: Mumbai: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
The Prithviraj Chavan government passed a resolution that has insulated the state Anti Corruption Bureau from Right to Information Act, a few day before the model code of conduct came in to being.
The Maharashtra government cleared the resolution on September 6, just six days before the model code of conduct was enforced with the announcement of the Maharashtra election schedule announced by the EC.
The move is being seen as a sign to protect many of the Congress and NCP bigwigs who are facing cases of corruption against them. The ACB wants to conduct an 'open inquiry' against NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare, while Congress leader Kripashankar Singh already faces allegations of corruption against him and is also being investigated by the ACB.
"Once the people are not able to monitor the cases, then the investigating agencies can do what they want with the case. The move will only give rise to rampant corruption as the politicians and bureaucrats would know that even if there is a probe against them, it can easily be derailed during the investigation stage and no one would know." said RTI activist Anil Galgali.
Sanjay Tiwari, an activist who had filed cases against Mumbai Congress leader and former Minister Kripashankar Singh in a case of disproportionate assets which is currently being investigated by the ACB and has unearthed various other scams, said that the government should now withdraw the RTI.
" If you keep everything out of the ambit of the RTI, then why have the act? Lets not have the act at all."said Tiwari. Giving an instance of how lack of oversight on investigating agencies like ACB scuttles probe, the activist pointed out to a more than Rs 10 crore scam that he had unearthed in 2006.
"In 2006, after the floods in Mumbai, the government had given compensation to families, however in many cases the compensation was siphoned off by government officials themselves without paying those affected people."said Tiwari.
In spite of repeated attempts former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was not available for comments. Galgali though said that considering how many NCP leaders from the party had joined the BJP, he is not hopeful of the BJP led government repealing the GR.

Narendra Modi government takes RTI to another level: All replies to be put online.

Economic Times: New Delhi: Wednesday, 22 October 2014.
It had been expected to dilute the UPA government's showpiece Right to Information (RTI) Act that had become a scourge of sorts for its ministers and bureaucrats and was even blamed by some as a contributing factor for the policy paralysis during its reign. But the Narendra Modi-led BJP government has done the reverse and taken RTI to quite another level.
Starting next month, all replies given under RTI by ministries will be posted online, available for access to all and not just to persons seeking the information. This will mean unprecedented scale of disclosure and cheer transparency advocates, especially those in the NGO sector with whom this government has had a testy relationship. Until now, only the person filing the RTI application seeking replies from a ministry or a government department would get the reply and that too mostly via post.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on Tuesday issued an official memorandum to all central ministries and departments directing them to take "immediate action" to ensure that "the facility to upload the reply to RTI application and first appeal on the website of the respective ministry or department" may be started from October 31. Replies to queries will be put up on ministries' website and be available for all to view and not just the person behind the query.
The move has won the government plaudits. Satyanand Mishra, former Chief Information Commissioner, told ET that the step takes transparency under the RTI Act to "just another level." "It is a very good and welcome step. It will not only improve transparency but also reduce workload of government officials as it will help eliminating possibility of repeated RTI queries on the same issue," Mishra said.
"As far as person whose RTI reply is put online, someone seeking transparency in form of a RTI plea should not have any problem is government shows the same transparency and makes the reply to him public," he added. Incidentally, the UPA government too had tried to do a similar thing and even passed instructions to this effect in April last year, but its move could never be implemented.
A DoPT official told ET that the Modi government was now implementing what could not be done by its predecessor, noting that the RTI Act had a specific provision for suo-moto disclosure of information. "Any person can now check a website to see what information has already been asked for and provided under RTI and hence the Ministry will be relieved of answering the same queries again and again. It will also bring transparency," a senior DoPT official said, requesting anonymity.
The DoPT note to ministries, while exhorting disclosure, also warns them to exercise caution while dealing with information that could affect privacy of individuals.
"It may be noted that RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to personal information of an individual may not be disclosed, if they do not serve any public interest," the note said.
On its part, the DoPT has already added, on a pilot basis, a new feature on its website that gives an option to all Central Public Information Officers to upload replies to RTI on its site. The PMO recently led by example by disclosing the details on number of staff, PM's staff and also the assets of all central ministers.
The UPA birthed the RTI with great pride in 2005, but found itself bruised periodically by the transparency revolution it had unleashed. Some political storms triggered by the RTI during the UPA era include letters between Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi on RTI amendments; in the telecom scam, the communication between Singh and the then-telecom minister A Raja; the exchange between the PM and the CJI on the declaration of assets by judges and letters from three sports ministers that flagged off the c o r r uption in the 2010 Commonwealth Games spending.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

IAS officers hestitant to declare their assets

Times of India: Lucknow: Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
Less than 7% Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers have filed online property returns.
In response to an RTI query by activist Sanjay Sharma, ministry of personnel, PG and Pension, DoPT, Government of India, said, "Total 311 IAS officers have filed online property returns in the prescribed format as mentioned in Lokpal and Lokayukta Act.
Authorized strength of IAS is 6,270. Out of which, 4,619 officers are in service. 311 officers who have disclosed their movable and immovable assets is only 6.73% of the total number of officers in service.

Siby Post: Govt has the Leeway to Act

The New Indian Express: Thiruvanathapuram: Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
The verdict in the ISRO spy case has raised serious questions about the propriety of State Chief Information Commissioner Siby Mathews continuing to hold the post.
With back to back orders from the NHRC and the Kerala High Court, the government can now take a decision to remove him from holding the statutory post, experts pointed out. The State Information Commissioners can be removed from the post as per Section 17 of the Right To Information Act 2005, said former State Information Commissioner V V Giri. Only the Governor can take action against a Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioner, he further added.
Under Section 17(3)(b) of the RTI Act, the Governor can remove an Information Commissioner by order if he has been convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the Governor, involves moral turpitude, V V Giri said.

Activists up in arms about ACB being out of RTI ambit in Maharashtra

DNA: Mumbai: Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
Outgoing government's clandestine parting shot slammed.
Days before the outgoing government gave a nod to the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) for probing Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare in an irrigation scam, it clandestinely ensured that ACB's working is out of the public eye. As a parting shot, the outgoing state government kept the ACB out of the RTI's ambit. A notification to the effect was issued on September 6 and is not present on the circulars posted on the government website. While it needs to be passed in the state legislature, its implementation can be affected the day it is has been issued.
How did the incident come to light?
When Pune-based RTI activist, Vijay Kumbhar was following up cases with ACB under RTI and was denied information based on that notification. The notice was issued under sub-section 4 of section 24 of the RTI Act.
What is the govt exempt from?
It allows the government to have its own exemptions on security and intelligence agencies. Once in, they are exempt from giving information unless there are instances of corruption or human rights violations.
What other cases have surfaced?
Besides the two ministers, the ACB also has cases against various others like former minister Harshwardhan Patil. Recently through RTI, it had come to fore that the state was sitting on several proposals from ACB to prosecute high ranking officials in the state.
Vijay Kumbhar, the activist who got hold of it, stated, “In my complaints of ACB, I was asking for information under RTI and that is when I got to know about it. The general administration department which has issued the notification has not even put this up on the website. Why have they done it before leaving?”
What other information cannot be shared?
While this notification will shield politicians, another one states that information on an officer's track record cannot be parted with, as it would be an invasion of privacy. “Both seemed to have saved each other,” said Kumbhar.
Citizens' initiative being 'backstabbed'?
Bhaskar Prabhu, of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch that works for awareness of RTI Act in the state, claimed that this was a 'backstabbing' of citizens' initiative, “It is safeguarding very strong political leaders who are already implicated in corruption matters. We will protest so that the notification is withdrawn. In every other states, the ACB is under the ambit of the RTI,” he stated.

Monday, October 20, 2014

आरटीआई के दस साल : डॉ.चन्द्रकुमार जैन

Chhattisgarh Khabar: Chhattisgarh: Monday, 20 October 2014.
सर्वविदित है कि मार्च 2005 में सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियन संसद में पेश किया गयां यह 11 मई 2005 को लोकसभा में 144 संशोधनों के साथ पारित हुआ. 12 मई को राज्यसभा ने भी इसे पारित कर दिया 12 जून 2005 को राष्ट्रपति ने इसे स्वीकृति दी. इस तरह,12 अक्टूबर 2005 से सूचना का अधिकार कानून, जम्मू-कश्मीर को छोड़कर, जहां विधानसभा द्वारा पहले ही सूचनाधिकार कानून पारित एवं लागू किया जा चुका था, पूरे देश में प्रभावी हो गया.
इसके अलावा, केन्द्र सरकार से जुड़े निकायों के संबंध में सूचना के अधिकार कानून 2005 के तहत सूचना मांगने का अधिकार जम्मू-कश्मीर के नागरिकों को भी प्राप्त है. इस तरह इस महत्वपूर्ण जन-क़ानून को लागो हुए दस साल पूरे हो गए हैं. सूचनाधिकार का केन्द्रीय कानून, बनने से पहले, देश के नौ राज्यों में यह अधिकार लोगों को मिल चुका था-तमिलनाडु 1997,गोवा 1997,राजस्थान 2000,कर्नाटक 2000,दिल्ली 2001,असम 2002,मध्य प्रदेश 2002, महाराष्ट्र 2002,जम्मू-कश्मीर 2004.
कर्नाटक को पहला श्रेय
कर्नाटक ऐसा पहला राज्य है जिसने सूचना का अधिकार लागू करने की कोशिश की. हालांकि उसे सफलता नहीं मिली. 1988 में कर्नाटक विधानसभा में कर्नाटक में फ्रीडमऑफ प्रेस विधेयक पेश किया गया था. इसे भारी विरोध का सामना करना पड़ां अतंतः यह मामला भारतीय प्रेस परिषद् को सौंपा गया. परिषद् ने इस पर सकारात्मक सुझाव दिये. इसके बावजूद मामला ठंडे बस्ते में डाल दिया गया. तमिलनाडु विधानसभा ने 17 अप्रैल 1997 को सूचना का अधिकार विधेयक पारित किया.
इस तरह, भारत में ऐसा पहला कानून बनाने का श्रेय तमिलनाडु के मुख्यमंत्री करूणानिधि को मिला. पहली मई 2000 को राजस्थान विधानसभा ने सूचना का अधिकार कानून पारित किया. इसी दिन पंचायती राज अधिनियम में संशोधन करके वार्ड सभा एवं ग्राम सभा में सामाजिक अंकेक्षण को अनिवार्य कर दिया गया. 26 जनवरी 2001 से राजस्थान में सूचना का अधिकार कानून लागू हुआ. इस तरह, राजस्थान को सूचनाधिकार देने वाले पहले राज्य का श्रेय भले न मिला हो, यहां के ग्रामीणों को पूरे देश में इसकी अवधारणा और उदाहरण पेश करने का ऐतिहासिक गौरव अवश्य प्राप्त हुआ.
याद रहे कि 5-6 अप्रैल 2001 को ब्यावर के सुभाष गार्डेन में सूचना के अधिकार का प्रथम राष्ट्रीय सम्मेलन हुआ. शिक्षा और सूचना के अधिकार के लिए काम कर रहे शिव अग्रवाल बताते है कि इसके विशाल मंच पर बैनर था- ‘‘चोरीवाड़ो घणों होग्यों रे,कोई तो मुण्डे बोलो.’’ यानि लूटखसोट बहुत हो चुकी, कोई तो मुहं से बोले या अपनी जुबान खोले. लिहाज़ा, दो मत नहीं कि सूचना का आधिकार एक आम आदमी के लिए उसके हक़ की आवाज़ है , फिर भी, इस अहसास को एक तयशुदा जुमले की तरह इस्तेमाल करने का एक लंबा दौर हम देख चुके हैं. आरटीआई के विज्ञापननुमा उपयोग में भी ऐसा प्रतीत होता है जैसे जनता के लिए कोई स्वर्ग ही धरती पर उतर आया हो ! जब कभी किसी सेमीनार में आप जाएँ या फिर कोई औपचारिक चर्चा हो, तब भी आप पायेंगे कि जैसे सूचना के अधिकार को लेकर वक्ताओं में कुछ रटी रटाई या सुनी सुनाई बातों को दोहरा देने की मानसिकता ही उभर कर सामने आती है.
मन मर्जी पर अर्जी की जीत
तस्वीर का दूसरा पहलू भी तो है जो कुछ और कहता दिखता है- आजकल अक्सर ये ख़बरें पढी-सुनी और देखी जा रहीं हैं कि सूचना के अधिकार की अर्जियों को लटकाने या भटकाने के नायाब तरीके ढूंढ निकाले गए हैं. आरोप है कि अधिकारी सूचना देना नहीं चाहते. देते भी हैं तो आधी-अधूरी. या फिर ज़वाब ऐसा मिलता है जो आवेदक की समझ के बाहर होता है. यह भी कि जिस शक्ल में सूचना मांगी गई है उस शक्ल में मुहैया कराना या तो विभाग के लिए संभव ही नहीं है या फिर उसके लिए अलग-अलग आवेदन देने की जरूरत होगी. एक और पहलू यह भी कि सूचना देने के लिए इतनी बड़ी राशि की मांग कर ली जाये कि पूछने वाला धड़ाम से गिर पड़े या कदम ही पीछे हटा ले और भविष्य में सूचना की गलियों में कदम रखने की जुर्रत ही न कर सके.
बहरहाल, यह कहने और स्वीकार करने में संकोच नहीं होना चाहिए कि सूचना का अधिकार वास्तव में एक तरह की कड़ी परीक्षा के दौर से गुज़र रहा है. आये दिन इसे लेकर सूचना अटकाने या आवेदक को भटकाने वाली बातें सामने आती है. फिर भी, अनेक ऐसे विभाग और लोक प्राधिकरण हैं जो आरटीआई को पर्याप्त गंभीरता से ले रहे हैं. उनके द्वारा जानकारी बाकायदा दी जा रही है वह भी समय पर. उन्हें न कोई डर है न ही नतीजों की परवाह है. पर साफ़ दिल से सही मांग के अनुरूप सही और समयोचित जानकारी देने के ऐसे उदाहरण प्रायः कम ही मिल पाते हैं.
सूचना से जी चुराने की जुगत
सूचना के अधिकार को लेकर लगता है कि जनता से ज्यादा सूचनादाता जागरूक हो गया है. पर, जिन्हें शिकायत है उनका कहना है कि उनकी ये जागरूकता सूचना देने से कहीं ज्यादा उसे छुपाने के हक़ में है. इससे हालात बिगड़ते जा रहे हैं. यदि ऐसा ही दौर जारी रहा तो सूचना के सिपाहियों से लेकर सूचना के हितग्राहियों तक का मनोबल टूट सकता है. लिहाजा कोई शक की गुंजाइश नहीं रह जाती कि इससे इस लोक हितैषी क़ानून के प्रति आम धारणा भी प्रभावित हो सकती है. उनका भरोसा खंडित हो सकता है.
दरअसल दायित्व आधारित कार्य प्रणाली के अभाव में उत्तरदायी नतीजों की उम्मीद नहीं की जा सकती. काम की पारदर्शिता ही अधिकार का गौरव दिला सकती है. कहीं-न-कहीं दायित्व निर्वहन में किसी कमी के कारण सूचना के अधिकार के स्वप्न पर आघात पहुँच रहा है. दुनिया में आप कहीं भी देखें , लड़ाई अधिकारों के लिए ही जारी है. माना जाता रहा है कि अधिकार हमेशा लड़कर या जूझकर मिलते हैं. फिर इसमें बुरा भी क्या है ? विशेषकर तब जब बाकायदा एक लोकतंत्र समर्थित व्यवस्था ही जनता को अधिकार के लिए प्रेरित कर रही हो तब हर जिम्मेदार नागरिक को उसे सफल बनाने आगे आना चाहिए.
आरटीआई को लेकर भ्रम जारी
याद रहे कि समाज के निचले स्तर पर इस अधिकार को किसी भय के रूप में प्रचारित करते रहने से बचाना होगा. यह भ्रम भी कुछ लोगों ने फैला रखा है कि इससे कुछ ख़ास वर्ग के लोगों या कार्यकर्ताओं को ही फायदा हो रहा है. इसके निराकरण की जरूरत है. आज के दौर में साफ़ महसूस किया जा सकता है कि हम दायित्व आधारित, अधिकार केन्द्रित व्यवस्था की तरफ बढ़ रहे हैं. अब गोपनीयता को गलत नीयत की श्रेणी में गिना जा रहा है. पारदर्शिता को गुण माना जा रहा है.
ऐसे में मुखौटों वाली व्यवस्था के पक्षधरों को अब चेत जाना चाहिए. सूचना देने वाले कर्मण्य कर्मचारियों को हतोत्साहित करना उचित नहीं है बल्कि वह एक तरह का अपराध ही है. इससे बाज़ आना चाहिए. जनता को जानकारी प्राप्त करने का जो अधिकार मिला है उससे भयभीत रहने का कारण केवल तब हो सकता है जब कहीं कोई गड़बड़ी हो. बेहतर यही है कि अपने काम को विश्वसनीय बनाया जाये. फिर विश्वास का गला घोंटने की जरूरत नहीं रह जायेगी.
सूचना के अधिकार की सफलता इस बात पर भी निर्भर है कि आवेदन उन्हीं प्रश्नों को लेकर अधिक से अधिक आयें जिनका सम्बन्ध वास्तव में जन हित से हो. यहाँ तक ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में भी यह शिकायत आम होती जा रही है कि आपसी मन-मुटाव या गुटबंदी के कारण सूचना मांगने वाली अर्जियां दाखिल करवाई जा रही हैं. इस प्रवृत्ति पर अंकुश लगनाजरूरी है. चुनाव में हारे हुए या भावी असफलता से डरे हुए लोग ही अर्जियां दाखिल करते रहें ये कहाँ तक सही है ?
ईमानदारी की जय हो !
अधिकारी अगर ईमानदारी से नोट शीट लिखें तो इसमें डरने की कोई बात नहीं होनी चाहिए. उन्हें अपने मातहतों को भी ईमानदारी से कार्य करने के लिए प्रोत्साहन और पुरस्कार भी देना चाहिए न कि उन्हें प्रताड़ित करें. सूचना के जानकारों को अक्सर सूचनादाता बनाने का ख़तरा कोई मोल नहीं लेना चाहता.
ऐसे मुलाज़िमों को अधिकारी अक्सर सूचना और जनहित और जन भागीदारी की कमेटियों से दूर रखना चाहते हैं. यदि ऐसा ही चलता रहा तो आप बेहतर परिणामों की उम्मीद आखिर कैसे कर सकते हैं ?
याद रहे कि सूचना का अधिकार एक ताकत है जिसके माध्यम से तंत्र के सही क्रियान्वयन की आशा और जनता के हित की रक्षा के सटीक उपाय किये गए हैं. इसे सफल बनाना हर जागरूक और जिम्मेदार नागरिक का पावन कर्तव्य होना चाहिए.

13 प्रमुख राजनीतिक दलों ने नहीं भरा 1381 करोड़ रूपये के ऊपर टैक्स

ABP News: New Delhi: Monday, 20 October 2014.
पिछले दो सालों में देश के 13 प्रमुख राजनीतिक दलों की कर मुक्त आय करीब 1381 करोड़ रूपये है जिसमें कांग्रेस और बीजेपी का हिस्सा लगभग 80 प्रतिशत है. यह जानकारी सूचना के अधिकार से मिली है.
आरटीआई के तहत आयकर विभाग से प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार, 2012-13 और 2013-14 के दौरान कांग्रेस की कर मुक्त आय 743.76 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि इतने ही समय में बीजेपी की कर मुक्त आय 338.95 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई.
वहीं 2012-13 में कांग्रेस की कर मुक्त आय 318.08 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि बीजेपी की 17.42 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई. 2013-14 में कांग्रेस की कर मुक्त आय 425.68 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई. वहीं इस दौरान बीजेपी की 321.53 करोड़ रूपये रही.
आयकर विभाग से प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार 2012-13 और 2013-14 में आयकर रिटर्न के आधार पर मुलायम सिंह यादव की समाजवादी पार्टी की कर मुक्त आय 164 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि मायावती के नेतृत्व वाली बहुजन समाज पार्टी (बीएसपी) की कर मुक्त आय इस अवधि में 20.76 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई.
मार्क्‍सवादी कम्यूनिस्ट पार्टी (सीपीआई-एम) की कर मुक्त आय 92.90 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि भारतीय कम्यूनिस्ट पार्टी (सीपीआई) की कर मुक्त आय 2.62 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई.
आरटीआई से प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार 2012-13 और 2013-14 के दौरान जनता दल (यूनाइटेड) की कर मुक्त आय 13 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि राष्ट्रीय लोक दल (आरएलडी) की कर मुक्त आय इस अवधि में 4.48 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई.
भारत में राजनीतिक दलों को आयकर अधिनियम की 1961 की धारा 13 (ए) के तहत छूट प्राप्त है, हालांकि उन्हें 20 हजार रूपये से अधिक आय या चंदा प्राप्त होने पर इसका केवल लेखा (बुक ऑफ एकाउंट) रखना होता है.
हिसार स्थित आरटीआई कार्यकर्ता रमेश वर्मा ने आयकर विभाग से प्रमुख राजनीतिक दलों की कर मुक्त आय की जानकारी मांगी थी, सूचना के अधिकार के तहत आयकर विभाग से मिली जानकारी के अनुसार 2012-13 और 2013-14 के दौरान एच डी देवगौड़ा की जनता दल (एस) की कर मुक्त आय 1 07 करोड़ रूपये दर्ज की गई जबकि आल इंडिया फॉरवार्ड ब्लाक 20.16 लाख रूपये दर्ज की गई.
आयकर रिटर्न के आधार पर लालू प्रसाद की राष्ट्रीय जनता दल की कर मुक्त आय 2013-14 में 41,411 रूपये दर्ज की गई, आरटीआई के तहत प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार, 2012-13 में समाजवादी पार्टी की कर मुक्त आय 30 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि बहुजन समाज पार्टी की 8.99 करोड़ रूपये.
भाकपा की 1.55 करोड़ रूपये, माकपा की 40.73 करोड़ रूपये, जनता दल (यूनाइटेड) की 2.70 करोड़ रूपये, राष्ट्रीय लोक दल की 97.90 लाख रूपये, जद (एस) की 46.99 लाख रूपये दर्ज की गई.
आयकर विभाग से प्राप्त जानकारी के अनुसार 2013-14 में समाजवादी पार्टी की कर मुक्त आय 134 करोड़ रूपये रही जबकि बहुजन समाज पार्टी की 11.77 करोड़ रूपये, भाकपा की 1.07 करोड़ रूपये, माकपा की 52.17 करोड़ रूपये, जनता दल (यूनाइटेड) की 10.31 करोड़ रूपये, राष्ट्रीय लोक दल की 3.61 करोड़ रूपये, जद (एस) की 61.40 लाख रूपये दर्ज की गई.

Delhi government not serious in fighting menace of child labour: Kailash Satyarthi's Bachpan Bachao Andolan

DNA: New Delhi: Monday, 20 October 2014.
The Nobel Peace Prize to child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi may have put the spotlight on the issue of child labour, but his NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan says Delhi government is not serious about dealing with the "menace", unlike many other states.
The NGO, which was set up by Satyarthi in 1980, said that as many as 238 rescued child labourers belonging to Delhi, many of whom were declared bonded labourers, are yet to be rehabilitated as per the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976. "Under the Act, it is incumbent upon the authorities to ensure the rehabilitation of the rescued children by creating a rehabilitation-cum-welfare fund of Rs 25,000 of which Rs 20,000 shall be paid by the employer as a fine and the rest shall come from the state," said BBA chairperson RS Chaurasia.
In a letter to the chairperson of the District Task Force on child labour in May, 2013, Rakesh Senger of BBA had said that there was a need to urgently take up the matter and rehabilitate all the rescued children. "While the reply came from all the other state governments on the rehabilitation of rescued children, government departments in Delhi keep on dodging the matter and shirking responsibility by putting the onus on each other," Senger said.
The labour department of Delhi government did not respond to BBA's criticism on the issue.
Senger said that Delhi government had conveyed to BBA that the child labourers and their families have changed their addresses in most of the cases, making them difficult to locate and rehabilitate.
Chaurasia said BBA had filed "an RTI application in this regard with the Department of Women and Child Development" which responded "citing a reply from the Child Welfare Committee that only the SDM of the areas concerned would have the status report" on the rehabilitation of rescued children.
The vigilance committees constituted for raid, rescue and rehabilitation of bonded child labourers which are supposed to meet at regular intervals are lying almost dysfunctional, he alleged. "On May 24 this year, we wrote to all district magistrates in Delhi to constitute new vigilance committees at the earliest, but did not receive a single reply," Chaurasia said.
Section 13 of Bonder Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, stipulates that every state government shall by notification in the official gazette, constitute such committees in each district and sub-division as it may think fit.
Satyarthi, 60, was on October 10 named for this year's Nobel Peace prize along with Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai. He has been working for child rights for over 30 years through BBA, the NGO which is credited with freeing over 80,000 child labourers across India.

Black Money Study Reports Yet to be Accepted: Finance Ministry

The New Indian Express: New Delhi: Monday, 20 October 2014.
The Finance Ministry is yet to accept two of the three reports submitted to it on the assessment of black money in India and abroad which were commissioned by the UPA government three years ago.
The studies were conducted by the Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) at Faridabad.
"Report from one institute has been received and accepted and reports from the remaining two institutes have been received but yet to be accepted by the government so far," the Finance Ministry said in reply to an RTI query.
It, however, declined to share the contents of the reports citing the exemption clause under the transparency law.
"Further details cannot be made available at this point of time as the information is exempt under Section 8(1)(c) and Section 8(1)(e) of RTI Act, 2005, since the report is yet to be examined by the government or action taken thereof is yet to be laid before Parliament," the ministry said.
Section 8(1 )(e) bars disclosure of information which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament. The other clause exempts disclosure of "information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information".
The three studies were expected to be completed within 18 months' time, which deadline had expired on September 21, 2012. The Finance Ministry did not give the dates on which these reports were submitted with it although the RTI application had also sought that information.
There is at present no official assessment on the quantum of black money in India and abroad.

RTI reveals irregularity in number of road constructions in Mandi district

Hindustan Times: Mandi: Monday, 20 October 2014.
Right to Information (RTI) activist and prominent social worker Sant Ram has revealed that as many as 20 roads, constructed by spending more than `20 crore, in Seraj segment of the district are either not built as per detailed project report (DPR) specifications or some incomplete roads have been declared fit for traffic in papers, whereas these roads are not even fit for two-wheelers.
Ram said he obtained the information from public works department (PWD) and Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) for the comparative study and demanded inspection of the roads under the RTI Act from PWD to reveal the actual condition of the roads.
He added both the departments tried to hide the information in the beginning but he struggled to get the information and maximum information could be collected after filing appeal with state chief information commissioner, Shimla.
He also wrote to chief minister Virbhadra Singh and informed about the possible embezzlement of worth rupees crore in the construction of these roads but no action was initiated.
He added that few of these roads were not constructed up to the marks but shown completed in the papers and later on extra budget was spend in the name of repair works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
Meanwhile, maximum of these roads were either dedicated or laid foundation stones by the previous government leaders in haste prior to the state assembly elections 2012.
Ram said he had served PWD department a legal notice through his advocate Deshraj Sharma to complete the roads according to the approved DPR without extra budget or he will file petition against the anomalies and possible embezzlement in the Himachal Pradesh high court.

Rs 1,381 Cr of Tax Exemption to Political Parties in 2 Yrs: RTI

Outlook: New Delhi: Monday, 20 October 2014.
The tax-exempted income of 13 major political parties of the country, in last two years, amount to Rs 1,381 crore, according to an RTI query.
Of this the Congress and BJP have cornered around 80 per cent.
During 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Congress had a tax- exempted income to the tune of Rs 743.76 crore whereas BJP in the same time span did for Rs 338.95 crore.
Congress in 2012-13 had income worth Rs 318.08 crore whereas the amount rose to Rs 425.68 crore in 2013-24, BJP though had an income of Rs 17.42 crore in 2012-13 and it was Rs 321.53 crore for 2013-14.
According to the Income-Tax department, Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party in UP had tax-exempted income worth Rs 164 crore whereas their rival party Bahujan Samajwadi party had registered only Rs 20.76 crore for the same period.
Among other parties, CPI(M) registered an income of Rs 92.90 crore, CPI Rs 2.62 crore, JD(U) Rs 13 crore and RLD Rs 4.48 crore, it said.
Lalu Prasad's RJD party in 2013-14 had a tax-exempted income of Rs 41,411.
The figure for the year 2012-13 for other parties were -- SP (Rs 30 crore), BSP (Rs 8.99 crore, CPI (Rs 1.55 crore), CPI(M) (Rs 40.73 crore), JD(U) (Rs 2.70 crore), RLD (Rs 97.90 lakh), JD(S) (Rs 46.99 lakh).
Political parties are exempted from tax on their income through section 13 A of IT Act 1961. They have to, however, maintain a book of account for donations or income above Rs 20,000.

Passport office fined for 'losing' demand draft

Times of India: Chennai: Monday, 20 October 2014.
Five years. That's how long it took an applicant to recover 1,000 from the regional passport office.
S V Elumalaiyan of Vellore said on January 30, 2009 he had submitted an application for passport along with the stipulated demand draft for 1,000 drawn from Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) at the regional passport office (RPO) at Shastri Bhavan in Chennai. Subsequently, he received a communication directing him to submit a fresh DD as the one submitted before had "lost its validity." On September 15, he sent another DD drawn from Indian Bank, Elumalaiyan said.
Despite submitting a new DD, he did not receive the one submitted earlier. He sent several representations to the passport office through fax and email, but there was no response. He then filed an RTI application seeking to know the status of the first DD. Replying to the query, the passport office said, "The invalid DD could not be traced in spite of their strenuous efforts." Elumalaiyan then approached IOB for information on the "untraceable" DD. The bank said the DD had been encashed and deposited in the account of the RPO, said Elumalaiyan.
In November 2011, he sent a representation to the RPO with the evidence that the 'invalid DD' had been encashed. The RPO, in its reply, agreed. His request for refund, however, went without a response. Elumalaiyan then moved the forum.
In its counter, the passport office said they could not furnish the details of the DD as Elumalaiyan had failed to provide its serial number. The South Chennai district consumer disputes redressal forum said Elumaliayan had twice informed the RPO about the details of the DD. "This fact had been suppressed before the forum and the RPO was aware that the DD had been encashed," the bench comprising president D Krishnaraja and members L Deenadayalan and K Amala said in a recent order.
Rapping the office for deficiency in service, the forum directed it to refund the amount with 9% interest along with 5,000 as case costs.