Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Delhi high court asks government to place rules on VVIP car registration numbers

Financial Express: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
The Delhi High Court today asked the Centre to place before it the rules regarding the display of only the State Emblem of India on cars of constitutional authorities and dignitaries such as the President, instead of their registration numbers. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar directed the concerned ministry to check the actual position and inform it before the next date of hearing on February 26. “Please ascertain the exact position and place it before us,” the bench said after the counsel for the Centre sought more time to file a response. The court’s directions came on a plea seeking to enforce the display of registration number on cars of constitutional authorities and dignitaries. The petition, filed by an NGO Nyayabhoomi, claimed that the practice of displaying the state emblem of four lions, instead of the registration numbers, make the cars conspicuous and the dignitaries become easy targets for terrorists and anyone with malicious intent. “The practice of replacing the registration mark with the State Emblem of India, instead of displaying them both, is arbitrary and symptomatic of the desire to rule rather than to serve,” the petition alleged.
The public interest litigation (PIL) by NGO’s secretary Rakesh Agarwal also sought direction to the Delhi government and Delhi Police to seize the cars used by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Vice President, Raj Niwas and Protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs for not being registered under the Motor Vehicles Act. The plea referred to an RTI response by the Ministry of External Affairs saying none of its 14 cars maintained by its protocol division were registered.
On the other hand, the plea claimed that the Rashtrapati Bhawan refused to supply the registration numbers of its cars on the ground that disclosure of such information would endanger the security of the state and life and physical safety of the President.
It said a person meeting with an accident involving such a car cannot bring any claim against it as due to the absence of any identification mark, the vehicle’s ownership cannot be known and the citizens get the message that if a dignitary could disobey the law and get away with it, so could they.
It also sought prosecution of the owners of cars being used by such dignitaries in a time-bound manner and sought a direction to the ministries of home affairs and external affairs to register the cars used by the dignitaries and obtain their insurance policies.

CBI misled Delhi High Court that Rs 250 crore spent on Bofors probe: Supreme Court told

Economic Times: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
A BJP leader, pursuing the politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors pay-offs case, today alleged in the Supreme Court that the CBI had misled Delhi High Court claiming that nearly Rs 250 crore was spent in the probe.
Advocate Ajay Agrawal, who had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 from Rai Bareli against then Congress President Sonia Gandhi, claimed that as per an RTI reply of March 21, 2011 received by him, a sum of Rs 4.77 crore was spent in the total investigation of the Bofors case.
The apex court had on October 18, 2005 admitted Agrawal's petition which was filed after the CBI failed to approach the top court with the appeal within the 90-day deadline following the May 31, 2005 Delhi High Court judgement quashing charges against the Europe-based industrialists, the Hinduja brothers.
Justice R S Sodhi of Delhi High Court, since retired, had on May 31, 2005 quashed all charges against the three Hinduja brothers -- Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand -- and the Bofors company, castigating CBI for its handling of the case, saying it had cost the exchequer about Rs 250 crore.
"It is the CBI who had given the (high court) judge to understand that Rs 250 crore has been spent on the investigation while the depondent, petitioner-in-person (Agrawal), herein received a RTI reply dated March 21, 2011 that a sum of Rs 4.77 crore has been spent in the total investigation of the case," Agrawal said in his short affidavit filed in the top court, which listed his appeal in the regular list of business for hearing tomorrow.
He claimed in his affidavit that the sum of Rs 4.77 crore included the fee paid to the lawyers in the entire litigation in the case in India and abroad.
Before the 2005 verdict of Justice Sodhi, another judge of the Delhi High Court, retired Justice J D Kapoor, had on February 4, 2004 exonerated late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the case and directed the framing of charge of forgery under section 465 of the IPC against Bofors company.
The Rs 1,437-crore deal between India and Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army was entered into on March 24, 1986.
Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on January 22, 1990 had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers.
It had alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy between 1982 and 1987 in pursuance of which the offences of bribery, corruption, cheating and forgery were committed.
The first charge sheet in the case was filed on October 22, 1999, against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed against the Hinduja brothers on October 9, 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi from the case saying the country could not afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore.
Quattrocchi, who fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who have died are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.

BMC regularises modifications in Amitabh Bachchan's property

Times of India: Mumbai: Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
The Mumbai civic body has regularised alleged illegal modifications made in properties belonging to actor Amitabh Bachchan and six others, an RTI query has revealed.The modifications were regularised by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in October last, according to the information obtained by RTI activist Anil Galgali.
The development came over two months before the BMC demolished illegal constructions inside BJP MP and actor Shatrughan Sinha's eight-storey residential bungalow 'Ramayan' in suburban Juhu earlier this month.
A BMC official informed in a letter that illegal construction in Wings 1 to 7 at Oberoi Seven in Yashodhan in Goregaon East was regularised after a revised plan for the same was approved by the P-South administrative ward, Galgali said.
Bachchan owns the bungalow, he said.
"A notice, under Section 53(1) of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, was issued in December, 2016 to the owners of (the) Wings for illegal construction," read the letter.
"In response to the notice, architect Shashank Kokil representing the owner/residents/developers submitted an amended plan on January 5, 2017 to the Executive Engineer (Building Proposal), Western Suburbs, P Ward, and the same was regularised on October 26, 2017," it said.
After the BMC served notice to Bachchan and others for allegedly carrying out illegal constructions on their properties, the actor's attorney issued a statement.
"Our client has purchased a property in Oberoi Seven from M/s.
Oberoi Realty Limited, vide agreement dated October 29, 2012, registered before the Sub Registrar of Assurances on November 2, 2012. The property was purchased as a bare shell and our client has neither put any brick nor taken out any brick from the said property, hence the question of illegal construction does not arise," the statement had said.
The BMC had also issued notices to filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, Pankaj Balaji, Sanjay Vyas, Haresh Khandelwal, Haris Jagtiani and Oberoi Realty under the Act.

CIC Issues Notice to Ministry Over Release of Rs 2.5 Crore for a Film on Tilak That Was Never Made

The Wire: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has taken cognisance of how officials in the culture ministry allowed a fraud of Rs 2.5 crore to be played on the exchequer by first releasing the amount to a filmmaker despite him not having made the promised film, and then allowing the file of the project to go “missing”. Moreover, when the issue was brought into public domain by a Right to Information activist, the Central Bureau of Investigation – which had filed a chargesheet in the matter – did not even probe the role of the corrupt officials in the matter.
In a recent order, central information commission M. Sridhar Acharyulu issued a show cause notice to Suman Bara, the chief public information officer of the culture ministry, questioning why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for not providing the information on the case with the excuse that the file pertaining to it was “missing”.
RTI revealed fraud after 12 years
The appellant V.R. Kamalapurkar exposed the fraud through an RTI application after nearly 12 years of its filing. He had sought to know the date of commencement of centenary/commemoration cell for celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Indian republic in or around 2001, budget allocated for the cell, classification and number of programmes undertaken, etc.
In his response, the CPIO had stated in November 2015 that efforts were being made to trace the information from the old records of the Ministry of Culture and the appellant would be informed accordingly and that the ministry had lent its support to a film on ‘Bal Gangadhar Tilak’ by producer Vinay Dhumale. However, as there was no response from the respondent authority – the ministry, in this case – Kamalapurkar had approached this Commission.
It was submitted before the CIC by Nirmala Goyal, deputy secretary in the ministry, that the Commemoration Bureau was set up as a special cell under the Ministry of Culture for organising the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Indian republic, and its tenure was co-terminus with that of the commemoration period. However, it continues to function till date for organising commemoration-related activities of all the major contributors and philosophers of the country.
‘Payment of Rs 2.5 crore made without movie being made’
In his order, Acharyulu noted that the official further stated that as part of the commemorations in 2005, “the Ministry of Culture gave a contract worth Rs 2.5 crores to Mr. Vinay Dhumale to make a movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The money was transferred to Mr Vinay in two instalments. She said, however, the movie was never made and there was no enquiry into the utility of the funds. She further stated that the ministry was able to find out about this embezzlement of money only after the RTI application was filed by the appellant in 2011.”
It was further submitted by Arnab Aich, under secretary in the ministry, that the matter was being investigated by the CBI and the final report was awaited. The CIC recorded that Aich “further stated that the file containing the details of the film project, sanctioning of the project and the officers involved in the monetary transactions was not traceable in the record room of the erstwhile Commemoration Bureau.”
Ministry claims intensive search to recover file, CIC says no document to support claim
The Commission further noted that the official submitted that “intensive search operations were conducted in the ministry record rooms between 2013 and 2017 but to no avail. Hence, the file has been declared as missing.”
However, the CIC said “the officers could not show any document reflecting their efforts, if any. The representation of the officers led the Commission to understand that the public authority has not made up any case against any officer or found anybody responsible for last custody or the loss, not that they filed any FIR regarding the missing file.”
Even scale of fraud did not stir ministry into action
Considering how huge sums of money were siphoned off, Acharyulu observed in his order that “it is surprising that the ministry sanctioned Rs. 100 crores for celebration of Golden Jubilee of Indian Republic and releases Rs. 2.5 crores to a person for making a movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak and simply ignores its responsibility of following up.”
Lauding the effort of the RTI applicant in exposing the fraud, he said, “it is to the credit of RTI Act that this major lapse has been exposed still it remains a tragedy that the ministry has lost entire record regarding this huge grant, that too without any consequence. Besides being a criminal case of corruption, this reflects a sad state of file keeping and inaction within the Ministry of Culture.”
The Commission further held that “key records of sanction and payment of Rs. 2.5 crores to Mr. Vinay Dhumale for production of movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak is missing and except for some oral statements by the CPIO and Deputy Secretary, there is no record present of who held the files”.
In view of the impending situation, the Commission has also directed the ministry to initiate enquiry into the missing files and submit a report and information about action taken in this regard within 60 days. It has demanded that that information be provided to the appellant on the budget allocation for the centenary celebrations and the list of programmes conducted under the celebrations within 30 days.
CBI’s role in entire episode not above board
In his order, Acharyulu also directed the CBI, New Delhi to inform within 30 days the Commission and the appellant about the time it would need to finalise the investigation report and take necessary steps into the matter. It issued these directions since even though the CBI has filed a chargesheet, it had not provided Kamalapurkar a copy of the same.
A deputy superintendent of police of CBI, K.S. Pathania, submitted that the agency had “completed the investigation and found that Rs. 2.5 crore was misappropriated in the name of producing a feature film on Late Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his centenary celebrations and filed the chargesheet before the concerned Court in Patiala House, Delhi.”
However, he pleaded that the chargesheet is a secret document and cannot be shared either with the appellant or with the department. Incidentally, as per deputy secretary Nirmala Goyal’s submission, the agency had not shared a copy of the chargesheet even with the ministry, which had lodged the first information report.
Department of Culture filed FIR but took no action against officials
Goyal also submitted that the special cell for late Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s centenary celebrations was wound up in 2004, and a new cell to celebrate various centenaries was constituted in December 2006. She said the Department of Establishment failed to furnish the names and designations of the in-charge/custodians of the file along with the concerned authorities.
As for the Department of Culture, Acharyulu noted in his order that “though they have filed FIR against misappropriation, they have not initiated any legal action against persons who caused missing of that file. The loss of such an important file will have a serious impact on possibility of establishing the charge of misappropriation.”
He also observed that “the department of culture is in such a pathetic state that until the appellant Shri V.R. Kamalapurkar complained, they did not know that entire money granted on movie on Late Bal Gangadhar Tilak was swindled. It is surprising to know why the department is not seriously probing/taking action against the loss of the file since last 12 years.”
‘CD on seven Tilak serial episodes was submitted to commit fraud’
On how the fraud was committed, Goyal submitted that a compact disc of a “scratch movie”, which appears to be an abridged version of seven episodes of a Delhi Doordarshan serial on late Bal Gangadhar Tilak, was received by the department, “which means the producer has played a fraud on the department by showing the old TV serial as new movie”.
Holding that there was a “huge public interest in this application”, the Commission directed the ministry CPIO to also inform about the action taken on the missing file and to furnish the certified copy of the chargesheet to the appellant within 15 days.
CBI claim on chargesheet being a secret document is “illegal”
Finally, the Commission held that the CBI claim that the chargesheet is a secret document is “quite illegal and against tenets of open prosecution in criminal justice system”.
“When chargesheet forms the basis and beginning of public prosecution of accused, how can it be secured as secret and how can it be denied to the complainant i.e., the department and to the appellant because of whose RTI the Rs. 2.5 crore scandal has come out,” Acharyulu asked, while directing the CPIO of CBI to provide a certified copy of the chargeesheet to the respondent authority and also the appellant within 15 days.
During the hearing in the matter earlier this month, Acharyulu also expressed surprise that while the CBI DSP Pathania questioned the officers of the Ministry of Culture about what they had done for 12 years to trace the file, the investigating agency had itself also not probed the involvement of the officials.
“The Commission also recommends the CBI and the Ministry of Culture to probe into the missing of the key file in the scandal,” the CIC ruled.

No clarity on probe into clinical trial violations, Drug regulator refuses to share its findings under the RTI

The Hindu: Bengaluru: Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
Nearly seven years after the Indian drug regulator, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) began investigating nine Andhra-based clinical research organisations (CROs) over allegations of coercing people into joining clinical trials, it has refused to share its findings under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
When public-health activist and whistle-blower in the Ranbaxy cheating case, Dinesh S. Thakur, and Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu, assistant professor at Hyderabad’s National Academy for Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), asked the DCGI for the investigation’s findings, the regulator cited Sections 8(1)(e) and (h) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
These two sections, respectively, exempt a public authority from disclosing information if such disclosure violates the authority’s “fiduciary relationship” with another body (the CRO in this case), and if it impedes an investigation.
“Both grounds are quite silly,” Mr. Reddy told The Hindu. “The fiduciary relationship is one of trust, but a regulator’s relationship with a company it is regulating is not one of trust — it is merely enforcing the law.”
In 2011, the DCGI began looking into nine firms, including Visakapatnam’s Actimus Bio-Sciences and Hyderabad’s GVK Biosciences.
In Actimus’s case, several students had complained that the CRO had illegally detained them and tested drugs on them. In GVK’s case, a 24-year-old man had died while participating in a study on blood pressure drug Felodipine.
Media reports also alleged that the man had been participating in several clinical-trials simultaneously, risking his own health and the quality of GVK’s data.
Starting in 2014, the DCGI also began investigating GVK Biosciences, along with the Chennai-based Quest Life Sciences and Mumbai-based Alkem Laboratories, after European regulators found these firms to be manipulating trial data.
The European Medicines Agency, among other regulators, banned drugs approved based on data from these companies.
Around 700 drugs tested by GVK Biosciences, at least one tested by Quest, and at least one tested by Alkem were pulled out from European markets.
When Mr. Thakur and Mr. Reddy requested information on the DCGI’s inquiry into these companies, it was also denied. However, the regulator said it had cancelled Quest’s licence to conduct bioequivalence studies for 15 days, an inadequate punishment given the scale of Quest’s misconduct, said Mr. Reddy.
The DCGI investigation into data fraud and ethical violations by CROs has a bearing on patient-safety in India, because these companies also test the quality of drugs in the Indian market. Fraudulent data could mean that dangerous and ineffective drugs become available to patients.
“If Quest was guilty of such terrible violations, their licence should have been cancelled so as to penalise them a suspension of 15 days is a cruel joke on the law,” said Mr. Reddy.
He said the company should have been tried for cheating and forgery. The allegations of ethical violations against Actimus, GVK and seven other companies are also punishable under the Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hell of a ride: In 7 years, 36 people died in Pawan Hans copter crashes

Times of India: Mumbai: Monday, January 15, 2018.
There is no global data on accident rates of major helicopter operators, but had there been one, then the government-owned Pawan Hans would undoubtedly be up there for having a high number of air crashes. In the past seven years, accidents involving Pawan Hans helicopters, including Saturday's when a chopper crashed with ONGC executives, have claimed 36 lives .
In a span of three years (2014 to 2016), Pawan Hans had 38 "incidents", according to information sourced from Pawan Hans through RTI by an activist, who requested anonymity. In aviation, an incident is an occurrence that could affect aircraft safety. For instance: engine failure in a twin-engine aircraft that managed to land safely, with no major injury or damage to man or machine, is as an incident. The highest number of incidents was 17 in 2016, though number of flights operated per year came down from 1.06 lakh in 2014 to 78,856.
"A high incident rate is an indicator of poor safety culture. It's never a result of failings of one department or a section of people," said a senior helicopter commander. Another question is, how diligent has the company been in reporting the incidents to the aviation regulator. An audit by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation at Pawan Hans's Andaman and Nicobar base last year showed several engineering and maintenance deficiencies. A Pawan Hans official said, "The company has been slow in responding to the findings. There's a certain stupor that has descended especially after the government announced its decision to privatize the company."
Pawan Hans has 43 aircraft (now 42), with 32 of them being Dauphins. The Dauphins have been involved in a majority of crashes and incidents in the past decade, the official added. "It's like the Agusta Westland crashes that Pawan Hans had in the 1980s. After a spate of crashes, Westlands were pulled out of its fleet in 1991," he added.
The last two years have been rather good for the company, with no fatal accident. But Saturday's crash has ended that safe run. The company had a similar pattern early this decade. In 2011, 24 people, including then Arunachal Pradesh CM Dorjee Khandu, were killed in two crashes within a span of ten days in April. Though Pawan Hans helicopters continued to crash over the next two years, there were no fatalities till August 2015 when three were killed in the North East.

Govt yet to look into claims against Mehta, reveals RTI

The Asian Age: Mumbai: Monday, January 15, 2018.
The Maharashtra government has not started an inquiry against the former managing director of Maharashtra State Electri-city Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) Ajoy Mehta, who is the current Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief, for his decisions despite giving an assurance on the floor of the House.
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has levelled serious allegations against Mr Mehta for clearing tender of `4,372 crore,  in a single day.
State power minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had assured an inquiry into the matter.
Right to Information  (RTI) activist Jeetendera Ghadge  had sought information about the details of the inquiry but it has now come to light that nothing has been done in this case so far. During the 2016 Budget session of the Legislative Assembly,
Mr Vikhe-Patil had said, “During Mr Mehta’s tenure at the MSEDCL, tenders worth `4,372 crore were cleared in a single day by the changing tender conditions at the company level." The Opposition leader had also claimed that he has documents to support the allegations.
Two other MLAs, Vijay Wadettiwar and Sunil Kedar had also levelled allegations against Mr Mehta. All of them have demanded that a special investigation team investigate the matter. But, the power minister had rejected the demand by declaring a departmental inquiry into the matter.
Mr Ghadge sought information under the RTI Act about the outcome of an inquiry, but the power ministry replied stating that there was no departmental inquiry was
conducted.
“Mr Mehta might be appointed as the next chief secretary and hence it’s important that the chief minister makes him face an independent enquiry and clears his name regarding the allegations. Mr Bawankule should also come clean on his announcement of the inquiry and make the report public if someone has conducted the inquiry,” said Mr Ghadge. 
Mr Vikhe-Patil slammed the government for not keeping its word. “This shows how the government is supporting dubious deals and officers,” said Mr Patil.
Meanwhile, The Asian Age tried to contact Mr Bawankule but he was unavailable for comment.

No state info on Nirbhaya Fund use: RTI

DNA: Lucknow: Monday, January 15, 2018.
An RTI query on Nirbhaya Fund has revealed that states have not sent any information on their victim compensation to the central government so far.
In an RTI filed by Lucknow-based activist Nutan Thakur, Ministry of Home Affairs replied that “so far no state has intimated them of notification of their victim compensation scheme, the states neither sought financial assistance from central government nor have provided the utilization certificates”.
The RTI had requested to provide which states have notified victim compensation scheme, which states have sought financial assistance from central government and have provided the utilization certificates under Central Victim Compensation Fund Scheme (Nirbhaya Fund).
The reply by Krishna Kumar, Deputy Secretary, further said no meeting of the Empowered Committee to be held every quarter under Joint Secretary of Home Ministry has happened so far.
Under the guidelines of Central Victim Compensation Fund Scheme (CVCF), the state has to provide all details to the Centre. 
The Supreme Court had last week asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) to come out with details of the money they have received from the Centre under the Nirbhaya fund scheme and the amounts disbursed as compensation to the victims of sexual assaults and acid attacks.
The Nirbhaya Fund scheme was announced by the Centre in 2013 after the sensational December 16, 2012 gang-rape and murder case in Delhi to support the initiatives of governments and NGOs working towards safety of women.
NO PROGRESS
The Nirbhaya Fund scheme was announced in 2013 after the December 16 gang-rape and murder case in Delhi to support the initiatives of governments and NGOs working towards safety of women

MLA Scheme Money Mostly Spent On Utility Items, RTI filed with EKH DC

The Shillong Times: Shillong: Monday, January 15, 2018.
Most of the legislators in East Khasi Hills have spent a large part of the Special Rural work Programme (SRWP) and the Rs 2-crore MLA scheme on utility items, like CGI sheets, sewing machines and tarpaulins, in 2016-17 instead of infrastructure, shows an RTI report.
As per the reply to the RTI from the office of the deputy commissioner, MLAs from the district have already withdrawn Rs 2 crore to implement various schemes for 2016-17. However, hardly any infrastructure development was given priority.
Prestone Tynsong, former MLA of Pynursla constituency, spent Rs 1 crore to distribute CGI sheets to 1000 beneficiaries to construct houses at the rate of Rs 10,000 per house, Rs 12.5 lakh was spent on buying 500 sheets of tarpaulin to for 500 households at the rate of Rs 2500 each. Rs 17.5 lakh was spent to buy 500 Syntax tanks (500 lt) for 500 households at the rate of Rs 3500 each, Rs 9 lakh was given to 30 women organisations at the rate of Rs 30,000 each organisation.
Remington Pyngrope, former MLA of Mawkynrew constituency spent Rs 82 lakh to buy CGI sheet while Rs 28 lakh was given as assistance to 400 farmers at the rate of Rs 7000 each. Again, Rs 20 lakh was given to 250 farmers at the rate of Rs 10 each farmer. Rs 2 lakh was again released by the MLA to give financial assistance of Rs 2000 to 100 farmers. Rs 13.50 lakh was given to Mawkynrew Development Committee for the purchase of a Mini Truck (Dumper 909) for waste disposal.
Pynshngain N Syiem, former MLA from Mawsynram constituency spent Rs 64,50,000 lakh to repair 430 households at the rate of Rs 15000 per household. He spent Rs 30 lakh to construct 60 houses at the rate of Rs 50,000 per house. Rs14,80,000 lakh was spent to purchase piglets to be distributed to 296 at the rate of 5000 per person, Rs 12.5 lakh to construct walls for 50 households at the rate of Rs 25,000 per house. Rs13 lakh was spent to construct drains for 52 households with a total expenditure of Rs 25,000 per house. Rs 3.2 lakh was spent on sewing machines (Usha) to be distributed to 40 people at the rate of Rs 8000 each. Rs 2 lakh was spent to purchase carpentry machinery to be distributed to 40 people at the rate of Rs 5000 each.
Jemino Mawthoh, MLA from Nongthymmai constituency spent Rs 36 lakh to give assistance of Rs 20,000 to 182 households. Rs11 lakh was spent to install about 250 solar street lights at the rate of Rs 4,400 per pole at Nongthymmai constituency. Rs 8 lakh was spent on 1000 plastic chairs at the rate of Rs 500 each and 10 tarpaulins at the rate of Rs 3000 each and other utility items.
David Nongrum, MLA from Mawryngkneng constituency spent Rs 24.50 lakh to give Rs 7000 financial assistance to 350 people to buy fertilizer from (Mylliem block). He has purchased 207 Solar home lighting system at the rate of Rs 7000 for Mawryngkneng Tender Committee.
HDR Lyngdoh, MLA from Sohiong constituency spent Rs 92 lakh to construct new houses for 200 households at the rate of Rs 40,000 each.
He spent Rs 23 lakh to repair 200 houses at the rate of Rs 10 000 per house. Rs 12 lakh was spent for house extension of 50 houses at the rate of Rs 20,000 each.
Embhahlang Syiemlieh, MLA from Mawlai constituency, is the only one to spend on road construction.
Of the Rs 48.75 lakh he spent, Rs 17 lakh was to give financial assistance to 340 individuals at the rate of Rs 5000 to open shops, Rs18 lakh for road construction at Nongkohlew, Rs19.50 lakh to construct roads at Madan Mawkhar, Rs8.50 lakh to purchase an ambulance for Mawlai Presbyterian Association, Rs 5.60 lakh was spent for an ambulance for FKJGP.
Ardent M Basaiawmoit, MLA for Nongkrem constituency spent Rs 50 lakh to construct houses for 100 households at the rate of Rs 50,000 per house. Rs 20,00,000 was spent to repair or house extension to 100 households at the rate of Rs 20,000 per house. Rs 60, 50,000 were given as financial assistance to 605 farmers at Rs 10,000 each.
AL Hek, MLA from Pynthorumkhrah constituency, spent Rs 12 lakh to purchase mortuary van for Pynthorumkhrah constituency, Rs 10 lakh to install street lights at Golf Link, Rs 8 lakh was spent to give financial assistance to 400 students to help them purchase school books and Rs 2,000 was given to each student, Rs 4 lakh to construct hawkers market at Golflink New Market for 40 people.

Where will the shit go? Ask Gujarat villagers owning "fake" toilets built without drainage under Swacch Bharat Mission : By Pankti Jog

COUNTERVIEW: Ahmedabad: Monday, January 15, 2018.
What will be your reaction, if one fine morning you get to know that the toilet in your house is listed to be built with the support of government subsidy, that too under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category? What one might think as a silly joke is a reality for the residents of Dhangadhra city in Surendranagar district of Gujarat.
One of the residents and Right to Information (RTI) activists, Saiyyad Imtiyaz, was shocked when he saw that the list of beneficiaries of the toilet subsidy scheme under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan has three names from his family. Imtiyaz's family has been using toilets for years. These were built with his money. Elected in Dhangadhra municipality, he has been actively filing RTI and using the information he receives to improve the local governance system.
When he went a little deeper, he was further shocked to see that the entire scheme had been rotting with corruption, contracting and fake beneficiaries. “I do not know from where to start, but Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan badly needs cleansing”, he told RTI helpline run by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP).
Over the last five months, the RTI helpline has received more than 65 queries wherein callers have reported following types of issues:
Where will the shit go?
Citizens genuinely need toilet and applied for the same. Initially, they were happy to see that their names were listed as proposed beneficiaries. But soon they learned that they must give account numbers and other details, including a pre-signed cheque, as part of the procedure for applying.
After the procedure is over, toilets are built by contractors with no soak pit, no drainage line. Four walls, the pan and roof, that's all.
A Panchamahals resident told RTI helpline: “There is no pit under the pan, where will the shit go? We could have used it for storing grass, but the quality is so poor, that in three months the cement is falling off." When queried, Sarpanch Gordhanbhai told me, “Contracts are given to politically connected persons and are decided at the higher level. In my village construction material was dumped in the front of the house of an influental political worker. Local contractors operated from there.”
The situation, as reported on RTI hlpline, is not different elsewhere. In Sagtala village of Devgadh Baria block of Dahod district, a whole block of toilet has been built under Swachh Bharat Mission, but the drainage line is missing. The caller wondered, "How can one build a toilet without either having soak pit or a drainage line? This toilet unit has been constructed under the rural job guarantee scheme, MGNREGA. Total waste of money, yet the government takes pride of having such structures built all over."
Ghost/fake beneficiaries
Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan is one of the favourite programmes of the government and is monitored by the Prime Minister's office, as also at the highest level in the state capital. In order to complete the targets, the authorities must show a list of beneficiaries. The gram sabha has to identify households without toilets. Forms have to be filled and submitted along with documents. A person can build her or his toilet, and partial support is given by government. However, according to information received by us, more than 40% of toilets are either fake (they are not built at all) or are old ones listed for getting government subsidy.
“The amount government offers is so little that no one actually is motivated to build toilets. There are complications about arrangement of drainage lines also. Water availability is another big issue. However, we have to show some targets completed every three months”, revealed a block official on condition of anonymity.
Payments delayed
Another type of issue that is reported on the RTI helpline is that of delay in payments after making a toilet. At many places, beneficiary households, who have made their toilets themselves, are wait for payments with no end in sight. Payments are often received through middlemen, in cash, that too after deducting Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.
Lack of transparency and accountability
Block offices keep getting complains of irregularities in the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan toilet scheme. But hardly any action is taken. Dozens of RTIs have been filed to get details of the scheme, procedure for selection of beneficiaries and the list. Despite appeals, no information is furnished.
When asked why is information not given, an RTI volunteer revealed, the Public Information Officers of Banaskantha, Mehsana and Gandhinagar districts have been giving strange replies: “Once list is given complaints will start”, or “The list is so long that it will take some time to compile”, or "How can I given someone else's name to third party unless I ask him?"
"As per section 4(1)b of the RTI Act, and its manual numbers 11, 12, and 13, all the details of budgets, expenses and list of beneficiaries must to be disclosed at the local level on notice board, or on hoardings,” says Harinesh Pandya, a senior RTI activist. “There is a huge nexus between politicians and officials, and they keep shifting responsibility and blame each other. The government should ensure that the list is put on the website. I hope the Information Commission takes suo motu cognizance and asks government to do so,” he adds.
Amidst all the dark clouds, there is a silver lining: Common citizens like Saiyyad Imtiyaz, Gordhanbhai and others have not given up, despite the fact that they were offered money and were pressurized. They have filed RTIs, made complaints, sought payment sheets and engineer inspection certificates to dig out all the shit that is hiding behind the implementation of Swacchh Bharat Abhiyaan.

Kerala CM office sits on Sreeram report on Munnar lands

Deccan Chronicle: Kochi: Monday, January 15, 2018.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been sitting on former Devikulam sub-collector Sreeram Venkatraman’s report on Munnar encroachments for the past seven months.
In reply to an enquiry by N.C. Cyriac of Poonjar under the RTI Act, the revenue department said it was not in a position to answer on its present status as the same was with the Chief Minister’s office since May.
It stated that it had received a report on a meeting the Chief Minister convened on May 7, and the file generated was submitted to the CM’s office for taking a final decision.
It has been pending there since. “We will be able to provide a copy only after the return of the file after taking a final decision,” the reply said.
The report by the former sub-collector contains details of encroachments in ecologically sensitive areas in and around Munnar and Kottaka-mboor near the Kurinji Sanctuary.
Sources said it contained fraudulent means employed by encroachers with political connections, including Joice George MP, to amass land.
The revenue department has also feigned ignorance about former Idukki SP George's report on the matter, saying it was not with it.

Making public exams transparent : Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz

The Daily Star: Bangladesh: Monday, January 15, 2018.
Competitive examinations are a long-standing and important fact of life for our youth entering public service. But few know that the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2009 can play an effective role to ensure that these exams are transparent and fair.
Unfair and irregular practices in the exam system can impede access of worthy candidates to government jobs and facilitate the entry of the undeserving. The RTI Act has the potential to fight such corrupt practices in the system. A sizeable number of RTI interventions by exam-takers in the country over the last few years show that this is becoming a reality.
A common request for information is to ask to see the marks given by examiners on the answer papers. The objective is to find out if any unfairness can be discerned. Other requests include disclosure of marks and answer papers of qualifying candidates to check if favouritism played any role. A few interventions sought to know if government's quota policies for different underprivileged groups, such as the disabled or disadvantaged communities, were followed.
Examination-related RTI requests are typically submitted to public authorities administering competitive exams. It is not known how many requests receive positive responses. In most cases, the information sought appears to be denied. This is clear from case-studies of complaints which more persevering candidates file with the Information Commission (IC). The IC decisions are largely focused on denial by authorities to the information sought, citing long-standing institutional policy of secrecy and personal safety of the examiners.
A close look at the complaints submitted to the IC in the last five years demonstrates that this is one area where the RTI Act has been used by citizens more for monitoring the work of public institutions and ensuring their transparency and accountability, than for personal benefits.
A survey of IC decisions from 2013, when the first such complaint was made, to the end of 2017, shows that more than 20 complaints were dealt with by the IC during the period. A few examples will shed light on the matter. They will also reveal the shortcomings and challenges facing the RTI regime.
The cases involve authorities such as the Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC), Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Institute of Bankers, Bangladesh (IBB) and the Bangladesh Judicial Services Commission (BJSC). Exam-related RTI requests have also been made, among others, to the Primary Education Directorate and Comilla and Dhaka Education Boards.
In a well-known case, a candidate asked the Bangladesh Public Service Commission for marks he obtained, both in written and oral tests, in the 29th BCS examination held in 2013. The candidate was denied the oral marks as this would violate the Commission's policy of confidentiality and could endanger the lives of the examiners. When it came as a complaint to the IC, the latter directed BPSC to disclose the marks obtained for the oral exam too, since the latter is based on an aggregate of marks given by a group of examiners and not by a specific examiner, and hence would not endanger any of them.
The candidate had also requested information on the qualifications of the examiner for the Science and Technology Paper. This request was denied on the ground that it would affect the examiner's safety. The IC, however, directed BPSC to simply disclose the qualifications of the relevant examiner without disclosing his/her identity.
Another request of the candidate was for the scores, both for written and oral exams, obtained by persons who were placed last on the lists of candidates who qualified for appointment to such services as: foreign affairs, public administration, police, tax and customs. The IC asked the complainant to reapply to BPSC with a more specific description of the information sought. Overall, it was a well-argued decision by the IC.
Sadly, however, when the complainant reapplied, the BPSC not only refused to provide the information but ended up challenging the IC decision at the High Court. The latter asked the government and the Information Commission to explain why the decision should not be declared to be of no legal effect. As neither party has so far responded to the HC ruling or, even if they did, it has not come up for hearing, the matter has remained unresolved. Due to this, all RTI applications relating even to subsequent BCS examinations are routinely rejected by the BPSC; the IC, too, refuses to entertain complaints on them.
In an analogous complaint, related to the Institute of Bankers, Bangladesh, the IC had similarly directed for the release of requested information. The Institute likewise challenged the decision in the High Court. As in the earlier case, the matter has since then remained unresolved as no party appears to have responded to the HC ruling.
The IC deserves credit for taking the position in favour of transparency and disclosure. However, it is disconcerting that it has so far not defended it at the High Court. Government support to the IC verdict will be a tremendous encouragement for citizens and a boost for the Act. More concerted civil society efforts are necessary to resolve the stalemate.
In a case involving BUET, the applicant asked for copies of answer papers relating to results of semester examinations held in 2013 and 2014. The information was refused on grounds similar to the preceding examples. In the complaint case that emerged, the IC once again decided in favour of disclosure. However, BUET then claimed that the answer papers had been destroyed. As this was not reported by BUET authorities at earlier hearings of the IC, it became a mockery of the RTI process.
A more hopeful case with the Bangladesh Judicial Services Commission related to a request for information on the number of candidates appearing in the Judicial Services examination; the gender balance; the number of physically challenged; how many among them passed the exams and what numbers they obtained; how many were appointed as judges, etc.
Not receiving the information requested, the applicant filed a complaint to the IC. At the IC hearing, the complainant explained that the basic purpose of his application was to find out if the rights of candidates with various disabilities were violated in the selection process. On the other hand, the representative of BJSC argued that the information was not disclosable as they were of a confidential nature and exempted.
In this case, too, the IC decided that after the announcement of the results, the information in question became public and hence disclosable. And because the quota for persons with disability was introduced after the examinations in question were held, IC found the inability of BJSC to provide the requested information justified. However, being dissatisfied with the disclosure directive, the BJSC subsequently submitted a review petition to the IC, which the latter squashed as there was no scope for it in the RTI Act. It is not known if the information has been subsequently released. Hopefully, the matter will not end up as a writ petition to the HC.
Transparency in the selection of candidates for appointment in different public services has clearly emerged as a matter of grave concern to citizens, as revealed through their RTI applications. It is important that the government and the Information Commission pay due attention to such concerns and help citizens to play a constructive role to take this most important law forward. It will benefit citizens and the state alike.
(Shamsul Bari and Ruhi Naz are Chairman and Project Coordinator (RTI section) respectively of Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB).)

NGO,for social justice appealed CM,Grievances cell to direct Rajouri officers to response RTI applications

Scoop News: Rajouri: Monday, January 15, 2018.
NGO,for social justice appealed CM,Grievances cell to direct DSE,Education,Directot Rural development,and Director CAPD,to respect Govt,RTI,act and and make them answerable,for time bound information to the applicants,who are wondering from pillar to post for their information since last ten months.
Tall claims of Chief Master to provide corruption free society exploded, PDP,backed officers in Rajouri are openly throwing law ,rules, in dustbin,
an act ,in the name of RTI, was provided to common man to get information regarding, some center sponsored schemes, and to make the officers department,ansersbl and to maintain transparency but in Rajouri, CEO, Rajouri,ACD Rajouri . and AD,CAPD are openly violating, Govt,rules norm's,for not providing information since last five to ten months, the information is most important which can expose huge embezzlement,irregularities ,and violation of Government orders and set rules,
Activist of RTI,Movemement ,held press conference,at Rajouri, Balbir Sharna,Shahnwaz,Mohd ,Tariq, Amir Mir,Nisar Khan,Qadar Khan, Wasim Ahmed, Shiraz Ahmed,Satpal Singh , Sail Kumar addressing press conference, highlighted , there problems and sought CM, interface regarding violation of RTI, act in Rajouri by ,CEO, Rajouri,ACD,Rajouri, AD,CAPD,Rajouri,
RTI,activist appealed MLC,to raise their voice in Council as there are Multicrore.Scsms,in these departments,which were fraudulently withdrawn,violating Caudal farmalties and rules,but to hush up and hide these Scams,these officers are denying information after lapse of more than nine to ten months,
Glaring example of jungle Raj by CEO,Rajouri,is that DSE/JAMMU after receiving ist,appeal by,applicants, Shahnwaz and Adv. Qadar directed CEO,Rajouri, vide his order no DSEJ/RTI/ 2016/45516--50/dated 26/10 and DSE/RTI/ 50614/17. dated 28/11/2016 .
to provide information to applicants without any further delay.than again
Vide DSEJ/0rder no DSEJ/J/appeal/61530--33 dated 16/1/2017.
and No/DSEJ/59658--53/Dated/4/1/17
Strictly detected CEO.Edu,Rsjouri for providing information but all directions were thrown into dustbin, reason best known by CEO,Rajouri.
Delegation also Expressing their resentment against officials at the helms of affairs in Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CA&PD), Rural Development Department (RDD), CEO- Rajouri and above all the Pahari Hostel Rajouri, the RTI Activists of Rajouri, today alleged that despite RTI pleas were filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act many a times in previous years but the authorities concerned have not responded till date.
"The activists had sought information related to discrepancies and irregularities in the above said departments but the concerned departments yet have failed to response the RTI pleas and virtually are sitting on the pleas, the activists alleged
An RTI plea was forwarded to Director Rural, Development Department along with required fee vide no 04G/890670/ dated 22/4/2016/also send 1st appeal after one month vide speed post receipt no RE/858587102 dt/17/5/2016. Finding no response 2nd appeal too was filed but even than the concerned authorties are delaying information intentionally and unintentionally but it has sent indicators that authorities want to slide multi crore scams under the carpet
Interestingly in Rajouri district not even a single RTI case was settled in two month in different departments.
"in a glaring example-unresponsive RTI plea filed to Pahari Hostel Rajouri for the past months, said an agitated NGO worker Suresh Kumar.
He said as per the details available with the NGO for Social Justice, an application was filed under RTI Act by Shahbaz Ahmed seeking information form Warden Pahari Hostel Rajouri on dated, 12/4/2016,along with required fees vide 77G/132088/dt/9/4/2016 and also approached to 1st and 2nd appellant but response is still awaited. He said though First Appellant Authority Secy Pahari Advisory Board vide his communication ADB/PSP/RTI/148/dt/27/4/2026.has also directed Warden pahari Hostel to provide requisite information but the warden inspite of this has not provided the due information.
While talking to reporter in Rajouri one of the RTI activists said that for the last about two month he had filed an RTI, application with Director Rural Development Department seeking information from ACD Rajouri but here also ACD, Rajouri failed to provide any information while two month have passed,
"The RTIs filed with other departments too have similar fate be it filed to Director CA&PD, AD,CA&PD, said Amir Mir and Dr Suresh said, adding, "as officers sitting on helms are making mockery of RTI Act."
Applicants namely Mobin Ahmed and Shahnwaz Mughal also lamented that we have applied from ACD, Rural Development seeking information regarding multi crore scams but ACD Concerned is delaying the reply even being directed from Director Rural Development to provide information,
The applicants now again have appealed to Director CA&PD, Director Rural Development, and Director School Education to direct the concern officers to provide information, without any further delay.

CIC wants Kejriwal's presence in RTI matter related to his service books

Moneycontrol.com: New Delhi: Monday, January 15, 2018.
The CIC has directed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to appear before it in a matter pertaining to an RTI applicant seeking information related to his service records as an Indian Revenue Service officer and an NGO he ran.
Information Commissioner Bimal Julka ordered that Kejriwal will either have to present himself or his authorised representative to argue whether information sought by Ketan Modi of Mumbai from the Income Tax department should be disclosed or not.
Modi has sought to know details of Kejriwal as an IRS officer -- salary, leaves, absence from service, tax evasion cases detected by him, permission to float an NGO, departmental action against him, if any.
The I-T department told him that the information sought pertains to "third party", i.e Kejriwal, which can be disclosed only after taking his consent as per the provisions of Section 11 of the RTI Act.
The section allows a central public information officer to take views of the party about whom the information has been sought through an RTI application.
However, the act allows disclosure of information even after lack of consent if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.
The I-T department said Kejriwal's views were sought but there was no response from him which means there was no consent for the disclosure of the information sought by Modi.
It said some information was not available with the department handling the case.
"No attempt was made to transfer the application to the relevant section/division handling the specific matter and no satisfactory reply could be furnished in this regard," Julka noted.
He said that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority (I-T department) in dealing with the RTI applications.
"It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself," he said.
He noted that it becomes important to revise and rethink the commonly accepted notions of privacy, especially when information gains such importance as well as fluidity through fast expanding platforms as well as tools such as the RTI.
"It is also very important to realise the all encompassing role of the Public Authority to any information held by it in the interest of the public and the State especially when the information sought pertains to a public figure acting for public good in discharge of its duties," Julka said.
He expressed displeasure on the casual approach adopted by the tax department in responding to the RTI application.
"It was felt that the conduct of respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information," he said.
The information commissioner directed S S Rathore, Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, to examine the matter and submit a factual report to the commission within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this interim order.
"The Commission directs the Respondent (I-T department) to inform the third party (Arvind Kejriwal) to be present during the next hearing either in person or through his duly authorised representative so as to enable it to defend or present its case before the commission," Julka said.
He directed the registrar to fix the next date of hearing before February 13.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Don’t tip LPG delivery man, says IOCL

News Today: Chennai: Sunday, January 14, 2018.
You do not have to tip the LPG cylinder delivery man as the retail selling price mentioned in the cash memo is inclusive of the charges for home delivery.
This has been reinforced by an RTI answer obtained by Chennai resident, Seeni Sethuraman, through an RTI petition filed in November 2017.
Troubled by the delivery boys who were holding the people of his area, Madipakkam, to ransom, social activist Seeni Sethuraman filed an RTI petition with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL). He sought answers for his queries on door delivery charges collected by LPG delivery boys.
In his reply on 2 January, public information officer (PIO) L K S Chauhan of Indian Oil Corporation said, ‘The retail selling price mentioned in the cash memo is inclusive of the charges for delivery at the home of the customer. No separate rates are fixed for LPG distributors and delivery staff for effecting delivery.’
When the RTI plea pointed out that so far, Rs 50 is collected as delivery charge in and around Chennai, the PIO said customers are advised by oil companies to pay only the amount mentioned in the cash memo.
He encouraged customers to report to IOCL in case customers are asked to pay any charges over and above the cash memo.  But he said the extra amount may be paid if authorised by the district authorities for beyond the normal area of operation.
When News Today contacted Seeni Sethuraman about the RTI petition, he said, “I filed this RTI petition because residents are not aware of what they are paying. So far, delivery boys collect up to Rs 50 for each delivery. Whenever a resident questions them, the delivery man tactically answers that these rates are fixed by so-and-so for each delivery. But the fact is nobody asks them to collect any amount from the residents. I could not prove this without proper evidence. So, I filed an RTI and the answers from IOCL reflected the fact.”
“For each delivery, I pay Rs 50 extra to the delivery man. Whenever I request him to reduce the amount to Rs 30, he refuses to. Though I would like to go to the gas agency to collect my cylinder personally, I am unable to do so due to my work schedule. This made me pay the exorbitant amount to the delivery boy. The government should do something to reduce the cost,” says a resident who is unaware that delivery men are not supposed to charge more than the cash memo.
A key office-bearer of Lakshmi Nagar Welfare Association, Madipakkam, said, “IOCL allots Rs 19.90 as delivery charge which will directly go the delivery person. Despite this, delivery boys demand Rs 50 for each delivery. To curb this daylight robbery, we have already informed the agencies about this. They had also responded positively. These things have been clearly mentioned in the terms and conditions of the application form we submit to the gas agency. People should take time to go through them.”
The activist has further planned to send copies of the RTI to residents welfare associations to make the residents aware of the actual position with regard to delivery charges.
According to the reply to the RTI petition of Seeni Sethuraman, the retail price mentioned in the cash memo received by the resident includes delivery charges. But in the cash memo, which is an acknowledgement receipt , the gas agency does not mention that the payment includes delivery charges. A few Chennaiites feel that if the gas agency mentions a tag, ‘Inclusive of all (LPG cylinder amount+ delivery charge)’, there won’t be any issues for them with delivery boys.