Thursday, January 23, 2020

Re-make the mentor

Indian Express: New Delhi: Thursday, January 23, 2020.
Athlete-coach relations have bordered on a feudal paternalism that can foster predators. That culture must change.
The report by the Indian Express (January 16) on the cases of sexual harassment — unearthed via RTI — of women (mostly minor) athletes training in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres is outrageous and painful. What is most shocking is that the majority of cases are complaints against those who mentor, teach and train the athletes: Twenty-nine of the 45 cases of sexual harassment in 24 centres of the SAI over the past 10 years, with numerous complaints pending, are against coaches.
While sexual harassment within institutions is not new and the burden to complain and call to account has been shouldered by women undergoing the trauma, the concerns raised by India’s own campaign are now finally resonating in the sports arena. It has revealed the underbelly of rampant corruption that goes on not just by way of doping but sexual harassment — two of sports’ most deep-rooted problems. Just as in the cases of gymnasts and figure-skating athletes in the US, where young women, and sometimes men in their teens, had to undergo years of sexual abuse and harassment with debilitating impact on their minds, bodies and futures, the report uncovers this horrific experience in the Indian sports establishment, and, points to the urgent need for recourse to justice.
In the last couple of years in India, young women in educational spaces have been clamouring for the implementation of due processes to obtain justice in sexual harassment cases. And when that has frustrated them, they have resorted, legitimately, to calling them out, by what is referred to as naming and shaming of professors and academics. This manner of response from women from some educational institutions has not been easy. However, the act of coming out to name perpetrators after undergoing trauma for years is doubly painful for those in institutions as rigid and removed from the mainstream as sporting centres, where the stakes are much higher. Arriving at a sporting institution, being mentored, prepared and coached is a stepping stone in terms of class and status mobility. It is with tremendous courage, and following immense suffering, that these women have called out their perpetrators. Hence, more reason why due processes and accountability measures have to be in place.
When young women come to sport, it’s very much like, and yet quite unlike, how young men come to sport. Their subsequent trajectories vary as well. But when both do well, women’s specific journeys are hardly charted. Many young individuals see sports as a way out of their marginality, be it class, caste, gender or sexual expression. The sports quota admissions in colleges and universities are a sure way to nurture your talent which will then land you a decent job again via sports quotas in banks, the railways or any public sector corporation — a definite way of ensuring social mobility.
As a 16-year-old, a third place in the combined track-and-field event, heptathlon, in a national competition, landed me a place in the 1982 Asian Games preparatory camp at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, of the pre-SAI days. Coming from a school where the principal observed promising youngsters before sending them to train in local clubs and, thereafter, through local competitions into the state and national events, I was unaware of the “culture” of national sporting camps and centres — the same kind of culture that the former director-general of SAI mentions in another report in this publication (IE, January 17). Athletes paid “respect” to the coaches, touched their feet at the beginning of the day, and often had individual mentor-mentee relationships, instead of training as part of a group. At first, I took this to be a pattern geared to infuse drive and dedication for international competitions. But later, I realised that these were remnants of feudal practices of subservience, service, and loyalty that bound athletes to their coaches, bordering sometimes on quid-pro-quo traps for the athletes. It is shocking that this culture continues to date, as reported in the numerous “extractions” that coaches seek out of their mentees.
In India, we have been unable to adopt the model perfected in European countries, where schools become catchment areas for sporting talent, which are then nurtured through training and competition at district, state, and national levels. The setting up of the SAI in 1984, and its development via schemes and centres for training, was the only way to reach out to vast sections of young aspirants who have no access to private avenues for sporting excellence. In fact, around the same period, states such as Kerala had indeed nurtured, through their own sports schools and sports hostels, similar talent: Some of my contemporaries of that time include P T Usha, Shiny Wilson, and Mercy Kuttan, all products of these state sports institutions.
At present, many international and celebrity sports men and women have emerged out of elite academies with individual attention and mentoring — they are lauded in the media and in public discourse, leading to a marginalisation of the institutional mechanisms that draw talent from schools, and upwards from that point. The SAIs were an attempt to retain an institutional and a purportedly democratic outreach for talent, but instead, now reflect a redundant culture of mentorship which continues to retain shades of feudal relations.
Casting out this masculinist and feudal ethos, sports mentoring needs to embody genuine care and encouragement. The sports coaching centre and the coach should act as a fulcrum between society that throws up talent via schools or private associations, and athletes, who emerge not just as champions winning laurels for the country but as individuals who receive the right nurturing, and are committed to their sport. This is what we expect in coaches as mentors, rather than the brand of paternalism that paves the way for predators.
The writer teaches women’ studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and is a former Indian Universities record holder in heptathlon.

New documentary revisits quest for Ghanaians murdered in Gambia. Ghana: Thursday, January 23, 2020.
Imagine being unable to bury a loved one, with no idea of where their body is, 15 years after their murder. For dozens of Ghanaian families whose fathers were murdered in The Gambia under Yahya Jammeh's regime, the tragedy is revisited with a generation of victims seeking answers in Ghanaian documentary, I Cannot Bury My Father, released in January. 
"These families have not moved on. Their families suffered back then and continue to suffer, but they also feel completely forgotten,” said Nana-Jo Ndow, the documentary filmmaker who made “I Cannot Bury My Father.”
Her documentary shows a new generation of victims’ families who are trying to find answers after the tragedy of their loved ones were murdered 15 years ago.
According to a number of investigations, including a joint effort by Human Rights Watch and Trial International, an NGO supporting victims in their quest for justice, 56 West Africans embarked from Senegal on 22 July, 2005, trying to reach a ship that would take them to Europe. Among the victims were reportedly between 41 and 44 Ghanaians, seven Nigerians, two Senegalese, two Ivorians, two Togolese and one Gambian.
The migrants landed in Barra, Gambia, where they were arrested once they had disembarked. The unarmed West Africans were taken to Banjul, the capital, and then transferred to different areas by security forces.
One group of eight people was reportedly beaten to death by the Junglers, then-President Yahya Jammeh’s paramilitary death squad. Jammeh reportedly thought the migrants were mercenaries.
The bodies of the eight bludgeoned were left on a beach, while the others were killed by the Junglers near the Senegal-Gambia border. One Ghanaian man escaped.
With the exception of six bodies that were repatriated to Ghana, the remains of the other victims were never found.
“With this story…the tragedy of how one person being forcibly disappeared has completely affected an entire family,” said Ndow. “It affects an entire community, and we really wanted to give this emotional dimension to this story, to try and reflect the emotional trauma that this family has gone through and is still going through,” she added.
The documentary focuses on Isaac Mensah, who was 12 years old when his father, Peter, disappeared, one of the murders allegedly carried out by the Junglers in 2005.
Peter’s death took a toll
Mensah, like the families of the other victims, have had to deal with their fathers’ loss on a daily basis. Although his brothers were young when their father died, they have also had a hard life, along with his mother and their grandfather, who helped raise the family.
He also speaks of the damaging cultural effect that being unable to bury a family member takes on, specifically in Ghanaian culture.
“In Ghana specifically, we cherish funerals. And if you lose someone you really cherish, you have to show it during funerals,” said Mensah. “And we’ve not been able to do a befitting burial for my father,” he added. A funeral has special significance, and the absence of one leaves the family in limbo, says Mensah, especially his mother.“Is she a widow, or is she married to someone?” he asks. His father’s death still touches every aspect of his mother’s life.
She had been a seamstress, said Mensah, but she couldn’t deal with all the questions clients would ask, about where he was. “She quit to avoid those questions,” he said.
Reports made, but no information given
The brutal killings of 55 people did not go by unnoticed the Ghanaian Commission of Inquiry visited Gambia on a fact-finding mission in March 2006. In August 2008, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), conducted a joint mission with the UN to Gambia.
The families received nothing. No report, no findings, no change in status. “There was a lack of transparency. There was a lack of empathy. They received a phone call one day to go to Accra for a funeral. I mean, can you just imagine that they probably were thinking ‘okay, does this mean that you know, they've got the remains?’” said Ndow.
The families came to the funeral, where they found closed caskets for the six remains that were repatriated to Ghana. They were buried in one massive grave with a marker noting that they “died under tragic circumstances.”
“What were the circumstances? What about you list their names?” said Ndow. Some 27 victims’ families were given a small amount of money that they were photographed with, but no information, no report findings were given to them.
It was the way that this entire case was handled that Ndow finds most upsetting.
“They're not even being treated as equals, as human beings, they don't matter. And the sense that you get as well as that it was just this idea of, they're just migrants so, oh well,” said Ndow.
“It's a question of human rights, it’s a question of dignity and what happened to these people could have happened to anyone else,” she added.
During the course of the documentary, Mensah travelled from Akomadan, in the Ashanti region in the centre of the country, to Accra, to find more answers.
In 2005, DNA testing was widely used in forensic examinations, but no DNA was taken from the victims, no bloodwork as taken from the victims’ families. Those who disembarked and died had come from five other West African countries in addition to Ghana.
Mensah has a lot of questions for the Ghanaian authorities. “How can you say these people are Ghanaians? How can you say these people are our fathers? Why are you not sharing the report with us? What do you have to hide? Who are you hiding it from?”
A revelation
While in Accra, Mensah realised that Gambia is in the midst of conducting its own investigation and public hearing into the scores of human rights abuses former dictator Yahya Jammeh committed during his 22 years in power.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has logged hours of testimony of victims, as well as statements of a number of Junglers who reportedly carried out the killings of the group of West Africans.
In the documentary, Mensah watches the official testimony of Jungler Corporal Omar A. Jallow who discusses the day he was with one of the West Africans, remembering that one man gave him a 100 euro banknote before he was killed. After 15 years of longing for some closure, Mensah believes that the man described is his father.
For Mensah and the other families and communities affected by these deaths, part of the anger is directed at the fact there is information out there that has never been transmitted to them.
In 2019, Ghana’s Right to Information Act (RTI), passed by lawmakers, was put into law. Ghanaians can access and receive information from public institutions.
Mensah applied for documents and reports related to the murders he has not yet had a response.
The new generation of victims from the 2005 Gambia murders hopes that there will be closure. For Mensah, the fact that Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo was foreign minister at the time could work in their favour to gain access to the answers the families have been seeking for 15 years.
“I would tell him, ‘Nana, we want you to fight for justice. You are a human rights activist. So please. Ghanaians were murdered in 2005… and the case was closed just like that. We want you to try the person involved in this case. That’s Yahya Jammeh and his accomplices’,” he said.
The film is slated to be viewed on streaming sites and within the country in order to raise awareness of the killings, said filmmaker Ndow.

RTI Law: PIC warns of contempt as Senate declines info about its staff

The News: Umar Cheema: Pakistan: Thurday, January 23, 2020.
Chairman Senate has locked horns with Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) over the question of access to information regarding strength of the Senate staff as the former has declined to share declaring it “sensitive” and the latter said refusal in this respect will be treated as contempt of court. The PIC has judicial power to enforce its directives.
Going by Right of Access to Information Act 2017, the Senate Secretariat is legally obliged to proactively share this information relating staff through its website which it has termed sensitive instead. Incidentally, Senate itself has passed the Act and its Section 2 (C) declared that “The National Assembly and the Senate including their secretariats, committees and members” fall in the domain of this Act meaning thereby they are bound to provide the information if demanded by any citizen of Pakistan.
However, in the case under question, an undated letter of Chairman Senate sent to PIC has ruled that since “work of Parliament is not only extremely significant but also highly sensitive………I hereby declare the record of Senate Secretariat employees, their sanctioned strength and related numbers, their perks and privileges, incumbency/vacancy position and all other related and ancillary matters as classified.” This comes from the Senate that keep summoning information from public bodies as and when desired by senators and emphasises that it is right of public representatives to know that how taxpayers money is used by them. Senate itself is a public body.
The PIC had sought explanation from Senate Secretariat reacting on the complainant of Mukhtar Ahmed Ali. On May 6 last year, he had asked seven questions through Right of Access to Information Act 2017. He had sought information regarding total sanctioned strength of Senate staff, vacant positions, number of staff hired on contract, types of newly created positions, strength of female staff, number of disables and transgender employed and a certified copy of latest-approved services rules.
As he didn’t hear back from Senate Secretariat, he went in appeal to PIC which sent a couple of notices in five months but none from the respondent department either appeared or bothered to reply. In proceedings that followed, PIC observed that the information under question should have been proactively disclosed on Senate website but it is being hidden from a citizen instead. “The Commission notes with grave concern the non-serious attitude of the Public Information Officer (Additional Secretary of Senate Maj. (R) Syed Hasnain Haider) who has neither responded to the two notices of the Commission nor appeared in two hearings,” PIC deplored.
The Senate, it further noted in verdict, has failed to provide any cogent reason for withholding the requested information, benefits of bringing this information in the public domain are too obvious to be missed. The requested information may reveal whether or not Senate of Pakistan is properly staffed to carry out its functions and responsibilities, whether or not job quota in a federal public body for persons with disabilities, minorities and residents of different provinces is being observed in letter and spirit, to mention just a couple of examples.
Incidentally, FBR had offered the same response that information about staff is “classified” when the same questions were sent by Mukhtar to tax authorities, however, the PIC had ruled in favour of the applicant. As FBR had challenged PIC verdict before Islamabad High Court, the court had upheld PIC verdict. Concluding the matter on December 30, 2019, PIC directed Senate Secretariat to provide the requested information to the appellant not later than 10 working days and also upload this on its website as a legal requirement prescribed in Section 5 of Right of Access to Information Act, 2017. The verdict was handed by Chief Information Commissioner Muhammad Azam, Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah and Information Commissioner Fawad Malik.
Instead of complying with the PIC order, Senate Secretariat wrote to PIC demanding it withdrew the verdict as chairman Senate using his authority has ruled this record as “classified.”
In response, Chief Information Commissioner refused to do that and noted that “this blanket exemption to all record is tantamount to declaring that the Secretariat of Senate is not a public body whereas, citizens of Pakistan through their elected representatives (Parliament declared the Secretariat of the Senate of Pakistan to be a public body under Section 2 (C) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.”
At the end, PIC also reminded to Senate Secretariat that only recourse available to it going in appeal to Islamabad High Court. And if neither appeal is filed nor the information shared as directed, it will “be dealt with in the same way as contempt of court” the powers vested in PIC under Section 20 (2) of the Right of Access to Information Act.

NGO recommends scrapping of ‘Electoral Bonds’ for fair elections. New Delhi: Thursday, January 23, 2020.
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO has called for scrapping Electoral Bonds which violate the citizens’ fundamental ‘Right to Know’ by withholding crucial information regarding the sources of funding.
He said, “Such opaqueness is at the cost of larger public interest and a severe blow to the very fundamentals of transparency and accountability. Therefore, the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 should be entirely scrapped.”
Prof Jagdeep Chhokar, Founder & Trustee of ADR, emphasized that there is no transparency in electoral bonds in an interview with ET NOW.
They have demanded that all national and regional political parties must provide all information on the funds received through Electoral Bonds under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Full details of all donors should also be made available for public scrutiny.
Key Finding: Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar accounted for 13.81% and 5.38% respectively, of the total value of bonds sold. The remaining eleven cities including Gandhinagar, Bengaluru, Chennai etc. accounted for purchase of 1955 bonds worth Rs 713.71 cr.
Key Finding: Highest number of bonds (1789) of denomination of Rs 1 crore were purchased in Mumbai followed by 1334 bonds of the denomination of Rs 10 lakhs sold in Kolkata between March 2018 and October 2019. 
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the ADR, an NGO alleged that the scheme is a means to channelize unaccounted black money in favour of the ruling party.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shown an income of Rs 2,410 crore in 2018-2019 financial year of which Rs 1, 451 crore were received through Electoral Bonds. At the same time the Congress received Rs 918 crore income of which Rs 383 crore were through the Electoral Bonds, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said in its 2018-2019 financial year report.

RTI board missing at MC headquarters

Tribune India: Harshraj Singh: Ludhiana: Thursday, January 23, 2020.
MC website not updated for past one year, has names of transferred or retired officials.
As there are no boards carrying the names of public information officers (PIOs) and assistant public information at the MC headquarters (Zone A), visitors face inconvenience in filing applications under the Right to Information Act. According to sources, an RTI information board was earlier displayed at the entrance to the MC headquarters office, but it is ‘missing’ now.
The MC has not even updated RTI information about PIOs and first appellate authority on its official website for the past one year. According to the website on Tuesday (January 21, 2020), the first appellate authority is Anita Darshi (Zonal Commissioner) and Public Information Officer Headquarters is Rajiv Saggar (Superintendent). However, Anita Darshi was transferred a year ago while Superintendent Rajiv Saggar had been transferred twice from Ludhiana in the past one year.
A few other officials, who have retired or have been transferred, are still shown as public information officers of different MC branches. Superintending Engineer Dharm Singh, who has retired from service, is still shown as PIO of a cell under the B&R branch. Retired officer Surinder Kumar is still shown as PIO of the horticulture wing. ATP Surinder Singh Bindra, who has been transferred, is shown as PIO of the building and drawing Branch.
The RTI activists claimed that the MC was allegedly violating the Right to Information Act 2005 by not displaying the board with names of the public information officers concerned. The names of PIOs concerned for Ludhiana Smart City Limited or Ludhiana City Bus Service Limited have also not been displayed at the headquarters.
The RTI room, where applications are received, is located on the top floor of the multi-storey MC building.
An RTI activist, Rohit Sabharwal, said as per the RTI Act 2005, the civic body was supposed to display the names of public information officers for various branches of the MC. “There is no display of names of authorities designated under the Right to Information Act 2005. The MC must ensure that the names, designation and telephone numbers of the PIOs are displayed prominently.”
A resident, Keemti Rawal, said: “Not only the MC headquarters, information about public information officers has also not been displayed at the other offices. The authorities concerned should pay attention and display boards with proper information at the entrance to all offices. The MC should also display the boards to inform people that how an RTI application can be filed.”

How RTI Amendment Bill was passed undermining pre-legisaltive consultation rule. Anjali bharadwaj & Amrita Johri: New Delhi: Thursday, January 23, 2020.
In 2019, regressive amendments were made to the Right to Information (RTI) Act to empower the Central government to prescribe through rules, the tenure, salaries and other terms and conditions of service of information commissioners across the country.
The amendment, and the subsequent rules promulgated by the government in October 2019, destroy the insulation provided to information commissions in the original Act to enable them to function independently.
The RTI Amendment Act and the subsequent rules were made in a completely surreptitious manner with no public consultation. This constituted a violation of the procedures laid down in the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of 2014.
An application under the RTI Act was filed on October 28, 2019 seeking a copy of all the correspondence, notings and comments of ministries, department and information commissions on the draft of the RTI Amendment Bill. The Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) facilitated an inspection of the said file and on 16.1.2020 uploaded the file on their website. The RTI application and reply can be accessed here.
The files uploaded by the DOPT can be accessed on their website by following the RTI link and then the page Important files of IR Division.
A perusal of the files points to the following key issues
Cabinet directed that provisions on tenure of information commissioners be amended to allow it to be prescribed through rules by the government
The initial proposal only sought to amend the sections related to salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of information commissioners. There was no mention of amending the provisions related to tenure of information commissioners.
However, the cabinet directed that the provisions regarding the tenure of information commissioners should also be amended to allow the Central government to prescribe it through rules. Noting dated 5.7.2019 notes:
“Cabinet Note was sent for approval of Cabinet on 03.04.20 18. Cabinet Secretariat had conveyed the approval of the Cabinet vide DO letter No 13/CM/2018 dated 5/4/2018 (page 274/Corr). The Cabinet further directed that the term of office of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners, State Chief Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners be as prescribed by the Central Government.”
Government sought relaxation of the rules of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha requiring prior notice and circulation of bill
The rules of procedure of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha require prior notice to be given for introducing a bill and also have provisions requiring circulation of bills to members before it is introduced.
Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (MoS), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, wrote to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha seeking relaxation of these provisions.
Rule 123 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha states:
“123. Motion for consideration On the day on which the motion for consideration is set down in the list of business which shall, unless the Chairman otherwise directs, be not less than two days from the receipt of the notice, the member giving notice may move that the Bill be taken into consideration.”
Direction 19A,/19B of the Direction of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha state:
“19A. (1) A Minister desiring to move for leave to introduce a Bill shall give in writing the notice of one’s intention to do so.
"(2) The period of notice of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill under this direction shall be seven days unless the Speaker allows the motion to be made at shorter notice.
19B. No Bill shall be included for introduction in the list of business for a day until after copies thereof have been made available for the use of members for at least two days before the day on which the Bill is proposed to be introduced:
"...Provided further that in other cases, where the Minister desires that the Bill may be introduced earlier than two days after the circulation of copies or even without prior circulation, the Minister shall give full reasons in a memorandum for the consideration of the Speaker explaining as to why the Bill is sought to be introduced without making available to members copies thereof in advance, and if the Speaker gives permission, the Bill shall be included in the list of business for the day on which the Bill is proposed to be introduced.”
Government wrote to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha requesting that the RTI Amendment Bill not be referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for detailed deliberations
Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions wrote to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha requesting that the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 not be referred to a Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

NMC withdraws tender for road through Empress Van.

Times of India: Anjana Tripathi: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has withdrawn the tender floated for the appointment of a contractor for the construction of a road through Empress Van. The civic body, which was under immense pressure, has reportedly decided to proceed with the proposed road only after receiving its estimated cost of Rs 3.36 crore from the Maharashtra State Textile Corporation (MSTC) and permission from the Tree Authority for felling 380 full-grown trees.
even though a decision on MSTC’s application seeking cutting down of 380 trees was pending with the Tree Authority. The last date for submission of bids was October 8, 2019. NMC engineers said that tender has been withdrawn because the MSTC had not paid the money. “At a recent meeting, MSTC promised to deposit the amount.
The work order will be issued only after that,” they said. The NMC took over area of the proposed road from MSTC but overlooked the mandatory surrender of open space and public utility (PU) land of 13,122 from MSTC. As per documents obtained under RTI Act by TH Naidu, MSTC had in 2014 planned to develop a Textile Park on the 66,201 sq mt land located in front of Empress Mall. It got approval for a layout with eight plots, open space, public utility (PU) land and one 15 meter wide road from the NMC on January 11, 2005. 
The MSTC sold plot No.s 3-7 some years ago on which residential and commercial buildings have already come up. But the NMC did not take over open space and PU land. The remaining plots — 1, 2 and 8, open space, PU land and area for the road — are lying abandoned. 
There were over 1,000 trees here. MSTC auctioned plot No.s 1, 2 and 8 couple of months ago. Royal Sandesh Business Park LLP, Orange City Garment Park and Acharya Shree Vidyasagar Garment Vyapari Welfare Society won the bids. NMC engineers said the process to take over open space and PU land will begin soon. BJP corporator Dayashankar Tiwari, who proposed the road and is pursuing the project, said it should be constructed at the earliest to ease congestion at the railway station. “A majority of trees on the property are subabul and need to be cut down,” he said. 
Dilip Agrawal from Royal Sandesh Business Park said that it plans to develop garment and commercial shops on the plots. The NMC tree officer had issued a public notice dated July 2 inviting suggestions and objections on cutting down of 380 trees for proposed road. Over 800 objections were registered by people and activists. The NMC is likely to start hearing of those submitted suggestions and objections from next week. The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has withdrawn the ten. 

Scientific officer seeks to know status of his review petition.

The Hindu: New Delhi: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Information Commission asks court PIO to produce records
The Tamil Nadu Information Commission has directed the Public Information Officer of the Madras High Court to produce records relating to a review petition filed by a Scientific Officer, who complained that his petition for review of a judgment was neither numbered nor listed, resulting in its being rejected for not filing within the time limit.
In an appeal, Vinod Kumar, Scientific Officer, National Test House, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Chennai, said though eight months had passed, he received no intimation for listing/hearing of his review petition against a judgment.
Passing orders on the appeal, State Information Commissioner R. Dakshinamurthy directed the public authority to produce the filing/return register for review petitions in the next hearing without fail.
Mr. Kumar under the Right to Information Act sought details of the daily action-taken report since he filed the review petition, the justification for the delay in listing his petition and the date on which the petition was presented before the Bench of judges.
He received a reply that his petition was received on April 23, 2018 and allotted to the Appeal Examiner on the same day.
After scrutiny, the Appeal Examiner returned the papers on May 4, 2018, for compliance of certain defects pointed out by the Registry within ten days. But since the papers were not taken back by the petitioner in person, the question of numbering or presenting the case to the bench did not arise, it said.
Not satisfied with the reply, the petitioner filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority stating that he visited the court in person on three occasions, but did not find the return of his papers for rectification of defects.
He claimed that he did not receive any intimation either by SMS, email or phone that the review petition was returned with queries. The PIO has neither given a certified copy to prove his point nor shared the details of the appellate authority.
Seeking action
Since no reply was received, Mr. Kumar moved the Tamil Nadu Information Commission seeking a direction to the PIO and First Appellate Authority to share all information sought by him in full. He also sought action against the PIO and First Appellate Authority for violation of provisions under the RTI Act.
The public authority represented by Joint Registrar (RTI) submitted that normally no SMS or email is sent to rectify the defects to petitioners. It was the duty of the petitioner to follow the action taken by the Registry on his review petition.
The petitioner stated that he approached the filing section in the Madras High Court but could not trace his papers and hence could not resubmit the review petition after rectification of defects. He further alleged that “because of the fault of Registry the limitation period for filing review petition has lapsed.
When asked about advocates or petitioners getting back the review petitions in person, the PIO stated that there was a register to record the procedure.
after hearing both the sides, Mr. Dakshinamurthy directed the PIO to produce the filing register and return register for the review petition pertaining to April 23, 2018 and report the status of the petition filed by Mr. Kumar before the court competent to condone the delay.

Recommendations of ADR to scrap electoral bonds, bring it under RTI

Times of India: Nisha Nambiar: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 22, 2020.
The Association of Democratic Reforms an organisation working in the area of political reforms has recommended that electoral bonds infringe the citizens' fundamental ‘Right to Know’ by withholding crucial information regarding electoral funding ( "Such opaqueness is at the cost of larger public interest and is a severe blow to the very fundamentals of transparency and accountability and therefore Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 should be entirely scrapped," stated their recommendation put up on Tuesday. 
They have demanded that all National and Regional political parties must provide all information on the funds received through Electoral Bonds under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI.
The ECI/CBDT/CAG or any other relevant institution should be entrusted with the responsibility to oversee that there is no discrepancy between the value of Electoral Bonds redeemed and the value of donations received through Electoral Bonds by the political parties, and whether only entitled political parties are receiving funding via Electoral Bonds.

Centre Asked LS Speaker, RS Chairman Not to Refer RTI Amendment Bill to Standing Committee

The Wire: New Delhi: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Activist Anjali Bhardwaj also said the government sought relaxation of rules before introducing the Bill. 
The government had written to the Rajya Sabha chairman and Lok Sabha speaker to not refer the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, to a department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee, an activist who inspected the files under the RTI Act said Monday.
Activist Anjali Bhardwaj had sought details of files related to the passing of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act which made drastic changes in the tenure and the salary structure of adjudicators of RTI matters, the information commissioners, triggering allegations of cutting down their autonomy. She was allowed to inspect the files related to the Bill.
In her statement, Bhardwaj said minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh had written to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu seeking relaxation of the provisions requiring prior notice to be given for introducing a Bill and circulation of Bills to members before it is introduced.
She also said that the minister wrote to the speaker and the chairman requesting that the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, not be referred to a department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee.
“The amendment, and the subsequent rules promulgated by the government in October 2019, destroy the insulation provided to information commissions in the original Act to enable them to function independently,”

Will follow up on cases via RTI: Goa Foundation.

India Times: Panaji: Wednesay: January 22, 2020.
Reacting to the Lokayukta order for renewal of mining caes, Goa foundation Direcor Claud Alvaris on tuesday said, that they will follow up the case till its logical conclusion. He also said that the review petion filed by the state governmet is just an eyewash. Alvares said they will file applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to know the status of the Lokayukta recommendations. Renewal of such leases is akin to handing it over to the mining companies ‘free of cost’, Alvares said. “In 2015, the leases should not have been granted free of cost. The government ought to have charged crores of rupees by auctioning the leases. 
The public exchequer was deprived of this huge amount, and that is an act of corruption,” Alvares said. Alvares also said that the Lokayukta order will not have any bearing on the ongoing mining cases in the Supreme Court. “I don’t think any government in power, whether it is Congress or BJP I am not willing to make comment on it, will give away 88 mining leases worth Rs 79,000 crore to mining companies without charging something. Even for jobs, one has to pay Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakh,” he said. 
Alvares also claimed that this ‘deal’ with the mining companies would have done been as at the party level because former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar signed only one line in the lease renewal documents.

Seriously, RTI is Also About Some Seemingly Funny Queries, Which Are Actually Introspective In Nature!

Money Life: Vineea Deshmukh: Pune: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Recently, there was a query filed under Right to Information (RTI) Act, to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) seeking the names of the `tukde tukde gang’.
This was in the backdrop of a public speech by Home Minister Amit Shah on 26 December 2019, where he said that the time has come to punish the `tukde tukde gang’. However, the RTI application seems to have rattled officials in the home ministry. The RTI applicant, journalist Saket Gokhale, is so serious about procuring this information that if he does not get it within the deadline of 26 January 2020, he claims he would be filing a second appeal with the central information commission (CIC).
While the `tukde tukde gang’ (whoever they are) has become the butt of sarcasm and vicious verbal attack, not only by the prime minister, home minister, senior leaders from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their ardent followers, the RTI query brings forth the serious aspect of whether it is recognised officially, through an official certified copy! No wonder, the MHA is now in a quandary.
Mr Gokhale received a reply from the MHA, which says, “Ministry of home affairs has no information concerning tukde-tukde gang."
The Home Ministry has responded to my RTI saying:
"Ministry of Home Affairs has no information concerning tukde-tukde gang." Maanyavar is a liar.
The "tukde tukde gang" does not officially exist & is merely a figment of Amit Shah's imagination.— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) January 20, 2020
A news report in India Today says, “the term 'Tukde Tukde Gang' has not been mentioned in any report by intelligence and law enforcing agencies. It was coined after the February 2016 controversy in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where it was alleged that some people raised "anti-India slogans". The Delhi Police is yet to establish this charge. Some officials said they believe this is frivolous RTI application.”
This is not the first instance when a seemingly frivolous query under the RTI has revealed that some important dates, holidays and records that, we, as a nation abide by, may not really have any official basis. 
Our political leaders have verbally stated them over the many decades that we have gained independence and they have become unquestionable laws. 
For example, in 2012, school girl Aishwarya Parashar from Lucknow, filed a RTI application to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking information on copy of the official order that recognized ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi as the Father of the Nation.
The PMO said it did not have any such information and transferred her RTI application to the MHO, which in turn transferred it to the PIO of the National Archives of India. The National Archives in turn asked Aishwarya to visit the office and search through the files herself. And the matter ended there! 
So, this frivolous question actually tells us that there is nothing official about the title other than peoples’ love and respect for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. 
Similarly, hockey is not the national game of India, as per a RTI reply, and there is no government order (GO), which notifies Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as national holidays, as per replies received from the relevant public authorities. 
Another seemingly funny RTI query was filed by Bangalore-based RTI activist Narashimha Murthy. He filed an application with the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Trust, seeking information on whether Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Kubera had been cleared and if not, then how much of it is still left. 
He alleged that the trustees emotionally blackmail devotees on this point to extract donations. A board to this effect is put up in the premises of the temple, which Murthy read, when he visited the temple and was shocked at the gullibility of the people. 
As per mythology, Lord Venkateshwara’s mother had borrowed lot of money from Lord Kubera, for his marriage. 
Of course, Mr Murthy got no reply, although he filed a second appeal with the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission! Seems like a stupid RTI query? No, in reality it exposes the blind belief of people and advantage that trustees take of their unquestionable faith.
Some RTI applications are genuinely humourous. 
An RTI applicant, Ajay Kumar, in 2016 filed an application to the MHA seeking information on whether India would survive an attack by alien zombies and extra-dimensional creatures. What would be the chances of our survival? No prizes for guessing that it went viral on the social media.
RTI applications have also been filed to seek information regarding prime minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of `aachhe din’ and whether `ladoos’ sent by the RTI applicant to the then President of US George Bush were delivered to him. Information has also been sought on an eligible matrimonial mate, from among employees in any government office, addressed to the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission amongst several others.
While it is good to have a good laugh over such frivolous and frivolous-yet-introspective RTI applications, no prizes for guessing that these are regularly used by political leaders and public authorities to state how they are already overburdened and all this is a waste of time. 
Well, somebody needs to tell them that laughter is the best medicine and it could lead to channeling their energy towards more transparency! Agree?
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

RTI hasn’t gone with 370?

Daily Excelsior: Srinagar: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Post Article 370 abrogation, I am getting lots of calls from RTI applicants especially aggrieved unemployed youth that Government officials are not in a mood to provide information under RTI Act. It is alleged that Government officials are misleading citizens saying RTI law has gone along with article 370 from J&K. Some uninformed people have started accepting this narrative and it is mainly due to lack of legal knowledge among citizens. Even the educated people take this as gospel truth. As I have said there are many problems and challenges vis a vis implementation of Central RTI Act 2005 in UT of J&K post 370 abrogation, but that doesn’t mean that after J&K RTI Act 2009 got repealed post article 370 abrogation, people of Jammu & Kashmir or even Ladakh cannot seek information from Government under RTI Act ? After October 31st 2019 , RTI Act 2005 (Central law) is applicable in J&K and Ladakh and Government officials must stop misleading people and should continue to provide information to people.
Ajay Kumar’s struggle
Initially I didn’t believe that Government officials would be confusing citizens by saying RTI Act has gone along-with article 370, but when I saw an official letter of J&K Public Service Commission (PSC) telling an information seeker from Rajouri that JK RTI Act 2009 has been repealed and thus he could not be provided the information, I was shocked.
Ajay Kumar a resident of village Keri Manyallan P/O Doongi Brahamana district Rajouri did his Post Graduation in Geography from Jammu University in 2012. In 2014 he qualified UGC -NET as well. Pertinently Keri Manyallan is a remote village in Rajouri district of Jammu which is located on Line of Actual Control (LoC). The residents of this village have suffered a lot in past and continue to suffer due to cross border shelling. In-spite of all these challenges Ajay Kumar completed his Post Graduation with good merit. He also falls under the category of resident of Actual Line of Control (ALC) for which Government has reserved jobs in various Government departments.
In 2017 Ajay Kumar applied for the post of Assistant Professor Geography vide PSC’s notification number 10-PSC (DR-P) of 2017 Dated : 27.102017. There was one post of Assistant Professor Geography in Higher Education Department reserved for candidates belonging to ALC. Due to official apathy of PSC officials a non ALC candidate was shortlisted and called for interview at PSC’s Jammu office along with two other ALC candidates. This female candidate from Baramulla district was finally not allowed to appear for the interview at the last moment on 6.11.2019 when Ajay Kumar raised his voice and sought some information using RTI as well.
Ajay Kumar who was supposed to be interviewed along with two other candidates was also not allowed while as two other candidates namely Mohammad Qasim Mir and Ravinder Singh were interviewed which is against the business rules of PSC.
Ajay’s RTI application
When the Non ALC female candidate from Baramulla had been shortlisted for interview aggrieved Ajay Kumar had filed an application under RTI Act before JKPSC on 2.11.2019. He sought following information :
  1. Full details of candidates along with parentage and full address applied under ALC category for the post of Assistant Professor Geography vide notification No: 10-PSC (DR-P) of 2017 Dated: 27.10.2017 item No: 69
  2. Photocopies of forms of all the ALC candidates
  3. Merit list of ALC candidates
  4. Name , Parentage and address of ALC candidates called for interview
  5. Full details of candidates who were called for interview but the interview was not conducted?
  6. Reasons for not conducting interview of female candidate from Baramulla (name withheld) and under which category she had to appear in the interview ?
While responding to Ajay’s RTI application PSC in its reply to question number 1 said no such document was available with them. How is it possible that these details are not available with the PSC ? In response to question number 2 the PSC said it was the 3rd party information and hence could not be revealed. The realty on the other hand is that PSC has always tried to suppress information under this 3rd party provision and inspite of being lambasted by JK State Information Commission (SIC) in past. JKPSC continues to use this legal provision illegally. There are numerous orders of Central Information Commission (CIC) and various State Information Commission’s including JK State Information Commission -SIC (now not in operation) which clearly says that such a kind of information is not a 3rd party information. Other questions 3 to 6 were also not answered
SIC’s orders against PSC
Former State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) , Khurshid Ahmad Ganai disposed off several appeals wherein J&K Public Service Commission (PSC) was directed to provide information under RTI Act and not to take refuge under the garb of 3rd party information ? In-fact the first case decided by Mr Ganai soon after taking over as State CIC titled Narendra Pal Singh v/s JK PSC was against PSC. In another case the then CIC Khurshid Ahmad Ganai on May 16th 2017 issued penalty show cause notice against the PIO of J&K Public Service Commission (PSC) in the case titled Iram Fayaz v/s J&K Public Service Commission . The 2nd appeal came up for hearing before the then CIC Khurshid Ganai on 16.05.2017 at Srinagar. Ishtiyaq Ahmed, the then PIO, J&K PSC and the appellant Iram Fayaz attended the hearing . The appellant submitted during the hearing that the PIO has not furnished her the full information about a selected candidate for the post of Assistant Professor in Higher Education (Industrial Chemistry). The PIO submitted that whole information except ‘third party’ information was provided to the appellant, however, late by few days (08) days. CIC after hearing the case issued following order against the Public Service Commission (PSC) which reads as :
“Although, during the proceedings before the Commission, the PIO referred to Section 11 relating to ‘third party’ information but no record has been provided to show that ‘third party’ proceedings were initiated in this case by him or that Section (11) was at all applicable in this case. No authority or judgment was quoted in support of applicability of third party information in this particular case of selection. The FAA has also not made any mention of third party proceedings either at the level of 1st appeal or at the time of proceedings with the PIO. For these reasons i.e, failure to dispose of the RTI application in terms of Section 7(1) which lays down specified time period of 30 days for disposal by the PIO and on the grounds of delay, the PIO is fit to be proceeded under Section 17 of the Act”.
Pertinently under section 17 of J&K RTI Act 2009 , penalty proceedings are initiated against the erring Public Information Officers (PIO). In past it has been made clear that seeking information of fellow candidates does not amount to 3rd party information and if PSC continues to use this provision again and again, the PIO must be penalized by the Information Commission. Ajay Kumar has now to take up the case with Central Information Commission (CIC).
RTI application returned
With an aim of getting justice Ajay Kumar filed 1st appeal in PSC but that was never disposed off. Ajay Kumar filed a fresh RTI application on 27.12.2019 seeking certified copies of the comments made in writing by Secretary PSC Rajesh Sharma and Deputy Secretary Nasir Ali vis a vis his case. Pertinently both these officers had strongly recommended that Ajay Kumar be interviewed under ALC category but the Chairman’s office had set aside the said recommendations. Why cannot these papers be provided to Ajay Kumar ? To again hide these official notes & to suppress the information the Public Information Officer (PIO) of JK PSC vide letter No: PSC/DR/RTI/80/2019 Dated 06.01.2020 denied to share the information saying JK RTI Act 2009 had been repealed. Instead of providing information under new law (RTI Act 2005) or asking the information seeker to file a fresh application, the PIO so casually returned RTI application to Ajay Kumar via speed post along with Rs 10 postal order (application fees).
If JK RTI Act 2009 has been repealed that doesn’t mean that after article 370 abrogation people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh will have no access to information? JK RTI Act 2009 was definitely much progressive law than RTI Act 2005 , but information is to be provided under RTI Act 2005 as well (central RTI law). Can PSC’s Chairman or Secretary answer these queries :
a) If JK’s RTI law was repealed post 370 abrogation , why didn’t PIO of JKPSC provide information to Ajay Kumar under Central RTI Act 2005 which is in force in J&K & Ladakh ?
b) How could he simply send RTI application back to information seeker via speed post ?
I wish J&K RTI Act 2009 was not repealed like 160 other J&K laws that are still in operation post article 370 abrogation. If JK Public Services Guarantee Act 2011 (PSGA) was not repealed and is still a protected legislation what was the need to repeal JK RTI Act 2009 ? People like Ajay Kumar would not have to suffer at the hands of officials posted in JKPSC. I would appeal Government especially Chief Secretary to take a strong note of this.
(The author is Chairman of J&K RTI Movement.)

Rules amended under RTI Act, 2006: CIC Haryana.

The Hindu: New Delhi: Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Reacting to the media reports stating that around 35% of the penalty imposed on officials under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2006, was not collected, Chief Information Commissioner (Haryana) Yash Pal Singal said several steps have been taken by the commission for the past two years, including amendments in the rules, to ensure strict compliance in this regard.
Speaking to The Hindu, former Director-General of Police (Haryana) Mr. Singal said: “Earlier the law was silent who was responsible for the collection of penalty. No one worked on it for 12 years. But after I took over, first we got the rules amended in 2018 to make the Registrar responsible for it. We wrote letters, seeking penalty but the defaulter officials were reluctant to pay. It did not work,” said Mr. Singal.
He said it was then decided to fix the responsibility of the Drawing and Disbursing Officer to deduct the penalty amount from the salary of the defaulters and to take action against him in case he failed to do so.
“Besides this, we also decided that the defaulter official should not be issued the last pay certificate before he cleared his dues. In case of those nearing retirement, we decided that their ‘no dues certificates’ be withheld to pressurise them to pay the penalty. Also, it was decided to deduct the penalty amount from the pension of the defaulters. A letter was issued to all departments concerned in this regard in August last year,” Mr. Singal added.
He claimed the matter was again discussed in a meeting on January 16. “All our efforts have bore encouraging results. Also, the commission has imposed penalty in far more cases over the past five years than in the earlier period. We are committed to the effective implementation of the RTI Act and the to use the power at our disposal for this purpose,” said the official.
In reply to an application by RTI activist P.P. Kapoor, Haryana State Information Commission, Under-secretary Yagya Dutt Chugh has revealed that 1,726 defaulter officials, including many belonging to the Haryana Civil Services cadre, had not paid penalty to the tune of ₹2.27 crore till December 31, 2019. The commission had imposed fine on 2,974 officials against the appeals made to it for not sharing information. Of the total fine of ₹3.50 crore imposed, only ₹1.23 have been recovered so far.
Mr. Kapoor demanded setting up of an enforcement wing to ensure collect of penalty charges from the defaulters to ensure strict implementation of the RTI Act.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Sahiwal.TV: Jeremy Spirogis: Mumbai: Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
Former Chief Information Commissioner of India Shailesh Gandhi had desired details about their delivery certification beneath the Right to Information Act (RTI), but he neglected to obtain it. The Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika (BMC) said with its answer that the files of delivery enrollment of 1947 aren’t readily available. Therefore a birth certification may not be supplied.
Amid the debate within the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the previous Chief Information Commissioner tweeted, 'i will be concerned about demonstrating my citizenship. I attempted getting my delivery evidence, but were unsuccessful. BMC is not capable of finding evidence of my delivery.
RTI had been requested delivery certification
Actually, Shailesh Gandhi had used RTI for their delivery certification this past year. <! –
However BMC doesn’t have proof of their delivery. Shailesh Gandhi comes from Mumbai. BMC stated with its answer it is struggling to offer delivery certification in their mind. Shailesh Gandhi gave these records by tweeting once the discussion on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being conducted.
The previous Chief Information Commissioner tweeted about their issue to show their citizenship. He also shared the answer page delivered by BMC in October 2019 with his tweet. In this, BMC informed Shailesh Gandhi that their delivery wasn’t signed up.
' What can happen to those who find themselves orphans or nomads '
Speaking to a news station, Shailesh Gandhi stated, 'When i obtained the solution from BMC, I happened to be amazed that when i really could maybe not get my certification in someplace like Mumbai, exactly what would occur to those who find themselves orphans or nomads? Or have their particular papers already been lost in any sort of accident? He stated that when there is absolutely no CAA with NRC, then we have all to manage dilemmas. If NRC had been brought without CAA, numerous individuals could have already been eradicated. With the arrival associated with CAA, Muslims will need to deal with dilemmas.