Monday, January 26, 2015

RTI में खुलासा- उत्तर प्रदेश में धीमी है कुपोषण के खिलाफ जंग

Oneindia Hindi: Lucknow: Monday, 26 January 2015.
उत्तर प्रदेश को कुपोषण से मुक्त बनाने के लिए उप्र सरकार के दावे खोखले साबित हो रहे हैं। प्रदेश में राज्य पोषण मिशन के तहत जरूरतमंद लोगों तक पौष्टिक पदार्थ पहुंचाने के अखिलेश सरकार के दावे हकीकत से बिल्कुल विपरीत हैं। यह खुलासा सूचना के अधिकार (आरटीआई) कानून के तहत हुआ है।
सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता उर्वशी शर्मा ने आरटीआई के तहत यह जानने की कोशिश की थी कि प्रदेश में कुपोषण के शिकार लोगों की संख्या कितनी है। बाल विकास पुष्टाहार विभाग ने जो जवाब दिया है वह वाकई चौंकाने वाला है।
उर्वशी ने बताया कि प्रदेश के बाल विकास सेवा एवं पुष्टाहार निदेशालय ने आरटीआई के जबाब में बताया है कि मायावती का कार्यकाल रहा हो या अखिलेश सरकार का, पिछले पांच वर्षो के दौरान प्रदेश सरकार ने कुपोषण के संबंध में कोई भी अध्ययन या सर्वेक्षण नहीं कराया है, जिससे यह बात सामने आ सके कि प्रदेश में कुपोषण के शिकार लोगों की संख्या कितनी है।
क्या-क्या निकला आरटीआई के जवाब में:
·       बाल विकास सेवा एवं पुष्टाहार निदेशालय के पास पिछले पांच सालों में कुपोषण की समस्या से ग्रसित पुरुषों, महिलाओं, किन्नरों, बालकों, बालिकाओं और शिशुओं की संख्या की कोई भी सूचना नहीं है।
·       कुपोषित पुरुषों, महिलाओं, किन्नरों, बालकों, बालिकाओं और शिशुओं की संख्या की कोई सूचना भी नहीं है। आखिर किस आधार पर अखिलेश ने राज्य पोषण मिशन के शुभारंभ पर जरूरतमंद लोगों तक पौष्टिक पदार्थ पहुंचाने का दावा किया।
·       जब आंकड़े नहीं हैं तो कैसे इस मिशन से सूबे की एक लाख महिलाओं को जोड़े जाने का दावा किया गया।
उल्लेखनीय है कि हाल ही में अखिलेश यादव ने अपने सरकारी आवास 5, कालिदास मार्ग पर भारी सरकारी तामझाम और चमक-दमक के साथ आयोजित कार्यक्रम में बाल विकास पुष्टाहार मंत्री की उपस्थिति में कुपोषण के खिलाफ राज्य पोषण मिशन का शुभारंभ किया था। अखिलेश ने बताया था कि राज्य पोषण मिशन के तहत उनका लक्ष्य जरूरतमंद लोगों तक पौष्टिक पदार्थ पहुंचाना और इस मिशन से सूबे की एक लाख महिलाओं को जोड़ना है।

Case against Jal Sansthan for dumping waste in forest range

Times of India: Dehradun: Monday, 26 January 2015.
The forest department has filed a complaint against the officials of Jal Sansthan for dumping sewage waste in a reserve forest area in Haldwani. In reply to an RTI application by Gurvinder Singh Chaddha, it was revealed that the agency has been dumping 2.6 crore liters of sewage every day in the forest area near Gaula river.
The Jal Sansthan's action violates the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and many other laws. "The case was registered against the employees of Jal Sansthan and municipal corporation for violation of laws and endangering the environment," said C S Pandey, Gaulapur range officer.
It is learnt that the forest department officials have been writing letters to the municipal corporation and Jal Sansthan to resolve the matter, but to no avail. "This has been going on since two years now. More than 950 crore liters of sewage is being dumped every year which harms the flora and fauna of the reserve area," said RTI activist Gurvinder Singh Chaddha.
The sewage is dumped in the area violating at least four laws Forest Conservation Act 1980, Environment Protection Act 1986, Public Liability Act 1991 and Biological Diversity Act 2002. The complaint regarding the violation of laws and usage of the reserve forest area to dump sewage waste has been forwarded to the National Green Tribunal and the higher authorities of the forest department in the state and the central government.

Two years after RTI plea, Palike clueless on number of telecom towers

Deccan Herald: Bengaluru: Monday, 26 January 2015.
Government ready with draft byelaw for towers, optical fibre cables.
After repeated protests by the public against the telecom towers coming up in their neighbourhood without seeking their consent, the State government has finally prepared a draft byelaw as part of its telecom policy.
In response to a two-year-old RTI application, BBMP came out with information that the government had prepared a draft byelaw for telecom towers, optical fibre cables and installation of other basic infrastructure.
However, even after two years, BBMP continues to state that it does not have information on the exact number of telecom towers in its jurisdiction, although it is the local governing body of the core area of the haphazardly growing City. The reason cited by the BBMP was that the telecom firms were not required to seek its permission to instal telecom towers even on residential buildings.
The RTI application was filed on January 24, 2013, seeking information about the number of telecom towers in the City, mechanism to check radiation, restrictions to put up towers and the agency to monitor them.
The RTIs were filed with different departments such as office of the Chief Secretary of Karnataka, Principal Secretary in the Urban Development Department (UDD), Principal Secretary in the Environment and Forests Department and the BBMP. While the UDD gave some information, the BBMP gave vague information, prompting the applicant to approach the Karnataka Information Commission.
The 43-page draft policy proposes the timeline for the Corporation commissioners to give all the clearances (within 68 days) if all the conditions are duly met.
There are some strict guidelines for laying the Optical Fibre Cables (OFCs) and erecting telecom towers. The Corporations are permitted to provide ducts and lay the OFCs with sufficient bandwidth capacity/redundancy.
Licence for laying the OFCs shall not be transferable. All unauthorised OFCs should be removed once this proposal is accepted and becomes a rule.
The rule also intends to discourage laying overhead cables. It strictly prohibits use of electricity poles or towers of power utilities to lay overhead communication cables.
The maximum height of the ground-based mast/rooftop mast shall not exceed 30 metres from the adjoining ground level and the distance between two masts shall not be less than 150 metres in line of sight to the extent feasible.
The height of the mobile/ communication towers from the adjoining ground level shall not exceed 75 metres. “Erection of the mobile/communication towers shall be avoided in narrow lane, which is below five metres in width,” says the draft rule.
Radiation level must be checked at regular intervals and conformance report should be submitted to the competent authority. Non-compliance would attract penalties.

Information Commission urged to update website

The Hindu: Palakkad: Monday, 26 January 2015.
A seminar on Right to Information (RTI) Act held here under the joint aegis of New Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Thalassery-based National Constitution Club has appealed to the State Information Commission to update its official website by showing status of all pending appeals and complaints.
It would help ensure more transparency in the dealings of the commission, said the seminar.
It also urged authorities to help RTI users by permitting to pay the prescribed application fees and additional fees through convenient modes such as postage stamps, money orders and postal orders. An online payment gateway also must be created.
Addressing the seminar, former State Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas said the enactment of the RTI Act was akin to the second freedom struggle in India as it empowered people.
He wanted bringing corporate companies also under the ambit of the act.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Interruption Regretted : Anuradha Raman

Outlook: National: Sunday, 25 January 2015.
It must have been with forlorn hope that Jashodaben of Vadnagar, in the Mehsana district of Gujarat, filed a Right to Information (RTI) petition seeking to know if she was getting the security that is due to her as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wife. Her application of November 25, 2014, was rejected on new year’s day this year. So she followed up  on the petition by filing an appeal.
All this was surely newsworthy, having to do directly with the country’s chief executive. The private news channels played it up. Newspapers also took note. Internet-based media and social media networks buzzed, tittered and twittered about it. Even so, few would have expected Door­darshan, the state broadcaster, to follow the Jashodaben trail: for all the vaunted autonomy, Door­darshan officials are not exactly known to embarrass a government in power. When they do, lessons are driven home through hard knocks. It was no different this time.
For broadcasting Jashodaben’s statements on the rejection of her RTI petition during prime time on January 1, the Doordarshan Kendra in Ahmedabad was asked to explain the very next day. Information & broadcasting secretary Bimal Julka is learnt to have demanded a written explanation from Doordar­shan’s director-general (news) Akshay Rawat and joint director Dharmendra Tiwari (who heads the Ahmedabad Kendra) for what is being seen as a ‘serious lapse’. And assistant director V.M. Vanol, responsible for putting together the broadcast, has been transferred from Ahmedabad to Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands, some 2,500 km away. “Why did the Kendra put out the news? How does it happen that when an explanation is sought, all that Door­darshan can proffer is an apology? Are there any standard operating procedures for news?” Julka wanted to know. Last week, a chastened Rawat was in Ahmedabad trying to find answers.
With virtually every appointment made by the Union information & bro­a­dcasting ministry, Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) are micromanaged by the government. They are not free to hire from the pool of professionals private media houses rely on. All the same, governments like to pretend they do not interfere. Among the stated objectives of Prasar Bharati, the autonomous body gov­e­r­ning Doordarshan and AIR, is “to safeguard citizens’ rights to be informed on all matters of public interest by presenting a fair and balanced flow of information”. Rarely is this achieved without attracting the sort of action Vanol did.
Just before the 2014 elections, when the Congress-led UPA government was in power, Door­darshan had angered the BJP over how it had edited an interview with its prime ministerial candidate Modi for broadcast. Then I&B minister Manish Tewari had said, “We keep Doordarshan and AIR at arm’s length.” No one believed him. No one is likely to believe the new I&B minister, Arun Jaitely, either, should he extol Doordarshan and AIR’s autonomy.
For the record, Jashodaben is known to be wedded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was a traditional childhood engagement, followed by marriage when Modi was 18. But the two hardly lived together as a couple: Modi soon left his native Vadnagar and is said to have wandered about the country before ending up as a full-time volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). All along, he never acknowledged that he was married; since full-time RSS volunteers are expected to be bachelors, he was also taken for a bachelor.
The first time Modi disclosed that he was married was in an affidavit filed with his nomination papers for the Vadodara seat during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the affidavit, he also stated that his wife’s name was Jashodaben. But in his earlier nomination papers, for four elections to the Gujarat assembly, Modi had left the space for name of spouse blank.
Who Stands Where?
·        Feb 1, 2014: Jashodaben gives her first interview, to Indian Express
·        April 2014: Modi mentions his marital status on affidavit, in election papers
·        April 2014: She goes off on a pilgrimage
·       November 2014: She files an RTI application seeking details of security cover she is entitled to as PM’s wife
·       Jan 1, 2015: RTI application rejected. She files an appeal.

Centre spent Rs Rs 320 cr on R-Day celebrations last year: RTI

Times of India: Bareilly: Sunday, 25 January 2015.
Ever wondered how much the Republic Day ceremony at Rajpath, with all its smart marches, colourful tableaus and performing artistes, costs to put together?
A query under the RTI Act has elicited a response from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) that says the Centre spent Rs 320 crore in the four-hour parade in 2014. Over the years, the expenses on Republic Day celebrations have risen quite substantially. In 2001, the expenditure was Rs 145 crore. Pawan Agrawal, a Moradabad-based RTI activist, had requested the information last year. "I had sought details of the expense incurred on Independence and Republic Day functions at Red Fort from the year 2000 to 2013," he told TOIon Saturday.
The response to his query, however, only contained details of expenses incurred by the Centre on Republic Day celebrations.
The Rs 145 crore that was incurred by the Centre in the financial year 2000-01 rose to Rs 226 crore in 2003-04. For the next three years, though, expenditure decreased somewhat, in step with a not-so-healthy economy. In 2006-07, the government spent Rs 149 crore on the celebrations. The budget for the R-Day function was then increased by 34.16% in 2007-08, and the Centre spent Rs 227 crore that year. In 2009-10, it went up to Rs 285 crore. There was slight decrease in the budget in 2011 and 2013, but the Centre ended up spending a robust Rs 320 crore in 2014. In comparison to the amount spent in 2001, the budget for the parade last year shot up by 54.51%.
Agarwal had also sought an answer to the security detail ahead of Republic Day and Independence Day functions, and the expense incurred in arrangements for these. "Information on security arrangements was denied, on grounds of national interest," he said.

‘Why is NMMC expecting revenue from only 54 mobile towers ?’

Times of India: Navi-Mumbai: Sunday, 25 January 2015.
The civic town planning department's records may show 98 mobile towers in Vashi but the ward office expects to earn annual revenue from only 54 of them in the form of taxes. The findings have emerged in response to an RTI filed by Vashi resident Vaibhav Sawant in October last year which questioned the legality of the towers in the ward.
Dissatisfied with the response, Sawant has now sought a probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday.
Sawant wanted to know the number of mobile towers in Vashi and the amount of annual revenue expected by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC). Vashi ward office stated that there are 54 towers in the node and annual revenue expected from them is around Rs 86 lakh. "There is an obvious mismatch in the number furnished by the town planning department and Vashi ward office. Also, if the remaining mobile towers are legal then why are they not paying tax?" asked Sawant.
After cross-checking data with the list of mobile towers put up on NMMC website the activists found that 27 towers in Vashi have permission while the remaining 71 will have to renew their approvals.
"Civic officials have asked me to appeal again but considering the backlog at the RTI office, it is unlikely that it will be promptly addressed," he added.
Health hazards and the possible structural damage are his primary concern. "Many residential towers in Vashi have permitted mobile towers for monetary gains, without realizing the health risks. The police department has called me for a meeting next week," added Sawant.
Attempts to speak to the Vashi ward officer Rajendra Chaugule, who had responded to the RTI, was unsuccessful while DMC zone 1 Subhash Ingle said he has to study the issue before responding.

Dalit Attacked for Filing RTI on Pvt College

Indian Express: Madurai: Sunday, 25 January 2015.
A Dalit, who sought details, through an RTI, of the land tax and property tax paid by a private college that came under the jurisdiction of the local panchayat, was attacked by an unidentified gang on Friday. His family members too were not spared.
‘Evidence’, a Madurai-based NGO that advocates the rights of the Dalits claimed that the information sought could reveal alleged tax evasion by the concerned college and alleged that the attack was perpetrated by the family that owned the institution.
The NGO, which deputed a fact-finding team to investigate the attack on the Dalit and his family, said that police are yet to an FIR in the case.
According to the NGO, M Meganathan is a resident of Veerapatti village in the Iluppur taluk of Pudukkottai district. Last month, he filed an RTI application demanding details of the land taxes and property taxes paid by a private college in the locality following which he began receiving threats. Despite repeated ultimatums and warnings, the 30-year-old man stood his ground.
On Friday morning, a weapon-wielding gang reached his house and assaulted him and his family members. The attack led to injuries being sustained by himself, his father Mayazhagu (56), and other relatives including Sureshkumar (31) and Rangasamy. They are currently getting treatment at Pudukkottai government hospital, where they managed to file a Medical Lego Case (MLC) after a long struggle, said the NGO report.
Moreover, Annavasal police who controls Veerapatti village were yet to file FIR, and it is alleged that the police are hand-in-glove with the attackers.

Hindu Group on a Quest to End Graft in Maharashtra Temples

Indian Express: Mumbai: Sunday, 25 January 2015.
Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP), a union of Mumbai-based lawyers that works for right-wing organisations, has set quite an unusual goal for itself. It is working towards unearthing scams in several big Hindu temples in Maharashtra. So far, it has achieved some amount of success in its mission with two temples in Maharashtra.
The HVP also helps organisations such as Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and Sri Ram Sene (SRS) in legal matters without charging any fees. The group says they have come together with an aim “to establish a Hindu nation”.
HVP president Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, a lawyer who practices at the Bombay High Court, is clear on what the organisation has set out to do. “What we are doing will benefit the Hindus only. There is  need for cleaning from inside. We are the whistleblowers. It is the society’s responsibility to take the work forward,” he said.
Their mission took shape after several organisations from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh complained of financial mismanagement in temples in their respective states. HVP started its work after it received complaints that there was a massive land scam at the Pandharpur temple, which is among the most popular religious sites in Maharashtra.
Temple land had been encroached upon and the temple claimed to be unaware of the matter. Ichalkaranjikar and his team filed several queries under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking details of the financial transactions of the temple trust. The replies to his queries revealed that the temple trust claimed to be in the dark regarding possession of 300 acres of its land. Ichalkaranjikar took up the matter with the government and the land was handed back to the temple.
“There is much hue and cry over lack of infrastructure like toilets and guest houses as well as hygiene facilities at Pandharpur. Now that the land is back in the temple trust’s possession, it would be possible to create the necessary infrastructure,” he points out.
The success in Pandharpur prompted HVP to take up the issue of financial mismanagement in another popular temple that of Mahalakshmi in Kolhapur.
After one-and-a-half years of research, they found financial mismanagement not only in the Kolhapur temple but in around 3,000 temples in three districts of Sangli, Kolhapur and Sindhudurg controlled by the Devsthan Vyavasthapan Samiti (DVS). The members on this committee are appointed by the state government.
“Mining activities have been going on in the Bauxite rich lands owned by DVS since 1985. We found that six private companies duped the state government of crores of rupees by not paying royalty for the mining on time. We are going to take out a march against the DVS on February 2 on this issue,” Ichalkaranjikar said.
The DVS claimed it tried its best to recover the mining royalty from the companies. “The matter is pending with the High Court. Now, it will depend on the HC how and what royalty should be recovered,” said a DVS spokesperson.
Arvind Pansare, spokesperson for the HJS that was recently in news for protesting against the Aamir Khan starrer PK, praised HVP’s work.
“They are not commenting on the Gods or the way of worship. They are fighting against corruption perpetuated in name of the God. In a way, they are serving Hinduism by erasing evil practices. We are also trying to wipe out wrong practices such as use of loud speakers during the Navratri,” Pansare said.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

RTI Commissioner warns PIOs : Notices served on 18 PIOs seeking explanation on various issues

The Hindu: VIZIANAGARAM ThiruvananthapuramThiruvananthapuram: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
L. Tantiya Kumari,RTI Commissioner Right to Information (RTI) Act Commissioner Lam Tantia Kumari has warned Public Information Officers (PIO) of serious action, including slapping of penalty, if the information sought under the Act was not provided to the appellants within 30 days of filling of the applications.
41 appeals;
The Commissioner, who received as many as 41 appeals from the three North Andhra coastal districts at the Zilla Parishad Guest House here on Friday, said that the Public Information Officers would be penalised and the transport charges of the appellants would be collected from the officials if they made people visit the office for a second appeal.
Moreover, she said that she would not tolerate if people were denied information or provided partially on the pretext of “file missing.”
“If a file is found missing, the Public Information Officers must lodge a complaint with police and submit the FIR copy to the complainant,” she said at a media conference here.
Ms. Tantia Kumari also issued notices to 18 Public Information Officers seeking explanation from them on various issues.
In response to two appeals pertaining to the appointment of two contract lecturers in violation of procedure, the Commissioner asked the Joint Director to probe the matter and submit a comprehensive report to her at the earliest.
She said that the two appointments were made on the instructions over phone from the Joint Director.
Owing to increasing awareness among people about the Act, pendency of appeals could be minimised, if Public Information Officers disposed them of at their level, she felt and added so far, 1,400 appeals, a majority of them marked “file missing” from Rayalaseema region, were pending.

RTI activist attacked

The Hindu: Pudukottai ThiruvananthapuramThiruvananthapuram: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
An RTI activist, who had sought details of income and expenditure of a village panchayat, and his family members were attacked on Friday by a group of persons at his residence at Veerapatti in Iluppur taluk in Pudukottai district.
M. Meganathan (30) had sought the details of revenue and expenditure of the local body from the office of the Block Development Officer in Annavasal, under which the village falls. He had sought the details suspecting ‘evasion’ of tax due to the village panchayat by the management of a group of private higher educational institutions in the village. All of them have been admitted to the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Memorial Government Headquarters Hospital here.

Malnutrition claims one more infant’s life in Attappadi

Times of India: Thiruvananthapuram ThiruvananthapuramThiruvananthapuram: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
Malnutrition deaths continue to rue Attappadi tribals with one more infant death being reported on Wednesday night. This is the second infant death this year. Last year, 59 child deaths were reported, including 37 infants dying during pregnancy and in 2013, 47 infant deaths were reported, but the government and various agencies involved are yet to wake up to the reality.
The government announced a rehabilitation package of Rs 400 crore for Attappadi in 2013 and in addition the three-tier panchayat set apart Rs 1.26 crore to eradicate malnutrition. But according to RTI information collected by voluntary agencies, only Rs 40 crore worth schemes have been implemented, said Rajendra Babu of NGO Thambu.
"We could have regained the health of tribals by supplying cereals such as Bengal gram, green gram and lentils through public distribution system, but even that was not done effectively. Various government departments have failed miserably in correcting the reality. Malnutrition began since their land was encroached and they lost their traditional cultivation with nothing left to eat," government sources told TOI.
Of the 172 ICDS functioning in Attappadi, 130 have no drinking water facility and 100 ICDS have no toilets. More than half the Anganwadis are in rented premises and 66 have no toilets. Though a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) is functioning, of the 238 children admitted to NRC up to Oct 31, 2012, only 38 have returned to normalcy and 83 children were reported severely malnourished still, Rajendra Babu told TOI.
This is despite the fact that in addition to the rehabilitation package, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 80 crore for Attappadi as part of rural development initiatives for development of tribal hamlets in Agali, Puthur and Sholayar village panchayats in Attapadi.
Meanwhile, the tribal elders informed that the two infants who lost their lives are ten-month old twin boys of parents Udayakumar and Selvi in Pattimalur tribal hamlet in Attappadi. Among the twins, the first infant weighing 700 grams died on Monday and the infant death reported on Thursday was an infant weighing 1200 grams with only 6.9 hp hemoglobin level died at a hospital in Coimbatore. The child was referred to this hospital after his condition deteriorated at a hospital in Kottathara. The mother is also malnourished and anemic.

Tougher DGCA rules on alcohol test, 12 Air India crew grounded

Mumbai Mirror: Mumbai: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
Twelve crew members of an Air India flight from London to Mumbai have been sent on compulsory leave for 15 days as punishment for not undergoing post-flight alcohol check implemented by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently.
As required under tougher rules for alcohol tests with effect from July 2014, the 12 crew members, including six air hostesses, failed to report for the post-flight breath analyser checks on their return to Mumbai from London last month. Not reporting for tests as per the modified rules is considered as being alcohol-positive.
Following a probe, DGCA concluded that the cabin crew had violated the rules laid down for breath analyser tests. In a letter issued by Maneesh Kumar, Director (air safety), DGCA, to Air India's chief of flight safety, the aviation regulator ordered the airline to keep the twelve cabin crew grounded.
The DGCA circular on post-flight alcohol checks states that the test should preferably be done inside the aircraft as soon as it arrives at the destination. But the crew have been found to just walk away, mostly citing 'end of duty time'as a reason. "Pilots and cabin crew have raised the issue of flight duty time limitation rule because the circular says the time taken for the test shall not be counted as part of the duty," a senior DGCA official said.
"It also says crew members should not consume drugs or formulation or use any substance like mouthwash or tooth gel with alcoholic content. They should consult airline doctors before going on a flight if they are under medication," an All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) member said.
According to an Right to Information (RTI) enquiry filed by a serving Jet Airways pilot, between January 2009 and February 2014, 165 pilots in the country were found to have high blood alcohol levels.
"It is important to take post-flight breath analyser test because a pilot will be considered as having tested positive on skipping the test. It will not be possible to explain the test was missed inadvertently," the Jet Airways pilot said. He added that the airline was currently hiring additional doctors to carryout the checks.
AICCA, however, has raised a flag over the duration of suspension. "The civil aviation requirments issued by DGCA, mandates suspension of the crew failing the breath analyser test for the first time for three months and five years for a second offence. When this is the rule, how were these 12 crew members grounded only for 15 days," a AICCA members asked.
DGCA chief, M Satyavathy did not respond to queries on the reduced period of grounding. DGCA officials, however, confirmed that a dozen other cases are simultaneously being investigated.

Finally, the 'Battle' of a Former PG Medico Yields Result

Indian Express: Kottayam: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
In the wake of rampant complaints of victimisation and grave negligence in PG exams, Kerala University of Health Science (KUHS) has re-announced the result of a student, who exposed the negligence behind his failure.
Dr Eldy Pereira, a junior resident at Government Medical College, Kozhikode, who complained of negligence behind his failure in the practical examinations of the MD exam held in May 2013, has been declared as ‘passed’ by university authorities.
Finally, he succeeded in the two-year-long battle for justice, when he received the provisional certificate for ‘MS Degree in General Surgery’ from the university, the other day. Earlier, ‘Express’ had reported about victimisation allegations raised by PG medicos, including Dr Pereira’s complaint that he was declared failed though, he secured pass marks in the practical exams.  Pereira, who belonged to 2010 admission batch, completed his course by May 2013.  Following his complaint, a board meeting of the Students Grievance Redressal Committee, held on October 2014, had directed the Controller of Examinations to verify and recalculate the marks of Dr Pereira and declare the results accordingly. Owing to the strong recommendation by the committee, the university conducted re-totalling of his marks, as a result of which he passed the course with a second class.  In the meantime, KUHS has shelved two more complaints, which are somewhat similar cases. The complainants were Dr Arun Kumar, junior resident of GMC, Thrissur, who failed in the final year examination and Dr Lee Xavier, MD general medicine, GMC, Thiruvananthapuram (both of 2011 batch and appeared for exams held in May-June 2014). While Arun received a reply to his RTI query that his marks sheet was missing, the chairman of the grievance committee wrote to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university that he “suspects some conspiracy had occurred in the practical examination results” of Dr Lee Xavier.
Stringent Protests
Functionaries of the Kerala Medical Postgraduates’ Association (KMPGA), who welcomed the decision taken by KUHS in the case of Dr Pereira, have warned that stringent protests would be organised if the authorities continue to ignore other complaints and take inordinate delay settling down the issue.  “We welcome the favourable decision taken by the authorities in the case of Pereira. However, the university has been delaying the decisions on the other two complainants, which cannot be taken for granted,” said Dr Jinesh P S, the former spokesperson and state executive committee member of KMPGA.

Chennai passport office opens social audit cell to clear long pending cases

Times of India: Chennai: Saturday, 24 January 2015.
The regional passport office has opened a social audit cell, which will help applicants conduct audits of their passport applications.
The applicants will be provided with details on why applications are pending, reasons for the delay and what requires to be done to speed up the process.
The cell will provide applicants all information guaranteed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The public grievance redressal mechanism has been further strengthened to facilitate speedy clearance of pending cases.
Applicants, whose passport have been pending for a long time, can meet the deputy passport officer or regional passport officer without any appointment on all working days from 9am to 12.30pm except on Tuesday at the regional passport office in Rayala Towers, Anna Salai.
This is being done to empower applicants, especially from rural areas and enhance transparency of the passport office, an official release said.
To help applicants, an official has been deployed at the social audit cell. Copies of documents such as police verification reports with police remarks, file notes of verification officer or granting officer regarding applications on hold, details of previous or lost passports and details about information sought from Indian missions abroad will be provided.
Normally, from the Chennai RPO, passports are issued between two and 25 days from the date of application, depending on the requirement of police verification reports. Applicants whose passports have been delayed can now approach the cell for help.

Friday, January 23, 2015

PIOs penalized Rs 40k for delaying info under RTI

Times of India: Bhopal: Friday, January 23, 2015.
Two public information officers (PIOs) were penalized with Rs 40,000 for not providing information to an applicant under Right to Information Act.
In its order passed on Wednesday, state information commissioner Atmadeep imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the then PIO of Bhind and now food safety officer of Sagar district Ashu Kushwaha and a penalty of Rs 15,000 was imposed on current food safety officer of Bhind, Dinesh Kumar Lodhi.
Parag Singh Chouhan, a resident of Bhopal, sought information regarding bungling of funds by food safety officer of Bhind in 2011. But in past four years despite several complaints, he was not provided with the requisite information, in the meantime, state information commission directed the then PIO four times to provide the information but it was denied.
Ultimately, information commissioner ordered to impose a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the then PIO and Rs 15,000 on current PIO for delaying the information. The applicant finally received information after four years on Wednesday.

Court Paves Way to Bring BCCI Under RTI

Indian Express: Mumbai: Friday, January 23, 2015.
Ever since the time all national sports federations were brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act as per the National Sports Development Bill there has been a raging  debate as to whether  the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the world’s richest cricketing body, too should be included within its radar.
The Board members adamantly insisted that it needn’t be as it was registered as an autonomous body under the Societies Act, the RTI-enthusiasts demanded the implementation of it as cricket was a public sport and the cricketers are representing the country. In fact it was Justice Mukul Mudgal also part of the apex-court’s probe panel that looked into the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal, who had voiced the need to bring the BCCI into the RTI ambit in his capacity as the chairman of the committee that had drafted the Sports Development Bill.
The pro-RTI campaigners now have some hope as the SC bench on Thursday observed that though the BCCI was a private body, it performed a public function and was therefore amenable to judicial law and review. But noted lawyer Rahul Mehra, whose Public Interest Litigation on bringing the Board under RTI was stayed by Chennai Supreme Court. “The SC has just observed that the law of the land is applicable to the BCCI, that they are accountable to the public. That doesn’t automatically mean that it comes under the RTI. An observation is not enough to bring the BCCI under RTI,” he said.
Without political support, it will be difficult to make the RTI applicable to the BCCI.  “It’s not very hard. But it requires political will and consensus. And at the moment it doesn’t seem like happening, as the Board has influential members cutting across parties. It had the support of UPA, and now it has the support of NDA. And when it comes to cricket, even they seem to bury their political differences,” he explained.
A senior board official, meanwhile, specified that the government should not try to hijack the game’s administration by bringing it under the RTI.
“I agree that the BCCI is accountable to the public. And we are accountable to the public.  But the government intervening in its administration is not exactly a thing to welcome. You know that the BCCI is the most professionally-run sports body in the country. Government’s intervention might ruin the game,” he said.

Maharashtra government mulls over handing RTS implementation to info panel

DNA: Mumbai: Friday, January 23, 2015.
Implementation of the much talked about Right to Services (RTS) Act that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Day 1 in office is likely to be the responsibility of the state information commission. A draft of the Act is said to be ready and will be put up online soon.
The idea of it being with the commission was communicated by none other than Fadnavis in a meeting he had with information commissioners on January 16. In the meeting, the commissioners had sought various measures to strengthen the functioning of the commission.
"His response to our demands was positive and said the government too was keen on strengthening the commission because it was looking to give the implementation of the RTS Act to the commission instead of instituting another authority. He said soon a meeting will be held to work on the modalities," said Ratnakar Gaikwad, state chief information commissioner.
While Fadnavis was not available for comment, a senior officer present in the meeting gave some reasons. "Most people are filing RTI for information because they need redressal and delivery of services. Information as such does not give them food to eat or home to live. In some cases it does help but in most services are not given to them. That's why we are looking to give the implementation of the RTS to the commission because a lot of it pertains to information and services," said the senior officer.
However, the decision (of handing over RTS implementation to the commission) which the government is contemplating lacks sufficient details on how the state will make it possible.
"Except for Mumbai, the waiting period for second appeals is over a year. I am not sure that by giving the RTS to the commission it will work effectively. RTI may get worse and this too may become problematic. It may not be a bad idea to have secretaries of each department as second appellate authority of sorts for RTS with time limit fixed on hearing of such appeals," said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner who has been pushing for an effective implementation of RTS.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CIC allows coal min to withhold records related to Coal scam

Business Standard: New Delhi: Thursday, 22 January 2015.
In a surprise argument, the Coal Ministry has said information related to minutes of screening committee meetings on coal-block allocation cannot be made public as it will impede the CBI probe, a plea allowed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) even though the record itself is available on the ministry's website.
An RTI applicant, Meenu, had approached the ministry seeking information regarding the minutes of Screening Committee meetings on coal-block allocations.
The ministry had replied that the CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry regarding alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks and refused information citing Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act.
The said section allows a public authority to withhold such information as may impede the process of investigation, apprehension and prosecution of an accused.
However, the minutes of screening committee meetings on coal-block allocations are available on the website of the Coal Ministry.
Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad, an ex-IPS officer, ruled in favour of Coal Ministry in the matter, saying, "The respondent stated that the files concerned have been seized by CBI for enquiry into the allocation of coal blocks and the same is pending, which is why information to the appellant cannot be provided.
"After hearing the respondents and on perusal of records, the commission accepts the plea of CPIO (Central Public Information Officer)/FAA (First Appellate Authority)."
Recently, Justice Vibhu Bakhru of Delhi High Court had rejected a similar order by CIC allowing a public authority to withhold information under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act without giving justification.
Justice Bakhru had said that "merely citing that the information is exempted under Section 8(1)(h) would not absolve the public authority from discharging its onus..."
In a stern order, he had said, "... It is apparent from a bare perusal of the CIC's order that it does not indicate the reasons that persuaded (it) to uphold the view of the Public Authority that the disclosure of information sought by the petitioner would impede the prosecution of the petitioner.
"Neither the FAA nor the CIC has questioned the Public Authority as to how the disclosure of information would impede the prosecution," he had said.

Satis plan has ‘no entry’ for fire engines to Thane station

Times of India: Thane: Thursday, 22 January 2015.
A Right To Information (RTI) query has revealed that fire tenders cannot reach the west side of Thane station in case of an emergency, owing to construction flaws of the Station Area Traffic Improvement Scheme (SATIS).
The Thane Municipal Corporation's (TMC) fire department confirmed that a fire tender cannot attend to an emergency situation as it is not possible for them to enter the station through Satis from either side - B Cabin, ST stand or Shivaji Chowk.
In case of an emergency, the fire engine will have to take the wrong side from the exit of the flyover at Talaopali signal, blocking movement of public buses. Civil experts said that Satis is built at such a low height that fire tenders cannot reach the station.
A retired bridge expert said, "This was wrong planning and the TMC failed to rectify the initial fault of not foreseeing that fire tenders cannot enter the station due to the faulty construction plan. Now there is no way of taking a corrective action. The station area is also heavily encroached upon."
Meanwhile, the fire department has declared that the standard safety norms have been violated at Satis. In the RTI reply, the fire officials mentioned that the fire engine cannot reach the station from any side as the B-Cabin, ST stand, post office and Shivaji Chowk access are encroached upon by vehicles.