Wednesday, August 27, 2014

IAS officers look for a 'swap'

Times of India: Hyderabad: Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
Shocked at the way cadre allocation process was held this week by the department of personnel and training (DoPT), several IAS officers are now planning to use what is known as a ?swapping option' to stay back in Hyderabad.
Swapping is possible when two officers, belonging to different states, request the DoPT to change their cadre on personal grounds. But in all cases of swapping, a no-objection certificate (NOC) from both state governments is necessary.
After the DoPT released the list of officers provisionally allotted to the two states on August 22, there has been a flood of visitors to the offices of the AP and Telangana chief secretaries. Officers who met IYR Krishna Rao and Rajiv Sharma enquired about the NOC if they can get a candidate willing to swap their cadre.
Some officers have already managed to finding swapping partners. Kona Sridhar, who was allotted to AP, has swapped his cadre with M Dana Kishore for Telangana. While Dana Kishore belongs to the 1996 batch, Sridhar is from the 2003 batch of IAS.
Under the DoPT rules, officers are even allowed to swap with retired officers whose name is in the list, as the cut-off date for IAS officers was originally June 1, 2014. For instance, Mudavat Naik, who belongs to the 2005 batch, was allotted to AP, but has changed his cadre to Telangana by swapping with J Ramanand of 1979 batch. Ramanand had retired on July 31, 2014.
Swapping within the same batch was allowed by the DoPT in the provisional allotment also, resulting in the change of cadre for several officers. Rajeswar Tiwari, who was allotted to AP, swapped with his batchmate Satish Chandra, who was allotted Telangana in the roster.
"There are no clear guidelines on swapping and nobody has been informed about the existence of such a facility. Those who were privy to the information have already prepared the NOC and sent it to the DoPT. The information about cadre allocation was leaked to some," alleged some officers, who have now decided to file an RTI application to DoPT and make the minutes of the Pratyush Sinha committee meeting public.
Officers are seeking to know how the draw of lots executed on August 16 was completely changed in the provisional allotment on August 22. "After the draw of lots, those who attended the meeting went on record saying that it went in favour of Telangana and all three senior-most officers in IAS, IPS and IFS would go to Telangana. But in the end, all of them were allotted to AP," pointed out a senior official.
With many officers now rushing to the AP chief secretary with requests of swapping, sources said he has assured them not to take a hasty decision and promised a good future in the new state. But, officers are not convinced and are still looking to get an NOC for swapping.
Bureaucratic symbiosis
·       Under the DoPT rules, two officers, belonging to different states, can request for a cadre swap on personal grounds
·       In all cases of swapping, a no-objection certificate (NOC) from both state governments is necessary.
·        Officers are even allowed to swap with retired officers whose name is in the list of allottees as the cut-off date for IAS officers was originally June 1, 2014
·     Officers are now rushing to the chief secretaries of both states with enquiries about this option as many of them want to stay back in Hyderabad

UPTET qualified candidates still wait Board recognition

Times of India: Allahabad: Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
Saumya cleared Uttar Pradesh Teachers Eligibility Test (UPTET) in 2011 while she was still pursuing BEd, which is the mandatory qualifying examination. She passed BEd a year before the declaration of TET results in 2013. Three years on, the candidate is still running from pillar to post to know whether she is eligible to apply for teaching in government or aided schools or not.
She is among thousands of candidates, who are facing this dilemma due to failure on the part of State Council of Research Education and Training (SCERT) and Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad to communicate the status of such candidates. It may be recalled that TET was conducted to fill 72,000 vacancies of teachers in government schools across the state.
The Board, which conducted the examination in 2011, had refused to recognise the aspirants as eligible to apply for teacher in the absence of any direction from state government while SCRET, which provides guidance, blame onboard, for messing up the situation.
The candidate got some respite when in July, 2014, National Council for Teacher Education (northern region committee) has in reply to an information sought under RTI, has said that all such students are eligible for 2011 examination.
S V S Chaudhary, regional director, NCTE (northern regional committee), said: "We inform you that if such candidates have pursued BEd session 2011-12 as per norms, they are eligible for UP TETE 2011 examination."
However, the candidates who were aspiring to get a job of teachers, said that when they contacted UP Board, the officials there denied that they have received any such order, regarding students who had cleared BEd session in 2012.
An official said, "We sympathise with the students but till now we have not received any clarification from any the authorities regarding inclusion of such students."

RTI applicant stumped, finds same official as PIO & appellate authority

Indian Express: Pune: Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
In what is being described as the “sheer mockery” of the RTI Act, the election branch of the Pune district collectorate is found to have delegated the authority of Public Information Officer (PIO) and the appellate authority to the same person.
The applicant, Shahid Raza Burney, who sought vital information regarding deletion of names in electoral rolls in the wake of an uproar during Lok Sabha elections over missing voters, said it could be perhaps the first case in the country where a PIO will hear the case against itself.”
“Unsatisfied with the reply for my RTI query from PIO, I filed the first appeal with the appellate authority. The Election branch letter dated August 23, asking me to attend the hearing for first appeal had taken me completely aback. It showed the name of appellate authority as PIO against whom I was going to complain”,” Shahid told Newsline, on Tuesday.
The August 23 letter mentions Tehsildar Seema Holkar as both PIO and appellate authority.
The RTI community has sharply reacted to th lapse on the part of the district collectorate.”
“The incident is a complete mockery of the RTI Act. It shows how casual the bureaucracy is towards the RTI Act and that these ‘babus’ are out to kill the RTI A”t,” civic activist Maj Gen (Retd) S C N Jatar said.
When contacted, Holkar said the lapse was because of changed duties of PIOs and appellate authoritie”.
“Earlier, Tehsildar used to be the PIO and Deputy district election officer the appellate authority. However, the latest administrative order has given the responsibility of PIO to deputy Tehsildar and that of appellate authorities to tehsildar. In effect, I am getting projected as both PIO and appellate authori”y,” she said.
Shahid, however, refused to buy argument. “If the district administration knew both PIO and appellate authority were going to be the same person, it should have taken measures to protect the spirit of the RTI Act. How can I expect justice to my RTI query which is in public interest,” he asked.
The district administration, in its mail to Shahid on Monday, assured that an inquiry will be immediately called and if required, corrective measures taken.

Bollywood brought under RTI Act

Times of India: Mumbai: Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
In an unprecedented move that comes as a setback to Bollywood actors and artistes and brings cheer to their fans, stalkers and film journalists, the entire Indian film fraternity has been brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Reacting to the move, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan said, "I have nothing to hide. I have even declared my slipper size (nine), and the fact that even today I don't pick up money thrown at me."
Members of the public will be able to file a simple RTI application to know the details of which actor is having an affair with whom, why Sajid Khan is allowed to make films, which actress had a nose job and even the modus operandi of lifting plots from Hollywood films.
One RTI plea regarding the Shah Rukh Khan-Wankhede Stadium incident has already been answered. According to the reply, the stadium guard asked SRK, "Wankhede kya kar rahe ho?" SRK responded with, "Guard doonga!" to which the guard said he was "already on his guard", infuriating the owner of KKR. Now a film is being planned on the incident called "Oh My Guard (OMG)!"
A Bollywood aficionado was planning to file an RTI to find out why filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt scratches himself so much on TV. The witty producer-director responded with: "Everybody has to start from scratch but to itch his own" and proceeded to vigorously scratch himself on the spot. Sources say he is planning to make a film with a Chinese superstar called Khuj Lee.
Interestingly, the following interaction from a court scene was also revealed by an RTI application:
Sajid Khan: Yes, women are objectified in my films.
Actress: I object your honour.
Sajid: Yes you are.
There are a number of RTI applications already piling up for Bollywood. Mocktale decided to list some of them:
1.    Why are cops always late in films?
2.    Why doesn't a hero's gun ever run out of bullets?
3.    How do heroes (and SUVs in Rohit Shetty films) manage to defy gravity and physics?
4.    Why does an actress/actor always die in a love-triangle?
5.    How does a group of strangers know the exact dance moves when a hero/heroine starts dancing?
6.    Why are people in films always struggling for money for some operation? Hasn't anyone heard of health insurance?
7.    How is it that the villain's men die in a single shot but the hero's friend takes ages to die after taking some 35 bullets and mouthing some emotional lines and teary goodbyes?
8.    Why is the sole honest politician usually an aged man who gets bumped off in the middle of the film?
9.    Why is Salman Khan allergic to shirts?
10.  One gentleman wants to file an RTI application to find out if Big B is his dad ever since he heard him say "Rishtey mai to hum tumhare baap lagte hain."
Hopefully the film industry will answer these queries soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

सरकारी विभाग उड़ा रहे आरटीआई का मखौल

राजस्थान पत्रिका: गुना: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
सूचना का अधिकार देकर सरकार भले ही जनता के हाथ में एक मजबूत हथियार होने का दंभ भरे, लेकिन हकीकत कुछ अलग ही है। क्योंकि सरकारी विभागों में जब भी कोई आवेदक आरटीआई के तहत जानकारी मांगता है, तो सिवाए अपील में जाने के दूसरा विकल्प नहीं बचता है। इसकी वजह विभागों द्वारा आवेदक को जानकारी उपलब्ध न कराना है। पत्रिका ने कुछ ऎसे ही आवेदकों से चर्चा की,तो दर्द उभरकर सामने आ गया। इसमें किसी आवेदक को जानकारी न मिलने पर वर्षो से पेंशन प्रकरण अटका है, तो कहीं चार-चार अपील और अपीलीय अधिकारी के आदेश के बाद भी जानकारी उपलब्ध नहीं कराई। हद तो यह कि राज्य सूचना आयोग की लोक अदालतों के माध्यम से समझौते की कोशिशों पर भी विभाग पानी फेरते हुए आरटीआई को मखौल बनाने से नहीं चूक रहे हैं।
सरकारी विभागों से सूचना के बोर्ड गायब:
सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम की जानकारी आमजन को हो सके, इसके लिए सरकारी कार्यालयों के बाहर आरटीआई के बोर्ड चस्पा किए गए थे। लेकिन पत्रिका ने जब विभागों का जायजा लिया,तो ज्यादातर महत्वपूर्ण विभागों के बाहर सूचना का अधिकार की जानकारी देते बोर्ड गायब ही मिले। इनमें कुछ विभाग तो ऎसे भी हैं, जो आवेदक को जानकारी एक्ट के दायरे में न होने का हवाला देकर भगा देते हैं। इधर आवेदक जानकारी न मिलने से अपील और चक्कर काटने मजबूर हैं। इससे अंदाजा लगाया जा सकता है कि आरटीआई को लेकर सरकारी विभाग कितने गंभीर हैं!
आयोग का भी खौफ नहीं:
पिछली सरकार में मप्र राज्य सूचना आयोग के सक्रिय न रह पाने से हजारों की संख्या में अपील सुनवाई के लिए लंबित रहीं, लेकिन वर्तमान सरकार ने अब आयोग को सक्रिय बना दिया है। इसके साथ ही न केवल अपीलों की सुनवाई शुरू हुई है, बल्कि लोक अदालतों के माध्यम से सूचना का अधिकार के तहत मांगी गई जानकारी के प्रकरणों का लोक अदालत के माध्यम से समझौता कराने की कोशिश भी हुई। इसी क्रम में दो अगस्त को ग्वालियर में लोक अदालत लगाकर प्रकरणों में समझौता कराया गया। लेकिन जिले से ज्यादातर विभागों ने समझौता में रूचि न दिखाते हुए लोक अदालत से दूरी बनाए रखी। इसका खुलासा भी खुद आवेदकों द्वारा किया गया है।
मामला-1: शिक्षा विभाग, 22 वर्षो से अटका पेंशन प्रकरण
सेवानिवृत्त लेखापाल पुरूषोत्तम पाराशर की सेवा पुस्तिका का प्रकरण लंबित है। इसका कारण जानने आरटीआई के माध्यम से सात जुलाई महीने में शिक्षा विभाग से जानकारी चाही गई, जो समय सीमा में उपलब्ध नहीं कराई गई। इससे पेंशन प्रकरण का 22 वर्ष बाद भी निराकरण नहीं हो सका है। इसके बाद अपीलार्थी व पेंशनर संघ के सचिव घनश्याम श्रीवास्तव ने 19 अगस्त को जिला पंचायत सीईओ को अपील की गई।
मामला-2: खाद्य विभाग, चार अपील के बाद भी जानकारी नहीं
नैतिक विकास उन्मूलन समिति अध्यक्ष दिनेश सूद ने खाद्य विभाग में एक मई को आरटीआई से वर्ष 2013-14 में गैस गोदामों के निरीक्षण, जालमपुर राशन की दुकान से पुलिस वाहन में दो क्विंटल शकर अवैध रूप से परिवहन में कायम प्रकरण की छायाप्रति आदि जानकारी मांगी। लेकिन समय सीमा में जानकारी उपलब्ध नहीं कराई गई। इसके अलावा उन्होंने एक साल में चार आवेदन लगाए, जिनमें अपील में जाना पड़ा और अधिकारी के आदेश के बाद भी जानकारी नहीं दी गई।
मामला-3: शिक्षा विभाग, समझौता में भी नहीं दिखाई रूचि
सेवानिवृत्त प्राचार्य घनश्याम श्रीवास्तव ने छह अगस्त को डीईओ आफिस में सूचना का अधिकार के माध्यम से वर्ष 2012-13 में सेवानिवृत्त प्राचार्य, बीईओ के रिटायरमेंट के समय कार्यालय द्वारा जारी अर्जित अवकाश के नकद भुगतान की जानकारी चाही गई। इसी क्रम में राज्य सूचना आयोग ने लोक अदालत के माध्यम से समझौते की कार्रवाई की, लेकिन दो अगस्त को ग्वालियर में लगी लोक अदालत में डीईओ की अनुपस्थिति के चलते समझौता नहीं हो सका।
मामला-4: तहसील, छह महीने से काट रहे चक्कर
तहसील से बिलौनिया हल्का में कार्यरत पटवारी द्वारा दिए गए आवासीय पट्टे, सेवा अभिलेख और शासन को दी जाने वाली चल-अचल संपत्ति की जानकारी के लिए वीरेंद्र शर्मा ने 28 फरवरी को तहसील में आवेदन लगाया। जानकारी न मिलने पर नौ अपै्रल को एसडीएम को अपील की गई, जहां से दो महीने बाद हुए आदेश के बाद भी जानकारी न मिलने पर आवेदक अब तक तहसील के चक्कर काटने मजबूर है।

Now, everybody can learn Tamil with ease

The Hindu: Madurai: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
It is a well-known fact that Madurai, a city with a recorded history dating back to the third century B.C., had been the seat of development of ancient Tamil literature. But what many may not know is that even today, it is the institutions and individuals here who have been taking unrelenting efforts to popularise the classical language and spread it across the country and beyond.
After sending petitions after petitions to various government officials for over three years now, Bharathiyar Thinkers Forum, a private association of like-minded individuals here, has finally succeeded in making the Tamil University in Thanjavur prepare and submit a proposal to the State government for teaching Tamil to non-Tamil speaking people through correspondence courses.
“Tamil is one of the longest surviving languages in the world and it is evident from the discovery of a 2,200-year-old inscription on Samanamalai, a hillock near here. Yet, what is shocking is that till today there is no State-sponsored correspondence course to teach the language to non-Tamil speakers in the country and also abroad through their mother tongue,” says R. Lakshminarayanan, secretary of the forum.
On the other hand, the Central Hindi Directorate in New Delhi has been conducting such correspondence courses in Hindi for non-Hindi speaking Indians at a nominal fee of Rs.50 for certificate and diploma courses, and Rs.200 for an Advance Diploma course taught over a year. The courses are conducted through English, Tamil, Malayalam and Bangla and offered to foreigners and non-resident Indians too.
Enthused by efforts taken by the Centre to impart knowledge of Hindi among non-Hindi speakers, the forum sent an application, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to the Tamil Development Department of the State government on August 12, 2011, and wanted to know if it would take steps to teach Tamil through correspondence courses as was being done by the Hindi Directorate.
Replying to it, the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Tamil Development Department informed the forum that its application had been transferred to School Education Department since the subject fell within the latter’s purview. A month later, the PIO of School Education Department intimated the forum that the application had been re-transferred to Tamil Development Department.
On October 27, 2011, the application was transferred once again and this time to Higher Education Department on the ground that it was in charge of conducting correspondence courses. Despite the shuttling of the application from department to the other, the forum pursued the matter relentlessly. It also made a representation to the Chief Secretary on March 16, 2013. It was forwarded to the Directorate of Tamil Development and the Tamil University for considering the request made by the forum and submitting a report to the government.
Standard reply
Subsequent applications made by the forum under the RTI Act, wanting to know the status of its representation, evoked a standard reply that the request was under active consideration.
It was only on August 18 this year that the Tamil University revealed that it had sent a detailed proposal to the State government, through the Tamil Development Director, on May 19 seeking allocation of Rs.37.36 lakh for starting a certificate course with a duration of six months and a diploma course with a duration of one year to teach Tamil to non-Tamils.
Welcoming the proposal, Mr. Lakshminarayanan stresses that the State government, which allocated Rs.77.70 lakh in 2012 for translating Thirukkural and poems of Subramania Bharathi and Bharathidasan in Mandarin, should show similar interest in allocating funds required for teaching Tamil to all those who are genuinely interested in learning the language.
“Use AV materials”
“The Tamil University should make sure that the language is taught effectively through audio-visual materials too. The courses should be designed in a way that they inspire the confidence of people wanting to learn Tamil. After all, it was no less a personality than Mahatma Gandhi who wanted even all Indians to learn Tamil and it is the State government’s responsibility to fulfil his wish,” he says.

Saving Janbaz Wali shrine: Locals launch signature campaign as protest against Waqf board

Rising Kashmir: Baramulla: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
Locals who are demanding that J&K Muslim Waqf Board should entirely reconstruct the 600-year old revered Sufi shrine of Syed Mohammed Janbaz Wali, at Khanpora Baramulla Monday have started a signature campaign to press for their demands.
Local residents say more than 1000 people have signed the petition so far.
“Already 1000 people have signed to register their protest against the Waqf board management who are not taking concrete steps to protect this famous shrine,” caretaker of the shrine, Khursheed Ahmad Shah told Rising Kashmir. “The campaign is going on in full swing,” he said.
Shah said they have a target of one lakh signatures. “Once we cross the mark of one lakh signatures, we would send a signature petition to President of India and Chief Minister so that steps could be taken to restore the shrine that could crumble any time.”
Shah said the Board has not even responded to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the locals to know the amount of money the board has spent on the shrine and collected from devotees. “One month has already passed and Waqf board officials are yet to provide us the details of how much money has been spent and how much has been taken as offerings from this shrine,” he said.
Two days ago, this newspaper reported how Waqf Board has failed to provide proper attention to a 600-year-old shrine. Many politicians and religions heads reacted strongly, against the board’s failure for not providing enough attention to the shrine.
According to the locals, the latest initiative is a part of the efforts to expose the board’s non-seriousness. “Waqf board has failed to save the shrines and mosques of the Valley,” Ghulam Nabi, a local said. “We want the shrine should be restored on the pattern of Charar-e-Sharief, Dastageer Sahib and Baba Reshi shrines. It is very sad that Waqf is not taking any interest in this shrine,’’ he said. The residents have even threatened to block Srinagar–Muzuffarabad highway if their demands are not met. “We are using all peaceful means to compel the government to restore the shrine, in case government ignores; we could block the highway,’’ said Haroon Ahmad, a local.

NMC borrowed Rs 100 crore that recovery could have brought in

Times of India: Nagpur: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
The fiscal health of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) is a picture in stark contrast. While empty coffers have forced it to procure Rs 100 crore loan for executing various works, the civic body has failed to recover Rs100 crore property tax arrears from residents, educational and commercial establishments apart from government organizations and PSU offices in the city.
NMC wants citizens to timely pay property tax but it has been unsuccessful in recovering outstanding amount from the state government agencies for many years.
According to information obtained under Right To Information (RTI) Act by Sanjay Agrawal, the biggest defaulter among the government offices is Maharashtra Airport Development Company Ltd (MADC), which is developing Mihan and partly owns MIL, the company that runs the city airport. Property tax on airport has not been paid for several years, a senior NMC officer confirmed.
The tax was not levied when the airport was owned and operated by Airports Authority of India, a central government entity. MADC has a property tax outstanding of Rs10.75 crore including Rs 1.99 crore for the current year. Despite repeated reminders, MADC has not responded, the officer said.
Similarly, the second biggest defaulter is reality firm IPSEL, located near Harihar Mandir in Lakadganj. The reality firm has defaulted property tax to the tune of over Rs9.69 crore.
Standing committee chairman Narendra Borkar said that the process of recovering arrears has been slow but has now gained momentum. "I had also set a property tax collection target of Rs250 crore before the end of this financial year."
He pointed out some arrears have not been paid for over 15 years. "We have sent such defaulters many reminders but they haven't bothered to respond," he said.
The RTI reply also brought to fore arrears from educational institutions and commercial establishments having links with political leaders. Educational institution LTJSS, owned by ex-Maharashtra minister Satish Chaturvedi, had defaulted property tax to the tune of Rs85,76,372.
NIT too defaulted property tax of Rs2.23 crore on its six properties situated in different areas in the city limits. M/s Sell Ads figures in the defaulters' list with an outstanding of Rs3.35 crore.
Borkar said that NMC was pursuing the issue with senior officers of defaulting government offices and hoped that the money would be recovered soon. Civic officials, however, admitted it is difficult to collect the money from government departments.
He pointed out that the state government never provided any financial assistance to NMC. It even delays contributing its share for projects under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, he alleged.

Now, power, water supply permit on showing certificate

Times of India: Jaipur: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
The builders will now be able to get water and electricity connections for buildings they construct only after getting a completion certificate from the civic bodies. The decision was taken in the state cabinet meeting on Monday to tighten the noose on developers.
The proposal of amendment was sent to the cabinet recently by urban development and housing department. A senior official said, "During previous regime, relaxation was given to developers that water and electricity temporary connections can be attained if the developers produce an affidavit then they will procure completion certificate. However, many developers after getting connections did not apply for completion certificate."
Recently, an RTI enquiry revealed that only 22 multi-storied buildings have completed construction in the last 12 years as per Jaipur Development Authority's (JDA) records.
It was alleged that due to lackadaisical approach the state government has suffered huge revenue losses. Moreover, many builders were deliberately benefited by the officials.
Documents obtained under RTI reads, as per the building bylaws 2000, it is mandatory for a developer to procure a completion certificate, if the building height is more than 15 meters. "From 2005 to 2009, around 110 building falling under this category were constructed. However, completion certificate were not obtained. It's been more than 12 years, there is no implementation of building bylaws in the city."
It was also learnt that in absence of competition certificate the electricity department will only issue temporary connections. Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) faced losses amounting to Rs 2.5 crore as the no objection certificate ?NOC' for fire fighting was not issued.
The party claimed that between 2000 and 2010, only five completion certificates were issued. After the RTI was filed, the officials issued certificates to 17 builders in haste.

RTI Movement castigates Govt for not tackling corruption in State admin

Rising Kashmir: Srinagar: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
An important executive meeting of J&K RTI Movement was held today at its Central Headquarters in which strong anguish and resentment was expressed against the lackluster approach of State Government regarding tackling of corrupt elements in State Administration, J&K RTI Movement statement said.
Statement said that government is leaving the State at the mercy of few ‘Rouge Elements’.
“Strong note was taken about inefficiency of Health and Medical Education department  for making illegal appointments. It was observed in the meeting that instead of taking action against erring officials, department is mulling to release their withheld salary thereby not only authenticating their appointments but encouraging these rouge elements in the administration, statement said, adding,  “In the meeting State government was condemned for not recovering the looted amount of crores of rupees, embezzled on account of double drawls, salaries for nonexistent employees, etc in Health Block Beerwah, and Budgam as detected by department of Audit and Inspections in its Snap Audit report.”
Vigilance Organization has successfully completed the preliminary enquiry of these cases and has lodged an FIR no.22/2011 for illegal appointments and  FIR no 26/2014 for embezzlement of crores of rupees at P/S VoK Srinagar, statement added.
“Second important case which was discussed and condemned is the multi crore equipment scandal which had surfaced in Government Dental College Srinagar in 2012 and an FIR was lodged against GDC Principal vide FIR Number FIR33-2012 in VoK,” statement further said, adding,  “According to J & K government services rules a government official is supposed to be removed from service if FIR is lodged against him/her but here in this case the concerned Principal continues to head the prestigious dental college. Moreover sanction of prosecution is pending in General Administration Department which is extremely surprising and astonishing.”
Chairman J&K RTI Movement Sheikh Gh. Rasool castigated Congress President and Chief Minister Omer Abdullah for not reigning-in the ‘corrupt ministers and legislators’.

Many MU depts yet to update websites with info mandated by RTI Act

Indian Express: Mumbai: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
Despite a blanket rule for all educational institutions to provide information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on their websites, several departments of Mumbai University (MU) have failed to update information regularly since the initiative was made mandatory in 2005.
While a few departments have updated information about their faculty and other staff members, very few of the departments of the varsity have bothered to upload the annual reports that refer to the enrollments, results, number of graduating students and pass percentages.
A group of senate members and management council members have taken up the issue with the Vice Chancellor. University officials have said the matter will be looked into and department heads would be held responsible for not fulfilling the mandatory requirement.
According to a member of the management council of the MU, most departments in the university were functioning in a arbitrary manner without any accountability to the masses. “The initiative of providing voluntary information was aimed at ensuring that persons visiting the university website could have easy access to information regarding its activities. However, apart from filling up details of academic and non-academic staff, the departments have not bothered to update information about programs and seminars conducted by them, ongoing and completed research, photo galleries, alumni information and other such headings that are mentioned on their respective department pages,” said the member.
Soon after the RTI Act was formulated in 2005, all government organisations and institutions were supposed to provide their information on their respective websites under the Act. According to officials, the Mumbai University had also asked its departments to implement the rule. Though the departments filled up information in the format provided by the University, they did not bother to update it regularly.
With the exception of a few departments, none of the other departments have updated the information. In fact, some departments have information dating back to 2008. In the case of departments that have uploaded information of later years, the pages are not accessible.
MU senate member Sudhakar Tamboli said, “We have been following up with the university for almost one-and-a-half years on this issue. However, we have seen no action taking place in this matter. Every time we meet the authorities, they assure us of looking into the matter. All departments are expected to not only provide information of their departments, but also update them from time to time.”
However, for almost every department, the ‘annual report’ page on the website is under-construction. The departments that have failed to provide mandatory information include arts, science, commerce, law, technology and sports. The exceptions are from some streams in these departments.
MU registrar Dr M A Khan said it was a grave lapse on the part of the departments.
“We will review status of mandatory disclosure of each department through the public information officer and will ask departments to update the sections at the earliest.”
Khan added that such a lapse could not be accepted and an explanation would be sought from the respective department heads.

AAP to file RTI to know where the deposit money forfeited by them is being used

First post: New Delhi: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
After having contributed massive amount of money through forfeiture of deposit in elections so far, AAP has now filed an RTI to know how and where is the money being used by the Election Commission.
Soon after AAP’s candidate lost his deposit in the just concluded Patiala by-elections, it struck their Stats Specialist Yogendra Yadav, that the party must have contributed of lot through this fashion by now.
He immediately did a quick internal survey and found that AAP as a party has made tremendous contribution to the exchequer by not just losing elections but losing them badly enough.
“We have contributed so much in the form of deposit forfeiture in both Lok Sabha and by-polls, that we want to know if that money is being used for welfare of people; if any subsidies are being given through that money or not,” Yogendra Yadav explained the reason behind filing an RTI.
 “We have solid evidence that suggests that our money is being consumed by corrupt bureaucrats and politicians of BJP,” Yadav went on to claim.
Yadav however argued that losing deposit was a positive sign and showed how patriotic AAP as a party was.
“Shame on other political parties, specifically the BJP, who have probably made the lowest contribution towards losing deposits,” senior leader Ashutosh pointed out, “This once again proves that Modi is a heartless autocrat who doesn’t care for poor people.”
 “We promise to work hard and continue serving more aam aadmis through this manner, even if it requires losing more elections,” Ashutosh further announced, amidst loud cheers from volunteers and supporters gathered at Jantar Mantar and Twitter.
Ashutosh further claimed that such forfeiture of deposits by AAP has led to increase in GDP of the country and hence it was AAP that was bringing the acche din promised by BJP.
When pointed out by our reporter that he was being theoretically incorrect and GDP doesn’t grow like that, he labelled him a paid agent of Modi.
Meanwhile after filing RTI, AAP is now wondering whether it should mock BJP for its relatively poor performance in Bihar by-polls. Sources tell Faking News that BJP is planning to do the same and Twitter could see the mockery later today.

RTI activists take to street for quicker replies

Times of India: Coimbatore: Tuesday, 26 August 2014.
A group of 100 members of RTI Activists' Association held a protest to complain about the lethargy of RTI officers at Gandhipuram on Monday evening. They said public information officers failed to provide information on their petitions filed more than two years ago.
Under the Right to Information Act, public information officials should maintain all records and provide data sought by people within a reasonable time. "As these officers delay answering our petitions unnecessarily, we are appealing to the government to take action and let us know why we are being denied information we seek," said M Selvaraj, head of the association.
The members of the association have filed several RTI applications with the corporation, commissioner's office and taluk offices. More than 60 petitions have remained unanswered.
"According to the act, the information should be given within 30 days. When that did not happen we appealed to the senior officials who could again take 30 days' time to respond. But they have not responded either. We also appealed to the state-level officers. These officers also seem to delay the process," said Manoj Arun, a member of the association. "At least, let us know the reason behind this delay," he added.
The association said shortage of officers might be a reason for the delay. "Where 10 officers should be appointed only four have been appointed," he said.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Abortion deaths a cause for concern

The Hindu: New Delhi: Monday, 25 August 2014.
The city has reported over a lakh medical termination of pregnancy and 32 registered deaths due to abortions in its government hospitals since 2008. This has been revealed in a Right to Information reply that confirms that over 50 termination of pregnancy is carried out daily in the Capital.
While there is no data on how many of those undergoing abortions are minors or unmarried women/girls; deaths during abortions – carried out in government hospitals – have never dipped to anything less than four women a year since 2008.
The applicant, R. H. Bansal, in his query to the Delhi Health Department had asked about the number of abortions happening in the State government hospitals year-wise since 2008. He also sought information on how many of the abortions performed were legal, where those who got the abortions were married, unmarried or minors, and the number of deaths caused due to abortions.
While Health Department said that they “did not have information on the martial status and age of those who got abortion done at its hospitals”, they have given data on the number of abortions and deaths caused since 2008.
The data reveals that the number of the legally-terminated pregnancies in government facilities has remained in thousands each year and from 2008 to 2014 over a lakh abortions have been carried out.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is legal and it allows abortion on medical grounds, including abnormalities in the foetus, contraceptive failure, and risk to the mother's physical and mental health.
Rajhans Bansal, the activist who filed the RTI, warned that while the number of the legal abortions taking place in government hospitals is high, “the government should put in place checks and balances to ensure that people should not use medical grounds as an alibi for sex-selective abortion”.
City doctors said that for MTP patients the most common reasons cited include medical complications, limiting family size, and spacing pregnancies. But, they said sex determination could not be completely ruled out as a reason.
“We cannot rule out that sex-selective abortions happen in small clinics in the city and nursing homes which operate illegally,” said Delhi Medical Association member Anil Bansal, who has been campaigning against quacks in the city.
He said that government-run institutions cannot carry out illegal abortions. “There are several checks and balances at every level to prevent or encourage such practice,” he added.
The Medical Council of India has, meanwhile, through a notice, stated that the general public as well as those working in the area of medical care should inform the medical council concerned in case they come across any unethical act or medical misconduct (commission/cuts/advertisements/illegal abortions/unnecessary investigation, and nexus with drug companies). “Medical councils should immediately approach and lodge a complaint with the appropriate medical council,” the notice said.

PUCL's prison report: Sour stories

Times of India: Patna: Monday, 25 August 2014.
A fortnight ago, an undertrial prisoner from Samastipur jail was brought to Patna Medical College Hospital in a comatose condition, apparently the result of severe beating. The jail authorities said the prisoner was "beaten up by police officials" when he was trying to escape, while the IG (prison) held that he was assaulted for theft by people before his arrest.
The prisoner, 35-year-old Amarjeet Rai, was arrested by the GRP on the charge of stealing railway scrap and was taken to Samastipur jail after being produced in court, jail superintendent Manoj Kumar had told the media. He said the policemen who escorted Rai to the jail beat him up when he tried to escape.
About 10 days ago, police foiled an attempt by prisoners to take control of the divisional jail in Sitamarhi. They fired about 50 rounds to bring the situation under control even as the prisoners pelted stones and broke the windowpanes of SP Nawal Kishore Singh's vehicle. Sashastra Seema Bal and CRPF personnel were rushed to assist the district police. The SP said two jawans were injured in brickbatting and at least four prisoners were injured in the firing. The riot was triggered off by prisoners who were resisting the move to shift hardcore Maoists, Santosh Jha and Samrat Choudhary, from the prison to Buxar and Gaya, respectively.
Bihar has 56 jails at present that includes eight central jails, 31 district jails and 17 sub-jails. These jails have a capacity to house 33,119 prisoners, and even though one comes across the occasional positive human interest story in these prisons, there are several indications that all is not well.
A PUCL report on Prisons in Bihar, published by the Bihar state unit, attempts to provide a picture of the state of Bihar's prisons from a human rights and civil liberty perspective. One plods through the 60-page publication by Jitendra Choubey and Manish Kumar, which attempts to tackle several issues but doesn't get around to much, partly because of the pontification. "The fact that the prisoners, convicted or otherwise, are citizens of India entitled to fundamental rights did not make any difference to the rulers of the Indian republic who stepped into the shoes of the colonial rulers and continue to treat the prisoners with contempt as their foreign predecessors," write Choubey and Kumar.
It's a sour, dour vinegary book that makes some telling points: Bihar prisons are the worst nightmares. The inspectors general of prisons (IGPs) avoid conducting inspections. The IGPs conducted only seven inspections during 2005-2010 in a sample of 15 prisons, when there should have been 101, had the rules been followed. The jails lack adequate toilets, drinking water facilities and sanitation.
Overcrowding varied from 100% to 600%. "Not only are the prisoners denied proper food to which they are entitled, they are denied even sleep at night due to lack of space in their wards. In the overcrowded jails, only those who enjoy the patronage of the ?dabang' of his ward has the privilege of lying down and sleeping. The others have to manage somehow or the other: sitting and dozing," say the authors.
Medical facilities are dismal, with only 28 serving doctors for 107 posts, 7 compounders against 101 posts, and 12 ?dressers' against 101 posts. Some 518 prisoners died in different jails of the state between 2005-2010. The report dwells on the outdated prison manual, but ignores an important fact: The Bihar government on December 11, 2012 approved a new jail manual, replacing the existing 88-year-old prison guidelines formulated in 1924.
Perhaps they relied too much on archives, and gathering information via the RTI route, even as prison reforms, no matter how limited, were unfolding around them!

No action against lawyers for misconduct in almost a decade, RTI query reveals

Times of India: Mumbai: Monday, 25 August 2014.
Lawyers argue loud and strong when it comes to misconduct by people in other professions in cases they represent, but when it comes to their own ilk, disciplinary action is non-existent, the State Bar Council revealed in a reply to a Right to Information query. The Bar Council said it receives about 250 complaints against advocates for misconduct each year.
The Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa which has over 1.25 lakh advocates enrolled with it has not taken any disciplinary action so far in the last five years. The secretary of the state bar council Pravin Ranpise declared this in a reply last November to an application made by an activist Alka Shah on complaints received and action taken against lawyers.
The Bar council said it does take ''serious disciplinary action against advocates who violate the ethics code''. It however also said that it had taken ''no action as required since 2005, has been taken till date''.
Shah had sought details last year but her query was based on a 2007 Bar Council order which has left a senior citizen still doing the rounds for justice against a lawyer's misconduct. In a complaint against a Housing society lawyer who wrote allegedly libellous mail about a member of the Venus Co-op Housing society in Worli, the Bar Council had in 2007 sought a court order with a guilty verdict first in order to take action against the advocate.
Shah, who also makes eco-friendly Ganesha idols, said, "it is shocking that an apex body of lawyers instead of taking disciplinary action against an advocate demands that a regular must first hold him guilty for defamation. Is it trying to protect its own kind?" She had asked the Council if it was permissible for advocates to use "defamatory and derogatory language in print against an opposite party''. The Bar Council said it was clearly not permissible for lawyers to use defamatory language. It also clarified that no conviction order from a court is mandatory before it could take disciplinary action against a lawyer.
The Worli flat owner, a well-known RTI activist himself, meanwhile then filed a defamation case against the lawyer and pursued the matter for three years from metropolitan court to sessions to the Bombay high court where Justice R P Sondurbaldota in 2010 finally held that there was no case for quashing as the "imputations made are per se defamatory." In 2011, armed with the HC order, he again moved the Bar Council against the advocate, but till date has had no hearing in it.
Given this history, the lawyer who recently gave the police, statements against his own former client, the small-time model, who has accused DIG Sunil Paraskar of repeated rape, may have nothing to worry about say a section of legal fraternity.
Asif Quereshi, the newly appointed chairperson of the State Bar Council when contacted by the TOI said that he had received a complaint from Susieben Shah, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, against advocate Rizwan Siddiqui for making public, sensitive information allegedly amounting to professional misconduct. "I have immediately called for an emergency meeting of the disciplinary committee on August 23 to discuss this complaint,'' he said adding, ''We will have to first verify the complaint and will then take action as required.'' He said many complaints are still pending.
Lawyers in the city expressed shock and dismay that professional ethics was seen to be taking a toss. "It is against professional ethics and rules of conduct to squeal on a client and the Bar Council should take swift action if complaint is proved,'' said advocate Sujay Kantawala.
Senior lawyer Niteen Pradhan chief of the privileged committee of the state bar council since 2012 said lawyers are held at higher standard of ethics by the public and law. "Lawyers are not meant to breach the confidential and privileged communication they share with the clients, which includes ex-clients. Such a prohibition is mandated by law.'' As privileged committee chairperson, he said, ''we even come across cases where a person portrays himself wrongly as a lawyer without a law degree or enrolment and misbehaves in court by abusing other lawyers, clients and even at time magistrates.'' A separate disciplinary committee has to deal with all such cases and actions permitted ranges from a simple reprimand to removal from the bar. A senior bar council functionary said, ''the Bar council does initiate action and issues notices to advocates and conducts inquiries and where necessary action is taken.''

‘RTI activist’ used date and time as code for bribe: ACB chargesheet

Indian Express: New Delhi: Monday, 25 August 2014.
At least a thousand audio recordings have been recovered from the mobile phones of motor parts dealer-turned-‘RTI activist’ Anil Dutt Sharma, who was arrested in June this year.
Of these, 200 have been identified as conversations between Sharma and MCD officials. The remaining are yet to be examined. This was mentioned in the 650-page chargesheet filed by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi government earlier this week.
Sharma, who was arrested on June 24, was caught red-handed at a restaurant in Seelampur, accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from a builder. He would pose as a Junior Engineer in the MCD and target builders carrying out illegal construction in East, Northeast and South Delhi. Khushi Ram, a Junior Engineer, was also arrested last week.
According to the chargesheet, 40 witnesses have been examined by the ACB. The ACB has stated that the role of MCD officials was “being probed”.
Following Sharma’s arrest, at least 75 junior engineers, assistant engineers and senior officials of the MCD have come under the scanner of the investigating agency.
In the chargesheet, the ACB stated that apart from the three FIRs registered against Sharma at the ACB after his arrest, nine more have been registered at police stations including one at Seelampur, two at Bhajanpura, two at Mansarovar Park and three at GTB Enclave.
The investigating agency also stated that Sharma would speak to the builders and MCD officials using code words. One such conversation mentioned in the chargesheet shows how Sharma used date and time as codes for seeking bribe. “Ek baje ko milna (meet me at 1 pm),” is one such conversation mentioned in the chargesheet.
The ACB said a conversation stating the words “ek tareek se kaam” refers to Sharma seeking a bribe of Rs 1 lakh. The chargesheet also mentions that if the builders refused to pay, he would say, “Agar nahi hua, toh ek tareek se zyada ho jayega”, indicating he would seek a bigger bribe.

CVC, RTI Acts may show the way in resolving LOP muddle in Lokpal selection

Times of India: New Delhi: Monday, 25 August 2014.
As the government mulls the Supreme Court's suggestion to recast Lokpal rules to give the opposition a say in selection of the ombudsman even if there is no recognized leader of opposition, existing provisions in the Central Vigilance Act and Right to Information Act to deal with the eventuality of a vacancy in LOP's post may offer a solution.
Under the two Acts, the appointments of central vigilance commissioner (CVC) and vigilance commissioners and that of central information commissioner (CIC) and information commissioners must be made on the recommendation of a high-powered committee, of which leader of opposition in Lok Sabha is a part. However, an explanation to the provisions dealing with composition of this high-powered committee states that where no leader of opposition has been recognized, the leader of the single largest opposition party may be deemed as LOP.
Therefore, if the government agrees to give leader of the single largest opposition party the same say as LOP in selection of Lokpal, it will only be in keeping with what is already the case with regard to CVC and CIC and what is now proposed for the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
Incidentally, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) had earlier flagged the "gaps" in the Lokpal Act, in contrast to the CVC Act, 2003 and RTI Act, 2005, in that it did not provide for a scenario where no person is recognized as LOP in the House of the People.
While discussing a revision in Lokpal Act rules with the law ministry to allow flexibility to the search committee to include names other than those recommended by DoPT, then personnel secretary S K Sarkar had sought to know if going ahead with appointment of Lokpal in the absence of an LOP would entail a legal challenge. DoPT had enquired if Lokpal rules needed to be revised in line with the CVC Act and RTI Act to recognize leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as LOP.
According to an explanation to Section 4(1) of the CVC Act, which lists prime minister, home minister and LOP as members of a committee for appointment of CVC/VCs, "the leader of opposition in the House of the People shall, when no such leader has been so recognized, include the leader of the single largest group in opposition of the government in the House of the People".
Similarly, an explanation is appended to Section 12(3) of the RTI Act - according to which CIC must be appointed by a committee comprising prime minister, LOP and a Union minister to be nominated by the PM - stating that "where the leader of opposition in the House of the People has not been recognised as such, the leader of the single largest group in opposition of the government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the leader of opposition".
Even Article 124(A) sought to be inserted in the Constitution to provide for NJAC states that the two eminent persons represented on NJAC will be nominated by the committee comprising prime minister, Chief Justice of India and the LOP or "where there is no such leader of opposition, then, the leader of single largest opposition party in the House of the People".

CIC asks Delhi HC to amend its RTI fee rules

Times of India: New Delhi: Monday, 25 August 2014.
The Central Information Commission has directed the Delhi High Court to amend its RTI fee rules, indicating that they were not in conformity with the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
The case reached CIC after Patiala House court demanded Rs 50 from an applicant for filing first appeal against the reply provided by its central public information officer under the RTI Act.
The Delhi HC, while exercising its power under Section 28 (1) of the Right to Information Act, made the Delhi District Court (Right to Information Rules, 2008) under which Rule 11 deals with the provision concerning charging of fees during first appeal.
According to the RTI Act, fee can only be charged at the stage of filing of the RTI application. The transparency law does not have any provision of levying fee at the stage of first appeal within a department or second appeal before the commission.
"Imposing a fee of Rs 50 as mandatory requirement at the first appeal level is not in consonance with the fee structure prescribed by Act and rules by central government. Except Rs 10 fee at the stage of filing request for information with the PIO, the law does not prescribe any fee at any stage including at the second appeal level at the information commission," information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
The commission recommended that Delhi HC amend the rules to bring it in conformity with RTI Act, for effective provision of access to information and to bring uniformity with the rules made by DoPT which are also followed by the Supreme Court.