Saturday, May 15, 2010

Since 2006, 88 workers dead at construction sites

At least 88 people, including three children under five years, and a 60-year-old man, have been killed in accidents at construction sites in Ahmedabad since 2006, replies to a series of RTI queries filed at various police stations have revealed. Replies to these RTI queries filed by the Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan also show that at least 83 others were badly injured in such accidents. In 71 registered cases with the police stations, 50 were marked as accidental deaths. In most of the tragedies, the police records show details of the accidents and how the victims died.

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NIT ‘vandalizes’ RTI Act

Authorities at the National Institute of Technology have literally vandalized the Right to Information Act by denying ‘factual information’ to its academics. The aggrieved have now approached Chief Information Commissioner, Government of India, Wajahat Habibullah, for ‘justice.’ In a letter to Wajahat, who is incidentally also the chairman of the NIT’s Board of Governors, the Teachers’ Society has demanded an “impartial inquiry’ into the denial of information to a senior NIT professor under the RTI Act, asserting that the authorities harassed the applicant and denied him the medical reimbursement after he sought the “seniority list of professors”.

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RTI whip on Tripura official

Tripura’s chief information commissioner B.K. Chakraborty today imposed a fine of Rs 24,000 on a block development officer for failing to provide information to an applicant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Krishna Gopal Saha, 43, a resident of Shibnagar in Sadar subdivision, had sought information about the utilisation of funds under the NREGA scheme in the block in the last fiscal in a letter to BDO (Mohanpur) Pradip Acharjee on March 27. The officer, however, took no initiative to disseminate the information. After Saha failed to obtain the information, he appealed to the state information commission and, having gone through the case, Chakraborty directed Acharjee on April 28 to provide the necessary information within 10 days, but the BDO did not comply with the order.

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Private companies with minor Govt stake under RTI: HC

The Delhi High Court Friday said that even those companies in which government has a minority stake can be brought under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act and declared National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) as public authority. Interpreting the Act, Justice S Muralidhar said there is no need to have deep or pervasive government control over an institution to bring it under the ambit of the transparency law. "The absence of any adjective like deep or pervasive qualifying the word controlled in the RTI Act means that any control over the body by the central government will suffice to make it a public authority," the court said adding "a controlling interest through shareholding does not necessarily mean majority shareholding."

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J&K State Information Commission launches its website

The J&K State Information Commission has launched its website. The address is:
http://jksic.nic.in/

The site contains basic information such as the Act, the Rules, the Forms, an organization chart, and contact information. We believe that the site will eventually host a portal for checking on status of 2nd appeals and complaints filed before the SIC, similar to the system used by the CIC. http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_gov/cic_gov_check_status.php

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Disclose marks of candidates: Punjab CIC to PPSC

The Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), Patiala, cannot deny information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about marks obtained by candidates in written examination as well as interview. State Chief Information Commissioner R I Singh on Monday said nothing in the administrative realm was personal or private, and those who choose to enter public affairs must learn to live by public scrutiny. He also said that an answer-sheet was not a private parchment supplied by a third party. "It is a public paper in the custody of a public authority, which is the PPSC in this case," he added.
He stated this while hearing the case of complainant Rakesh Kumar of Amritsar, who was unsuccessful in the exam conducted by the PPSC to fill the posts of deputy superintendents of police (DSP).

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Rs 8.5 cr spent on netas jaunts; but no reports

A whopping Rs 8.52 crore spent by legislators on foreign tours, but not a single report prepared on what they learnt! Despite the diktat for submission of tour reports, the legislature committees that undertook foreign jaunts in 2009 have failed to submit study reports to the Speaker or the Chairman. He had reminded the legislators that their visits should not be reduced to just `enjoyment'. Information obtained by TOI through RTI says none of the committees has submitted any report. The legislators' 2007 China jaunt attracted criticism after they openly said they learnt nothing from the tour. Following this, Shettar made tour reports mandatory. Legislators can undertake two study tours and one foreign jaunt in their five-year term. During Aug-Sept 2009, a total of 157 legislators and 48 officials visited foreign countries for 15 days through 13 legislature committees. The jaunts cost the government Rs 8.52 crore.

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Destruction of 1971 files criminal act, says CIC

The government should move proactively to declassify documents to avoid the kind of disaster -- the destruction of the 1971 war records in the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command -- that TOI reported on Sunday, said chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. Reacting to the TOI report that the entire records of the 1971 war with Eastern Army Command were destroyed, Habibullah said the "law is quite clear" that all
records "older than 20 years must be disclosed, except under specific circumstances". The destruction of records, unless it was permitted under law, was a criminal act, he pointed out. "There are rules allowing for destruction," but then details of those destructions must be available with the government, he said. Army sources said there were no written details specifying authorization for destroying the 1971 files.

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Mob attacks house of man who filed RTI application on illegal tubewells

A mob of around 50 men attacked the house of a Southeast Delhi resident on Saturday morning thinking he had filed a complaint with the SDM regarding six illegal tubewells in the area. The complaint had, however, been made by few executive engineers of the Delhi Jal Board on January 13, and Gyan Singh had just filed an RTI on April 26 asking
about its present status. “The people — apparently those operating the illegal tubewells — came to my house in the morning thinking I had made a complaint with the DJB. However, I had just filed an RTI seeking the status of the complaint,” said Singh, a resident of Sangam Vihar.

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50% of ferries plying in state not seaworthy

You could be risking your life every time you step into a ferry in Goa. Of the 28 ferries in the state plying on 19 routes, just 14 are seaworthy. Information obtained under the Right to Information Act (RTI) from the river navigation department (RND) states that only half of the total number of ferries in Goa are seaworthy. Captain of ports A P Mascarenhas, however, said there is no such thing as a seaworthy certificate, but a certificate of survey. "The government on its own volunteered to register and have the vessels surveyed. The process was started two years ago and we have further asked the court for another two years to complete the process," Mascarenhas said. A PIL had been filed in the high court of Bombay at Goa objecting to the ferries not being registered. Based on that the high court had asked the department to register the ferries.

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RTI exposes J-K austerity sham

In RTI response has torn apart the Jammu and Kashmir Government's claims of austerity measures and empty coffers. The query filed by CNN-IBN under Right to Information (RTI) Act shows how Rs 6 crore was spent just on renovation and repair work of ministerial bunglows. Earlier, the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had initiated the austerity
drive by promising to reduce non-necessary expenditure. However, RTI filed by CNN-IBN shows that the cut backs on official lunches, purchase of furniture and even stationary in government offices are just skin deep. It reveals how a whopping Rs 6 crore was spent on repairing ministerial bunglows in the last one year. This includes Rs 48.7 lakh spent on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah' s own private office in Srinagar. Over Rs 47.4 lakh were also spent on the residence of the state's Finance Minister and and Rs 30 lakh on the Social Welfare Minister.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

RTI finds MAC stadium illegal

The M.A. Chidambaram cricket stadium at Chepauk was "illegally" constructed 38 years ago on the land leased out by the state government, it has been revealed. Responding to an RTI petition, officials from fire and rescue services department, city corporation, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and district collectorate have revealed that they had not given permission to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) to construct a stadium in the land leased out to it decades ago. Mr S. Ramakrishnan, the state chief information commissioner, said on Wednesday that the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, TNCA and Madras Cricket Club were yet to respond to the RTI petition filed by Mr J. Mohanraj of East Abiramapuram in the city.

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Youth asks Ex-Minister to furnish property details

Right to Information Act RTI seems creating a wonder for the people of Sikkim, today each and every people are aware of what is RTI all about. Any Indian within a country has a right to seek for a information under this act, no matter its official information or a anything.In one such incident a youth hailing from South Sikkim has punched the former two times Minister K.N Upreti with RTI. The RTI filed reads disclosing entire details of property owned by K.N Upreti be it either his relatives indeed, said the RTI information seeker Bel Bahadur Chettri to press. Bel Bahadur Chettri claims himself to be an unemployed hailing from Lingee under Ravangla Jurisdiction, South Sikkim. He said over the phone that everyone is seeking an information through RTI and are successful, learning the power of RTI I too put foward my request to seek a wealth , property details of K.N Upreti. It may be noted that Khada Nanda Upreti performed as a Minister since 1985-1994 under the Sangram Government who took over as Minister of several departments during Bhandari regime. Interestingly that Former Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari was also told to furnish a details of property under corruption case and now after period of 16 years someone has realised.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bhopal gas victims seek details of Nuclear Liability Bill from PMO

Victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, described as one of the world's worst ever industrial disasters, have filed a Right to Information (RTI) petition with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) here. The RTI plea wants to know whether the Central Government took into consideration the disaster of gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in 1984 while drafting the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill with the USA. Representatives of three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children against Dow Carbide - accompanied the victims to the PMO. It may be recalled that over 50 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy walked over 800 kilometres on foot from Bhopal to New Delhi and met the Prime Minister in 2008.

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Gay Prof damned by AMU based on enquiry based on hearsay!

RTI query reveals the proctor's office has no record of either the evidence or the proctorial board that led to the suspension of Prof Srinivas Ramchandra SirasJust a few weeks after hounding a gay professor, Srinivas Ramchandra Siras,to what is being suspected as suicide, the Aligarh Muslim University has revealed that it has no record of either the proctorial board or the so-called evidence that led to such gross violation of law and liberty.In response to a query filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the university has said that it does not have any record of any of its officials having seen the video clip that allegedly showed the late professor indulging in homosexual activities.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

After repeated RTI pleas, AMC refuses to divulge details

The Right to Information Act is a potent tool to extract information from government agencies and bringing transparency in their functioning. But, the Allahabad Municipal Corporation, it seems, is unwilling to do so. Or else, why the municipal corporation is evasive on giving details sought by an applicant. The AMC has turned down every query of the applicant on some pretext or the other. Katra corporator Anand Agarwal had first sought details from the AMC about the number of residential houses and commercial buildings in the city and the amount of taxes imposed on these buildings. But in its reply, AMC said it was not clear from the question whether information was sought about the residential houses and commercial buildings of a particular zone or the entire city. Taking this premise, the municipal body refused to give any information.

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RTI rigmarole wears down citizens

In an interesting incident, the state information commission (SIC) has marked an inquiry against assistant town planner-cum-assistant public information officer Harpreet Ghai and building inspector Manbir Sharma for paying a compensation account under RTI Act from their own pockets. A city resident, Arhsdeep Singh, had sought information from the public information officer on November 30, 2009. Following this, state public information commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover had ordered public information
officer (building branch), municipal corporation, to pay a compensation of Rs 2000 to the complainant. But the officers — Ghai and Sharma — allegedly paid the amount through draft from their private account, which is against RTI Act's Section 19(8)B, according to which the compensation amount should be made by the public authority from the public account.

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Info Commissions may get powers to frame 'regulations'

Information Commissions will get powers to make "regulations" if an amendment to the Right to Information Act contemplated by government materialises. The Department of Personnel and Training, nodal agency to implement the transparency law in the country, has said a new section 29-A could be incorporated in the law which will empower the Commissions to make regulations. The department in an RTI reply to S C Agrawal had said, "Government is examining a proposal regarding amendment to the Act...to incorporate a new section 29-A empowering commissions to make regulations." It, however, made clear that any amendment would be made after considering views of all the stakeholders. The department has said besides the inclusion of new section, there were six other broad areas which are likely to be amended.

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Delhi HC stays order bringing mkts under RTI

The Delhi High Court of Tuesday, May 4, stayed its ordered on bringing the stock
exchanges under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A decision bench led by acting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur stayed the order of a single of bench issued on Apr 15, which said that the stock exchanges are "quasi" governmental bodies and are bound to disclose information to the public under the transparency law. The order was passed by the court after the National Stock Exchange(NSE) filed an appeal arguing that it cannot be forced to disclose information under the Act since the company is not controlled by the government.

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No more transfer of cops on netas' whims

Frequent mass transfers of police officials as well as political interference in the process have long been the bane of the force. But there's been a dramatic drop in transfers in recent times — just 300 from August 2009 to date, as compared to 1,700 from May 30, 2008 to August 2009. This is largely due to measures taken by the Police Establishment Board (PEB), which also ensured a minimum tenure of two years for police officers at the field level. Every May, Vidhana Soudha usually buzzes with news about transfers. Politicians lobby with ministers to ensure choice postings for their men. It is also a lucrative time with whispers of money changing hands. However, the constitution of the PEB has put an end to all this. When TOI filed an application under the Right to Information Act, the police department revealed that, so far, the PEB — headed by the DG&IGP and comprising four members — DG (Home Guards), DG (CID), DG (Police Housing Corporation) and ADGP (Administration) — has transferred only 309 officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police. The total transfer of 2,052 in 23 months, includes those effected by the Board. Asked about political interference in PEB functioning, the DG&IGP's office said: "There is no political interference in the PEB functioning.''

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'PM-Prez exchange on Padma awards can be made public'

In yet another twist to the Padma saga, Central Information Commission has ruled that correspondence exchanged between the PM and the president on the awards should be made public. The information watchdog rejected the PMO's claim that such information could
not be given because of constitutional provisions. The PMO had refused to disclose the correspondence saying it was "privileged communication" under the provisions of Article 74 (2) of the Constitution and could not be disclosed as it dealt with "advice tendered by ministers to the president".

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Monday, May 03, 2010

RTI helps erstwhile prince find lost land records

For the last 21 years the revenue department has held a closely guarded secret over the ownership of more than 800-acre land between Bajana and Kharaghoda in Surendranagar district. This huge chunk of land, which produces the nation’s salt, once belonged to erstwhile princely state of Patdi and was handed over to the Bombay state during accession in 1949. Today, for some erroneous reasons the revenue department, still shows six private land holders in its records. One of the heirs of the Patdi state, Karnisinhji Desai, is fighting tooth and nail to prove that the land actually belongs to the state government — a work wh i ch should have been ideally the revenue d e p a r t - ment’s responsibility. In last three years, Karnisinhji using RTI, has gathered enough evidence to prove that the regional office of Dhrangandhra and the Ahmedabad collectorate has been exchanging a series of letters since 21 years to hide the truth.

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No more transfer of cops on netas' whims

Frequent mass transfers of police officials as well as political interference in the process have long been the bane of the force. But there’s been a dramatic drop in transfers in recent times — just 300 from August 2009 to date, as compared to 1,700 from May 30, 2008 to August 2009. This is largely due to measures taken by the Police Establishment Board (PEB), which also ensured a minimum tenure of two years for police officers at the field level. Every May, Vidhana Soudha usually buzzes with news about transfers. Politicians lobby with ministers to ensure choice postings for their men. It is also a lucrative time with whispers of money changing hands. However, the constitution of the PEB has put an end to all this. When TOI filed an application under the Right to Information Act, the police department revealed that, so far, the PEB — headed by the DG&IGP and comprising four members — DG (Home Guards), DG (CID), DG (Police Housing Corporation) and ADGP (Administration) — has transferred only 309 officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police . The total transfer of 2,052 in 23 months, includes those effected by the Board. Asked about political interference in PEB functioning, the DG&IGP’s office said: “There is no political interference in the PEB functioning.’’

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Jullender, Simla were never changed to Jalandhar, Shimla

Colonial era spellings of names of cities like 'Jullender' and 'Simla' were never changed to Jalandhar and Shimla, the union home ministry has revealed in reply to a query put under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The ministry made the revelation in reply to a query by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who asked if it is true that British-given spellings to names of cities like Jullender and Simla were rectified in tune with their actual pronunciation like Jalandhar and Shimla. 'As per records available with the ministry, no proposals were received from the state government nor approved by the central government giving to changing the name of Jullender and Simla to change as Jalandhar and Shimla,' the home ministry reply said.
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Info commissioner in dock for 'rubbishing' RTI query

It was a complete shock for N D Prasad from the city when the state information commissioner “rubbished” his queries under the RTI Act by stating that those were “motivated.” The commissioner went on to rule that the information was not required to be provided to him. Responding to a bunch of appeals by Prasad, state information commissioner Ambaty Subba Rao in his April 3, 2010 order said that the request for the information was motivated. The commissioner expressed impatience even over the number of queries. “In all these appeals, the questions are more than 90 in number. The tone and tenor of the request is in the nature of roving enquiry and the appellant by making such requests is trying to fish out something he himself is not aware of,” the commissioner said.

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IAS retirees eyeing KIC vacancies

Hectic lobbying has begun by many retired IAS officers for two vacancies at the Karnataka Information Commission that are likely to arise soon. Chief Information Commissioner K K Mishra is retiring in July this year, another Information Commissioner K A Thippe Swamy will retire in November. Highly placed sources in the government told Deccan Herald that at least 20 IAS officers are lobbying for the two posts. Their files are now with the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR), which would, sooner or later, forward them to the Chief Minister for -the final decision. None of the names to be forwarded to the government for consideration include any retired judges, educationalists, journalists and eminent social activists who too are eligible to become the Chief Information Commissioner or the Information Commissioner as per the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

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Selection of new CIC: Will Rosaiah govt, Opp deliver?

When the Right to Information Act was enforced in the year 2005, citizen activists across the country lauded it as it would empower them to access information on various issues from government offices that were until then buried under the weight of bureaucracy and dust. The Act’s primary aim was to “promote transparency and accountability” in every public department. Public Information Officers (PIOs) were appointed at each government office, their sole job being to receive RTI applications from citizens, direct them to the officer concerned and give a satisfactory reply.
That the Act created a new segment of activists—RTI activists— only indicates that much was lacking in the Act’s implementation. Soon, citizens started questioning why the Act was not being implemented in its letter and spirit, at least as far as the information commission in Andhra Pradesh was concerned. From half-baked responses to delays in responding to RTI queries, there is much that plagues the information commission in AP, which has been ranked among the lowest among other information commissions in the country (as per reports brought out by activists).

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'PM-Prez exchange on Padma awards can be made public'

In yet another twist to the Padma saga, Central Information Commission has ruled that correspondence exchanged between the PM and the president on the awards should be made public. The information watchdog rejected the PMO's claim that such information could not be given because of constitutional provisions. The PMO had refused to disclose the correspondence saying it was "privileged communication" under the provisions of Article 74 (2) of the Constitution and could not be disclosed as it dealt with "advice tendered by ministers to the president".

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'PM-Prez exchange on Padma awards can be made public'

In yet another twist to the Padma saga, Central Information Commission has ruled that correspondence exchanged between the PM and the president on the awards should be made public. The information watchdog rejected the PMO's claim that such information could not be given because of constitutional provisions. The PMO had refused to disclose the correspondence saying it was "privileged communication" under the provisions of Article 74 (2) of the Constitution and could not be disclosed as it dealt with "advice tendered by ministers to the president". Applicant S C Agrawal had sought a copy of the letter written in 2004 by former President A P J Abdul Kalam to former PM A B Vajpayee on Padma awards, action taken by the PMO and communication exchanged on the topic. Failing to get a reply from the PMO, he approached CIC with the plea seeking disclosure of the information. CIC, however, exempted the disclosure of action taken by the PMO on the letter from the President giving it "benefit of doubt".

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Exemption to CJI among proposed RTI amendments

It is official. The government is contemplating amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Department of Personnel and Training, which admitted to considering about a dozen amendments to the Act in an April 30, 2010 letter to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, was upfront about the nature of at least two of the amendments: exempting the office of Chief Justice from the RTI Act and barring applications which could be deemed to be “frivolous or vexatious.” Other amendments proposed relate to “disclosure of Cabinet papers”; constitution of “benches” of the Central Information Commission; and exemptions for organisations possessing sensitive information. Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan recently wrote to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking exemption of the office of CJI from the Act.

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