Thursday, June 08, 2023

Bengaluru activists protest against BBMP official over alleged threats to RTI activist

The News Minute: Bengaluru: Thursday, 08 June 2023
After submitting an RTI application questioning the issuance of ownership documents related to a layout in Uttarahalli, an activist allegedly received threats from a person claiming to be a BBMP official.
A group of social activists staged a sit-in protest outside the office of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath on Tuesday, June 6, demanding immediate action against a BBMP Revenue Inspector who allegedly issued life threats to a Right to Information (RTI) activist. The protesters had been waiting for hours, seeking justice and accountability for alleged irregularities and corruption surrounding a five-acre layout in Uttarahalli, and the issuance of property ownership documents for unauthorised sites in this layout.
The protesting activists have alleged that the layout was carved out illegally, without proper approvals. Assistant Revenue Officer (ARO) of Uttarahalli in Bengaluru South had allegedly issued an ‘A Khatha’, or property ownership document, for approximately 93 sites within the layout without securing the necessary approvals under the Karnataka Country and Town Planning Act, 1961. The activists allege that corrupt practices were involved in the process, leading to the illegal issuance of the ‘A’ Khatha.
The matter was initially brought to the attention of the ARO through an online RTI application filed by BH Veeresha of Mahithi Hakku Adhyayana Kendra on April 28,  raising concerns about the illegal activities. The situation escalated when Veeresha filed another RTI application, which was handed over to the office of the ARO by another RTI activist Nageswara Rao on June 3.
Within hours of submitting the second application, Nageswara Rao received a call allegedly from a BBMP Revenue Inspector identified as Venkatesh, who allegedly threatened him with “dire consequences” if the RTI application filed by Veeresha was not withdrawn. Expressing concern over the threats made against the RTI activist and the continuous issuance of 'A' Khatha for the sites within the allegedly illegal layout, the protesting activists have filed a formal complaint against Venkatesh at the Jayanagar police station.
Enraged by the alleged threat against activist Veeresh, several social activists had initiated an indefinite dharna (sit-in) in front of the office of BBMP Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath. The Commissioner met with the activists on Wednesday and ensured that strict action would be taken. “Giri Nath said that a special commissioner will be deputed to look into the matter,” Adarsh R Iyer, Co-President of Janadhikara Sangharsha Parishath (JSP), told TNM.

Days after filing RTI, Kashmiri journalist declared ‘self-styled’ by officials, his Facebook page blacklisted

The Kashmiriyat: Srinagar: Thursday, 08 June 2023
Journalist who had filed an RTI against the district administration Baramulla seeking monetization details of a Facebook page titled ‘DC Baramulla’ has been declared as self styled   while his page has been blacklisted by officials of the Jammu Kashmir administration.
In a copy of the order accessed by The Kashmiriyat, the admin said, “Whereas, this office served two notices to Umar Rashid, S/O Rashid Ahmad Gilkar R/O Kanispora to prove his authority for circulating news on social media platforms Whereas, Umar Rashid was given ample time and chance to prove his authority but he failed to submit his reply within the given timeline.
“Umar Rashid is frequently seen involved in malpractices of blackmailing various government offices and other institutions and recently involved in protests against government during the visit of Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor JK UT to Baramulla on 30-05-2023,” claimed the official order.
Speaking to The Kashmiriyat, Umar, however, denied the allegations. “I have a post graduate degree and Urdu News Kashmir which has been blacklisted by the officials is registered by the Government of India.” He alleged that he was being pressurized to backout on the RTI.
“I earn a little money through my citizen journalism; however, this blacklisting of my Facebook page will lead to serious economic crisis for me,” he claimed. There was no issue before he filed the RTI, Umar said.
Umar, who hails from Baramulla district of north Kashmir said that the protest he had raised with the Governor’s office was about favouritism by the officials. “Five to six journalists are provided benefits and taken to every official event, while the rest of us are ignored. Unfortunately, most of them are not even qualified to be journalists,” Umar told The Kashmiriyat.
The order also mentioned that the complaint against the journalist has been filed by ANN- a new channel and “other media persons” about the “fake journalism and practices of blackmailing government offices” by Umar Rashid by showing voice recording of extortion which were viral on social media platforms.
“In the view of the above, Umar Rashid Son of Rashid Ahmad Gilkar R/O Kanispora is declared as a self-styled journalist and his Facebook Page “Urdu News Kashmir” is blacklisted for further circulation/ coverage of any news on social media,” the official order read.
Umar Rashid had filed an RTI appeal addressed to the Public Information Officer District Information Officer, Baramulla on 01 June, 2023 seeking information from the office including the monetization of facebook page allegedly run by the district admin, educational details of journalists in official group of Baramulla admin among other details.
“With due respect and regard that I Umar Rashid From Kanispora Baramulla Need Some Information under RTI act 2005.  Kindly furnish information as to if the Facebook Page titled” DC BARAMULLA” has been monitized, if yes, it’s MONITIZATION ACCOUNT Number, MONITIZATION Details and the amount so far collected by way of the online Advertisements and if the amount collected hasn’t been WITHDRAWN HOW much AMOUT has accumulated in the account,” the RTI read.
In his RTI, the journalist also sought details of the members who have been added to the DIPR whatsapp group of Baramulla. “What is their qualification,” Umar asked through his RTI.
He also sought details of the vehicles and the fuel expenses of the Information Department.
“If any media funds on seminar, tour or any cultural programmes was spent so far kindly give details how much amount spent till date,” he asked through his RTI appeal.
Following this RTI, the officials in Baramulla district issued an order stating  that the office receives “multiple complaints” from the general public about the “unethical reporting, fake news and misinformation” by the citizen journalists due to the mushrooming growth of so called journalists, thereby disturbing the “peace and harmony” in the community.
Whereas, it has come to the notice of this office that individuals resort to citizen journalism and attempt to record the live streaming of accidental deaths/ suicidal cases despite blanket ban on such recordings/ reporting, read the order dated 02 June, 2023.
Whereas, Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) has a mandate as envisaged in JK Media Policy 2020 to de-empanel any individual or group indulged in dissemination of misinformation through the use of social media platforms besides preceding against any reporter for unethical, fake news or anti-national activities under the provisions of IPC and Cyber Laws, the district administration said in its order.
In order to check the media manipulation and to regulate the mushrooming growth of “self styled journalists” in Baramulla district, all the media persons of the district are hereby directed to submit authority letters from their respective organizational heads within a period of seven days so that this office will proceed ahead for further codal formalities, the order read.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

High court stays CIC’s order, issues notices for response

Times of India: Vijayawada: Wednesday, 07 June 2023
The AP high court and Central Information Commission (CIC) have become parties to an interesting litigation which has raised questions about the jurisdiction of the latter.
The administrative side of the high court recently filed a petition challenging the CIC’s orders remanding back an appeal that was dismissed as infructuous by the HC registrar general. Apart from directing the registrar general to pass a reasoned order, the CIC also directed the registrar judicial to file a compliance report of its order besides issuing a show cause notice asking why penalty should not be imposed for failing to give information and vitiating the proceedings before the CIC.
The issue originated from an application submitted by one PV Teja, an advocate from Vijayawada, who appeared for screening test for the post of junior civil judge. According to him, he was not selected for the written test in SC category despite securing more marks than some of the BC candidates. He sought information on the selection criteria, question papers, and other information pertaining to the recruitment process.
The HC registrar judicial, who is also the public information officer (PIO), sent him a reply stating that some of his questions were hypothetical and do not come under the definition of information as provided in the RTI Act. Teja went for first appeal before the registrar general even before he received information from the PIO on the ground that he did not get information within the stipulated time which is deemed refusal. As the information was given by the time hearing on the first appeal was held, the registrar general dismissed the application as infructuous.
Challenging the proceedings of the registrar general, Teja filed a second appeal before the CIC, which found fault with the reply given by the PIO and observed that some of the questions to which information was rejected were not hypothetical. The CIC also found fault with the registrar general for not rectifying the lacuna in the information given by the PIO and remanded the second appeal back to the registrar general and directed to pass a reasoned speaking order.
Aggrieved by the order, the registrar general and judicial registrar filed a petition challenging the jurisdiction of the CIC in passing such orders. Contending that the CIC did not appreciate the fact that the first appeal was not filed on merits, they argued that the second appeal by the applicant is beyond the jurisdiction of the CIC and without any application of mind, the latter passed an order which is untenable in law. As the CIC directed to file a compliance report, the petitioners sought an interim stay on the orders.
Considering the arguments, a division bench of the high court comprising justices B Krishna Mohan and G Ramakrishna Prasad suspended the orders of the CIC till further orders and issued notices to the respondents to file counter affidavits. Further hearing of the matter has been posted to July 6.

RTI Commission fines Police Service ¢100k for flouting directives

MyJoyOnline: Ghana: Wednesday, 07 June 2023
The Right to Information (RTI) Commission has fined the Ghana Police Service GH¢100,000 for not complying with its orders.
According to the Commission, the Police Administration failed to grant an applicant’s request and also disregarded its letter.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, June 6, the Commission said such disrespect cannot be tolerated.
“Based on the Respondent’s failure to make decisions on the Applicant’s application lodged with it, the Respondent has clearly failed to perform its obligation under Act 989. This is coupled with its failure to respond to the Commission’s letter received by it.”
“Such a posture by the Respondent is not to be encouraged as it is an affront to the right of access to information enshrined under Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and affirmed by Act 989 and same ought to be disapproved in strong terms.”
“For this reason, an administrative penalty of GH¢100,000 is imposed on the Respondent and this shall be payable to the Commission not later than 14 days after receipt of this decision of the Commission by the Respondent.”
It also warned the Police Administration that the fine will attract a 10% increment should it fail to honour same within 14 days.
“The penalty so imposed shall attract an additional default penalty rate of l0% on the principal penalty sum of GH¢100,000 in the event of default for any additional 14 days thereafter,” the statement added.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa, had sought information on the status of cases involving police brutality.
Despite addressing the request to the Inspector General of Police, the Police Service completely ignored it.

NMC violating law on asset disclosure

Times of India: National: Wednesday, 07 June 2023
Lack of transparency was one of the prominent charges against the erstwhile Medical Council of India which caused it to be replaced by the National Medical Commission (NMC). However, NMC is flouting the NMC Act 2019 which mandates that the chairperson and every member of the commission should declare their assets and liabilities when taking charge and when demitting office and publish the declaration on the NMC website. Not only has the NMC not followed this mandate, it has stonewalled an RTI application seeking information on this.
An RTI application filed on April 6 sought details of the disclosure by the chairman and the members based on section 6(6) of the NMC Act 2019 and details of disclosures of those members who demitted office from the NMC. On receiving no response from the NMC, an appeal was filed on May 7. However, there has been no response to that either.
According to section 6(6) of the NMC Act, “The chairperson and every member of the commission shall make declaration of his assets and his liabilities at the time of entering upon his office and at the time of demitting his office and also declare his professional and commercial engagement or involvement in such form and manner. . . , and such declaration shall be published on the website of the commission”. Though the tenure of the first chairperson of the NMC, Dr SureshChandra Sharma, continues, several other members’ tenures came to an end in September last year and none of their details have been uploaded on the NMC website.
The report of the 92nd Parliamentary Standing Committee on health, which asked for the disbanding of the MCI, had stated that the MCI was not accountable or transparent in its functioning. Stating that the composition of the MCI was opaque and skewed, the committee recommended that the regulatory framework of medical education and practice should be comprised of professionals of the highest standards of repute and integrity, appointed through a rigorous and independent selection process. “This process must be transparent. Nominations could be sought, but the reason for the final selection should be made public,” the committee stated. However, appointments to the NMC remain as opaque as ever.
Queries sent by TOI to the NMC did not elicit any response. The story will be update online if and when a response is received.

Langar, chabeels on roadsides? Amritsar MC fails to respond to RTI query

Tribune India: Amritsar: Wednesday, 07 June 2023
An RTI activist has been asking the Amritsar Municipal Corporation to provide a record of the approvals sanctioned to religious and social bodies to organise langars and chhabeels, but the MC has not responded since September 2012.
Naresh Johar, a local RTI activist, has filed an application under the RTI Act with the MC to provide the record of how many residents get the approval to organise langars on roadsides from the MC and the the number of challans issued to those who violated the MC rules.
“In 2011, the MC had issued instructions to take prior permission to organise langars or chhabeels on roadsides. It is good to organise langars to provide food to the needy. The MC has set some rules in this regard and asked the residents to get its permission. Now, when the rules exist, the MC should clear what is the total number of applicants who seek the MC’s permission to organise a langar. If no one is getting permission, the MC should tell the number of challans issued to violators. I have filed an RTI application to provide a record of the money collected through challans. But the MC is not responding to my application. I sent a reminder in March 2022,” said the activist.
After waiting long for the MC response, Johar filed an appeal with the Information Commissioner for a hearing on the issue.
“I have no problem with langars and chabeels, but if there are some rules, then the MC should implement them. They have to keep a check on such events and collect fine for violations, otherwise they have to withdraw the orders,” said Johar.
It may be mentioned that the MC had shown some strictness in organising religious functions by blocking roads after the rail tragedy on Dasehra in 2018. But such roadside events usually go unnoticed.

Supreme Court portal flooded with queries on laws, rights, case status

India Today: New Delhi: Wednesday, 07 June 2023
An online portal launched last year by the Supreme Court to invite queries from people under the Right to Information Act, 2005, is flooded with a huge number of requests. The court is now facing challenges as there are hundreds of hand-written postcards and letters seeking information under the RTI Act, apart from the ones on the online portal.
Most queries by people are regarding existing laws, their available rights under the law and the exact status of their cases. Over 10,000 RTIs were received by the Supreme Court by the end of March. The portal was launched in November last year, prior to which, RTI applications had to be filed only via post.
RTI can be filed online using the portal launched by the Supreme Court, for which a user has to get the registration done. Following this, an RTI can be filed by paying a fee of Rs 10.
The RTIs are then transferred to the judicial branch to get information and if it can be shared, then an appropriate response is sent to the concerned person as per the relevant provisions of the RTI act.
The majority of RTIs filed in the Supreme Court pertain to the individual's case status in detail, complaints about lawyers who refuse to share relevant information, available rights and clarity of laws.
The Supreme Court has also received RTIs from aggrieved couples. Several RTIs are filed by a husband about what rights they have against their wives if they are harassed. Similarly, wives have also filed several RTIs seeking information about the laws available for them.
Some RTIs come from daughters seeking information as to what rights she has as a daughter on her father's property. The daughters also seek to know how they can claim the same. A handful of RTIs also sought information on how a will can be drafted and what are the benefits and consequences of that.
Though the official language of the Supreme Court is English, RTIs received are not only handwritten but also in Hindi and other vernacular languages.
A citizen can ask for information which falls under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005. RTI now covers the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) after a SC ruling in 2019.
Information related to SC judges, expenses incurred on building and other infrastructure, expenses on technology and any other information can be sought. Information can also be sought on the proposed names for elevation which is sent to the government for approval by the collegium.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Workshop on RTI held for creating awareness.

Times of India: Trichy: Monday, June 05, 2023.
A workshop for residents and civic activists on the appropriate way to seek information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act was conducted in Trichy on Sunday. Experts trained the residents on accessing information including crucial data under the RTI Act to create awareness among public and to expose the malpractices. “Data and statistics are important to substantiate the claims of whistleblowers, to raise corruption complaints and other misconducts in executing projects implemented through the taxpayers’ money. By using the RTI data, people can attract the attention of senior bureaucrats to resolve longstanding issues,” M Prem Kumar, convenor of the event said.
The one-day workshop jointly organised by the 10 rupees movement, the federation of Trichy residents’ welfare associations, and Inaindha Kaigal association at Mukkulathor school in Thiruverumbur saw around 75 participants from various parts of the state. The participants were encouraged to utilise the RTI Act if their petitions or requests seeking information were turned down by the local officials in both state and Union government departments. Trainers said that the applicants under the RTI Act must be specific while seeking information and should not ask for information that cannot be provided under the act. “More such workshops are needed, particularly to train students. People-oriented issues can be resolved by using the RTI Act, if the information was denied, the applicants were also trained on how to go for an appeal,” Tesma Veerapandian, state deputy general secretary of the 10 rupees movement said.

HC quashes Hry govt instructions for pension withdrawal.

Times of India: Monday, June 06, 2023.
In a significant decision, the Punjab and high court has quashed the Haryana government’s decision to withdraw the benefit of pension given to the state information commissioners and the right to service commissioner. The HC clarified that any instructions adversely affecting the pension of employees who had already retired on the date of notification would be invalid. “The impugned letter dated June 28, 2019, issued by the state, thereby withdrawing the letter dated June 11, 2014, is hereby quashed. The right of the petitioner to claim pension shall remain unfettered by any such executive instructions. 
The petitioner is entitled to pension and other service benefits in accordance with law,” Justice Raj Mohan Singh held while allowing the petition filed by Sunil Katyal, former commissioner, Right to Service Commission, Haryana. Katyal had sought directions to quash the order dated June 28, 2019, whereby the benefit of pension given to the state information commissioners and right to service commissioner was withdrawn by Haryana. 
His main plea was that the government cannot deny him the right to pension through the 2019 instructions retrospectively. The court clarified that in this case, there is no rule framed in pursuance of the letter dated June 11, 2014, therefore, no rule existed, and the principle of equity has to prevail, particularly in view of the fact that all the appointees have been granted benefits of pension, except the petitioner.
“The equity will make its way as there is no provision in the rule. Rather, the provision in terms of Section 15 of the Right to Information Act makes it abundantly clear that Section 16. of the Right to Information Act, 2005 will apply in the instant case and the salaries, allowances and other conditions of the service of the petitioner shall not be varied to disadvantage after his retirement,” ordered the judge. 
According to Section 15(1)(4) of the Haryana Right to Service Act, 2014, the salaries and allowances payable to the Centre’s chief commissioner and the commissioners shall be the same as those of the state chief information commissioner and the state information commissioners, respectively, as laid down in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Puneite’s RTI query on Bharat Ratna for Savarkar gets no straight answer Mumbai: Sunday, 04 June 2023
The President of India’s Secretariat has no information on the nominations or recommendations made by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the conferment of the country’s highest civilian award, the ‘Bharat Ratna’, for the past 23 years, according to a reply by it to a RTI query.
The RTI query was initiated by Pune businessman Prafful Sarda seeking the list of the eminent persons recommended for the Bharat Ratna by all the Prime Ministers from 2000-2023.
He also sought additional details on the communication or recommendations by the successive PMs, for conferring the Bharat Ratna posthumously on the revolutionary Vinayak Damodar Savarkar aka Swatantryaveer Savarkar.
“The President’s Secretariat replied on May 22 that “no such information is available”, and they even transferred my application to the PMO which is the nodal department and custodian of the records in the matter,” said Sarda.
The response came from deputy secretary Rubina Chauhan from the RTI Section of the President’s Secretariat in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
As the applicant waited, on May 29 the PMO replied that they have ‘transferred’ the query to the ministry of home affairs, which reverted that “no such information is available” with them and they passed it onto the nodal department and the custodian of the records in the matter.
“Its unclear what or which is this ‘nodal department’ and who is the ‘custodian’ or of which department. A simple query on the recommendations for Bharat Ratna to the President made by the PMs in the past 23 years remains largely unanswered,” said Sarda.
He said that in 2000, the President was K. R. Narayanan followed by President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Azad, President Pratibha Patil, President Pranab Mukherjee, President R. N. Kovind and currently, President Droupadi Murmu.
Interestingly, during the same period (2000-2023), the country has had only three PMs Atal Behari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh and the current incumbent, Narendra Modi.
The three PMs have recommended just 11 Bharat Ratnas in 23 years, out of only 48 personalities accorded the honour since 1954.
They include, according to official records, the legendary playback singer late Lata Mangeshkar and ‘shehnai’ exponent Ustad Bismillah Khan.
The Bharat Ratna went to classical singer Pt. Bhimsen Joshi (2009), followed by scientist C. N. R. Rao and cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar (2014), political leaders Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Atal Behari Vajpayee (2015), politician Pranab Mukherjee, singer Pt. Bhupen Hazarika and social activist Chandikadas Amritrao alias Nanaji Deshmukh (2019).
Shiv Sena (UBT) Deputy Leader Dr. Raghunath Kuchik is miffed by the RTI revelations, and said his party has been consistently raising the demand for the Bharat Ratna for Swatantryaveer Savarkar from the days of the late Balasaheb Thackeray.
“However, now it seems that no Bharatiya Janata Party PM ever made any formal/official recommendation for this despite being in power for over 15 years. This includes the tenures of PM Modi and the late PM Vajyapee. All the cacophony in the name of Swatantryaveer Savarkar is political. The BJP is not at all serious on the issue,” rued Kuchik.
Nevertheless, Sarda finds it ‘strange’ that the PMO has forwarded his straightforward query to the MHA, which probably may have little or no role in the Bharat Ratna award process that is the domain of the PM.

Assam SCERT scam: Two more RTI activists arrested

Northeast Now: Assam: Sunday, 04 June 2023
Two more RTI activists were arrested in connection with the Rs 105 crore-State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) scam in Assam.
The accused with identified as Benin Doley and Rajib Kakati.
As per reports, Benin Doley received a sum of Rs 5 lakh, while Rajib Kakati had received Rs 7 lakh transferred from the official SCERT bank account through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system.
It may be mentioned that the vigilance cell arrested them after hours of questioning.
Along with them, several others are expected to be arrested soon.
The list of suspects also includes senior journalists and leaders of certain political parties.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma earlier said that 12 more people including journalists and RTI activists are like to be arrested in connection with the Rs 105 crore-State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) scam in Assam.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma disclosed that up to 12 individuals are now under the radar of the Chief Ministers’ Special Vigilance Cell (CM’s SVC).
It may be mentioned that earlier on Tuesday four persons including two journalists and two RTI activists were arrested in connection with the scam.
As per sources, the two journalists were identified as Pujamoni Das and Bhaskar Jyoti Hazarika. The arrested RTI activists are Anup Saikia and Rabijit Gogoi.
They were accused of blackmailing suspended IAS officer Sewali Devi Sharma, the prime suspect in the case and gaining a huge sum of money from her.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Rs 15 crore penalty slapped on executing agency for delay in Jammu-Akhnoor road widening project: NHIDCL to RTI activist

Times of India: Jammu: Friday, 02 June 2023
On failing to meet deadline for completion of its allotted work under Jammu Akhnoor Road Widening Project, the contractor firm has been slapped with a penalty of over Rs 15 crore by the government, informed National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL).
In response to an application by RTI activist Raman Sharma under Right to Information Act, the authorities at NHIDCL has informed that a penalty of Rs 15.79 crore has been imposed against the contractor company namely M/s Tarmat Ltd for the inordinate delay in completion of its work within stipulated period of time.
RTI activist Raman Sharma said that the RTI reply served to him and was signed by SPS Sangwan, general manager(P), NHIDCL, Akhnoor which further informed that the stipulated completion date( under package-III) was fixed as 23/12/2021 which was later extended till 30/03/2023 and despite the extension of 163 days the contractor company failed to meet the deadline and now again a new deadline has been fixed as 31 December, 2023.
"M/S Tarmat Ltd Company has been awarded tender work under package-III (from Km 06.000 to Km 26.350) of Jammu Akhnoor Road Widening Project with bid amount of Rs 193.99 Crore," said RTI activist Sharma quoting the the official reply.
He added that it further stated that an amount of Rs 131.05 Crore has been released to the company till date with 71.86 % Physical Progress of Work and 67.56 % Financial Progress.
In response to the query related to penalty amount so far submitted by the firm, Sharam said that the NHIDCL reply stated that till date an amount of Rs 5.5 Crore has been withheld from the bills of the Contractor Company on the amount of penalty.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Government offices in Gujarat lack basic facilities for disabled, finds report

The New Indian Express: Ahmadabad: Friday, 02 June 2023
The government is planning on digitising 80% of information and processes on government services by 2023 and 100% by 2025, as per Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in his latest proposal of the National Budget 2023-24.
An audit of 3,092 head offices of 22 major government departments in Gujarat revealed that government departments and offices still lack basic facilities, including easy access for persons with disabilities
Six years after the implementation of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 over 1921 offices still don't have a disabled-friendly parking space while 1,414 offices lacked disabled-friendly restrooms.
According to the Disabilities Commissioner's Administrative Report for the year 2021-22, an audit done at 3092 government main offices revealed that there are no ramps for the disabled in over 800 offices.
Only 201 government workplaces have installed audio signals in lifts to communicate to the deaf and mute, while over 156 offices lacked them. 
Sameer Kakkad, founder of the NGO 'All India Handicap Association' claimed that even this report is not reliable.
“The government and government employees report that there are all facilities available for the disabled, even if there are no facilities for the disabled," Kakkad said.
"I had filed an RTI with the Gujarat RTO Commissioner's office, asking how many buildings are disable-friendly. They responded that the Ahmedabad and Vastral offices are totally accessible, but that is not the truth,” said Kakkad
When TNIE contacted V. J. Rajput, Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities over the phone, he said, "Yes, we have prepared the report."
He denied to talk any further.

Budgetary allocations for minorities see a hike

The Hindu: Hyderabad: Friday, 02 June 2023
Telangana’s Minorities Welfare Department (MWD) saw an increase in budgetary allocations, a chunk of which was spent on education and educational schemes.
According to data obtained by means of the Right to Information Act, at the time of the State’s formation, the MWD was allocated ₹1,030 crore. There was a steady increase through FY 2015-16, FY 2016-17, 2017-18, and FY 2018-19 with ₹1,160.40 crore, ₹1,200 crore, ₹1,226.11 crore, and finally, ₹1,973.41 crore.
However, there was a slight drop in allocations in FY 2019-2020, with ₹1,344 crore, but in the subsequent year, the allocation rose to ₹1,513.45 crore.
FY 2016-17 marked the allocation towards the government’s flagship welfare scheme for minorities, the Telangana Minorities’ Residential Educational Institutions Society (TMREIS). Substantial allocations have been made for TMREIS since its inception. The society now runs 204 schools and an equal number of junior colleges. At present, over 1.36 lakh students study in these educational institutions spread across the State.
Given that TMREIS began with about 71 schools, in its first year, the allocation was ₹350 crore, which consistently increased with each year. The subsequent year saw ₹425 crore being allotted. The allocation peaked in FY 2018-19 with ₹735 crore being given to TMREIS. But here, the release was only around ₹331 crore. Additional allocations for the construction of high quality school buildings were also made.
As of March last year, the Telangana government’s other education scheme to equip minorities with higher education saw 1,300 students traveling to foreign locales to pursue courses of their dreams. The Chief Minister’s Overseas Scholarship Scheme for Minorities however, saw a disproportionate representation of men compared to women, only 290. As much as ₹269.44 crore was spent during the corresponding period.
Another prominent scheme called ‘Shaadi Mubarak’ too, received handsome allocations. While nearly ₹1,900 crore was allocated since the formation of Telangana, the expenditure was made in full. Data shows that as of November last year, more than 2.2 lakh applicants had registered and funds were disbursed to 2.11 lakh beneficiaries. In FY 2021-22 alone, a sum of ₹298.20 crore was disbursed to a total of 29,887 beneficiaries.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Gudalur Municipality in Coimbatore proceeds with waste processing facility works near forest boundary despite Forest Dept’s objection.

The Hindu: Wilson Thomas: Coimbatore: Thursday, June 01, 2023.
The Gudalur Municipality in Coimbatore district is carrying out works for a waste processing facility close to a reserve forest area despite strong objection raised by the Forest Department.
In a letter sent to the Commissioner of the Municipality last year, the forest range officer of the Periyanaickenpalayam forest range had stated that waste brought to the facility will attract wild animals, besides escalating negative interactions between humans and wild elephants.
As per the letter, the land identified for the waste processing facility at survey no. 865/1 is situated 430 metres from the boundary of Thadagam reserve forest falling under Naickenpalayam beat of the Periyanaickenpalayam forest range. The area also falls under the purview of the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA). The land is frequented by wild animals such as deer, wild boar, gaur and elephant. Even if fences or protective walls are erected for the facility, movement of wild animals could not be prevented, the letter said.
The department also pointed out that fire, if occurred in the facility, may cause forest fire, endangering the forest and wild animals. Citing that the facility will have an adverse impact on the wildlife, the department suggested that the civic body find an alternative location.
Farmers in the locality had also opposed the waste processing centre, citing possible air and water pollution. They submitted petitions to the District Collector and the Forest Department opposing the facility in April last year.
“Several petitions have been given to authorities on behalf of the farmers opposing the waste processing facility. Though a petition was filed with the municipality under the Right to Information Act two months ago, to check whether permissions were obtained from the HACA, the Town and Country Planning and the Pollution Control Board for the facility, no reply has been received,” alleged T. Nandakumar, a farmer from the locality.
According to the municipality, the 3.75 acres of land at the location will be used for setting up a micro compost centre where biodegradable waste also would be treated. The facility, for which the government allotted ₹96 lakh, will have two micro composting units, each of four tonnes capacity.
“The municipality is collecting waste by segregating them at source level. Plastic waste processed at the Resource Recovery Centre is sold to cement companies. The new facility is for converting biodegradable waste into manure. It will be a closed facility with ventilation, causing no pollution to the air or to the groundwater,” said K. Balraj, Commissioner of Karamadai Municipality, in-charge of Gudalur, and added that the civic body had replied to the Forest Department’s letter.
District Forest Officer N. Jayaraj said the department raised the objection as the location is very close to the reserve forest and could have an adverse impact on the wildlife.