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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Disabled B’lore girl’s RTI plea bares CAT ‘secret’

IIM-B Forced To Spell Out Selection Parameters
TIMES NEWS NETWORK : Bangalore: A single application under the Right to Information Act by a visually-challenged girl could change the face of one of India’s toughest Bschool entrance test. Vaishanavi Kasturi, a visually-impaired B.Com student who sought information on the selection procedure at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, has helped remove the veil of secrecy in selection of candidates through the Common Admission Test (CAT). Appearing before the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), A R Ramesh, public information officer at IIM-B, for the first time, spelt out five parameters that go into shortlisting CAT candidates for group discussion and interview. This information was so far held as a trade secret by the IIMs. Ramesh said candidates are shortlisted on the basis of their performance in Classes X and XII, degree and postgraduate exams, apart from work experience. In addition, the institute also fixes sectional cut-offs in the CAT paper. But IIM-B has refused to declare the quantum of weightage given to each of these parameters and also the weightage accorded to group discussion and personal interview in the final selection. Ramesh said, “Under the policy of the institute, we don’t have any provision to put this information in public domain. We are willing to share information with the candidate but cannot put it in public domain.’’ The KIC bench comprising K K Misra and K A Thippeswamy has asked the institute to discuss the matter with the higher authorities, so that the institute has a fresh policy whereby details of marks, ranks, selection procedure would be made public. Bright aspirant to miss IIM-B bus Despite confusion over the jurisdiction of the Central Information Commission or the Karnataka Information Commission over IIM-B, the institute shared the admission information with Vaishanavi Kasturi and her parents. The disclosure almost dismisses her chances of admission at IIM-B this year. Though Vaishanavi was among the 68 candidates shortlisted initially in the persons with disability category for group discussion and interview, she did not make it to the next round where 28 candidates were shortlisted. Vaishanavi stood 47th among the 68 candidates. “Vaishanavi lost out because she is yet to complete her degree and doesn’t have any relevant work experience,’’ IIM-B officials said. B-school under fire Bangalore: Hitting out at IIM-B for denying admission information to visually-challenged Vaishanavi Kasturi, the Karnataka Information Commission said the premier institute has a mind block on sharing information. The KIC asked the institute to be more forthcoming in putting information on admission, selection, merit list and ranking in public domain. “This will bring transparency in admission and earn goodwill to the institute.’’ TNN Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 27; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13


The Times of India wants to highlight instances where readers have used the Right to Information Act to expose corruption or government apathy to get justice and to force the administration into action or simply to ensure greater transparency in governance. The best cases will be published every week with a photograph of the contributor. Please e-mail case details (including your contact numbers) to or post it to Right to Information Campaign, Editorial Department, The Times of India, Dr D N Road, Mumbai — 400001

RTI comes to the rescue of harried film units

Viju B I TNN : Mumbai: Film units in the city can now look forward to shooting in public places without being harassed by the police and civic agencies which demand a bribe every time a shoot occurs in their jurisdiction. An online film portal filed a query under the Right to InformationAct, asking for details of the procedures involved in acquiring permission for shooting in public places in Mumbai. The Mumbai police commissionerate gave a detailed reply to the query, stating that a production unit can ask for the services of the police force on paying a fixed fee. “The services of an additional commissioner of police can be called upon by paying Rs 1,071 for a period of 12 hours. If the unit wants to use the service of a police inspector they need to pay Rs 900, and if they want to utilise the services of a constable they need to pay just Rs 371,’’ the RTI response said. Film producers and unit officials say that till date, they were not aware of their rights. “Instead we ended up paying lakhs of rupees to various government agencies, including the RTO, police department, and civic officials though we already had the permission for the shoot,’’ Dilip Bhanushali, director of film, who filed the RTI query said. The portal, which is into production of films and commercials, also assists film-makers in selecting locales and studios. Bhanushali knows many cases where film shoots came to a complete standstill after production managers had heated arguments with the local cops. In some cases, the cops even arrested the production manager. “We then have to pay massive bribes to get the shoot re-started,’’ Bhanushali said. Recently, a production company had to pay around Rs 2.5 lakh, while producing a commercial, to various government agencies even though they had taken prior permission for shooting the film. “Even the road transport officials extorted money from them and they had to pay up as they had an urgent deadline to meet,’’ Bhanushali said. Armed with the information, the film portal is now planning to approach the anti-corruption bureau if the officials still harass them for money. “The portal has used the RTI Act to good effect. More and more people should come forward to use the act to resolve their problems,’’ RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi said.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 27; Section:Times City; Page Number 7

Shortage of rabies vaccine: RTI zeroes in on state, Centre

Shibu Thomas I TNN : Mumbai: The Union and state governments are to be blamed for shortage of anti-rabies vaccine (ARV). Though public and private pharmaceutical firms in India are producing the vaccine in sufficient numbers, the government has failed to supply them to state-run hospitals, revealed the Central Director General of Health Services in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Six of the institutions, including the government-run Pasteur Institute of India at Coonoor, have an installed capacity to produce 197 lakh doses of ARV. In 2005-2006, while they produced 134 lakh doses, the demand was for 112 lakh. The actual supply was, however, only 110 lakh doses. The following year the figures were worse. As against the production of 169 lakh doses (till August 2006), the demand was for 27.5 lakh and the supply was far less at 0.7 lakh doses. “The figures clearly show that the production of ARVs is quite high. The real hitch is in the supply chain,’’ said N G Jayasimha of PETA. The cost of the TCV varies between Rs 250 to Rs 300 per dose. On February 17, 2007, TOI reported that the Bombay high court had ordered the Maharashtra government to explain why it directed Haffkine Institute to stop producing ARV’s. The report added that the government had to detail the steps being taken to make the vaccines available at a cheap price. As per a World Health Organisation survey, one person is bitten every two seconds by a dog in India, while one person dies every 30 minutes from rabies.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 26; Section:Times City; Page Number 7

‘Stick to deadline in replying to queries’

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Cracking the whip on state authorities, state chief information commissioner RN Das ordered that whenever an applicant sought information within 48 hours from any public authority under the Right to Information Act (RTI) which concerned his or her ‘life and liberty’, the authorities should consider the time limit as 48 hours from the time the application was accepted. Das ruled that by invoking the clause of ‘life and liberty’ of the tention was that loud noise from crackers can cause serious health problems in old people, patients with cardiac problems and even infants or children. In case of cardiac patients, loud blasts may even result in deaths. Invoking the ‘life and liberty’ clause of the RTI Act, the applicant had demanded details pertaining to issuance of licences to cracker sellers and whether the police kept a tab on public safety issues in areas where there are cracker stalls. He had also asked for the zonewise list of police officers and their respective mobile and land line numbers for lodging complaints. RTI Act, an applicant may need the information to protect his life or liberty or may be demanding information on behalf of any other person, in public interest. The commission reiterated that it is an obligatory function of the authorities to respond to them in a time-bound manner as specified under section 7 (1) of the RTI Act.The issue came up for hearing before the state information commission recently when an applicant, Rahul Mangaonkar, demanded from the police, measures taken to regulate noise pollution in areas. The applicant’s main con-The order further states that no public holiday or weekend may be considered as an excuse by authorities in delaying information to the applicant under the ‘life and liberty’ clause of the RTI Act. On the issue of responding within 30 days, Das stated in the order that it may be considered as 30 calendar days, which also includes weekends or any public holiday in between. The order further states that no grace period will be allowed to the public authorities under the RTI Act.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 26; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

Housing societies too come under info Act

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Co-operative societies and agriculture produce market committees (APMC) in Gujarat, in whichever form they exist, are public authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This recent decision of the state information commission has caused a flutter in the co-operative sector as it would have wider implications. For instance, if you want to know how your co-operative housing society has been spending your maintenance money or managing the society’s funds, you can ask this under the RTI. The decision also pertains to the cooperative banks, milk co-operatives, APMCs or any organisation formed under existing co-operative laws of Gujarat. For a long time, co-operative societies in the state had been claiming immunity from the RTI Act, quoting a circular issued by registrar of co-operative societies on March 23, 2006, which stated, “co-operative societies and agriculture produce market committees are not included in the definition of public authorities.” This circular was struck down by the state chief information commissioner RN Das recently, after deeming it to be “void” under section 22 of the RTI Act. Das further ordered the registrar of co-operatives to review rule 36 of Gujarat Agricultural Produce Market (GAPM) Rules 1965, which states that “proceedings of market committee shall not be treated as public documents and copies thereof shall not be supplied unless there is a court order.” In respect to rule 36 of GAPM Rules, Das said that since it was a “subordinate legislation” it had no meaning after the RTI Act came into force. The state information commissioner RN Das ordered the registrar of co-operatives and the principal secretary of department of co-operation to bring in amendments in the GAPM Rules to make them consistent with the RTI Act. The amendments, according to Das, should be reported to the commission within three months. The issue came to light after an applicant Dilipsinh Zala demanded information on the recruitment procedures of Class ‘D’ employees and the proceedings of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) of Unjha in Mehsana district. The information was denied to Zala after quoting GAPM rule 36 and the registrar of co-operative’s circular. The information commission has ordered that since the APMC would be maintaining account records and vouchers of salaries paid to the class ‘D’ employees, the same information be provided to Zala within 15 days of the order.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 26; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

‘Odd rebel’ gets a potent weapon in RTI

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Her brush with the establishment is enviable, and her purpose sincere. She is 61, single and the pen-name ‘Odd Rebel’ — short for Audrey Rebello — couldn’t have summed her up better. A former IIM-A fellow, she just can’t sit back and watch in wry resignation the endless indignities heaped on common citizens. She fights for consumer rights, takes up cudgels against policemen on basic safety issues, battles against encroachments and for sanitation requirements in the city. Today, she has taken on the mobile and the WLL service providers as toll free emergency numbers like 100, 101,102 are rarely accessible to a common citizen from public phone booths and sometimes even from mobiles. Rebello, who otherwise bombards authorities with letters, now relies on the Right to Information Act to make the authorities confess on paper that they did wrong. “In Gujarat, writing letters to government officials is like tickling a dinosaur’s tail. It will take ages before the dinosaur realises it was tickled. With RTI in force, I know exactly what went wrong when, be it a law and order problem in a neighbourhood or inefficiency of the municipality in collecting strewn garbage,” says Rebello. An IIM-A fellow, former lecturer of English and former social worker, Audrey Rebello kicked her fat-salaried corporate job 20 years ago after she found fighting boardroom battles boring. She found that fighting for the basic rights of citizens required far more spine than what is needed to survive in the corporate world. And today, she is using the Right to Information Act as her weapon to fight the babus. “RTI alone cannot redress problems of individuals. You have to use a combination of tools and laws along with it to make any authority do its job properly. Babus generally take advantage of our ignorance of laws and procedures. In fact, with the RTI, I make them confess on paper that they are not doing their work, which is embarrassing for them,” says Rebello. She further says, “For instance, no one has bothered to appoint an executive magistrate at Gheekantha court-1 since October last year. So many cases have piled up since then. The lone officer handling the job has other responsibilities and is therefore not being able to do justice to the task at hand. I filed a petition under the RTI recently to know why the government was not filling up those posts.”
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 25; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

Punjab Info commissioners to hold courts in districts

Rohit Mullick TNN : Chandigarh: In order to facilitate the complainants, who are denied information sought under the Right to Information Act and for the speedy disposal of cases, the State Information Commission of Punjab (SICP) has decided to hold its courts in the districts as well. The state information commissioners besides hearing the cases in Chandigarh will start holding courts in the district headquarters from next month.Chief information commissioner Rajan Kashyap said, “It will help complainants in the districts who otherwise have to travel to Chandigarh for court hearings.” Kashyap said the disposal rate of cases would also pick up if courts were also held in the district headquarters. The SICP move has also come in the wake of the appointment of four new state information commissioners with which the total number has gone to eight. The information commissioners who were appointed last month are PK Grover, Ravi Singh, Kulbir Singh and PPS Gill. According to SICP officials, the recruitment of these officials had made it easier for the commission to decide on holding courts in the districts also. Officials said the move would not only help the petitioners but also result in speedy disposal of cases because number of times complainants and even government officers fail to appear before the benches and thereby cause pendancy. In the last about over one year, the commission has received 1,500 cases including 254 appeals under Section 19 of the RTI Act and 1,245 complaints under Section 18 of the Act for denial of information and no response respectively. The Commission has disposed of 610 cases and the rest 889 are still pending with it.
Commission imposes Rs 50,000 penalty
The State Information Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the public information officer of Ludhiana-based Punjab State Federation of Cooperative House Building Society for delaying supply of information to a petitioner. According to officials, the PIO delayed the supply of information for 173 days and also did not appear before the commission despite several notices and reminders. In its order, the Commission has also directed the registrar of Cooperative Societies, Punjab, to ensure the recovery of penalty from the concerned PIO in case he does not deposit the fine in the state treasury. Publication: Times Of India Chandigarh; Date:2007 Feb 23; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 6

United in tragedy, divided in compensation

Paul John TNN : January 9, 2002: A state transport bus collides head-on with a truck on Surat-Vyara highway killing 29 bona fide passengers on the spot. The government awards an initial package of Rs 5,000 from the Chief Minister and revenue relief fund to relatives of only 23 victims. September 10, 2003: An overloaded jeep turns turtle on the highway near Palanpur claiming 18 lives. The government awards Rs 50,000 from the CM and revenue relief fund to the kin of all the victims. Is the value of life of a person killed while travelling in an overloaded private jeep more than that of a bona fide passenger killed while travelling in a state transport bus? It seems the Gujarat government has put a higher price tag on road accident victims killed in illegally overloaded taxis. The government has no standard policy for compensating accident victims. There have been a string of instances where compensation given to victims for similar incidents varies dramatically. To mention a few, on November 24, 2004, when six children drowned in the Asarva lake in Ahmedabad, parents of the five children were given Rs 15,000 each while parents of one of the victims were given Rs 25,000. In a similar incident, the relatives of six youths, who drowned in Narmada river in Kevadia, were not compensated at all. “Relatives of victims of such tragedies have never demanded compensation from the government. It is always the government which comes forward to offer relief. Why then did the government not compensate relatives of Kevadia victims? Why are victims killed in similar disasters at different times compensated differently in Gujarat?” asks Girdhar Patel, who recently analysed voluminous data obtained under the Right to Information Act (RTI) on compensations awarded by the government from the CM and revenue relief funds. “If relatives of each of the 18 victims of the Palanpur jeep accident were paid Rs 50,000 as compensation, why were 10 victims who died on the Deesa-Dhanera highway in a similar overloaded jeep tragedy on October 26, 2005 and relatives of the 10 victims, who died in a similar road accident in Khambadia, ignored by the government? On what basis does the government award compensations to the kin of victims, I don’t understand,” adds Patel. The commissioner for relief Rajesh Kishore said the process of giving compensation has to do more with a “human angle” in a particular accident than going purely by the law. “We have certain guidelines but the severity of the incident and the effect that certain tragedies have on human lives is what gets analysed in a broader perspective while awarding compensation. “Besides, the decisions pertaining to compensations are taken on the file and tend to get subjective sometimes. The families of victims can always move the courts or special tribunals if they want a higher amount as compensation,” adds Kishore.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 22; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

RTI helps them get appointment

Paul John TNN : Ahmedabad: Three youths, after being interviewed for the post of assistant public prosecutors (APP) in Rajkot and Morbi, had to wait unnecessarily for almost one-and-half-year just to get an appointment letter from the legal department. Even after their frequent visits to Gandhinagar and reminder letters, their appointments never came through. It was only when a senior lawyer of the Rajkot sessions court Harshad Pandya sought the names of the officers responsible for the delay under the Right to Information Act that the appointments were made. “With the number of litigations rising in both civil and sessions court, there were not enough prosecutors to fight cases for the government. There were three posts of APP in Rajkot, while there was a vacancy for the same post in Morbi. After conducting interviews, the the legal department just sat on the file for more than a year, which is atrocious,” says Pandya. The legal department had invited applications for APP posts for Rajkot and Morbi in October 2004 for which 49 candidates had applied. After the relevant selection procedure, interviews of 38 candidates were conducted by a panel that included the district magistrate and the district sessions judge on February 2005. Eight candidates were shortlisted. From here on, the administrative delays set in and nothing was heard for the next year. “ I had filed an RTI application in April 2006 and on June 7, 2006. The legal department finally appointed three APPs, while one post is still vacant in Rajkot. I also came to know that one of the candidates who was appointed was not there on the merit list. I have filed an RTI application for this,” Pandya adds. The case had come up for hearing before state ckhief information commissioner R N Das recently where the public information officer of the legal department admitted that the delay was caused due to inaction of the administration.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 23; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

CIC serves notices but babus refuse to budge: YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW

Of 70 Applicants, Only 7 Satisfied With Replies
Nidhi Sharma TNN: New Delhi: Even after a year of implementation, people are still struggling to exercise their right to information. Despite directions and orders of Central Information Commission (CIC) — the final appellate body for Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005 — government babus refuse to comply and part with information. And that’s not all. CIC’s notices to the departments on non-compliance refuse to make the officials budge. Raj Kumar had filed an application in Municiapal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) under the RTI Act in November 2005. Despite a CIC order, he has been waiting for information from MCD. His struggle started from the south zone office of MCD. He had sought information about a plot on which he alleged that some illegal construction was going on. The chief public information officer (CPIO) gave him information related to some other plot. Kumar again filed an appeal. Meanwhile, the CPIO admitted that there was illegal construction on the plot but did not know whether it was under the jurisdiction of MCD or DDA. CPIO said that MCD had sent a letter to DDA on this. When Kumar asked for a copy of the letter, MCD refused. He filed an appeal, which got rejected. He finally appealed to CIC. On March 6, 2006, CIC instructed MCD to provide Kumar the requisite information. Till date, MCD has not complied with the order. When Kumar did not get any information, he filed a contempt petition in CIC in July 2006. The commission cannot trace his files. A completely disillusioned Kumar says that he now has filed a plea in CIC seeking information about his file. Kumar is not alone. In October 2006, CIC had directed National Saving Institute to provide information to H K Pal on certain appointments made ‘‘within 15 days.’’ So far, Pal has not received any information. Similarly, R K Mirg had asked ministry of home affairs for file inspection under the RTI Act. He was not allowed to inspect file notings during the inspection. CIC asked MHA to show him file notings in its June 2006 order. So far, Mirg has not been allowed. RTI expert and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal blames CIC for this failure. ‘‘The biggest problem is that CIC does not impose a penalty. That is the reason why officials give incomplete or wrong information because they know that nothing will happen to them. Most of the cases end up at CIC.’’ However, this does not help common man at all. Firstly, there is a long waiting period of atleast seven to eight months and even after a favourable order, they do not get the information they are seeking. M P Tyagi, for instance, has been waiting for a hearing at CIC since February 2006. The cause list of CIC on Monday had hearing of cases that had been filed in April and May 2006. Parivartan, an NGO working on better implementation of the RTI Act, has set up a kiosk in front of CIC office to gauge the satisfaction levels of RTI applicants. Of the 70 applicants, who have filled questionnaires, there are only seven who are satisfied with the functioning of CIC.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 27; Section:Times City; Page Number 8

Ghaziabad to show its road rage

RTI Query Reveals Lakhs Spent On ‘Repairing’ Roads Which Are Still Potholed, Residents Say They Won’t Pay House Tax
Nidhi Sharma TNN: New Delhi: Look at the pictures. Do you think Rs 40 lakh have been spent on repairing these roads? Well, if Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC) is to be believed, these roads have been repaired and resurfaced over the last two years and it has spent Rs 40.26 lakh to be precise in repairing these roads in Kaushambi. Shocked? The residents of housing societies in Kaushambi, who had spent their life’s savings in buying flats in the area, are more than shocked. The poor state of roads made the residents file an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to see how much money has been spent on the upkeep of roads. Magsaysay award winner and a resident of the area, Arvind Kejriwal, had to battle with the authorities for incomplete information. And finally when some information did come about on the roads, he was shocked to find that the corporation had spent Rs 40.26 lakh in two years on repair of these roads, that resemble the crater-ridden moon surface. Not just this, there is no account of an additional Rs 1.77 crore, meant only for dense carpeting of roads. Residents, however, say that they have not seen any repair work in the area. N Rajamani, a resident of Shipra Apartments, says: ‘‘We moved in the locality six years back from Saket. At that time the roads were good and the area was clean. Now every agency comes and digs up the roads but there are no repairs. We have not seen any repair work or dense carpeting in the last two years. Sometimes, we see some patch work being done with gravel but no other resurfacing has been done.’’ As per the reply given by the corporation, two agencies — including Bharti Cellular — had dug up Kaushambi roads in 2004 and deposited Rs 40.26 lakh for road repair, which GMC had to undertake. When Kejriwal asked in his application for details of how the money was spent, the corporation replied that there is no break-up available and money was spent from October 2004 till 2006. The colony was handed over by Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) to GMC in 2004. With it, GDA transferred Rs 3.33 crore for developmental works like road repair, streetlighting and sanitation works. This amount included about Rs 1.77 crore for road repairs and resurfacing only for the colony. So far, GMC has not given any account if this money has been spent or not. K K Sehgal, president of Kaushambi Apartments Resident Welfare Association (KARWA), says: ‘‘Why should we pay house tax? The corporation is not spending anything on roads or giving any facilities. We have been pursuing several issues but nothing has been done. Now we plan to launch a stir.’’
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 24; Section:Times City; Page Number 2

Friday, February 23, 2007

Probe sought into quality of roads

TIMES NEWS NETWORK , Panchkula: Alleging use of sub-standard material and financial anomalies in maintenance and recarpeting of roads by MC, Hemant Kinger, an office bearer of a residents’ body has sought an in-depth probe into the matter.
He has put forth a demand for testing of the material used in roads in laboratories, Punjab Engineering College (PEC) or Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee to ascertain the quality.
‘‘We just want to know the circumstances resulting in an unprecedented increase in allocation of funds to Rs 12 crore for maintenance of roads against Rs 5 crore spent in the past three years for the purpose. This has to be probed by the administration.
Since 70 per cent of the city roads reportedly maintained by the council are in a pathetic condition, samples of the material used need to be examined at PEC or IIT laboratories where work carried out by Huda’s contractors should be put to test,’’ Hemant Kinger, president of Punjabi Mahasabha, an NGO, said.
Claiming to have collected all the information from the Council under Right To Information (RTI) Act, Kinger said he had personally verified and cross- checked the information concerning roads given by council before demanding the probe.
Besides this, he sought to bring to the court’s cognisance two incidents wherein the council made a payment of an amount of over one and a half lakh rupees for maintenance of roads in Swastik Vihar. Since the concerned colony is yet to be handed over to council or Huda by the coloniser, the work itself puts a question mark on council’s role, Kinger said while addressing mediapersons here.
Publication: Times Of India Chandigarh; Date:2007 Feb 16; Section:Times Chandigarh; Page Number 20

Thursday, February 22, 2007

CMs’ heli-hopping a costly affair

Naheed Ataulla | TNN , Bangalore: The people of Karnataka are ruing the day our VIPs took fancy to choppers. For, the helicopter tab of our VIPs has been Rs 17 lakh on an average per month since 2004. Heli-hopping by chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, his predecessor N Dharam Singh and their cabinet colleagues has cost the public exchequer a total of Rs 5,39,45,695.
Information obtained by the Sunday Times of India under the RTI Act reveals this: Dharam Singh — Rs 3,41,52,782 (May 28, 2004 to Jan 29, 2006); Kumaraswamy — Rs 1,97,92,913 (Feb 3, 2006 to Jan 18,2007). The information furnished said the expenditure included the use of the helicopter by ministers and VIPs. But other cabinet members have seldom used it, except on occasions when they have been asked to rush to a district during an emergency.
Both also top the list in using private helicopters more often than the government’s Dhruv, taken on a two-year wet lease from the HAL from May 10, 2005. An advance payment of Rs 40 lakh has been made to the HAL.
As per the agreement, the government pays Rs 30 lakh per month as charges, while it is Rs 20,000 per flight hour excluding tax.
The number of flying hours is limited to an average of 50 hours per month.
Singh ran up a bill of Rs 2,06,82,913 exclusively for a private copter, while Kumaraswamy’s entire amount is for that. He did not use Dhruv for a year till he got a special puja done for it in Dharmasthala on January 3. No details have been furnished on whether this helicopter has been used since, with the lease set to expire in May this year. Kumaraswamy had promised after taking oath on February 3 that he will go by road and not use the helicopter so that he could be in direct contact with the people. Now, the CM does more heli-hopping and the reasons are “to be on time and avoid inconveniencing the people’’ in his entourage.
Publication: Times Of India Bangalore; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times City; Page Number 5

RTI tool for settling scores

Koride Mahesh | TNN , Hyderabad: The potent Right to Information Act is being put to bizarre use by citizens. From settling personal scores to taking on professional rivals, they are using it to gather information from government departments and entities.
One such entity is the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH). The civic body has been flooded with RTI applications seeking information on almost every issue in its domain—building plan sanctions to action taken against builders who deviate from the approved plans to property tax evasion by bureaucrats. In some cases, the RTI is yielding positive results and even forcing MCH officials to crack down on errant builders and firms.
For instance, the MCH slapped a notice on the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU) registrar for illegal construction on the university campus in Masab Tank in November 2006. The corporation acted on an RTI application filed by one K Gopinath, who sought information about illegal construction and a temple on the campus.
In the notice, the corporation said the university took permission for ground plus one floor (G+1) as per the approved plan, but it went ahead and constructed ground and four floors. It also built an auditorium in the central open space on the campus without permission. A temple also came up on the campus. The JNTU approached the Central Information Commissioner complaining that some former employees were using the Act to harass the university.
Similarly, Birla Archaeological and Cultural Research Institution was served a notice by MCH for alleged parking norm violations and sub-leasing government land. Y Ravi Kiran, a former assistant director of the B M Birla Science Centre who was removed from services, chose the RTI route to hit back at the institution. “When I was an employee of the Birla Planetarium, I came to know about several issues about the organisation which were against law. I asked information under the RTI,’’ Ravi Kiran told STOI. The Forum For A Better Hyderabad also put the MCH in the dock and wanted the civic body to furnish a list of under construction buildings which were deviating from the sanctioned plan. When the town planning officials expressed their inability to provide the list, the Forum complained to the State Chief Information Commissioner. The MCH officials were summoned by the Commissioner a week ago and told to provide information free of cost.
Of 190 RTI applications received by the MCH, about 90 were related to the town planning department and the rest were on property tax, health and sanitation and other departments. Another applicant wanted to know property tax defaulters among IAS and IPS officers residing in Prashasan Nagar, while another wanted to know what action was taken on grabbers of government land.
Others sought information on illegal conversion of residential buildings into commercial ones, unauthorised constructions in various locations, list of property getting affected due to road widening, new plans like Bus Rapid Transit System and details of some section officers working in the town planning.
“We are giving info to applicants under the RTI Act. For drawings and copies of permissions, the applicant has to bear the expenses. But some people ask for information without paying even the nominal fee,’’ additional chief city planner and information officer V Narender Rao told ‘STOI’.
Publication: Times Of India Hyderabad; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times City; Page Number 3

Offices flouting stamp duty norms: RTI activist

TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Pune: Are government and semi-government offices causing a drain on the exchequer by flouting the stamp duty rules?
If answers provided to right-to-information (RTI) activist Vivek Velankar by three key organisations is anything to go by, the situation calls for immediate remedial action.
Velankar had moved a plea under the RTI Act, 2005, seeking in-formation from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Pune district collector’s office and the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (Mahadiscom) on the amount being charged by them
for execution of indemnity bonds and affidavits by citizens for various purposes.
The written replies he got from various units of the three organisations revealed that the amount charged did not conform to norms under the Stamp Duty Act that was amended on May 1, 2001. As per the Act, an affidavit is required to be executed on a Rs 100 stamp paper, and an indemnity bond on a Rs 200 stamp paper.
“However, in some cases, affidavits and indemnities have been executed on stamp papers valued much lower than the prescribed duty, causing loss of revenue to the state,” Velankar said.
Similarly, in some cases, affidavits and indemnities were being executed on stamp papers of higher value than the prescribed charge, which is a loss of revenue to the individual, he added.
“Officials are using their discretion instead of stamp duty rules while seeking stamp papers from citizens,” he added.
For instance, Mahadiscom’s Ganeshkhind circle office replied that it was seeking stamp papers as prescribed by the Act, but the Rasta Peth circle office stated it was seeking Rs 100 stamp paper for execution of both affidavits and indemnities.
While the PMC’s legal department replied it was adhering to stamp duty provisions, other civic departments — like those of building permission and control, water, skysign and licence, public relations and development planning — gave replies that showed arbitrary charging of stamp duty.
The collector’s office too claimed adherence to the duty provisions, but the preprinted affidavit and indemnity forms attached with the reply carried a printed prescribed charge of Rs 20 for affidavit and Rs 100 for indemnities.
In a letter to inspector-general of registrations (IGR) O.P. Gupta, Velankar has demanded a thorough audit to find out the extent of the revenue loss the three organisations may have caused to the exchequer since May 2001.
Also, he has demanded disciplinary action against officers responsible for enforcing the use of undervalued stamp papers.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 15; Section:Times City; Page Number 3

PCB under fire for ‘blocking info’

Residents suspect high-rise with mall coming up near schools
By Pranjal Bhuyan/TNN , Pune: Construction activity and talks of a new high-rise building coming up at Convent Street in the Pune Camp area has taken the authorities of three schools as well as residents of 11 housing societies by surprise.
What has shocked them even more is the Pune Cantonment Board’s (PCB) ‘unwillingness’ to furnish information regarding the upcoming project.
The residents and the schools fear that a high-rise building with a mall will create traffic chaos, leading to inconvenience to schoolchildren and even accidents, besides spoiling the atmosphere for learning.
The residents alleged that the PCB was unwilling to furnish information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act regarding the project.
Workers and security personnel at the site remaining tight-lipped about the ownership of the site can be understood, but surprisingly PCB chief executive officer (CEO) S.K. Sardana too pleaded ignorance!
According to Sardana, none of the letters had reached his office and he was not aware of any project on the plot as “anything sanctioned must have
been done during my predecessor’s tenure”.

I will ensure info is given within a week, says PCB CEO

By Pranjal Bhuyan/TNN
Pune: The three schools and residents of Pune Camp area, who stand to be affected by a new high-rise building in the area, have approached the Pune Cantonment Board for information on the project. But the residents allege that the board is unwilling to give out information even under the purview of Right to Information Act.
PCB chief executive officer (CEO) S.K. Sardana, however, said that the petitioners “have the right to make a representation to the appellate authority (the board) and I will ensure fast-tracking of the process so that all information is provided within one week.”
A 2,500-3,000 square feet plot (house number 1977), bang opposite St Anne’s high school is being dug up since last one month and building materials have been piled up there for construction activity. Around 60 workers are engaged in digging the premises.
The street hosts three major schools — St Anne’s, Choksey and St. John’s — with 1,500 to 3,000 students each and there are over 650 apartments in the housing societies.
The controversial plot housed a vacant bungalow for many years and nobody in the locality was aware of the exact ownership of the plot. The place came into limelight about a month ago, when the residents noticed construction activity and heard that a high-rise shopping mall
was coming up there.
Totally opposed to the establishment of a commercial complex in an already congested locality, more so on account of apprehension regarding the environment in the three schools, representatives of the Convent Street Societies’ Forum and of the schools sent the first of a series of petitions on December 15 last year seeking information regarding the issue.
Since then, they have approached the PCB a few more times, but so far their effort has failed to solicit any reply from the board.
“Any mall or commercial complex, besides destroying the peace of the locality, would be a menace for the school-children due to the expected heavy traffic,” said Joher Harnesswala, secretary of the Societies’ Forum.
The plot of land opposite St Anne’s school on Convent Street is abuzz with construction activit.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 22; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

Decentralisation key, says new info chief of Maharashtra

TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Pune: Newly-appointed state information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar has emphasised the significance of decentralised implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Replying to a felicitation by the Pune Union of Working Journalist (PUWJ) here on Monday, Kuvalekar, who is himself a senior journalist, observed that Maharashtra was the first state in the country to go for decentralisation of the RTI implementation. He said that constructive journalism and transparency were at the core of the right to information and the Act gives the common individual the right to sovereignty and accountability.
On his appointment to the coveted post, Kuvalekar said he would have to reach out to people in spreading awareness about the Act.
Well-known computer expert Vijay Bhatkar, who presided over the session, said Kuvalekar’s appointment as information commissioner would reveal a new facet of the latter’s all-round personality.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 20; Section:Times City; Page Number 5

Decentralisation key, says new Maharashtra info chief

TIMES NEWS NETWORK , Pune: Newly-appointed state information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar has emphasised the significance of decentralised implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Replying to a felicitation by the Pune Union of Working Journalist (PUWJ) here on Monday, Kuvalekar, who is himself a senior journalist, observed that Maharashtra was the first state in the country to go for decentralisation of the RTI implementation. He said that constructive journalism and transparency were at the core of the right to information and the Act gives the common individual the right to sovereignty and accountability.
On his appointment to the coveted post, Kuvalekar said he would have to reach out to people in spreading awareness about the Act.
Well-known computer expert Vijay Bhatkar, who presided over the session, said Kuvalekar’s appointment as information commissioner would reveal a new facet of the latter’s all-round personality.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 20; Section:Times City; Page Number 5

No record on stray dogs in Gandhinagar

RTI Plea Seeks Info On Treatment, Sheltering, Sterilisation Of Animals
Paul John | TNN , Gandhinagar: The political highstreets of Gandhinagar are under a canine threat. It now turns out that none of the stray dogs in the headquarters of babudom in Gujarat have been vaccinated. In fact, authorities here have no clue as to what happened to the 2,632 stray dogs that the ‘Notified Area Authority’ claims it had caught last year.
The Gandhinagar civic administration till date never formed a monitoring committee to control dog menace in Gandhinagar city. This committee is mandated under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. It was only after the Bombay Humanitarian League (BHL), which filed a Right to Information (RTI) application, wanting to know from the Notified Area Authority (NAA), whether they have complied with various provisions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Capture of Birds and Animals Rules while capturing dogs in the city, that the issue came to light.
The matter had come up for hearing before the state information commission recently. The PIO of NAA Gandhinagar admitted that there was no monitoring committee in place, while NAA had awarded the work of capturing dogs to a private contractor who had adequate experience in the field while working for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).
Pragnesh Patel, who filed the RTI application, contended that a trust called Ahmedabad Animal Help Foundation has said that since its inception it has not entered into an agreement with any authority in Gandhinagar. Patel said that one of the motives of a monitoring committee is to make citizens accountable and sensitive towards issues of cruelty to animals. Here the NAA had no data on the number of deaths that took place while capturing stray dogs.
State chief information commissioner R N Das suggested that NAA authorities should form a committee within 30 days as the issue was of a wider public interest. This is because any citizen, in public interest, can demand information on catching, transportation, sheltering, sterilisation, vaccination and the release of treated stray dogs. And such information cannot be made available to them unless there is a system, as mandated in the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, in place.
The formation of such a committee will also put in place a system that can hold authorities responsible for presence of rabid dogs in localities, run awareness campaigns, provide guidelines to pet dog owners, solicit public funding and co-operation, make veterinarian visits mandatory and get an elaborate survey done for the number of dogs in the town.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 20; Section:Gujarat; Page Number 5

IIM-B rejects disabled girl

Rebuffs Bright Aspirant’s RTI Plea For Details Of Selection
TIMES NEWS NETWORK , Bangalore: Like thousands of MBA aspirants, Vaishanavi Kasturi spent endless hours with books and her computer, taking mock tests, brushing up her English and trying to improve her data interpretation skills for almost three months to crack the Common Admission Test.
When the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) announced the results of CAT 2006 last month she was happy. With a percentile score of 89.29, the visually-challenged Vaishanavi had outscored thousands of other students, including some of her own classmates.
After IIM-B announced the CAT percentile score cut-off under the Persons With Disability category as 86.42, she was certain of she would be called for a group discussion and personal interview. That never happened.
“I was really hurt. I hoped I would be called for the discussion, but I did not receive any letter. Someone suggested I file an application under the Right to Information Act. I did. But the reply given by the institute has hurt me further,’’ says the sixth semester B Com student at SBMJC.
The premier institute has refused to give the names and percentile marks obtained by shortlisted blind candidates, saying it is a “trade secret’’. “At IIM-B, the processing formula applied for the selection of candidates for group discussion and interview is considered to be trade secret and kept confidential,’’ was A R Ramesh, IIM-B public information officer’s reply.
The institute has said that information on the selected candidates is confidential! “The decision of the admission committee is final. There is no provision for appeal or review,’’ was IIM-B’s stern reply.
Institute’s decision to deny admission and information has left activists fuming. “There is no provision in the RTI Act to deny information about selected candidates. How can that be a trade secret? Under Sec 8 of the Act, information which cannot be denied to the parliament or the state legislature cannot be denied to any person,’’ C N Kumar, RTI activist, said.
Vaishanavi is not giving up. “I have decided to go on appeal. I will approach the institute director and even the Central Information Commission for denying information,’’ she said.
IIM or otherwise, the B Com student is keen on pursuing a career in MBA. “I want to specialise in finance. I am considering taking up a job for one or two years and pursue MBA with some work experience,’’ says Vaishanavi.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 21; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13

Work on India’s tallest towers faces roadblock

TIMES NEWS NETWORK , Mumbai: India’s tallest buildings, currently under construction with apartments already going for Rs 45 crore each, are being built on land clearly shown in the Development Plan (DP) as intended for a public road, a legal notice sent to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has alleged.
While the plush Tardeo twin towers will have access to a public road, buildings coming up on the site to rehabilitate slumdwellers will have none, the notice says
The rehabilitation scheme at Tardeo’s MP mill compound is being carried out by S D Corporation, a joint venture between construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji and builder Dilip Thakker. The layout where the construction is taking place is on land which was primarily reserved for the prime minister’s Grant Project for slumdwellers and for police housing. The developer has to rehabilitate 2,500 slum families in new buildings on the site and also reserve a portion for police housing.
Activist Simpreet Singh of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) used the Right To Information Act to get a copy of the DP, which shows a public road has been proposed to pass through the layout. Answering another RTI application filed by him, the BMC’s chief engineer (development plan) confirmed that there had been no modification in reservation made for the road. “As such, the construction coming up on the said land is completely illegal as it overwhelms and infringes on the whole length of public road,’’ the legal notice filed by former IPS officer-turnedlawyer Y P Singh on NAPM’s behalf, said.
Rohit Sinha, manager, Shapoorji Pallonji, did not respond to TOI’s questions.
The notice alleges that the police commissioner’s no-objection certificate (NOC) was not taken and that the plot for the slumdwellers’ rehabilitation had been overloaded with FSI, leaving little open space. The sale buildings are almost ready wheareas construction work is yet to begin on many of the rehabilitation buildings, in violation of SRA rules, the notice alleged.
The project earlier ran into controversy in 2002 when residents of Carmichael Road and Tardeo took the developer to court, saying that Tardeo Hill was illegally excavated, endangering residents’ lives. The developers contended that they had adequately safeguarded the hill.
SRA CEO Debashish Chakrabarty did not answer his phone through Tuesday evening. “We have asked the SRA to issue a stop-work notice immediately so that we are not required to go to court,’’ Singh said.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 21; Section:Times City; Page Number 7

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

RTI to usher in an era of transparency

TIMES NEWS NETWORK : Lucknow: The Right to Information era spells an era of transparency and openness where the common man has the implicit right to information in order to eliminate corruption, said Justice SC Verma, chairman, Good Governance Forum, addressing the training workshop on implementation of ‘Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005’ organised by Lucknow Management Association (LMA).
“The RTI Act empowers the public to demand information about the decision-making process. This means sensitising the government and its officers about the public requirement and to meet the challenge about providing the right to information,” he said. The demand for better services would drive the implementation of the act, he added. The act spells out that the public now has right to government records, documents, memos, emails, opinions, advice, press release, circulars, reports, papers, samples models, data materials held in electronic form. The common man has the right to demand this in public interest from the government’s public information officer (PIO). Failure to provide the same within 30 days — is deemed as refusal.
After this the common man can seek justice from the appellate authority (AA). First appellate (senior officer to PIO) within 30 days from the date of refusal letter. If this too fails then he/she has the chance of a second appeal, to go to State Information Commission (SIC), n 90 days from the date of decision of first AA. Appeal against the SIC
can then be filed before the high court and supreme court.
“No longer a slogan, this act is a harbinger of change — a torch bearer in this age of information,” said Jayant Krishna, president, Lucknow Management Association (LMA). A change in attitude and mindset has to be brought about through training of officers regarding transparency and responsibility in order to provide information to the public. This will change the way the government works and gives it an opportunity to reinvent itself,” he said.
It’s a people-friendly act, which enables a citizen to play a proactive role in governance. The aim of the act is to make the government more responsive of its actions. In United Kingdom, there were debates for five years on implementation, training and awareness of the public and administrative staff to bring in public accountability. This was not done in India. A structure has been set up but at grassroots level the public awareness is lacking, said Dhirendra Krishna, a former army officer who has organised nine workshops on the RTI Act. However, there were words of caution from Anis Ansari, the agriculture production commissioner. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he said, adding “as a lot of time and effort of government officers is wasted in gathering the information, this needs to be streamlined.”
There are no doubt teething troubles at the moment. “The worst is that the common man is unaware of his rights and i 75% of the cases, the RTI is being used by the government servants to find out inhouse information only,” said Sohini Paul, project officer, right to information programme, under Commonwealth Human Rights initiative.
Publication: Times Of India Lucknow; Date:2007 Feb 15; Section:Times City; Page Number 3

Know-how tool for people: Project Jaankari

By Binay Singh/TNN: Jaunpur: Project Jaankari, a right to information and e-governance initiative was launched here on Saturday. With this, Jaunpur perhaps has become the first district in the state to empower the common masses with the most powerful and effective democratic tool —the Right to Information Act.
Centre’s chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah on Saturday clicked the portal at a seminar on “Right to Information: Present scenario and future possibilities”, organised at the VBS Purvanchal University.
Appreciating the efforts of the district administration, particularly district magistrate Anurag Yadav, Habibullah said that it had been specified in the sections 4-1c and 4-1d of the RTI Act that not only the facts and policies of the government but also the administrative decisions should be put on the website to pass on the information to the common people.
“It would empower both the government and the citizens to strengthen the democracy,” Habibullah added.
“Project Jaankari is a unique e-governance initiative related to information technology usage for RTI facilitation,” said the district magistrate adding, “as the RTI Act empowers every citizen to demand information and accountability from the government, its successful and judicious implementation would usher the development at a improved pace.”
“It is an effort towards eliminating the bottlenecks in the implementation of the RTI Act through a bi-lingual website available at Through this site, the people would know about the PIOs and APIOs to whom they could approach for information.
Besides, the available services on the website include registration, disposal and monitoring of the request for information.
The people could also secure required information and know the status of the appeals,” he added.
Project Jaankari would benefit not only the people with easy availability of information, but would also sensitise the officers and staff of different departments on the RTI Act.
According to Yadav, it has been planned to develop a searchable databank related to information already provided in order to reduce the effort of compiling similar information time and again.
Yadav said future initiatives would include linking of Hindi IVRS (interactive voice response system) technologies to the project to provide information through phones and mobiles, providing status of appeals and appeal hearing schedule through SMS, Geographical Information System (GIS) linkage with the project to provide intuitive information to the people, and networking of Collectorate, Vikas Bhawan, tehsil, block offices etc.
Publication: Times Of India Lucknow; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:India; Page Number 6

TOI’S RTI CAMPAIGN : RTI brings justice to man sacked illegally by trust

Qazi Has Been Fighting Case For 7 Yrs
Viju B I TNN : Mumbai: The Right to Information Act has come to the rescue of a former trustee of a charitable educational trust who was illegally removed by presenting signatures of dead and fictitious members.
The original papers of the trust’s no-confidence motion, which were in the charity commissioner’s office, were substituted with the forged papers in alleged collusion with the office staff. The charity commissioner’s office then passed an order to oust Qamar S Qazi, the trustee.
Seventy-three-old Qamar S Qazi, a former customs official and trustee of Anjuman Tarakki Achra, has been fighting the case for the last seven years. It was when Qazi applied to the charity commissioner’s office for the copy of the no-confidence motion passed against him in 1999 that he discovered, to his horror, that the documents were substituted.
“Instead, another document which had about 125 forged signatures of the trustees were placed. Many of the members were dead or their names were fictitious. Some were abroad when the alleged election took place,’’ Qazi said.
On discovering the forgery, Qazi filed a criminal case against the existing trustees at the Additional Magistrate court, Mazgaon in 2000. The court directed the Dongri police to investigate the case and the police report established that a forgery was committed. The court then ordered the police to file a chargesheet.
However, despite directives from the magistrate and later the Bombay high court, the charity commissioner’s office did not subsequently take any action on the issue of the forgery committed by the existing trustees.
Qazi then filed a query under the Right to Information Act in 2006 asking about the status of the case. “The charity commissioner’s office replied stating that they did not have the police inquiry report with them and hence could not take action. I then filed a complaint with the state information commissioner who directed the law and judiciary department to look into the matter,’’ Qazi said.
Within a month, Qazi got a reply from the Charity Commissioner which stated that the earlier fake no-confidence motion passed by the trust was set aside and a fresh enquiry had been initiated against the trustees. “The Right to Information Act has now helped me to set aside an order which was blatantly wrong. I hope justice will be done soon,’’ Qazi said.
Publication: Times of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 19; Section:Times City; Page Number 9

Monday, February 19, 2007

MISTAKE ADMITTED: Hospital fined 25K for delaying info

Man Files RTI Plea After Death Of Son
TIMES NEWS NETWORK : Gandhinagar: Rasiklal Trivedi is a broken man today. He lost his two-day-old son early last year to what he alleges was the negligence by hospital staff in Dhanera of Banaskantha district.
The child died for want of a ventilator facility at the hospital, which is what the hospital authorities admitted in their reply to Trivedi’s query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The grieving father wanted to fix responsibility of the tragedy on Shah Ramchand Savrajbhai General Hospital (SRSGH) by filing an RTI query, demanding case papers of his child to know exactly what went wrong and also whether the hospital or the doctors attending on his child were qualified to handle paediatric emergencies.
For almost a year, the trust running SRSGH, Dhanera Arogya Samiti, did not allow hospital authorities to provide Trivedi information. After this, the case came up for hearing at the State Information Commission (SIC) on Friday.
State chief information commissioner RN Das imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Public Information Officer of the hospital for causing an exorbitant delay in providing Trivedi the necessary details. “I wanted to move the court with the documents that I had demanded in my RTI application. I am yet to receive some of the information from the hospital.
“The deputy charity commissioner has said he will help me get more information out of the hospital,” says Trivedi.
Das had summoned the appellate authority of the regional charity commisionerate on January 10 and later on Friday.
Earlier, in public interest, Das requested the commissioner of health of Gujarat to submit a report on whether SRSGH had the requisite qualified staff to handle maternity cases.
This has been one of the few cases where the state information commission has sought government intervention.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) in its reply has claimed that Trivedi is mentally “unstable and having some psychiatric problem” and that after the “police gave a clean chit to the doctors”, Trivedi even went to extent of filing complaints against the police for hiding facts and further “filed a judicial case against the judge” who gave a verdict in favour of the doctors.
The hospital has only alleged in its reply that Trivedi was asked by the hospital to take his son to another clinic in Palanpur, to which he did not agree.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 12; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3

JAAGO GUJARAT: CBSE told to disclose details of marks

RAHUL MANGAONKAR : Strange are the ways of the Central Information Commission (CIC). While under Right to Information (RTI) they had ordered release of potentially explosive correspondence between the President and Prime Minister’s Office on the 2002 Gujarat riots, the answer-sheets of students are being termed as ‘sensitive’. CBSE, though, was made to disclose question-wise marks.
RK Gupta had sought from Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), question-wise marks awarded to Aditi Gupta in the Science and Technology paper of the class X CBSE examination and also requested for a copy of the answer sheet.
The public information officer (PIO) replied that marks were correct and that there was no provision in the examination by-laws of the board to show the answer sheet either to the candidate or her representative.
Responding to CIC’s notice, the PIO reiterated that there was no discrepancy in the marks and that the student had been informed.
The PIO also said that the information sought was exempted under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. Information Commissioner (IC) OP Kejriwal directed CBSE to disclose the question-wise marks obtained by Aditi within 15 days. On the issue of the answer sheet though he has referred the matter to a full bench of the CIC, as he terms it ‘sensitive’.
For CIC, answer sheets become sensitive because in the past they have relied on this clause to deny answer sheets of government officers appearing in departmental exams. Now these very decisions are being thrown in the CIC’s face by PIOs.
While any such case of denial of answer sheets is yet to come up at the Gujarat State Information Commission (GSIC), CIC is still reluctant to mend its ways.
Section 8 (1)(e) basically means that notwithstanding anything in the RTI Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
While the first part of the section talks about ‘fiduciary relationship’, the other part talks about ‘larger public interests’. One may debate that there is a certain level of ‘fiduciary relationship’ in all the activities that officers of public authorities undertake.
But the fact remains that they are simply discharging their administrative obligations, which they are supposedly required to do for ‘public interest and in public interest’. Not to mention that their salaries are funded by tax payers money. Therefore holding up the banner of ‘fiduciary’ to deny students access to their answer sheets is unacceptable.
For the student it is not just a question of answers, it is a question of the future. Questions have always been raised on the quality of assessment, and whether those who are correcting these answer sheets possess the competencies, skill sets as required for the job.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 15; Section:Gujarat; Page Number 5

Talati fined for refusing info

TIMES NEWS NETWORK : Ahmedabad: After receiving several complaints from applicants from villages across Gujarat regarding the callous attitude of officials at village local bodies while responding to Right to Information (RTI) applications, state chief information commissioner RN Das imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on a village ‘talati’ of Kukvara village in Mehsana district on Wednesday.
The fine was imposed as the ‘talati’ did not furnish information regarding the status of implementation of various Central government employment schemes to an applicant. Prahlad Patel of Kukvara village had demanded the status of implementation of Jawahar Rozgar Yojna in his village. Patel had also demanded copies of receipts of payment to villagers under this scheme from the ‘talati’. The information demanded was for the last five years. Patel had also asked for the financial assistance extended by the state to these programmes for this scheme.
Das noted that the information sought for by Patel was supposed to be disclosed under proactive disclosure to the public at the panchayat level. In his defence, the talati pleaded that he was on a 20-day leave and that he had lot of work and could not reply to Patel in time. Patel had demanded the information on March 6 last year. The state information commission also ordered that the Administrative Reforms Training Division of the General Administration Department of Gujarat organise training sessions for officials at village-level and report to the commission within three months.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 15; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 2

RTI activists to now act as watchdog over info panel

Himanshi Dhawan | TNN :New Delhi: From Monday, applicants dissatisfied by the Central Information Commission’s style of functioning will find help at hand. A group of NGOs, including Parivartan and Delhi Right to Information Manch spearheaded by Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal, will camp outside the CIC office to record people’s experiences and help them get redressal.
‘‘In the most grave cases of injustice, we will approach the high court to get information for the ordinary people,’’ Kejriwal said.
The information watchdog is under flak for various problems ranging from large pendency of cases to dissatisfied applicants who accuse information commissioners of dismissing their applications summarily.
When contacted, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said he was unaware of the campaign. ‘‘I don’t want to comment on the campaign. I have no idea as to the purpose behind this but let’s see. It is up to them... we will continue with our work,’’ he said.
Some of the issues that NGOs plan to take up are the lack of transparency in proceedings besides the pending cases. According to CIC records, the number of cases as of January 2007 are 2,371. The commission received 608 cases in January but was able to dispose of only 297. Civil society activists also feel that cases are disposed of without calling the applicant or giving people a chance to be heard. ‘‘The commission has not issued more than 7-8 penalties despite hearing over 2,000 cases. This is a pittance and shows its huge sympathy for the bureaucracy,’’ Kejriwal said.
NGO representatives have also complained that the scope of Section 8 of the Act or the information that is exempted from being made public has been widened while the Act itself is being restricted to a small number of issues. Activists said that many applications had been dismissed on the basis that the information asked for was of a ‘‘fiduciary nature’’ or hurt the personal or institutional interests of the organisation.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13

Gzb SP shifted for assault on Pandher

Lalit Kumar | TNN : Ghaziabad: Ghaziabad superintendent of police, Govind Agarwal, is the latest to face action for the attack on Moninder Singh Pandher at the Ghaziabad courts on January 25.
On Saturday, area DSP Ram Mohan Singh was suspended in this connection, preceded by the re-instatements of three sub-inspectors suspended earlier. Ghaziabad SSP Navin Arora said: ‘‘Agarwal has been transferred but has not yet been given any assignment. He has been attached to the office of the DGP, Lucknow.’’
But what comes as a surprise is the fact that while so many policemen’s heads have rolled, those actually responsible for the attack on Pandher have not been arrested. This, in spite of the fact that the police had filed a report immediately after Pandher was attacked. The report named six lawyers, booking them for attempted murder, attacking policemen on duty and violation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, among other legal provisions. Ghaziabad police officials refused to comment on why the assailants have not been booked.

‘Drains cleaned before discovery’
Noida: The Nithari serial killings might take an interesting turn with Noida authorities declaring that the “open” Nithari drains were cleaned and desilted on December 20, 2006 — in reply to an application filed under the Right to Information Act. This is nine days before the serial killings were discovered on December 29. It is now questioned how no skeletons were discovered during the cleaning process.
The “waste matter was dumped at Sector 54. But nothing unusual was found during the cleaning.” This information was provided by Noida in its reply to an application filed under the RTI Act by commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra. But according to documents available with the Times City, it has said nothing about what was done about the cleaning of the covered portion of the storm drain in front of Pandher’s house.
When asked by Batra about the provisions for punishing Noida officials who were guilty of negligence, the authority’s reply asks Batra to “buy a copy of the UP Industrial Development Act.”
But Noida officials may have invited trouble through the reply under the RTI. Batra pointed out: ‘‘The authority either put the expenditure on record but did not clean the drains or they did not even take notice of human skeletons in the drains in the fortnightly or monthly cleaning of the drains since 2005. In both the cases, this is a serious matter.’’ Noida has also not talked about why the illegally covered drains were not cleaned for years. The ramps over the drain in front of Pandher’s house had to be smashed by bulldozers before human skeletons could be recovered from inside it.
Noida health and sanitation chief R S Yadav said: ‘‘Around 60% of Noida’s drains are illegally covered. In 2006, we issued notices to residents twice to ask them to demolish the ramps.’’
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 19; Section:Times City; Page Number 3


Most challans return, point not driven home
Nidhi Sharma | TNN: New Delhi: If you thought that you could bring auto drivers to book by lodging a complaint with the transport helpline, think again. The notices sent to them do not reach them most of the time. The reason is simple: the transport department does not have the right address.
Statistics provided by the department reveal that about 60%-75% of challans and notices return undelivered. The department had sent 4,975 challans to auto drivers between February and October 2006. Of these, 3,302 — that is a whopping 66.37% — were returned undelivered.
This number has been increasing steadily over the years. According to the reply given by the transport department to an RTI application filed by NGO Chetna, of the 19,907 notices issued to auto drivers between October 2002 and March 2003, 64.89% were returned. This number fell to 48.85% between April 2003 and April 2004 but increased suddenly to 62.67% from April 2004 to April 2005.
The department blames it on the number of times an auto changes hands. Delhi transport minister Haroon Yusuf said: ‘‘We are now in the process of updating the addresses. It’s a big problem — when an auto is sold off by the original owner, he does not bother to get the address updated in the department records. In some cases, the original owner may have hired out the vehicle to someone else. So, he obviously does not accept the challan when it is delivered to him.’’
When the helpline was launched, Delhi government had claimed that all you need to do is just make a phone call and the auto driver would be punished. Five years on, this claim has turned out to be hollow.
That’s not all. The statistics show there are multiple offences against a single driver. There are about 55,000 autos plying in Delhi. According to the transport department figures, submitted in the reply to an RTI application, till October 2006, there were 71,141 complaints pending against autos. This means approximately 1.3 complaints against each auto.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 17; Section:Times City; Page Number 2

Maintain record of junior docs

New Delhi: Stressing the need of accountability among junior doctors serving in emergency and casualty wards, the Central Information Commission, while responding to a RTI appeal against Safdarjung Hospital, has observed that the hospital should maintain proper records pertaining to work schedule of its doctors.
‘‘To ensure accountability among the temporary doctors, proper records should be kept regarding dates, time of duty and period of stay of all the doctors and nurses,’’ said information commissioner Padma Balasubramanian in a recent order. PTI
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times City; Page Number 5


India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. Although, to anyone who’s familiar with the frenzied influx of students that Delhi receives every ‘academic’ year, the same would probably read as ‘Delhi has one of…’ And why not, with the number of educational opportunities as also the number of institutional possibilities, this city truly is an education hub. But weaknesses in this system still do exist. The question is whether these weaknesses are to be criticised and left alone, or are they to be taken into account and improved upon?
Under-marking, denying access to answer scripts, evaluation and re-evaluation are some of the most common problems ailing higher education today. These are further aggravated in case of higher student numbers, thus bringing Delhi University (DU) to the forefront.


Many DU students interviewed did not even have any idea about how and on what basis their answer scripts were evaluated in the first place. Whereas students pursuing political science and history complained that teachers emphasised more on the size of the answer rather than the quality of the content. This leads to students not adopting a technical style of writing and not studying as would be required for competitive exams. The same was also said regarding inconsistent standards followed for marking practicals, as marks are instead given keeping in mind the ‘brand name’ of the college.
Such claims by students, although may not always be well founded, are evidence enough of the hindrance posed by the opacity of the entire system. “DU should allow accessing answer scripts so that students not only know their mistakes but do not repeat them either,” opined Preeti Malik, a final year student at the Faculty of Law. She added that after the enforcement of Right to Information (RTI) a number of students filed an application with the registrar, who is also the chief information officer, requesting access to their answer scripts — but to no avail.
In contrast universities such as Bangalore University, Anna University, and Periyar University allow students to obtain photocopies of their answer scripts. Even the Kolkata State Information Commission has ordered, dated January 15, Calcutta University that any candidate can demand their answer script. DU’s ordinance however provides only for reevaluation of answer scripts for all courses and re-checking in case of professional courses. The exception here is that of St Stephen’s College, which allows photocopying of answer scripts at Rs 2 per page, but that too for just the mid-term examination.


Next in line is the question of whether or not authorities take any pains to display the exam results in an acceptable span of time. DU students are expected to look out for results anywhere between a period 45-60 days. Rahul Sharma, a BCom (Hons) student of School of Open Learning, applied for the revaluation of the answer scripts in three papers which he failed in September, 2006. Sharma however, is still awaiting the results.
So who is responsible for the delay, the babus or the teachers? “The teachers usually finish the evaluation task assigned to them on time even though the amount of remuneration is not commensurate with the amount of effort that goes in. DU has made it mandatory for all teachers to evaluate answer scripts but still there are many who don’t participate in the exercise,” said a teacher of St Stephen’s College. And thus even in case of re-evaluation “answer scripts often continue to be provided in instalments to the same teacher,” she added. On an average a teacher of the Examination Committee has to check about 200 copies. A lecturer of University School of Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) stated, “less than required teachers are recruited for checking the answer scripts, which in turn burdens the teachers as they can only devote 20-22 minutes to one sheet.” The stipulated number of scripts along with the lack of ample time once again favours inefficiency.


The exam results and their respective procedures are no doubt a little faulty, but what then of the exams themselves? Evaluation systems are meant for assessing the development of a student.Yet the kinds of question papers being set seem to do quite the opposite. Students even opine that the questions are meant not to test what a student knows but to test instead what he doesn’t. In fact a first year student of Law Faculty, DU, felt that “studying the previous years question papers is enough to land students amongst the top.” Question papers today are unfortunately testing only the ability to cram, rather than to test their analytical ability and interpretation instincts. Examiners must keep in mind that it cannot be tested what a student has learnt in the past one year, or even six months, on the basis of a three-hour cramfest. Evaluation should include an overall assessment of the students vis-à-vis a written test and a personality evaluation. And for courses such as BTech and MBBS priority should be given to practical rather than theoretical tests.


One problem that exists even before all the aforesaid hassles is that final exams often carry a 100% weightage. Doesn’t the lack of internal evaluation in itself prove troublesome? “It definitely does away with any kind of biases, but one must learn to move beyond objectivity,’ says Simi Malhotra, who has taught at DU and is currently teaching at the department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University. Jamia has internal assessment in some courses. In the courses where internal assessment is followed the students are happy with the way things are managed.

“The idea of continuous and comprehensive evaluation is fulfilled through the system we have at the faculty of Education,”says Farah Naeem, an MEd student. She accepted that this system does let biases creep in but argued “They do not occur that often and instead we don’t feel burdened at the time of the final exam.”
How many sheets do they get for correction? “In case of compulsory subjects like general English we do get many copies, but since these papers are totally objective there is no such burden,” commented Malhotra. “ Although one must understand that the paradigm for all universities is different. Delhi University has more than 80 colleges affiliated to it, so the number of copies there can be quite daunting.
Things are different at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jamia. If these universities too had such a large number of students, the pressure on the examiners would probably have been the same,” she reasoned.


There is quite a difference in the entire approach to evaluation at JNU as compared to other universities, especially in regard to the very subjective modes of assessment followed. Saugata Bhaduri, who teaches at the Centre for English, vouches for the flexibility both in the syllabus and the criteria of evaluation. “The teachers decide what to teach, and they check the papers they have taught”. And to lay doubts of unfairness to rest the university has in place a grievance cell for any such complaints. In addition, courses are optional and students can always leave a certain course and take an extra one in the next semester in case they can’t adjust.
“With a system of internal assessment in place we had our noses to the grindstone throughout the year,” joked Julie K Raju, a former student. “But things are done very democratically here,” stated Raju. Sadiqur Rehman, who has taught at the university, agreed on the same adding, “Since the answer sheets are given back to the students, each can see for himself how the others have performed.”
Perhaps all three universities could weigh the pros and cons of their respective systems and learn from each other. But whatever the eventuality may be, most teachers at present agree that in order to function efficiently, DU must decentralise. Till then, the exam blues can perhaps only be criticised.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 12; Section:Education Times; Page Number 43

Secrets of an open university

(Subodh Varma | TIG, New Delhi): It’s touted as the world’s biggest distant learning centre with more than 1.5 million students in 125 programmes. Since its inception 21 years ago, 3.2 million students have enrolled with it. Its mission is to take education to the ‘‘unreached’’. That’s a short introduction to the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou).
Now look at these facts. Between 1996 and 2002, nearly 68% of the students enrolling with it were women and of them only 2.5% have actually passed. Of the more than 1.64 lakh students enrolled in the BA course in these six years, nearly 75,000 dropped out.
India’s distance learning establishments, consisting of Ignou, 13 state open universities and 106 other institutions, are projected as an answer to the biggest problem of our education system — that only 9% of those in the 17-23 years age bracket have access to higher education. But are these centres delivering on the job given to them?
Ignou and other distant learning institutions lead below-the-radar existence — they are rarely under scrutiny. It took Subhadra Khaperde and her husband Rahul Banerjee of Indore nearly a year to struggle through the Right to Information maze and glean out facts.
Subhadra was determined to find out about Ignou. Born in a Dalit marginal farmer family in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh, Subhadra passed senior secondary from a government school and later worked as an “anganwadi” worker at Rs 200 per month.
In 1997, she enrolled in Ignou’s BA programme. When the study material arrived, Subhadra was stumped — she couldn’t comprehend the language used for instruction. The difficulty was not peculiar to Subhadra. The course material is such that few are able to make sense of it.

Enrolment up, success rate sliding
New Delhi: The truth about Ignou’s performance is difficult to find in the undergrowth of diverse statistics available on its website — the number of answer sheets evaluated, number of students sitting for term-end examinations etc.
Calculations based on the vice-chancellor’s report at the 17th convocation of Ignou reveal that of all its students, about 6 lakh, or less than 18%, have been successful in getting degrees, diplomas or certificates.
Going by the 2006 convocation figures, more than two-thirds of the successful students were pursuing diploma or certificate courses, that too, mostly in computer or management-related courses. These shorter duration programmes have increased the pass-out share in Ignou, which used to be below 10% till about a decade ago.
However, since 2000, the number of successful students has been steadily declining although enrolment is going up.
Bewildered at this contrast and the incomprehensible texts and approach pursued by IGNOU, Subhadra’s husband Rahul Bannerjee filed an RTI application seeking details of Ignou’s BA pass-outs. In response, the Ignou bureaucracy led them through an obstacle course of incorrect data, technical objections, delays and appeals — ultimately giving out inco plete information.
‘‘Such essential information should be made available in the public domain as a matter of routine,’’ says Bannerjee.
With the pressing need for increasing enrolment to acceptable levels — the upcoming 11th five year Plan talks of 15% enrolment ratio as a target — several education administrators and theorists are suggesting expansion of the open and distance learning system.
It finds increasing favour because, as the approach paper to the 11th Plan rather quaintly says, ‘‘it overcomes the infrastructure constraint’’.
That is, you don’t have to spend money on teachers and classrooms, as in regular universities. Moreover, information technology has provided a whole new meaning to distance education.
However, the dismal performance of Ignou raises serious questions about the viability of India’s education system following this trajectory.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 12; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

Sunday, February 18, 2007

RTI Training for Aligarh District Administration

News scan from Hindi Dailies: Dainik Jagaran dt 13/2/2007 and Amar Ujala dt 13/2/2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Maharashtra State is leading RTI user

By Manjiri Damle/TNN, Pune: Active and aware citizens of Maharashtra have emerged leading users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 in the country. The Maharashtra information commission received as many as 6,641 complaints and second appeals by December 2006, as compared to other state commissions which received an average of less than 2,000 each. Significantly, the Central Information Commission, which has five information commissioners and is the second appellate authority for all Union government bodies, received 4,939 second appeals and complaints — much lower than the Maharashtra state commission. Second appeals are applications made by the complainants against decisions given by local appellate authorities of various departments pertaining to appeals that challenge decisions given by the public information officers. Mumbai-based activist Shailesh Gandhi, who procured the data to check the use of RTI across the country, told TOI that Maharashtra not only leads in use of RTI, but showed that the RTI movement had spread across the state, with all revenue divisions receiving a sizeable number of second appeals and complaints. Most of the credit goes to noted social crusader Anna Hazare’s tireless efforts and his pressure on the state government, which resulted in enactment of RTI in the state way back in 2002 and the appointment of more than one state information commissioner, Gandhi said. Pune division tops in exploring RTI Act Pune: The city has emerged as the leading user of the RTI Act. The data collected by Mumbai-based RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi showed that Pune division tops the state. As many as 1,383 second appeals and complaints have gone from here to the state commission. Mumbai follows with 1,372, Nashik with 905, Konkan with 901, Amravati with 775, Aurangabad with 685 and Nagpur with 620. Leading city RTI activist Vivek Velankar attributed Maharashtra’s performance to greater awareness about RTI and its use in the state since 2002. “During the three years before the Union government came out with the RTI Act, 2005, over 30,000 RTI applications were received by various information officers in the state. Of them, 10,000 got the required information,” Velankar revealed. He pointed out that people in Maharashtra got excellent practice in RTI usage thanks to social crusaderAnna Hazare. “Other states do not have the same level of awareness,” he remarked. Gandhi pointed out that initially, the Maharashtra government lagged behind in implementation of RTI. The government only acted when Hazare threatened to agitate. “The government provided only one chief information commissioner despite a huge caseload, whereas Assam had two and Kerala had four!” he said. However, the government appointed two more information commissioners in December and has now selected four more though the selection method has remained opaque, Gandhi said. He felt that the government should be given credit for distributing the information commissioners across all revenue divisions, instead of keeping them all in the state capital. About the performance of the sole chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi, Gandhi said that after a slow start at disposals, he has begun disposing about 110 applications per month during the last three months. “He disposed 324 cases in the first nine months which increased to 326 cases during October to December,” he said. A stage would soon come when an applicant will get a decision in 60 days, he added.
Publication: Times Of India Pune; Date:2007 Feb 07; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

Hospital fined 25K for delaying info

Man Files RTI Plea After Death Of Son
TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Gandhinagar: Rasiklal Trivedi is a broken man today. He lost his two-day-old son early last year to what he alleges was the negligence by hospital staff in Dhanera of Banaskantha district. The child died for want of a ventilator facility at the hospital, which is what the hospital authorities admitted in their reply to Trivedi’s query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The grieving father wanted to fix responsibility of the tragedy on Shah Ramchand Savrajbhai General Hospital (SRSGH) by filing an RTI query, demanding case papers of his child to know exactly what went wrong and also whether the hospital or the doctors attending on his child were qualified to handle paediatric emergencies. For almost a year, the trust running SRSGH, Dhanera Arogya Samiti, did not allow hospital authorities to provide Trivedi information. After this, the case came up for hearing at the State Information Commission (SIC) on Friday. State chief information commissioner RN Das imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Public Information Officer of the hospital for causing an exorbitant delay in providing Trivedi the necessary details. “I wanted to move the court with the documents that I had demanded in my RTI application. I am yet to receive some of the information from the hospital. “The deputy charity commissioner has said he will help me get more information out of the hospital,” says Trivedi. Das had summoned the appellate authority of the regional charity commisionerate on January 10 and later on Friday. Earlier, in public interest, Das requested the commissioner of health of Gujarat to submit a report on whether SRSGH had the requisite qualified staff to handle maternity cases. This has been one of the few cases where the state information commission has sought government intervention. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) in its reply has claimed that Trivedi is mentally “unstable and having some psychiatric problem” and that after the “police gave a clean chit to the doctors”, Trivedi even went to extent of filing complaints against the police for hiding facts and further “filed a judicial case against the judge” who gave a verdict in favour of the doctors. The hospital has only alleged in its reply that Trivedi was asked by the hospital to take his son to another clinic in Palanpur, to which he did not agree.

Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 12; Section:Ahmedabad; Page Number 3 MISTAKE ADMITTED

Local bodies rapped for ignoring queries

Paul John I TNN, Gandhinagar: The Right to Information movement is no longer restricted to urban centres. The state information commission (SIC) recently expressed concern over the callous attitude of gram, taluka and district panchayats across the state in providing information pertaining to larger public interest. In a recent order, state chief information commissioner RN Das observed that the indifferent attitude of officers may invite penal provisions under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
This order has been sent to the secretary and commissioner of rural development.
A copy has also been shot off to the director general of Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration, which oversees the training of officers under the RTI Act. Das observed that information sought by applicants at the village, panchayat and taluka level should be part of the proactive disclosure that each public office should make regarding its functioning.
According to the SIC order, some of the officers responsible for the deplorable condition in villages across the state are talaticum-mantris, taluka development officers and district development officers. Moreover, in most cases, public information officers (PIO) representing the village bodies claimed ignorance of the RTI Act. Das, however, said this was no excuse for delaying information to applicants.
The SIC’s order came in the case of Akheraj Vaghela of Lodrani village in Rapar taluka of Kutch who demanded accountability from the gram panchayat on the water shed programme in his village. Vaghela had demanded information on the village level committees, the number of watershed programmes undertaken by these committees, details of expenditure, budget and whether village committees were responsible for utilising funds for these projects.
Akheraj had applied for this information in March last year, but was given incomplete data in January this year. The SIC took a strong note of this.
“The information sought was in the larger public interest. Such information should be provided in order to promote transparency and accountability and comes under proactive disclosure,” Das said.
The SIC issued a showcause notice to the taluka development officer of Rapar as to why a fine, under section 20 of the RTI Act, should not be imposed on him for the delay caused in providing information to Vaghela.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Feb 11; Section:Gujarat; Page Number 5