Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rajasthan won’t give info on land allotted to Pong dam oustees

Hindustan Times: Shimla: Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
The long-drawn struggle for families displaced during the construction of the Maharana Partap Sagar dam - better known as the Pong dam in Kangra district is far from over. As the oustees continue to scout for chunk of land, the Rajasthan government has refused to provide information on cultivable land released by the central government for rehabilitation of the oustees.
The Centre had released 48,224 bighas of land from the central state farm to rehabilitate the Pong dam oustees. Large chunk of earmarked land lies at Jetsar of Vijaynagar tehsil in Rajasthan, which was in possession of the union ministry of agriculture. Land released by the union agriculture ministry had been cultivated by the state farm corporation. Chunk of cultivable land was allotted to 1942 Pong dam oustees between 1970 to 1975.
However, some land was allotted to a few Pong dam oustees and rest still lies with the Rajasthan government revenue department and canal development area. However, the Rajasthan government has now refused to divulge information about the current status of the land. Pradesh Pong Bandh Vishthapit Samiti had sought information about the land released by the central government under the Right to Information Act.
Contrary to it, the Rajasthan government has refused to provide information on the said the chunk of land.
“I had submitted the application under the RTI to the PIO-cum- Deputy District Collector Vijay Nagar for seeking complete information on the land that was released by the central government for rehabilitation of the ousteees,” said Ashwani Sharma, senior vIce-president of Pradesh Pong Baandh Vishapit Samiti.
“My application was disposed after two years of appeal. I urge the Rajasthan government to provided complete information about the land, so that I could be allotted land under the displaced families’ criterion. There is no fixed period set by the state information commission to hear the appeal,” said he.
The Pong dam project was conceived as part of larger project then known as the Rajasthan Canal Project (RCP), later rechristened as the Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyoyajna. Total length of the canal is 649 kilometre, which takes water from the reservoirs to the desert land of Rajasthan. The process of the land acquisition started in the early 1960s.
Total 75,000 acres spread over 94 villages in Nurpur Dehra Gopipur tehsil of Kangra district was acquired for building a dam over the Beas river.
At the time of construction of dam in 1961, the government had acquired 339 tikkas - revenue estate, out of which 223 tikkas were submerged fully and 116 partially. The reservoirs displaced 30,000 families, affecting a population of 1,50,000.

Farmer uses RTI to checkmate land grabbers

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
Mahesh Nagegowda used RTI to get info which he leveraged to block conversion of grazing land for commercial purposes.
Mahesh Nagegowda, a 40-year-old farmer from Hakkimanchenalli in KR Pet of Mandya, does not look like the regular animal-rights activist. But his efforts have just about managed to save the village grazing lands for 3,191 animals in the town. Yes, that is the exact number of animals in the village and it was Mahesh's query through the Right To Information (RTI) Act that got the administration to release this official figure. But more importantly, over 50 acres of gomala (grazing) land is being saved from 'development'.
The village had 82.20 acres of grazing land as common property. The town municipality, however, took over 28 acres of this for constructing its offices. The government also gave away 2.25 acres of grazing land to two persons for personal use. Now only a little over 51 acres of the gomala land is left.
Mahesh hit upon a plan to save the remaining gomala land. He was firm that it was meant for the use of the village's animals and should not be diverted for other uses. It must have been a rare event among farmers when he filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act for details of the number of animals in KR Pet town. The zilla panchayat replied with the information on June 26, 2014. It said there were 2,024 chickens, 414 cattle, 255 sheep, 201 dogs, 194 buffaloes, 93 goats, and 10 pigs.
Mahesh then obtained a copy of the 2009 government of Karnataka directive to all district administrations to prevent alienation of gomala lands. The order tells district administrations to ensure that gomala lands in all villages remain as per revenue records. If there is unauthorised cultivation on these lands, it cannot be regularised. The gomala land cannot be used for any other purpose, the directive said. Armed with these documents, Mahesh took up the fight to save the remaining land.
On July 7, Mahesh wrote to the deputy commissioner of Mandya, claiming that the animals he owned, viz. 20 sheep, 13 chickens, eight cows, two buffaloes, and a pair of bullocks, depended on the gomala land for grazing. "They had rights to the land which has sustained them and other animals in the village for years. Like me, most farmers in the village own animals and, therefore, the gomala land should not be used for any other purpose. Since land rates had skyrocketed in recent years, there is pressure to use this land for commercial purposes which should not be allowed," he wrote.
Mahesh's fight has brought the issue of the gomala land to the forefront in the village and KR Pet town. Since his fight is against the town municipality taking over part of the land for its offices, he has made enemies. But Mahesh says he will go to any extent to protect the interests of animals in his village. Now, he is planning a suit to reclaim the land.

Just 2 inspectors for Nagpur's 21.43L trees, 79 gardens

Times of India: Nagpur: Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
Nagpur is one of the greenest cities in the country with over 21.43 lakh trees covering it. It also has 79 gardens, spread over 111.41 acres. Yet, Nagpur Municipal Corporation's (NMC) garden department, responsible for maintaining all this greenery, is itself in a shambles with more than 50% vacancies.
When it comes to vacant posts, situation in NMC is worst compared to other cities like Pune, Nashik and Pimpri-Chinchwad in the state. Information sought under the RTI Act by Shrikant Deshpande of Nature Conservation Association (NCA) revealed that of the total 273 sanctioned posts in NMC's garden department, 142 are vacant. The actual situation is worse. Of the working posts, over 50% is posted in other departments on deputation.
Shockingly, of the five sanctioned posts of garden inspectors for 10 zones in the city, only two are actually posted. All the 19 posts of head malis, responsible for maintaining NMC gardens are vacant. Of the 57 posts of malis, only 18 are filled. Head of the department, garden superintendent NB Shrikhande is retiring in May 2015.
On the other hand, Pune has 117 gardens and 565 posts in garden department. Of these, only 24 are vacant. In Nashik, there is a staff of 248 to maintain 400 gardens whereas in Pimpri-Chinchwad, out of the 358 sanctioned posts, 256 are working to maintain 157 gardens.
Municipal commissioner Shyam Wardhane admitted there were large number of vacancies in the garden department but expressed his helplessness. "I cannot fill them up as I need to curb the establishment cost which is already high at 67%," he said.
"I'm really concerned about green city status but 67% of the money goes toward salaries, pension etc and only 33% is spent on development. I have been striving to reduce establishment cost. In Pune, many posts are filled as civic body's budget is big," Wardhane added.
"A large number of vacancies in NMC's garden department is one of the prime reasons that the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of the Trees Act, 1975, is not being implemented. Almost 80% of the violations reported by alert citizens go unchecked," says Deshpande.
There are only two garden inspectors who have to cover the entire city in case of tree felling violations. They also have to perform administrative duties, plantation work, reply to RTI queries, garden and estimated works, besides take calls from corporators among other assigned duties.
Deshpande demanded that the Trees Act be amended with a statutory restriction on felling. If there are already authorized buildings in existence, it may be permitted to be developed to the extent of the area occupied by the buildings without causing any harm to the trees.
Deshpande reiterated the vacancies should be filled as these are sanctioned posts and not new ones. "As there is no staff, garden department has failed to protect city's green cover. It is virtually free for developers, builders, individuals and institutions to indulge in tree felling and escape without action. There is a statutory requirement of planting 5 trees in lieu of each felled tree but is not being followed causing huge ecological damage," Deshpande says.

Four undertrials missing for a year

Times of India: Bangalore: Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
While scouting for undertrial prisoners (UTPs) who may be eligible for release under section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), RTI activists unearthed a huge deficit of information with the prisons department. They found four UTPs missing for a year and case details ambiguous.
Section 436A states that any UTP who has been in jail for more than half of the maximum punishment for the crime he is charged with, should be released on personal bond without bail.
According to a mid-2103 reply from Bangalore Central Jail to activists, four UTPs were eligible for release by 2014. When Divya Iyer of Amnesty International, India, who had received this letter, visited the prison to meet these people, they were found to be missing.
"Repeated announcements summoning the UTPs resulted in nobody turning up," Nusrat Khan, who is also working on Amnesty's campaign 'Justice for Undertrials', told TOI. "We went there on 10 days and the same thing repeated. While the records at the prison said they were in jail, officials just could not find them," she added.
Divya wrote to the prisons department and the DIG of Prisons in Bangalore seeking information on the prisoners. The DIG, Prisons, Bangalore Central Jail, replied that two of them were handed over to Kerala police while the other two, both accused in the same case, were handed over to Upparpet police in Bangalore.
However, there is no information on what happened to them since. "What was alarming was that files in the prison said they were still in jail. Not maintaining information or not upgrading it results in denying several rights to the UTPs," Durga Nandini of Amnesty said.
Further, a series of RTIs seeking details of those eligible under section 436A, filed with prisons in all 30 districts of the state, throw more light on lack of information.
"Of the 30 applications, only 16 districts replied to our queries, with 46% not even bothering to reply. And of those who replied, everyone said there are no eligible UTPs, which comes as a shock given the pending cases in the state. Only one district (Mysore) replied in the positive," she said.

Kargil veteran fired after fake probe

Times of India: Chandigarh: Tuesday, 22 July 2014.
A court of inquiry (CoI) that had led to an Army brigadier's dismissal without court martial after the 1999 Kargil war for allegedly leaking classified documents has turned out to be fictitious, according to information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The Army's 3-Infantary Division recently told Brig Surinder Singh that no such inquiry was ever held in response to his RTI query days before the 15 anniversary of the Kargil war on July 26. "It has no information about any CoI, as no such inquiry was ordered by this branch during the month September 1999," it said.
Singh had asked for the name and designation of the officers who had convened the CoI as well. In reply, the 3-Infantary Division said it did not have the information because no such CoI was convened.
"The RTI information has vindicated my stand that I had not leaked any classified information," Singh said. "I will fight till my honour is restored."
Singh has now amended his petition before the Armed forces Tribunal, Chandigarh, and told it he was dismissed on the basis of a fictitious inquiry while seeking to have his dismissal set aside.
He has been fighting a legal battle against his dismissal before the tribunal for years. The brigadier's dismissal orders on May 29, 2001 had cited the findings of 3-Infantary division's CoI convened in September 1999.
The CoI was constituted "to investigate the circumstances under which classified/confidential documents/records were retained and leaked contrary to section 5 (1) (C) of the official secrets Act 1923 and guidelines contained in Para 41, 46,58 and 84 of Pamphlet Handling of Classified Documents 1966". A show cause notice issued on August 22, 2000 also referred to the September 1999 CoI.
Singh was "held guilty" of retaining classified documents at his residence, failure to surrender them on relinquishing the brigade's charge and making their photocopies. He became the first officer to be fired without a court martial after the Kargil war.
The officer commanded the 121-Brigade during the Kargil war and was in charge of a 160-km stretch of the Line of Control with Pakistan in the Kargil sector when the intrusions prior to the war took place. He had lost his hearing after a shell had exploded near him.        

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where are my 100 days of Razgar Guarantee ?

Pir Azar: Kupawara: Monday, 21 July 2014.
Rafeeka, a resident of Tangwadi
 mohalla of Dard Haire village.
Rafeeka, a resident of Tangwadi mohalla of Dard Haire village in Kralpora block of Kupawara district, in JK state. Things could have been different for Rafeeka if she would have got opportunities to improve her livelihood. She lot her husband, Ab Ahad Lone when her son Mehraj Ahmad was in her womb. Mehraj does not know to whom the other children call “Papa”. Rafeeka is compelled to send him to orphanage at JK Yateem foundation at Bail-ul Hilal. Rafeeka’s daughter, Tabassum, always, remember her father, & says “If our papa was alive, we would have had proper meal at two times, pacca, house and new clothes during Eid” Little Mehraj then asks “Who is papa?”
Rafeeka’s elder son had to leave his studies, after 7th and work to support his family. Rafeeka’s heart breaks when she tells how her little son, has to work because of poverty. Rafeeka stays in a house, that badly needs repairing. During rainy season, it leaks very heavily, and Rafeeka feels helpless & tears rolls down from the eyes as she looks at her house, kids. She do not have money to feed her children, from where will she repair her house. She do not get the benefit of Housing Schemes as per critieria, as in government’s diary, she is “Above Poverty Line”. 
She has job card under MGNREGA in 2009, but she got only 2 days of employment till date!! She badly needs work. But insensitivity of the system and nexus between corrupt officers, politicians, and the contactors, does not allow Rafeeka to get access to the work.
Statistics on website shows JK state spends over 2000 crore in MGNREGA. Expenditure state till April 2014, shows that Kupawara district has spent 78 lakhs..!! MGNREGA has become 100% profitable business for contractors and only thing they have to do is show 100 days work on Rafeeka’s card and siphon the funds.
Government ensures that such vital information does not reach to Rafeeka. No disclosures are being made at “village level” or during Gram sabha, or through kiosks where people can no “how much money has been accounted on my name? how many in my village completed their 100 days of employment guarantee? What was the planning? How much money was actually spent? Where? How? Ironically, as per section 4(1) b of RTI Act, all this information needs to be pro-actively disclosed at local level Panchayat level, and disseminated widely through media, to be painted on walls in the village or to be read out in the Gramsabha.
Thousands of Rafeeka’s across Jammu and Kashmir are asking “where are our 100 days of employment?” Will Government listen?
( Sent by Journalist, Pir Azar from Jammu & Kashmir)

7,000 farmers killed themselves in Gujarat inddue to govt's apathy, says Congress

Times of India: Gandhinagar: Monday, 21 July 2014.
Opposition Congress and BJP sparred over farmer suicides in the state during a discussion on budgetary demands of the agriculture and co-operation department on Friday.
Congress MLA from Jamnagar Raghavji Patel alleged that as many as 614 farmers had committed suicide during the last decade in Gujarat due to the government's apathy.
"According to an RTI application, a total of 614 farmers in Gujarat committed suicide between 2003-2013 due to crop failure, mounting debt and inability to repay their loans," said Patel in his speech in the assembly during the discussion on budgetary allocations made to state agriculture and co-operation department.
State agriculture and co-operation minister Babu Bokhiria and other BJP members objected to the charge and hence speaker Vajubhai Vala intervened asking the Congress member to produce authentic documents to support his claim.
Senior Congress MLA and party chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput claimed that 7,000 farmers ended their lives in the last five years in Gujarat.
However, agriculture minister Bokhiria defended the state government on the issue of farmer suicides. "Congress MLAs should ask the Congress-led Maharashtra government about the large number of farmers committing suicides in Vidarbha region. This is not the case here, as we protect them with agriculture insurance scheme for crop failure," claimed Bokhiria.
The minister claimed that only two farmers have ended their lives due to debt or corp failure, while others were due to several other social reasons only.

Residents, activists stage protest

The Hindu: Puducherry: Monday, 21 July 2014.
A few activists and residents from Ariankuppam on Friday staged a demonstration before the office of Local Administration Department for failing to furnish information under Right to Information (RTI) Act within stipulated time.
G.Jagannathan of People Rights Movement and Logu. Aiyappan of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam and others came to the Local Administration Department for conducting a lock-in protest.
As they were blocked a few yards away, they staged a road roko demanding that the authorities furnish information on their queries.
According to the protestors, when the residents approached Ariankuppam Commune Panchayat for water supply connection few months ago, they were asked to pay Rs. 25,000 towards road development charge. The public authority of Ariankuappam Commune Panchayat cited an order of Local Administration Department (LAD) for charging such amount as road development charge.
In turn, the residents approached the first appellate authority of LAD for further information.
Such information was not given till date. Hence they conducted agitation against the authorities in LAD for not providing information in stipulated time.

'SC order being misinterpreted'

Times of India: Ahmedabad: Monday, 21 July 2014.
For the past seven months, the AMC has been stonewalling vigilance department inquiries about officers in relation to various civic issues. The AMC has been citing section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act. Activists are now crying foul, saying that the AMC has been misinterpreting a recent Supreme Court judgment - over the special leave petition 27734/12 - by claiming that all such information is considered 'personal'.
"In this particular case that the AMC refers to, the petitioner under the RTI Act had sought information on an officer's salary, perks, gifts accepted by the officer, income tax returns, memos issued during the officer's career, transfers orders issued, and his property card," says Pankti Jog of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehel. "It was in this case that the SC had upheld the Central Information Commission's decision of applying the RTI Act's Section 81 (j). How are complaints against officers for bad roads, broken civic lines, illegal construction activities, tree plantation and garbage-lifting scams be treated as personal information about an officer?"
Jog goes on to say, "These civic issues affect us all every day. How can these be treated as personal information?" Activists like Pankaj Bhatt say that in such cases the citizen must request the appellate authority to consider section 24 of the RTI Act. "This particular section categorically states that in all issues that involve corruption and allegations of human rights violations, exemptions can be challenged," says Bhatt.

‘Pressure’on Health Department to Reinstate Doctor in Service

The New Indian Express: Thiruvanathpuram: Monday, 21 July 2014.
The Chief Minister’s office is alleged to be mounting pressure on the Health Department to reinstate a doctor who has been terminated from service for unauthorised absence for more than ten\ years despite the department and the Kerala State Public Service Commission stating that it would not be in the interest of the state or the public.
The department in its file, which is in possession of ‘Express’ (got through RTI),  said that Dr K Sajeesh, who hadbeen working as Assistant Professor in Medicine, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, was terminated from service with effect from June 1, 2003, as per an order dated July 26, 2006.
Though the department had in its note clearly stated that he could not be taken back despite his repeated petitions, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the file had asked to reconsider the request and to reinstate him into service as junior to the junior-most.
The department said in the note “the request for joining service after several years of unauthorised absence was not with a pursuit to serve the public but to ensure pension and other retirement benefits.”  If Dr Sajeesh is reinstated in service after a long period of his being terminated from service, the Health Department said that hundreds of doctors who were terminated from service in the past on the same reason will come up with the same request.
When consulted, the PSC opined: “It will not be a right decision to take a person  who had taken leave without allowance many times and unauthorised absence from duties, back in service according to his time and convenience.” Despite all these, the Chief Minister’s office has now asked to review the termination.  It is alleged that a senior doctor who has much influence in the Chief Minister’s office was behind the move.
While working at Medical College, Dr Sajeesh had applied for Leave Without Allowance, which was rejected stating that general medicine was included in the scarce category.
However, he went on leave without prior sanction of the government. Though directed to rejoin duty, he did not comply with the directive.  After his being terminated from service, he approached the Kerala Administrative Tribunal, which had directed the Health Department to hear him.
After Dr Sajeesh’s requests for his reinstatement were rejected, he submitted a request to the Chief Minister, who has now asked the department to reinstate him in service as junior to the junior-most. In his petition, Dr Sajeesh had claimed that he should be reinstated as was done in the case of Dr D Jairam and Mary Zacharia who joined duty after long leave.
However, the Health Department had noted that Dr Jairam was on deputation to the Sports Authority of India. In the case of Dr Mary Zacharia, who was on leave, she had joined duty two days before she was asked to report. However, Dr Sajeesh was on leave without prior sanction.

Modi’s oath taking cost Rupees 17.6 lakh

Deccan Chronicle: Hyderabad: Monday, 21 July 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony cost the government Rs 17.06 lakh, an RTI reply received from the Central Public Works Department has revealed.
In a reply to an RTI application filed by activist, Subhash Aggarwal, asking for the total expenditure of the ceremony, the department stated that Rs 17.60 lakh was spent on arrangements related to tents, stage, furniture and other related items for the oath-taking ceremony held on May 26, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The expenditure was incurred for all the 4,017 invitees that included the SAARC committee leaders, business tycoons from across the country, actors and religious heads.
However, as per the official reply by the CPIO, other specific details couldn’t be revealed because the expenditure on functions incurred by the spending units came from the annual Budget allocated to respective head of accounts.
“I filed the RTI asking for some specific details. However, only one of the 11 queries were answered. I feel that the expenses when compared to the swearing in ceremonies of CMs including Akhilesh Yadav is relatively less. Politicians should stop splurging on such occasions,” Mr Aggarwal said.

They lied to me for 15 years of my life, says asbestosis-afflicted labourer.

Mid-Day: Pune: Monday, 21 July 2014.
A worker, who was being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis and was repeatedly assured by factory owners and doctors that everything was fine, was diagnosed with asbestosis by a central agency.
Yogesh Sawant with his family. Sawant, who struggles even to pronounce
 asbestosis, said no one at the factory told him what he was exposing himself to.
 Pics/Sameer Markande
During a Diwali break from his hectic factory work last year, 34-year-old Yogesh Sawant suddenly woke up from sleep and mumbled to his wife: ‘Ata Mala He Nahi Karaicha Ahe’ (I don’t want to do this work anymore).
When this happened, Sawant, who was working as a labourer in Ashadeep Frictions Ltd at Ambernath, had been undergoing tests for chest pain and breathing problems. Little did he know what was in store for him in the months to come. While the factory management and its medical team kept assuring him there was no cause for worry, Sawant kept exposing himself to the deadly asbestos dust in the factory loom.
“The management and their medical staff kept saying there was no cause for worry as test after test came back negative for occupational diseases. But, at some point, he was convinced there was something fishy about the factory work he was doing,” Sawant’s wife Sarala said, with a faraway look in her eyes, sitting in their tiny home at Maralgaon in Kalyan.
Soon Pawar himself chips in, but stumbles over the word asbestosis. “I don’t even know how to pronounce it (asbestosis). For 15 years, I worked in that factory but nobody bothered to even tell me what I was dealing with,” he said.
The family was in for a rude shock when a team of experts from the Union Ministry of Labour descended on their home towards the end of last year and made Sawant undergo X-ray scans and blood tests. Two workers from the factory: Sawant and Manoj Saroj turned out to be the first confirmed cases of the deadly asbestosis disease in Maharashtra.
In all, 13 cases of asbestosis and silicosis were detected by the central agencies in Maharashtra last year alone even as over 2,44,890 tests conducted by 105 certified private doctors between January 2013 and May 30, 2014, reported no occupational disease, including the 13 later found positive by the central teams.
Worse, an inspection of Ashadeep by a state team of the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) on February 23, 2012, had found no violations or chemicals or other hazards at the factory. “No contravention. No violations. Cases filed,” it reads.
The factory management did not own up responsibility and allegedly held back details of the case from the government. And it did not provide adequate medical care and compensation to Sawant. In a letter (99/7/ NRDC/ 2013CLI), the central government was informed that the owner was dilly-dallying in giving compensation.
In another scathing letter (DISH/medical/13641-43/9), the agency noted to factory owner Prabhakar Shetty: “You were repeatedly directed to send these two cases to the Workmen’s Compen-sation Commission. But it seems you have refused to follow the directions completely.”
Meanwhile, a tired and frustrated Sawant dropped out of work without a notice in March this year. Since then, he has been spending as much as Rs 3,000 a month for his treatment. Saroj has shifted to his village for the time being. “I gave 15 years of my life to that company, but there has been no help from the owners,” Sawant told mid-day.
His final diagnosis reads: Asbestosis-profusion 2/3, t/t. The medical report advises ‘medical surveillance, and detailed clinical examination every six months’. “I have to make ends meet and cannot sit at home without any work. If my daughters get something at least, I’ll be happy. They should get some money so they can take care of themselves should something happen to me”
Documents accessed by mid-day under RTI expose the neglected state of affairs within the state’s Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health (DISH), its failure to make owners comply with norms on workers’ safety and compensation, and put a big question mark on its ability to detect occupational diseases.
An internal report prepared following the visit of an expert team of the National Institute of Occupational Hazards (NIOH), confirmed cases which had been rejected by the state’s industrial safety officers. A report (DISH/Medical/3151-64/10), rips apart the private doctors who had failed to detect a single occupational disease.
“These doctors are repeatedly inspecting the factories with our own team that is monitoring situations in the factory. Yet, this visit by NIOH has exposed our weaknesses and left a big question mark over our inspections, supervision, and medical examination methods. This is a big embarrassment for Maharashtra,” reads the internal report prepared by DISH Director V S Moray.
The 100-odd private doctors are monitored by a single government surgeon, who not only authorizes but performs medical examinations as well. The lone government surgeon for Maharashtra, Dr Atul Band, conducted 2,500 tests last year and confirmed the 13 cases highlighted by the NIOH.   “There is a clear nexus of private doctors and factory inspectors.
This nexus is just fooling the people of Maharashtra into believing that all is well in our factories and industries. But unfortunately that is not the case,” he told mid-day. When we repeatedly asked Moray to provide details of industrial cases detected by certified private doctors, Moray said: “This is confidential information and not in the public domain, as much as we want to keep things transparent.”
The NIOH inspection report accessed by mid-day under the RTI Act clearly reveals how factory owners and managers were allowed to go scot-free despite violating norms. The inspections revealed that 23 asbestos factories, host to 2,583 workers, and several other factories in the MMR region were not conducting the mandatory membrane filter test to monitor presence of asbestos fibre in the work environment, and were not even conducting awareness training programmes for the workers.
The inspections found M/s Ashadeep Frictions, M/s Graphics India (Ambernath), Eastwell Asbestos Industries (Ulhasnagar), Hyderabad Industries (Thane), Mechanical Packaging (Tarapur), Nella Asbestos (Dahanu) and Wilson Products (Kolhapur), not carrying out the all-important membrane tests.
Of the seven inspections in Thane, six factories had not organized training programmes for workers M/s Champion Seals, M/s Mechanical Packaging, M/s Standard Clutches & Spares, M/s Standard Friction, M/s Ashadeep Frictions and Graphics India.
The inspections found that several other factories where stone cutting, crushing and glass work is done and popcorn and rice puffs are made were host to factors causing silicosis.   In all, four cases of silicosis and nine of asbestosis were detected by NIOH.
DISH is doing a follow-up on all these cases. “All these were first found negative by private doctors. We have now ordered an inquiry on them,” said a senior official. According to data from the department, total compensation of Rs 8.46 crore had accrued and an ex-gratia amount of Rs 3.7 crore was paid last year to workers across the state.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Teething Vigilance to fight corruption : By Dr. Daleep Pandita

Kashmir Times: Srinagar: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
People having given mandate to form new government, expect strong will from it to tackle the problem by teething present vigilance resources for eradication of corruption menace in our country. Counting on accountable governance, the responsibility of a common man in fighting corruption also cannot be undermined.
Although our governance has lot many legislations to combat corrupt practices but mainly due to lack of public awareness, its effect is not palpable at the ground level. Right to Information Act (RTI), which is comparatively more known and acceptable, is playing rather better role and is showing its importance in tackling corruption menace to some extent.
Prevention of corruption related departments and commissions in Jammu and Kashmir state, although playing substantially active role in curbing such unlawful activities, still lot needs to be done by them to create wave among masses against this evil. They are less in surveillance causing little impact of awareness, so generate little contribution in prevention of corruption. Making such bodies more functional and accountable, statutory powers and human capital need to be infused in them, so that they become more powerful and result oriented. Not much has been done in creating awareness of vigilance and gaining confidence of people in present system of governance.
In fact, we normally conceive corruption in terms of economic crime having immediate financial implications. Actually corruption is much broader term having wider ambit and ramifications. It ranges from economic corruption to moral corruption, to social corruption, to religious corruption, to ethnic corruption and very many, all having negative implications on growth of the society. It is only by greed and not by need that is conceived by human psychology.
Before we deal with this evil, we need to understand the type and genesis of corruption and tackle it more specifically rather than accordingly. We need to be transparent and uniform in our practice, be it an office or business or for that matter any work and worship place. The emerging concept is a proactive vision as well as an action to make every individual and organization, transparent in its working and a habitual follower of rules.
So change of mindset in our society for fighting this problem tooth and nail is basically the need of hour. Vigilance and related organisitions have to play an important role in accomplishing this mission. Creating awareness on vigilance among the people at all levels will certainly help us to achieve our goal in a time bound manner with long lasting effects.
Vigilance has primarily two aspects to deal with. One part is preventive vigilance, which is aimed at to create awareness among the people so as to follow thumb rule of "prevention is better than cure". It not only creates a fear in the mindset due to end results of such crimes but also raises morale of an individual not to indulge in unlawful immoral practices. Our actions are aimed at to create deterrent effect in the mind of a common man. In fact, this aspect needs special and extra attention in order to build self conscious and ethically strong society free from such impure thoughts. This approach is purely informative, educative and propulsive to efficiency in nature. It creates a sense of discipline and responsibility in a set up where we have to have system of checks and balances. Ultimately such efforts yield long term effects on cleaning our system from corrupt practices.
Implement "Pick them young" under school and college education programmes, holding workshops and seminars at organization levels, conducting conferences on business fronts, updation and training to concerned departmental staff, proper utilization of print and electronic media, sensitise all sections of the society towards the eradication of evils of corruption crimes. Implementation of checks and balances through auditing, surprise vigilance raids, information through RTI act and many more should be encouraged as a part of sustained campaign against such evils to create mass awareness. Government efforts must not be limited to a week or fortnight long vigilance customary celebrations.
The other part of vigilance activity is Punitive vigilance, that aims at granting punishment after committing crime or acts of omission or commission. It is more a reformative type of action with subsequent multiple effects and as such not considered as a powerful fool proof method of tackling corruption issue. It corrects the human aberrations and serves as a lesson for others. Instead it is sometimes used as a tool for victimisation and vindication, be it at personal or political level or otherwise, so needs less encouragement compared to preventive aspects of vigilance.
Together with the government, we need to change our mind set, feel consciously responsible and fight for our rights by creating much needed awareness on vigilance aspects for ultimate removal of corruption menace prevalent in our society. Compromising with our moral and ethical values and succumbing to this evil for our petty gains, simply destroy us and our nation, which we cannot afford now.
(Author is Divisional Manager with Government of India PSU at Jammu).

CIC upholds PMO's refusal to declassify three Netaji files

TwoCircles.net: Kolkata: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has upheld the Prime Minister's Office's contention of keeping, as classified, three files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, on grounds their declassification would adversely affect foreign relations.
Researcher Chandrachur Ghose in April last year filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking copies of documents contained in three PMO files relating to the widow and daughter of the nationalist leader.
But the PMO turned down the request contending the disclosure of the documents would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries and as such they were exempt under the RTI Act.
When Ghose's appeal was too turned by the PMO director, he took the matter before the CIC which Thursday upheld the PMO's stand of refusing the declassification of the files.
"It is not for us to substitute our judgment on the applicability of exemptions to that agency duly authorized to determine such issues.
"In view of the above, and Central Public Information Officer's submission that due diligence has been exercised, we uphold the decision of denying the information," CIC Rajiv Mathur said in his decision.
Ghose was represented by author and researcher Anuj Dhar at the hearing before Mathur.
Ghose and Dhar are part of a group called "Mission Netaji", which since 2006 has filed several RTI applications concerning Netaji.

Corruption in Jammu & Kashmir: A Multiple Organ Failure : There are several perspectives on corruption in our state and it would be prudent to examine them - PROF GULL WANI

GreaterKashmir.com: Hyderabad: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Corruption, a hydra headed monster, is once again dotting the headlines of leading newspapers in our state. Top leaders of the two leading regional political parties- Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are locked in a sort of verbal fight over who is corrupt? Addressing a public meeting at Ramban, Omar Abdullah urged people to invoke RTI in order to find out charges of corruption against elements recently recruited in PDP organizational apparatus. Mehbooba Mufti, in return, lashed out at Omar Abdullah for granting extension to 400 ‘blue eyed officials’ and raised a very pertinent issue related to the fact that Chief Minister himself is in charge of entire investigation machinery to unravel the mystery of corruption. There are several perspectives on corruption in our state and it would be prudent to examine them. But let me hasten to add that while experts and common people may hit left right and centre to pin- point the causes of corruption I would argue that corruption in J&K is an issue of multiple organ failure.
First, there are those who argue that corruption is a universal phenomenon. After all, is there any place in the world which can be described as a virgin land, and free of corruption? True that corruption is prevalent in western societies as well but there it always comes as a shock and does not meet with social approval. This is not true of our part of the world. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister said that corruption is a universal phenomenon. Rajiv Gandhi expressed his helplessness in admitting that 85 percent of plan resources do not reach the common man in India though, of course, he did not admit that this was largely a result of corruption, including among political elites. After all there is something called human DNA and how it is imprinted with a natural propensity to favour the kith and kin. John Steinbeck –American author, who got Noble prize for Literature in 1962 wrote, “The things we admire in men - kindness, generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest sharpness, greed, self-interst, acquisitiveness, meaness, egotism are the traits of success. While men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.’’
Second, there are those who fault the Indian state for using corruption as an instrument to achieve certain political objectives in Jammu & Kashmir. Recently in an NDTV discussion, Dr. Haseeb Drabu, an economist of eminence, pointed towards it albeit as a passing reference. The discussion was centered on Article 370 of Indian Constitution. The main advocate of theory of state connivance has been former Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University Prof. Riyaz Punjabi. He presented the findings of his paper in a seminar organized by Department of Economics, University of Kashmir way back in 1989 on “Polity, Economy and Society in Jammu Kashmir’’. His paper got published in Mainstream on March 16, 1991. He opined, “The normal democratic process in Jammu & Kashmir was disrupted with the arrest of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953. The alienation of a large majority of the people of state in post 1953 era and formation of Plebiscite Front posed a great threat to the cohesion of India. It was in this context that corruption as a model to bring about national integration was applied to the state of Jammu &Kashmir.” The theory remained subject matter of debate in New Delhi’s elite academic circles in 1990s. To the best of my knowledge Prof Punjabi has not so far revised his thesis. Be that, as it may, there are, of course, sociologists and political scientists who attest to this theory of corruption. John Waterbury-Global professor of political science at New York University in Journal of “World Politics’’ stated that corruption in the form of patronage and spoils checks the alienation of minorities. Michael Gohuston, political scientist, in a research paper  in journal of Comparative Politics (July, 1986) “on political consequences of corruption’’  also draws a clear cut distinction between integrative and disintegrative corruption, the former links the people and groups and the latter cause’s serious conflicts. While Indian State has to share the blame for committing wrongs from time to time and adopting an ostrich type of an approach in its dealings with Kashmir the fact is that for a clear understanding of a complex issue we need to look at corruption in J&K as a matter of multiple organ failure. The failure is noticeable in certain domains of our body politic.
a)    The Institution of politic: Kashmir like other parts of South Asia has historically been witness to a strong society and a weak state. The state has two domains- coercive and developmental. It is the former which is more visible than the latter. Though Kashmir society is undergoing change and transformation yet the fact is as stated by V S Naipaul the politics of a country can only be an extension of its human relationships. David Mulford, former US Ambassador to India, in a leaked diplomatic cable reported: corruption cuts across party lines and most Kashmirirs take it as an article of faith that politically connected Kashmirirs take money from India and Pakistan. One of the most disfiguring things about Hurriyat and Mainstream politics is intellectual closure where only what people thought leaders wanted to hear percolated up. Leaders of all hues are cocooned in their own platitudes. Politics before 1947 was intellectually stimulating and ideas were powerful. Leadership of all hues was honest and full of integrity. Today politics is parochial, personal, polluted and punitive. Both parties - PDP and National Conference approach issues related to corruption in a lawyerly fashion. Effective governance can not be ensured in a manner where you score points against each other by launching arguments. In public life what is important is that criticism is based on policy not on personalities.
b)    Crisis of Institutions: In a society which has gone through a prolonged period of crisis a network of institutions is needed to mediate the conflict, ensure fairplay and adjudicate truth. We have reached a point where every institution from state legislature, media, burucracy have turned dysfunctional incapable of carrying out its mandate. Our educational institutions have turned into arid deserts. This has created a sense of permanent crisis.
c)    Emerging Classes: In Kashmir we have a triad of political economy with a very rich class of people some of whom have started marrying political parties. The dominant mode of our economy is largely state-controlled and hence the business/politician nexus has fattened. There is also a growing middle class who are quite articulate and composed of as Andre Beteille (sociologist) wrote many factors like wealth, income, occupation and education. This class in Kashmir as in other parts of India is aspirational and hungry for wealth and patronage. Before 1947 Kashmir middle class though small in size gave voice to voiceless and did not speak for themselves. Today they thrive on patronage, wealth and connections to the power structure. The last but not least is the growing class of poor who get government contractual and daily wage jobs with Rs 4000 salary  per month and have found other ways to feed their mobile phone and family as well. This class has widened in size due to growing decline of agriculture and skill less education at bottom level of our educational ladder. This huge army has found in theft as an alternative to survive in a consumer culture. All this has resulted in certain disequilibrium in the society. Different actors-civil society, opinion leaders, preachers, talkers and teachers have to act together. The more important role is to be played by the political leadership. The 19th century England was also corrupt but William Gladstone –highly religious and committed to values of integrity became Prime Minister four times and was able to clear the system. The quality of political leadership together with quality of education will determine the course of our future history. The  moving poem of Munir Niazi-a Pakistani poet comes to my mind.

Ignorant of rules, RTI applicants pay for 'free' information

The Times of India: Hyderabad: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
In a curious case of complete ignorance of rules, hundreds of RTI applicants are unnecessarily being forced to cough up exorbitant amounts of money by clueless Public Information Officers (PIOs) for furnishing information.
Surprisingly, this money is often collected in violation of Section 7 (6) of the RTI Act, which categorically states that information (that run into a few hundred or even thousand pages) should be provided free of charge, if it's not furnished within the official time limit of 30 days. But despite the clause, dozens of instances have now come to light wherein PIOs have been found to have demanded money from applicants, the lapse of the 30-day period notwithstanding.
This has resulted in a flood of complaints from RTI applicants, both from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, before the State Information Commission (SIC), prompting the latter to direct several PIOs to refund the excess fee that runs into a huge sum if calculated with interest.
For instance, in a recent appeal case decided by state information commissioner L Tantiya Kumar, the PIO of Kakatiya University was asked to refund Rs 3,872 to G Dakshinamurthy, after the latter was made to pay the amount for 1,936 pages worth of information. "I filed the RTI on September 4, 2013, seeking records of promotion papers of six associate professors. I was supplied the information in 1,936 pages on 11 October, 2013, over a month later," said Dakshinamurthy, convenor for Protection of Values in Educational Field, an NGO. Though Dakshinamurthy was aware that this information was free, he paid the sum but later fought it out before the SIC.
But that his isn't an isolated case is evident from the vast number of similar cases uploaded on the SIC website: www.apic.gov.in. Take for instance the plight of Adapa Bheemaraju, a resident of Pithapuram mandal, East Godavari. On May 4, 2011, the RTI applicant sought measurement books from the East Godavari irrigation department and was furnished the information on 30 June, 2011. But only after he paid Rs 1,085 for it. Information commissioner C Madhukar Raj has now asked the concerned PIO to refund the amount with interest.
"If one takes into account PIOs across the two states, such cases of excess collection of money will run into thousands every month. RTI applicants should refuse to pay this illegal sum," said Hyderabad-based RTI activist, Rakesh Dubbudu, convenor of the United Forum for RTI Campaign, Telangana. Rakesh maintains that this harassment is the result of the PIOs' sheer ignorance.
While Section 7 (6) of the RTI Act categorically states that information (that run into a few hundred or even thousand pages) should be provided free of charge if furnished after the time limit of 30 days, ignorant PIOs have been collecting huge sums of money from applicants.

26/11: Two police versions for Cama hospital firing put Maria in CIC line of fire

Indian Express: Mumbai: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
There is a difference of five minutes in the timings recorded for the firing behind Cama hospital during the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which claimed the lives of three senior police officers. The timing of the firing given by the police to the wife of slain IPS officer Ashok Kamte after her Right to Information (RTI) query is 23.53 hours, while the time mentioned in the chargesheet filed by the Mumbai police in the 26/11 terror attack case is 23:48 hours.
Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad has highlighted the discrepancies in timings and failure of the Mumbai Police to preserve the hard disk of the voice logger, which recorded the conversation between police officers on the night of the 26/11 attack.
In an order passed on July 9, Gaikwad raised doubts on whether Mumbai police Commissioner Rakesh Maria was trying to hide information about the 26/11 attacks by withholding and providing misleading information about the call logs of wireless conversations between the police control room and Kamte’s van on the day of his death. He had also asked the state government to institute a commission to inquire why misleading information was provided.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that in reply to an RTI query filed by Kamte’s wife Vinita, the Mumbai police provided her with details of call logs in November 2009. These logs listed the first report of firing at St Xavier’s College, where Kamte and the three officers were killed,  at 23:53 hours. Yet another RTI reply to Kamte in February 2010 makes no reference to any incident at 23:53 hours. However, the Mumbai police’s chargesheet filed in the 26/11 case lists the timing at 23:48 hours, five minutes earlier than what Kamte had been told.
There is a difference even in the time mentioned in two RTI replies to the query on when the first Quick Response Team was sent to provide help to the three martyred officers. In the first RTI reply given to Vinita, the time is stated to be 23:53 hours. The second RTI reply states the time at 23:52 hours, while the police chargesheet states the time as 23:48 hours.
The state blamed the discrepancy in the timings given to Kamte through RTI on constables who were drafting the transcripts.
However, the state has failed to explain to Vinita why there was such a glaring time difference in the first RTI reply and the Mumbai Police’s chargesheet.
“They are yet to explain how there was a difference in the time given to me and the time listed in the chargesheet,” Vinita said.
 Vinita’s lawyer Dhairyasheel Patil, representing her before the State Information Commission, pointed out that there were serious discrepancies in the time given by the police, which was suspicious.
“There is a huge disparity of up to six minutes in the timings of the incidents that took place on 26/11. The original hard disk of the voice logger has not been retained. There seems to be large-scale manipulations  in the call records for some unknown reason,” Patil has been referred to have said according to the proceedings listed by the SCIC.
Gaikwad took cognisance of all the questions raised by Vinita and her counsel. He said there were serious doubts about manipulation being done.
“It would be improper to say that the questions raised by Vinita about the information provided to her are incorrect. It is questionable why in such a serious incident the voice logger with the hard disk was not preserved. Also, how can it be said that there was no manipulation when a CD was created from the original video logger,” Gaikwad said in his order.
Gaikwad also said the government had stated that information on the hard drive was only saved for a specific period of time and after that it was automatically destroyed. Vinita has raised an issue on how the hard disk documenting an incident of such grave magnanimity could be overwritten.
“It was said that the memory was stored for a limited period and that an expert opinion of a manufacturer would be presented before the Commission. However, it has been almost two weeks now and no such opinion has been presented before us,” Gaikwad said.
Maria refused to comment, saying the police would file a reply with the state CIC.

SC lawyer Vineet Dhanda busts cops via RTI

Legally India: New Delhi: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Supreme Court advocate Vineet Dhanda, who was arrested in March for an alleged altercation with the police, has hit back at the cops by reportedly exonerating himself with CCTV and video footage of his interaction with the police that he obtained via a right to information (RTI) request for the police’s internal inquiry files into the case. The video evidence apparently directly contradicts the police’s charges against the advocate.
Dhanda now told the DNA that he would sue the cops for defamation after filing false cases against him and roughing up him and his wife.

RTI application about human rights, not security: Activist

Times of India: Gurgaon: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Activist Aseem Takyar said on Saturday his RTI plea was rejected by the CIC despite the fact that it concerned human rights and discrimination, and not security as it was made out to be.
Speaking to TOI, Takyar said he had sought information from the Prime Minister's Office on June 7, 2013, about whether "after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, any persons from a specific community/religion were recruited in the SPG and whether it is a violation of human rights to recruit personnel from a specific religion/community".
But the commission saw no merit in the submissions made by Takyar and ordered that the SPG is an exempted organization under Section 24 of the RTI Act. Takyar had argued that Section 24 was not applicable as the information he was seeking related to human rights violation.
Takyar said that he has filed over 6,000 RTI applications in the past six years but the authorities had not replied to more than 500 queries. One such application was on expenditure on SPG security to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi but the commission did not provide a reply to it either, he said.

RTI query: Has the SPG become a Hindu outfit?

Times of India: New Delhi: Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Has the SPG tasked with protecting the Prime Minister and his family recruited people from only a specific community or religion after the assassination of former PM Indira Gandhi?
This was an RTI query filed by Gurgaon resident Aseem Takyar. The controversial application was rejected by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on the grounds that the Special Protection Group (SPG) was an exempted organization and the information sought was neither related to a human rights violation nor allegations of corruption under section 24(1).
Takyar also sought to know whether it was a human rights violation to recruit personnel only from one community and demanded a list of police personnel recruited in the SPG from each religion and community.
According to the RTI Act section 24(1) the SPG is an exempted organization "provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded". The section also says that if it is a case of allegations of human rights violation the information shall only be provided after the approval of the CIC and within 45 days from the date of receiving the application.
Takyar filed an appeal with the appellate authority, which was also rejected. He then filed a second appeal with the CIC. Hearing the issue, chief information commissioner Rajiv Mathur directed: "The commission sees no merit in the submissions made by the appellant. The SPG is an exempted organization under section 24 of the RTI act and hence we find no reason to interfere with the orders of the CPIO/appellate authority."
Former PM Indira Gandhi was shot down by two of her bodyguards in October 1984 in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star, where the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple the holiest Sikh shrine to take out terrorists holed up inside.