Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RBI says banks have no liability for loss of valuables kept in their lockers

The lawyer who filed the RTI query demanded a probe under the Competition Act into the ‘cartelisation’ by banks.
The Scroll.in: Neew Delhi: Tuesday, June 27, 2017.
The Reserve Bank of India has said in response to a Right To Information query that public sector banks have no liability for theft of valuables kept in their lockers, reported PTI. Lawyer Kush Kalra, who sought the response under the RTI Act has now moved the Competition Commission of India, alleging “cartelisation” and “anti-competitive practices” by the banks.
According to the RTI reply accessed by the lawyer, the unanimous reason given by the RBI and 19 other PSU banks is that the relationship they have with customers with regard to lockers is that of “lessee [landlord] and lessor [tenant]”. The banks claim that because of such a relationship, the responsibility for the valuables falls on the depositor.
The other banks who replied to the query include Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab National Bank, UCO and Canara Bank.
Some banks have made it clear in their locker hiring agreements that they bear no responsibility for the valuables and that the customer may insure them. According to a report by Financial Express, even private sector banks have the “no-responsibility” clause in their locker hiring agreements.
However, the lawyer said that if banks bear no liability for the customers’ valuables, the latter might merely keep the valuables at home and insure them instead of paying rent for the locker.
The lawyer alleged that all these banks, as well as State Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Syndicate Bank, Allahabad Bank and others, have formed a “cartel” to indulge in such “anti-competitive” practices. He has demanded a probe under the Competition Act into this “cartel”

Noida: Over 2.5K trees felled in five years, reveals RTI query

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Vinod Rajput: Tuesday, June 17, 2017.
Environmentalists allege that tree felling is rampant in Noida.
The Gautam Budh Nagar district forest department gave permission for felling 2,560 fully grown trees in the last five years, an application under the Right To Information (RTI) Act has revealed.
Greater Noida-based environmentalist Vikrant Tongad had in February filed an RTI application seeking details of the total number of trees cut in the last five years but the forest department has furnished the details only this month.
The forest department in its reply has stated that the response to the application was delayed because the staff was busy with their duties for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
According to the reply, 42 trees are being cut every month in Noida and Greater Noida for various reasons, including development projects and infrastructure work.
“The department received an application seeking permission to cut a total of 3,948 trees in the last five years but of these, it did not grant permission for 1,388 applications,” the reply to the RTI application stated.
In the last 10 years, 42% of the trees that the department had planted in the district have survived. In Gautam Budh Nagar, the state government had in the monsoon of 2016, asked the Noida and Greater Noida authorities to plant 6.5 lakh saplings in the monsoon.
Continuing the drive this year as well, the Noida and Greater Noida authorities, among others, in Gautam Budh Nagar will together plant around 4 lakh trees to increase the green cover and mitigate air pollution.
“The Gautam Budh Nagar forest department and other government bodies do not emphasise on protecting trees. They focus more on tree plantation. Trees are being felled every day in Noida and Greater Noida without permission but the forest department takes no action against this rampant crime despite complaints. I do not trust the forest department officials on the figures of trees felled in the last five years. They should take strict action against those mindlessly chopping down trees,” Tongad said. The forest department, however, refuted Tongad’s allegations.
“The forest department has provided the details under RTI application as per records available. We are focusing on both protection and plantation, to increase the green cover,” NC Upadhyay, subdivisional officer (SDO), Gautam Budh Nagar district, said.

Despite No Vacancies, Himachal Government Appoints Three DGPs

The Wire: Gaurav Bhatnagar: New Delhi: Tuesday, June 27, 2017.
Himachal Pradesh, which is headed to the polls later this year, has gone on a recruitment spree for appointment of director generals of police (DGP) despite there being no vacancies for the same. It has also recruited ineligible officials for the posts.
Through an application filed under the RTI Act by lawyer-activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, it was revealed that despite the screening committee being informed about the non-availability of the sanctioned posts of DGPs in the state, the state government went ahead to grant promotions to three IPS officers, one of them promoted on the last day of his service, bringing the total number of DGPs in the state to six against the sanctioned posts of two.
Further, the query revealed that even after the screening committee was told about the ineligibilities of the prospective DGPs, the process wasn’t stalled.
One of them on eve of retirement
The promotions were granted to three IPS officers, one of who is on eve of his retirement.
The screening committee of Himachal Pradesh was called upon in November 2016 to decide on the appointments of the new DGP. Himachal Pradesh chief secretary V.C. Pharka had called a meeting of departmental promotion committee on November 29. “The entire exercise was done to promote one IPS officer, B.N.S. Negi, to the post of DGP prior to his retirement (which was due on the last day of the month),” said Bhattacharya. Two more officers were listed for promotion.
All three officers had not completed 30 years of mandatory service
The memorandum for consideration of the screening committee for the promotions was prepared by the joint secretary of Himachal Pradesh. It stated that all the three IPS officers had not completed the mandatory 30 years of service. “When the government wanted to deny promotion to the senior most police officer of the state, it invoked this rule. Otherwise they have followed this rule only in breach of all the promotions of IPS officers to the rank of Director General of Police,” Bhattacharya said.
The memorandum also mentioned that as per the rule 3 (2) (ii) and (iii) of IPS (Pay) Rules, 2016, a promotion could be effected only if a vacancy exists. If there is none, prior sanction of the Central government is necessary. It had also mentioned that any appointment made without obtaining prior concurrence would be liable for cancellation.
Screening committee overlooked objections
And yet, Bhattacharya said, the screening committee still went ahead to grant illegal promotions to the three IPS officers – Prithvi Raj, T.K. Deka and B.N.S. Negi. The proceedings of the meeting of screening committee also mentioned that all these officers were not eligible for promotions.
Bhattacharya charged that the screening committee comprising chief secretary Pharka, additional chief secretary Tarun Shridhar, principal secretary Prabodh Saxena and DGP Sanjay Kumar therefore collectively violated the rules by approving the promotions. The promotions were accepted by chief minister Virbhadra Singh on November 29, 2016.
“This arbitrary act of the screening committee has caused unnecessary financial burden on the already cash strapped coffers of Himachal Pradesh and that too illegally,” claimed Bhattacharya.
Chief secretary knew there were just two posts of DGP
The file obtained by Bhattacharya also revealed that the chief secretary was informed that “against one sanctioned post of DG and one ex-cadre post (totalling two posts) in the state, three IPS officers have already been working/promoted to the rank of DGP.” Also, the official was told by the department that “the proposed officers have not completed the 30 years of essential service which is one of the requirements for promotion for post of DG” as mentioned in the guidelines of MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs), Government of India, dated January 15, 1999, as well as IPS (Pay) Rules 2016.
The file notings also revealed that Prithvi Raj would have completed 30 years of service on December 31, 2016 whereas B.N.S. Negi was to retire on November 30, 2016 on completion of 28 years and 11 months of service. As for Deka, the notings said, he was senior to Negi and would have to be considered for further promotion.
The file notings had mentioned that “there is no vacancy available for the post of DGP” and that the chief secretary was asked in early November 2016 “whether in the absence of any vacancy of the DG post and in relaxation of the applicable rules, the matter of promotion of the three IPS officers to the rank of DGP should be processed or not?”
Chief justice urged to stall appointments, punish panel members
In view of the discrepancies in the procedure adopted, Bhattacharya has urged the chief justice of Himachal Pradesh high court, Mansoor Ahmad Mir, to quash the notification of November 30, 2016 through which the promotions were granted to the three IPS officers and to initiate “appropriate action” against the members of the screening committee for recommending the promotions to the chief minister despite being apprised of the various shorcomings and irregularities in them. He has also sought stoppage of payment of salary and allowances and pension at the enhanced rates to the three new DGPs.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Another wildlife death in IIT Madras: Deer killed by a speeding vehicle in campus

The News Minute: Chennai: Monday, June 26, 2017.
A fawn, a young deer in its first year, was found dead inside the IIT-Madras campus after a speeding vehicle allegedly hit the animal on Saturday night. Forest officials visited the spot after the institute informed them. 
Antony Rubin, honorary animal welfare officer of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), told The News Minute, “Around 10:30pm, the fawn was hit by the vehicle and I was informed about the incident by the students of the institute by 11pm. I have been told that the security guards caught the driver of the vehicle which hit the fawn and informed the forest officials immediately.”
However, Antony says that no action has yet been taken against the driver of the vehicle. “Strict action must be taken against the driver as the fawn comes under Schedule-I animal under the
This is not the first time such an incident is happening inside the IIT-Madras campus. “Last night’s incident just proves that road accidents have been happening at large. There are no speed-breakers and there are too many speedy vehicles inside the campus,” said Antony Rubin.
Forest officers could not be reached for a comment.
Antony Rubin had filed an RTI on April 6, 2017, questioning the number of deaths of deer and blackbucks in the campus. "It was quite shocking. 220 deer and 8 blackbucks had died between 2014 and 2016 but nobody has even made a noise about it. As far as cause of deaths are concerned, only one death has been attributed to an accident," he had earlier told TNM.
He had also filed a petition to the National Green Tribunal, in which he had asked for a complete ban on non-recyclable plastics in the IIT campus, shifting of ‘Shaastra’, ‘Saarang’ and other events to outside the campus since they draw a large crowd inside IIT-M.
In the petition marked the State of Tamil Nadu, IIT-M, Greater Chennai Corporation, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, he has also highlighted the “Various negligent human activities including improper disposal of solid waste, speeding vehicles within IIT-M.”

Hit-and-run: 12% convictions in 5 years

Times of India: Chandigarh: Monday, June 26, 2017.
At a mere 12% in the last 5 years, the city has very poor conviction rate in hit and run cases. This was revealed through an RTI query filed by a road activist.
The RTI reply revealed that only 137 accused were convicted between January 2012 and September 30, 2016, in hit and run cases. A total of 1,138 cases were registered in the city till 2016 and 342 hit and run incidents had proved fatal.
According to road activist Harman Sidhu, he had filed the RTI query seeking information regarding convictions in hit and run cases from 2012 to September 2016. "The facts are very discouraging. Only around 12% offending drivers got convicted in hit and run cases. The low numbers encourage the offenders to flee from the accident spots. The police investigate hit and run cases in a very casual manner and file untraced report in court in most of the cases."
According to the RTI reply , Sector 19 cops registered 78 hit and run cases between January 2012 to September 2016 but was able to trace 63 cases and 29 drivers were convicted by the court. As many as 71cases were registered in Sector 26 police station and 43 erring drivers were traced but only 6 were convicted.
The Mani Majra police re gistered 72 cases of hit and run and was able to trace 37, but only 3 were convicted while Industrial Area (phase -I) police registered 23 such cases and no one was convicted in any case.
Maximum 203 hit and run cases were registered at Sector 34 police station and the cops traced 169 drivers. However, 27 people got convicted between January 2012 and September 2016. As many as 195 cases were registered at Sector 39 police station and the cops traced 168 cases. Only 20 drivers were convicted by the court.
At Sector 36, 172 hit and run cases were reported and 133 were traced. Of these 19 offending drivers were convicted by the court. In Sector 11 police station, 161cases were filed and 130 were traced but only 21convicted.
Senior lawyer at the district courts Navdeep Arora said the main reason behind less conviction rate in hit and run cases was lack of evidence and in several cases witnesses turn hostile. Other reason for the same was the complainant and the accused reaching an out of court settlement, he added.Arora said non-functioning CCTV cameras was also a major reason behind the less conviction. "Generally , hit and run cases are reported during night hours and teh city doesn't have night vision cameras that can capture numbers plate of erring vehicles."
DSP (traffic) Yashpal Vinayak said, "The police tries to solve every cases but due to lack of evidence many cases go untraced resulting in low conviction rate. The police department has a proposal to install around 600 cameras in the city. Once the cameras are installed, such cases will not go untraced."

Banks have no liability for loss of valuables in lockers: RBI

Economic Times: New Delhi: Monday, June 26, 2017.
Do not expect any compensation for theft or burglary of valuables in safe deposit boxes of public sector banks as the locker hiring agreement absolves them of all liability.
This bitter truth was disclosed in an RTI response by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and 19 PSU banks.
Stung by the revelation, the lawyer who had sought information under the transparency law has now moved the Competition Commission of India (CCI) alleging "cartelisation" and "anti­competitive practices" by the banks in respect of the locker service.
He has informed the CCI that the RTI response from the RBI has said it has not issued any specific direction in this regard or prescribed any parameters to assess the loss suffered by a customer.
Even under the RTI response, all public sectors banks have washed their hands of any responsibility.
According to the information availed by the lawyer, the unanimous reason given by the 19 banks, including Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab National Bank, UCO and Canara, among others, is that "the relationship they have with customers with regard to
lockers is that of lessee (landlord) and lessor (tenant)".
The banks have contended that in such a relationship, the lessor is responsible for his or her valuables kept in the locker which is owned by the bank.
Some banks, in their locker hiring agreements, have made it clear that any item stored in the locker is at the customer's own risk and he or she may, in their own interest, insure the valuables.
The common feature of all locker hiring agreements states, "As per safe deposit memorandum of hiring locker, the bank will not be responsible for any loss or damage of the contents kept in the safe deposit vault as a result of any act of war or civil disorder or theft or burglary and the contents will be kept by the hirer at his or her sole risk and responsibility.
"While the bank will exercise all such normal precautions, it does not accept any liability or responsibility for any loss or damage whatsoever sustained to items deposited with it. Accordingly, hirers are advised in their own interest to insure any item of value deposited in a safe deposit locker in the bank," they have said.
Aggrieved by the responses, the lawyer Kush Kalra raised questions before the CCI why not just keep the valuables at home after insuring them, instead of paying rent to the bank for a locker when it is not going to take any responsibility for the contents.
He alleged that all these banks, also including State Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Syndicate Bank, Allahabad Bank and others, have formed a "cartel" to indulge in such "anti­competitive" practices.
He further alleged that the bank by forming an association or cartel are "trying to limit the improvement of services which is directly affecting the competition in the market and interests of the consumer"
The lawyer has sought a probe under the Competition Act into the allegation of cartelisation by the banks in respect of the locker service.

Action against pvt schools raises hackles

The Tribune: Amritsar: Monday, June 26, 2017.
The action initiated by the Education Department against little known private schools in rural areas for charging a hefty fee while ignoring reputed city schools has not gone down well with a section of the city residents.
President of the United Human Rights Organisation Vishal Joshi said on the directions of the Circle Education Officer, Jalandhar, under which Amritsar also falls, the fee record of 200 schools were checked.
Barring DAV School, Joshi said, an RTI application revealed, that no other reputed educational institute was brought under the net of checking. He said upon inquiring, the department stated that the name of the school was erroneously put in the list. He said a majority of the schools, probed for their high fee structure, are situated in the rural areas of the city or in villages.
Joshi claimed that the department was reluctant to share information regarding the action taken against private schools under the Regulatory Fees Act, 2016. He said he was released information only after he had filed an appeal under section 19 of the Right to Information Act.
Interestingly, he said the district administration-appointed committee of the Education Department had found all CBSE-affiliated schools blatantly violating norms by charging excess fee from the students in April 2016. He said many schools were found charging excess fee to the tune of 40 per cent.
However, even after the promulgation and implementation of the Act, no action has been taken against these reputed schools of the city.
President of the Punjab Parents Association (PPA) MK Sharma said the existing fee and funds structure of all private schools must be brought down by at least 30 per cent and the Act must ensure the implementation of Right to Education (RTE) guidelines.
He demanded that funds like re-admission fee and annual fee etc must be abolished. All the deputy commissioners as well as the district education officers must be empowered to take action against the schools, violating the guidelines of the Regulatory Fees Act, 2016.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Railways to build Rs. 8cr high-tech train for next President

NewsBytes: New Delhi: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Railways to build Rs. 8cr high-tech train for next President
While India is yet to decide on its next President, looks like the Railway Ministry is already busy with preparations for Pranab Mukherjee's successor.
The Ministry is currently planning a new railway saloon worth Rs. 8cr for the winning Presidential candidate.
The state transporter will also seek the new President's approval in July.
Know more about Presidential railway saloon!
The Presidential railway saloon is a pair of twin coaches for the President of India to move around in.
Built in 1956, they have a visiting-cum-dining room, conference-cum-lounge room, President's bedroom, kitchen, and chambers for military secretaries, doctors, and staff.
Previous Presidents traveled in these coaches 87 times with Dr. Abdul Kalam's 2006 journey being the last; the carriages were later declared unsafe.
Fact: Funds sanctioned in 2007-08
In the 2007-08 Railway budget, Rs. 6 crore funds were sanctioned for manufacturing a new Presidential saloon. However, in 2008, President Pranab Mukherjee's Secretariat rejected the plan, citing security concerns and also possible disruption of passenger traffic.
New Saloon: Proposed saloon offers protection, comfort, and connectivity
The proposed Rs. 8cr railway saloon would be built on the German LHB design coach platform.
It will have plasma TVs, GPS and GPRS systems, Immersat satellite antennas, 20-line telephone exchange, modular kitchen, a public address system, and bulletproof windows.
Northern Railways' Chief Mechanical Engineer Arun Arora said the Railways will build the saloon if the new President desires.
Types: Railways inventory has four different saloons
Indian Railways has 62 AC and 222 non-AC saloons for broad gauge tracks and two AC and 24 non-AC saloons for meter gauge tracks.
As they are rarely used, their maintenance cost is marginal.
They can be used as inspection coaches to reach accident sites and remote areas.
Separate saloons are also maintained for the Ministers and senior officials of Railways.
Usage of Saloons: Railway Minister and Ministers of State also use saloons
Responding to an RTI query filed by activist Subhash Agrawal, the Railways said Railway Minister and Ministers of State traveled 162 times in five years, up to Sep'16.
While Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu traveled only 25 times in the saloon, Minister of State Manoj Sinha, with 40 journeys, traveled the most.
Former Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge undertook only 32 journeys.

Resentment Growing over False Charges against Nikhil Dey and Other RTI Activists : by Bharat Dogra

Mainstream: National: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Resentment is growing in Rajasthan and at the national level against some of the most senior, distinguished, selfless social activists being given a prison sentence in a 20-year-old case. The case relates to one of those struggles of Right to Information (RTI) activists in rural Rajasthan which were praised all over the world as pioneering efforts to bring trans-parency and ensure accountability in rural development.
This was a particularly difficult case for RTI activists as a sarpanch, who also doubled as a liquor contractor at that time and had been accused by several villagers of corrupt dealings, had refused to provide information despite being approached for this many a time in the proper legal way by activists and other villagers. When RTI activists persisted in their efforts, he turned violent towards them; but instead it is the activists, in fact some of the most respected activists known for their great work and integrity, who have been given a prison sentence.
The Rajasthan branch of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties has also drawn attention to this serious anomaly that the peaceful activists, who were treated violently by corrupt persons, were convicted and sentenced to four-month imprisonment.
In another statement released on behalf of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS) and one of the most respected social activists of world, Aruna Roy, it has been stated, “The MKSS is shocked and dismayed to receive the judgment of the Munsif Magistrate Court, Kishengarh, Ajmer, convicting senior activists Nikhil Dey, Naurti, Ramkaran, Babulal and Chotu Lal Malakar of trespass and simple hurt under sections 323 and 451 of the IPC. The judgment comes on 13th June, 2017 in an incident which took place on 6th of May, 1998.”
Drawing attention to an important aspect of this 19-year-old case, this statement points out that the case filed by the sarpanch was closed on June 30, 1998 but on July 5, 2001 the same case was revived once again. Calling this prison sentence a body blow to the efforts of citizens to fight corruption, this statement has expressed deep disappointment with the verdict. At the same time this statement has noted that the sentence has been suspended pending an appeal to be filed by the activists.
One reason why this sentence has evoked so much resentment among justice-loving people is that the convicted activists are very well known for their commitment to peaceful struggles as is evident from their RTI movement and related struggles. One of the accused, Naurati Bai, has herself served as a sarpanch and is widely regarded as a model sarpanch who achieved a lot in a short time. She is also known for her struggles on behalf of rural women workers and her work for gender justice. Nikhil Dey is one of the most highly regarded social activists of the country, widely known for his contribution to the RTI, NREGA and numerous other worthy causes. Ramkaran, one of the most gentle activists I have ever met, has been a pillar of strength for the RTI movement as well as for several other noble causes.
I have been a frequent visitor to various meetings of these and other social activists of Rajasthan who work on several issues of common interest with mutual cooperation. As this case dragged on, at some of these meetings the activists implicated could not come because of court dates. On such cases other persons attending the case, while expressing regret that these senior activists could not come, would invariably express resentment about why such noble persons had been implicated in frivolous charges as no one could believe such charges against them. It was often said that even asking such senior activists engaged in important tasks concerning the welfare of the people, particularly the weaker sections, to attend to such a court case for so many years was itself a great injustice against them.
It is very important in a democracy that those activists and citizens who take up people’s causes against corrupt persons should get justice. When even very senior and respected activists are subjected to years of harassment culminating in even more injustice, this sends a very wrong message to the people’s faith in democratic and constitutional struggles. Hence it is very much an issue of protecting democracy and democratic rights that all the activists implicated in this case should get justice and get it fast.
The author is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and campaigns.  

BULLETPROOF JACKET THAT FAILED TO PROTECT KARKARE DUMPED IN DUSTBIN: RTI

Mumbai Mirror: Mumbai: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Mumbai police learnt about the lapse a year after 26/11, but kept mum
A substandard bulletproof jacket that failed to protect former ATS chief Hemant Karkare from the bullets of 26/ 11 attackers and later kicked up a massive uproar over the safety of Mumbai police personnel ended up in a dustbin at JJ Hospital.
This startling revelation has come in the form of a reply to a Right to Information application. Apparently, the police department learnt about the lapse a year after 10 LeT men brought carnage to the streets of Mumbai, but chose to keep mum.
Earlier, the force had given an evasive reply after the IPS officer’s wife Kavita sought to know its whereabouts through an RTI. Authorities had said that “the jacket was lost and could not be traced.”
If the photo of Ajmal Kasab became the face of terror after the 2008 bloodbath, a picture of the former Anti-Terrorism Squad boss with a bulletproof vest and helmet, holding a revolver one hand and a mobile phone on the other minutes before his death, continues to haunt the city.
Karkare, additional commissioner of police Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar were killed after the police jeep that they were travelling in was ambushed near Cama Hospital.
For years, the Mumbai police’s stock response to the bulletproof jacket controversy was that a section of JJ Hospital staff may have discarded the vest as they were not aware or ‘apprised’ by seniors that it belonged to Karkare.
The new twist in the vest story came to the fore after activist Anil Galgali filed an RTI query asking for the same information that had been sought by Kavita Karkare eight years ago. It now says that that the jacket was thrown into a dustbin by a ward boy at JJ.
Too callous?
Atop police officer, who was a part of the investigation team, said one knew what had happened to the jacket for more than a year. “It was only when an enquiry was ordered into the matter, a ward boy from the hospital claimed to have thrown it away. Later, the ward boy also went missing for some time.”
The officer said the police recorded the ward boy’s statement later, but no effort was made to gather any evidence to support his claim. “No one saw him collecting Karkare’s clothes and the jacket nor the hospital had any CCTV records. The enquiry was closed after recording his statement.”
The “Karkare bullet proof jacket” issue surfaced a year after the 26/11attacks when Mumbai police decided to buy high-quality bulletproof vests and advanced body armours to better equip the force against future attacks.
Ashok Kamte’s wife Vinita, who challenged the Mumbai police’s response during the terror strike, said she did not ‘take up’ the bulletproof jacket issue with the authorities.
Nearly nine years and several controversies later, the Maharashtra Police have placed an order for 5,000 bulletproof vests with MKU, a reputed military equipment manufacturer headquartered in Kanpur, which will be importing the vests from Germany.
Vinita Kamte said, “It is surprising that the bulletproof jacket of Hemant Karkare could get accidentally disposed of by people not plugged into the gravitus of such an object. All the personal belongings of the police officers felled by the marauding 26/11 terrorists should have been properly secured and formed part of the larger investigations.”
S M Mushrif, a former IPS officer and author of the book Who Killed Karkare, offered a different view. “I have opined that domestic forces were at play to eliminate Karkare. The plot to bump him off coincided with Pakistan’s larger 26/11 gameplan. So I do not really subscribe to the facts that a faulty bulletproof jacket or similar sub-prime materials used by him led to his death.”
Karkare’s son Akaash declined to comment on the matter.

Illegal constructions threaten Walled City legacy

Times of India: Ahmedabad: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
The walled city will soon lose some of its stunning heritage due to construction or give in to commercial pressures unless new stringent conservation laws are implemented immediately. A cursory glance at the Ahmedabad municipal corporation's demolition notices will reveal the gravity of the situation.
In entire 2011, when Ahmedabad figured on Unesco's tentative list of world heritage cities, there were 398 illegal buildings in the central zone issued demolition notices by the AMC. Incidentally, a majority of the buildings in central zone consist of heritage structures.
By December 2016, the number of illegal buildings had rise to 1,073. A majority of these illegal structures 377 buildings were ironically traced to Khadia ward which has the highest number of listed heritage properties and is Ahmedabad's showcase for Unesco.
There are six wards in the central zone. Information acquired under RTI by Kalupur resident, Pankaj Bhatt, says that after Khadia, Jamalpur ward has 260 illegal buildings, Shahibaugh has 167, Dariyapur has 144, Shahpur has 80-odd illegal buildings while Asarwa has 45 illegal buildings.
"The number of illegal structures will further increase if the AMC's town planning department and the heritage department of the AMC do not co-ordinate on the issue. Currently, both these departments work in isolation," a senior AMC official said.
The official also told TOI that in a submission before the Gujarat high court last year, the AMC had admitted, on affidavit, that there are 692 buildings or premises in the walled city which are being used contrary to the existing development control regulations.
"The old havelis are either occupied by tenants through generations or belong to multiple owners. The only way to gain economic value from them is by selling. Another reason is the proximity of these havelis to railway and bus stations which makes them ideal to be used as godowns," the officials said.
Walk through the lanes of Khadia, Raipur, Dariapur, Kalupur, Astodia, Jamalpur and Shahpur and you will see demolition going on even in seemingly quiet corners. Some new residential schemes have come up in Sewka Wadi (near Sankhdi Sheri), Hajira ni Pol, Jethabhai ni Pol and Bhav ni Pol.
In some pols in Raipur, old houses with intricate carvings and at least four bedrooms are being brought down to build 2-BHK flats which are being sold for Rs 26 lakh each. Even Ahmedabad's first pol, Moorat ni Pol, has been marred by illegal construction. So have Khetarpal ni Pol, Bandhara no Khancho, Madan Gopal ni Haveli, Revadi Bazaar, Akasheth Kuan ni Pol, Ghansiram ni Pol, and Kot ni Rang.

Rules ignored, Pune housing societies discharge untreated sewage

Indian Express: Pune: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Since 2011, housing societies in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad with more than 80 or more flats have been mandated by the state government to set up standalone sewage treatment plants (STPs) to treat the sewage produced there. However, in response to an RTI query filed by The Indian Express, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has stated that 19 of the 30 such STPs inspected by the Board last year were found to be non-operational. This puts a question mark on the move, which was introduced to reduce the load on STPs run by the municipal bodies, and to stop the discharge of untreated sewage directly into rivers.
Located at the tail-end of the drainage system of municipal corporations, STPs treat the sewage generated by the entire city, before it is discharged into rivers. However, in Pune, about 30 per cent of the sewage continues to be discharged directly into the river without being treated. The STPs at housing societies were supposed to tackle this problem, and such societies would have got a tax rebate.
While the state government grants the environmental clearance for setting up STPs, the MPCB has the task of inspecting these STPs at regular intervals.
MPCB officials claimed that the lack of coordination between civic bodies makes it difficult for them to ensure that STPs are operational in all housing societies.
In the last one year, MPCB has conducted inspections at 30 housing societies, of which 19 were found to have non-operational STPs. The MPCB had even issued directions for taking legal action against three societies.
Seema Salve, chairman of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) Standing Committee, said the lack of regular inspections was due to a policy lacuna in the matter. While the state government issues environmental clearance for STPs, no fixed guidelines are in place for regular supervision of these plants.
“The plants in question are on private land, so the corporations don’t have the right to inspect them,” she said.
Salve claimed that the MPCB, which has the rights of supervision as well as the right to initiate action against the defaulting societies, has not been stringent. “We have started communicating with the state government, asking for supervisory power over the STPs in the housing societies,” she said.
In case the state government agreed, the civic body would be in a position to offer technical support to housing societies to run their STPs efficiently, said Salve.

Budget misuse in drinking water project in Parsa

Republica: BIRGUNJ: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Drinking Water and Sanitation Division in Parsa district has found misuse of budget allocated for a drinking water project.
When locals here at Gamhariya village, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, asked for the project details, the employees misbehaved with the locals. Then, they reached to the District Administration Office (DAO) to register their complaint. 
Drinking Water and Sanitation Division, Parsa, has got a total of Rs 89 million for shallow tube well and over head water tank project in the current fiscal year. According to the office engineer Dinesh Prasad Shah, 60 percent of budget has been used till last month. “We cannot give you the exact details of the budget. It takes time to prepare,” he added. “This year’s target is to dig 1,046 shallow tube wells in the district.”
Locals started investigation into the matter as they smelt a rat finding the employees’ activities doubtful. They found that the office employees had provided a document of 78 pages with fake details. The detail of tube well’s depth is shorter in comparison to what is mentioned in the estimation.
According to the locals, the depth of tube well is supposed to be 250 feet but the depth is shorter. Engineer Shah claimed that the tube well’s depth is 240 to 250 feet. However, the reality is different. Investigation found that the depth of tube well is only 110 feet to 140 feet. Even the depth of tube well a mosque yard is 185 feet. Locals are furious, saying that the office has committed irregularities even in the work done at a place of religious significance. Among 34 tube wells dug in this year, not a single tube well has 250-ft depth.
When villagers found the employees wrongdoings, the employees are now trying to conceal the mistake. “It is normal to find differences between the estimation and the field work. Sometimes mistakes happen in such works,” said Engineer Yadav.
Tube wells aren’t installed yet in most of the places, mentioned in the office notice, and the details are only in papers. The office has even listed names of some households who have not installed tube well yet. On the other hand, it is also found that the office has included names of some households who have installed tube wells on their own. According to the locals, the office has even installed the tube well to the residence of other villages that used to live in Gamhariya in the past. “Some of our villagers are in Birgunj and Kathmandu. Will the office install tube well at their houses too?” Saroj, a local, wondered. 
Division office selects one person as a protector in needy places but in Sirsiya four members of same family has been selected for different places and installed tube well. One of the villagers, Rajesh Chauhan, claimed that officials have even included names of some individuals who have already passed away.
Engineer Shah said the depth of tube well ranges from 210 feet to 220 feet, while Chauhan claimed that the depth ranges between only 100 to 150 feet.
In their complaints to DAO Parsa, locals have demanded the local administration to take action against those involved in misusing money allocated from the state coffers.

Act as per rules: L-G Baijal to vigilance secy on plea against Kejriwal in ‘PWD scam’

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
The cases were registered on the complaint of Rahul Sharma, founder of Road Anti Corruption Organization (RACO) who used RTI documents to get bills submitted by Bansal’s firm related to a construction work in north west Delhi’s Bakoli village.
Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has asked the principal secretary (vigilance) to take necessary action as per rules in a plea seeking prosecution sanction against chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in an alleged PWD scam.
The development comes in wake of an application filed at the L-G’s office on June 7 by Rahul Sharma, seeking prosecution sanction against Kejriwal and the executive engineer (PWD) under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the alleged PWD scam pertaining to three FIRs.
“A representation dated June 7, 2017 from Rahul Sharma, (Founder), RACO, Ghonda, Delhi, has been sent for necessary action as per rules,” the L-G’s special secretary R N Sharma said in a written communication to principal secretary (vigilance) Ashwani Kumar.
Last month, the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) had filed three separate FIRs on a complaint filed by Sharma, founder of Roads Anti-Corruption Organisation (RACO), alleging irregularities in the grant of contracts for roads and sewer lines in Delhi in 2015-16.
One of the FIRs was registered against the company of Kejriwal’s late brother-in-law Surender Kumar Bansal. The Delhi CM has not been named in any of the FIRs.
Being a serving chief minister, the prosecuting agencies need to get prior sanction of the Lieutenant Governor before it could formally begin a probe against Kejriwal, officials said.
Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashutosh condemned the direction, saying L-G was allegedly acting on the behest of the BJP. The AAP leader argued that no evidence has been provided by Sharma against the chief minister in his complaint.
“Rahul Sharma files frivolous complaints against AAP on a regular basis. Now he has sought prosecution sanction against the chief minister though he has no connection with the case whatsoever,” Ashutosh said.

RTI progress assessed: Appeals heard and info relased disclosed

Sunday Times: Sri Lanka: Sunday, June 25, 2017.
Commission launches trilingual website and logo.
Pending is a request for the declaration of the assets of the President and the Prime Minister
Launching its trilingual website (www.rticommission.lk) and the RTI logo consisting of Sri Lanka in the black pupil of an eye signifying information held aloft by a hand of a citizen, the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka this week, disclosed details of appeals heard and information released by public authorities summoned to the commission.
The RTI logo shows Sri Lanka in the black pupil of an eye signifiying
information held aloft by a citizen
This was following appeals filed by citizens against the Road Development Authority (RDA) and the Panadura Urban Council among other public authorities. During the past four months following the operationalising of Sri Lanka’s RTI Act on February 3, 2017, the commission has responded to approximately 69 Government ministries clarifying duties cast on public authorities under the Act.
Among these was the office of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Presidential Secretariat, the Sri Lanka Customs, the Employees Trust Fund Board, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Department of Meteorology and several provincial authorities including the Chief Secretary’s Offices of the Southern Province, the Central Province, the Eastern Province and the Secretariat of the Governor of the Western Province. Pending appeals before the commission include an appeal filed by a citizen against the Governor’s Secretariat of the NPC.
Also pending is a request for the declaration of the assets of the President and the Prime Minister. The commission’s website states that the part heard matter will be continued on August 8, 2017 to enable the two Designated Officers (DOs), the Secretary to the President and the Secretary to the Prime Minister to obtain legal representation. This was on a request made by the DOs to the commission citing the complexity of the issues involved. The commission’s order states that two preliminary questions of law before it for consideration relate to the failure on the part of the appellant, Transparency International, Sri Lanka, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), to state the fact of its membership coming within the definition of ‘a citizen’ in the initial information request to the public authorities asking for the assets declarations.
The preliminary questions of law arise under Section 3(1) of the RTI Act which only gives a citizen the right to seek information from a public authority having ‘possession, custody or control.” Section 43 defines a ‘citizen’ as “a body whether incorporated or unincorporated, if not less than three-fourths of the members of such body are citizens.” The Rules of the Commission (February 2017) provide that though use of RTI 01 (the information request format) is not mandatory when filing an information request, the necessary details must be stated even on a blank sheet of paper in accordance with the Act.
The commission’s website also features two draft guidances on pro-active disclosure applicable to all ministries as required under the RTI Act. Along with draft Inquiry Rules, these have been published in advance to obtain public feedback before gazetting. It has also been announced that the commission will seek the views of PAs through a series of public consultations.
A special feature of the draft Guidances relates to information that must be disclosed three months in advance of the initiation of ‘projects”, the value of which exceeds USD 100,000 (in case of foreign funded projects) and Rs. 500,000 (in respect of locally funded projects) under Section 9 of the Act.
In these cases, the commission has specified that ministers must disclose all capital expenditure of procurement activities approved by procurement committees. These include project budget and financial information including the total estimated cost of the project, the source of finance (foreign/ local/other – for example Public Private Partnership) and identification of the foreign or local entities/institutions involved in financing the project.
It is also stipulated that if the proposed project is to be implemented on the basis of a Public Private Partnership, the relevant ministers must provide the main terms and conditions of agreement between the Government and the private sector party, including details of equity and profit share bases, financial information such as fees, tolls, or other kinds of revenue that may be collected by private sector parties under authorisation from the Government.
Further, all additional benefits or concessions, if any, offered to the contractor or private parties at the cost or expense of the State/Government of Sri Lanka in the implementation of the proposed project. For example, tax holidays, tax concessions, sale or lease of land at concessionary rates/prices etc must be listed.
The draft Guidances state that information on environmental impact assessments for the project must be disclosed along with approvals from relevant regulatory agencies mandated by the law. In addition, details of the supplier/vendor/contractor who will implement the project, the number of bidders as well as the relevant names/contact details of those who submitted bids for the project and the complaints handling mechanism conforming to accepted standards of fairness and transparency which is accessible to the public.
In a different Guidance under Section 8 which relates general pro-active disclosure duties, ministers are required to provide a breakdown of all costs and expenditure, including but not limited to, rentals, utility costs, salaries, emoluments and allowances, travel costs (both foreign and local, including cost of air travel and accommodation), stationery, fuel, cost of other facilities, such as repair of vehicles, repairs, renovations, improvements and refurbishments to buildings and structures. Also required to be disclosed in advance is the relevant procurement plan of the ministry.
The commission has also proposed rules relating to the procedure for holding inquiries which includes the holding of public hearings on matters of ‘public importance.’