Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crores of celeb MP funds lie unutilised

RTI reply reveals Mumbai Collector's office did not distribute unused funds of several state celebrity MPs, amounting to more than Rs 10 crore, to their successors; the MPs include Lata Mangeshkar, Shabana Azmi The Mumbai Collector's office failed to transfer unused MPLADS funds of several celebrity Rajya Sabha MPs in the state to the tune of Rs 10.05 crore to their successors, an RTI reply has revealed. While Shabana Azmi left Rs 66.42 lakh unused at the end of her term, Mangeshkar left Rs 1.39 crore Rs 88.93 lakh received by the Collector's office as compensation from embassies of countries where Indian nationals died in circumstances liable for compensation were also not disbursed to the families of the deceased.

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PMC at your service, tea worth Rs 6.5 lakh a year

You cannot fault elected representatives of the city for not serving citizens well, even if it’s only tea. An RTI query by Newsline on PMC expenses reveals the total expenditure on tea by officebearers is Rs 6.5 lakh a year. Replying to the query, the PMC disclosed that the expenses on tea by the officebearers was Rs 6,52,912 in the 2009-10 fiscal. In the current fiscal, the expense from April 1 to December 31, 2010 has been Rs 4,13,094. Admitting the figures are fairly high, Mayor Mohansingh Rajpal said, “I am not aware of actual expenses on tea made by officebearers. I will look into it.”

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Unethical drug trials caused death of 10 gas victims

An RTI query has revealed that at least 10 people have died at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital - meant for the treatment of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy victims - due to unethical drug trials, several rights groups claimed Thursday. Five organisations - Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Children Against Dow Carbide and Bhopal Group for Information
and Action - Thursday levelled serious charges against two senior consultants at the hospital by showing information obtained through a Right to Information (RTI) application.

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NGO unearths wheat scam in Meghalaya

A social organisation in Meghalaya has unearthed that wheat worth crores of rupees under the Targeted Public Distribution System has been allegedly diverted for the past several years. Under a Right To Information application the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has given information that the State has been receiving wheat from 2008. Every month the State receives its quota of 1,403
metric tonnes of wheat, but none of the fair price shops are distributing it. A kilogram of wheat costs Rs 6.10. “Where is this wheat going when the FCI has been supplying it to the State under TPDS,” Michael Syiem, who filed the RTI, said at a public hearing today.

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'Property details not exempt under RTI’: CIC

Overruling former chief information commission A N Tiwari’s ruling on disclosure of property details, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has said that the information is not exempt under the RTI Act. In an order allowing for property details to be made public, Gandhi said, ‘‘With due respect to the observations of information commissioner A N Tiwari, this Commission noted that in the Surendra Sharma case, the disclosure of property returns of an employee of the respondent company was exempted merely on the basis that the information was confidential and given on the assurance that the confidentiality would not be breached.’’

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Nathu wins after 10 yrs

RTI comes to the rescue of farmer whose relative's 74-acre land was grabbed by three city-based businessmen Nitin Brahme. A farmer from Maval succeeded in retrieving 74 acres of land belonging to his son-in-law's family after it was grabbed by three city-based businessmen, who colluded with government officials to change the land title. After nearly a decade of struggle Nathu Gaikwad, 51, a resident of Kambre Maval, finally managed to expose the shady dealings of revenue officials in Maval, notorious for land-grabs, by making use of the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

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Minutes of JEE committee can't be disclosed: CIC

The minutes of meetings for the preparations of IIT Joint Entrance Examination cannot be provided under the Right to Information Act as their disclosure could result in ''breakdown'' of the examination system, the Central Information Commission has held. The transparency panel while hearing the plea of an RTI applicant who sought, besides other details, a copy of the minutes of the JEE committee meetings of 2010 agreed with the argument of IIT-Mumbai that it contained crucial details about 2011 examinations which are yet to be held.

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Goa State breached SC rules on phone tapping ?

At a time when the issue of telephone tapping is occupying centre-stage at the national level, it has come to light that the Goa Government has been tapping telephones in the State, allegedly in violation of Supreme Court directions and the Indian Telegraph Rules, until very recently. Information obtained by RTI activist Savio Correia from the State Home Department suggests that telephone tapping was done in breach of the procedure established by law, and a `Review Committee' was constituted only in September last year. The authorities have stubbornly refused to disclose any information about interception of telephone conversations, leading Correia to approach the State Information Commission for relief.

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Kashmir gets CVC clearance for information commissioner

The Jammu and Kashmir government has received the clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for the appointment of an income tax officer as the state's first chief information commissioner (CIC), an official said on Sunday. A panel headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had recommended G.R. Sufi's name for appointment as the CIC on Jan 27, but Governor N.N. Vohra had sent back the file saying that the CVC clearance be attached with it. "Subsequently, the CVC's clearance was sought and it has been received," an official said. "The file would be sent back to the governor," he added.

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Service book of govt servant not personal: CIC

In a major decision that could spark privacy versus transparency debate, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said the service details of a public servant are not confidential and can be provided to an RTI applicant. The country's top watchdog had earlier taken out property details and income tax returns of public servants from the ambit of confidentiality which has been
challenged in the Delhi High Court. The CIC's decision came while hearing the plea of an RTI applicant who had sought from the Railways the service book details of the Chief Law Assistant.
The applicant also sought to know if the post of Chief Law Assistant at the Chittaranjan Loco works was a tenure post.

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Rs 38 lakh for rehabilitation of child labourers lying unspent

A sum of R38 lakh is the amount lying unspent with the Delhi Child Labour Rehabilitation cum Welfare Society, which takes care of rehabilitation of rescued child labourers annually, a query under RTI has revealed. The society received a total of Rs 4.27 crore during the last five years comprising Rs 2.5 crore — just one time in 2008-09 — from the Delhi government and rest from the
Centre, the RTI reply further informed. "The pending amount — R38 lakh as on October 2010 — can be used for rehabilitation of many more children," said Prinyanka Sinha from NGO Pratidhi, who had sought the information under the Right to Information (RTI).

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TN: Notebooks for SC/ST pupils only on paper

While the Tamil Nadu government has earmarked `20 crore for distribution of free notebooks to students belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, at least 13 schools in five districts have not received the notebooks, which gives rise to the big question: Where has the money gone? Headmasters of the schools, in their reply to RTI queries filed by S Karuppaiah of the Dalit Liberation Movement, have categorically said that they had not received any notebooks
although P Sivasankaran, Commissioner of Adi Dravidar Welfare, has claimed that the scheme to provide free notebooks to students up to class 10 was on.

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`Probe into vehicle sales tax scam'

Following allegations of a scam by the Shiv Sena, the Sales Tax department on Friday said it has ordered an internal enquiry into the `mistake' of levying less sales tax on vehicles. Earlier, Desai met chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and requested a CBI enquiry into the scam. Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, on Friday, alleged that the state had lost revenue of Rs15,000 crore as a bogus notification was uploaded on the government's website, which stated that the sales tax charged on motor vehicles with engine capacity of 950 cc and higher was 2% as opposed to 12.5%. The incorrect levy of tax took place from 2005 to 2010, causing loss of revenue to the state, alleged Desai.

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Case against Shiv Sena corporator for misuse of funds

The Ghatkopar police registered a case against a Shiv Sena corporator and 9 others for allegedly misusing BMC's Slum Rehabilitation Program (SRP) for personal benefits for a decade. Shubhangi Shirke, her husband and daughter, as well as 7 others were booked under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for cheating, forgery, extortion and criminal breach of trust on Wednesday after
an order from the Vikroli Metropolitan Magistrate court. An initiative taken by a Right to Information (RTI) activist Vilas Chavan revealed how Shirke had been allegedly pocketing most of the funds being allotted under SRP to her NGO Shubhagi Mahila Udyogic Utpadak Sahkari Sanstha. "The SRP contract was given in name of her daughter on June 1, 2000 to her NGO on the recommendation of Shirke, herself,' said Advocate Satyam Dubey, who represented Chavan in the Vikroli court.

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Vivekanand trust received huge sums from Tibetians

Information sought under Right To Information Act regarding donations made to Swami Vivekanand Trust in Palampur, floated by veteran BJP leader Shanta Kumar, has added another dimension to the ongoing controversy regarding funds available to Tibetan institutions and individuals residing in India. The information was sought by RTI Bureau, Mandi, in 2009 regarding the income and expenditure details of the said Trust. The information had revealed that the Trust had received substantive donations from Tibetans from 2002 to 2004, including from His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

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Plot alloted to non-applicant

In a glaring blunder, Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) has allotted a 150-square yard plot in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar to a person who had refunded the application fee for the plot seven years ago. To cover up the issue, the allottee Balwant Singh was charged an interest on the application fee which only amounted to Rs 1,200. Moreover, not a single employee has been punished for this blunder. This has come to light from an audit report of LIT, obtained through a RTI application.

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Delhi water bodies go under, almost

In a blow to conservation efforts, of the 629 water bodies identified by government agencies, as many as 232 cannot be revived for various reasons. A reply by Delhi's Urban Development department to a query by Vinod Jain under the Right to Information (RTI) Act provided a break-up of the status of 629 water bodies, along with one that was later added to the list under the Irrigation and Flood Control department (I&FC). A majority of the 175 that cannot be revived come under the Delhi government's I&FC department, apart from 16 others, where legal disputes have prevented any work to be taken up. Further, it mentions that 37 water bodies under Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and four under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) cannot be revived for various reasons.

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HC allows animal welfare organization to seek info under RTI

In a step that is likely to expand the ambit of RTI usage, the Delhi high court on Wednesday permitted an animal welfare organization based in the capital to seek information under the RTI Act on welfare of two elephants scheduled to be sent to Germany in an exchange programme in return for two cheetahs. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the organization - Animal and Birds Charitable Trust - had the right to access periodical reports from Germany about the health conditions of the two pachyderms from the "Centre, Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board under the RTI Act."

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Judicial commission's scope diluted to a great extent

A day after the first information report (FIR) lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was made public by leading Right To Information ( RTI) activists, it appears that the scope of the judicial commission set up by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to probe into the multi-crore Adarsh housing society scam, has been diluted to a great extent. "The commission, set up under the
Commission of Inquiry Act, has lost its significance, since key issues referred to the commission have been adequately dealt with by the CBI,'' a senior bureaucrat said.

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Man with disability uses RTI to expose bogus voter lists

Around 35 residents of Rangpar village in Wankaner taluka had moved to Rajkot some 20 years ago. But if the voters' list is to be believed, they still reside in the village. The error was brought to the notice of the state election commission authorities by Ratna Ala, 30, who is visually challenged. He filed an RTI application inquiring why names of people who have left the village are not removed from the voters' list. Ala's RTI queries forced the authorities to remove the names of the people.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

HC allows animal welfare organization to seek info under RTI

In a step that is likely to expand the ambit of RTI usage, the Delhi high court on Wednesday permitted an animal welfare organization based in the capital to seek information under the RTI Act on welfare of two elephants scheduled to be sent to Germany in an exchange programme in return for two cheetahs. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the organization - Animal and Birds Charitable Trust - had the right to access periodical reports from Germany about the health conditions of the two pachyderms from the "Centre, Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board under the RTI Act."

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Judicial commission's scope diluted to a great extent

A day after the first information report (FIR) lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was made public by leading Right To Information (RTI) activists, it appears that the scope of the judicial commission set up by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to probe into the multi-crore Adarsh housing society scam, has been diluted to a great extent. "The commission, set up under the
Commission of Inquiry Act, has lost its significance, since key issues referred to the commission have been adequately dealt with by the CBI,'' a senior bureaucrat said.

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Police recruits get RTI lessons

Former top Income Tax officer G RSofi was today appointed as the first Chief Information Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir, six years after the state enacted the landmark RTI. The name of Sofi was decided after a meeting of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, leader of Opposition Mehbooba Muftiand Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand. However, the posts ofthe two Information Commissioners will remain vacant for the time being. The meeting to appoint the state CIC was postponed twice earlier because Mehbooba had boycotted them but this time she had agreed to join the meeting.

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Man with disability uses RTI to expose bogus voter lists

Around 35 residents of Rangpar village in Wankaner taluka had moved to Rajkot some 20 years ago. But if the voters' list is to be believed, they still reside in the village. The error was brought to the notice of the state election commission authorities by Ratna Ala, 30, who is visually challenged. He filed an RTI application inquiring why names of people who have left the village are not removed from the voters' list. Ala's RTI queries forced the authorities to remove the names of the people.

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'Bus depot on riverbed without DDA permission'

The contentious Millennium Depot of the Delhi Transport Corporation on the Yamuna riverbed has come up without permission from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the land-owning agency. In an RTI reply last week, the DDA's planning department said that "no permission for construction of depot at this location has been given." "We had given permission for temporary parking for some 600 buses during the Common-wealth Games," said a senior DDA official on condition of anonymity.

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