Sunday, September 26, 2010

VTU row: Did VC mislead panel on BE marks?

There is another controversy in the making in the higher education department with the newly appointed vice chancellor (VC) of the prestigious Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Dr H. Maheshappa, facing allegations that he misled the VTU VC search committee and the governor’s office on his academic qualifications and research background. The search committee was headed by former AICTE chairman Prof. S. Ramegowda. According to information obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act from Mysore University, Dr Maheshappa had secured the BE degree in mechanical engineering from the university in 1983 in the second class. However, in the application he submitted to the governor’s office and to the new VC search committee, Dr Maheshappa has reportedly stated that he passed the BE in the first class, which played a role in securing him the VC’s post, sources said.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

BSY govt spent 9cr on 2-yr anniv

Rs 9 crore. That's how much the BS Yeddyurappa government spent on Sadhana Samavesha, the celebration of its two years in office. Shockingly, a cash-strapped BBMP, which virtually runs the city on loans, chipped in with Rs 19.1 lakh and Bangalore Development Authority spent Rs 4.28 crore. The government spent Rs 4,47,95,829. The grand celebrations were held on June 25 at Palace Grounds here. This information was obtained through a RTI application by Sirigere Thippesh, president, Civil Rights Protection Forum, Bangalore. He has demanded the amount spent should be recovered from salaries and allowances of BJP ministers, MLAs and MPs.

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HC notice to BCI on right to information Act

A division bench of the Patna high court comprising Chief Justice Rekha Manharlal Doshit and Justice Jyoti Saran on Thursday issued a notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI) to file a counter affidavit to a writ petition of one Nonu Singh, who has challenged the validity of a resolution of the BCI that the BCI and the State Bar Councils are not a public authority under the provisions of the Right To Information (RTI) Act to give information under this Act. The case will be heard next on December 19, 2010. Petitioner's counsel Dinu Kumar submitted that Nonu Singh had sought information under the RTI Act on the movement of a file relating to the professional conduct of the advocate general and other lawyers, which had been rejected by the BCI.

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Vigilance chief still an accused in oil scam case

Chief Vigilance Commissioner P.J. Thomas, whose appointment in September triggered protests from different quarters — especially from the Opposition BJP — because of his alleged involvement in a 2003 corruption case, remains an accused in that case. Although the Centre claimed Thomas was exonerated in the palm oil import case, records at the state vigilance directorate and the vigilance court show he can still be prosecuted. According to an enquiry conducted under the Right to Information Act, Thomas, a 1973-batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, is the eighth accused in the case
filed before the court of the enquiry commissioner and special judge, Thiruvananthapuram.

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Showcause notice to Sutlej Club PIO

A full Bench of the Punjab State Information Commission, comprising CIC R I Singh, SICs Lt Gen PK Grover (Retd) and Surinder Singh, served a showcause notice on the public information officer (PIO) of Ludhiana's Sutlej Club on Tuesday for failing to provide information to an applicant. The club was declared a public authority under the RTI Act over two months ago. S S Chana, the applicant, had sought information regarding establishment, organisation structure and accounts of the club. The bench served a show-cause notice, asking why penalty should not be imposed on the PIO for not providing information. "In addition to a written reply, which he may file, the PIO has also been given opportunity of a personal hearing before imposition of penalty on the next date of hearing," the bench said. In case he fails to file a reply and does not avail of the personal hearing opportunity, the commission will proceed against him ex
parte. The case will come up for hearing on September 27.

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Lions Club ex-governor told to give info under RTI

The Punjab State Information Commission directed a former district governor of
Lions' Club International to provide information on income, expenditure and bank
statements of the club under the RTI Act. State Information Commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover (Retd) has marked a copy of the order to Neville A Mehta, International Secretary, India, South Asia and East Africa, Lions' Club International, Mumbai, for taking cognisance. Grover took the decision while hearing the case of Parbodh Chander Bali of Amritsar who had sought information from Rajiv Kukreja, the then governor of
district 321-D, Lions' Club International, Tanda Urmar (Hoshiarpur), on March 11. On not getting a response, he filed an appeal with the first appellate authority on April 21 and subsequently with the commission on August 17. Bali submitted that the club was financed by the government, directly and indirectly, and therefore fell within the purview of the RTI Act.

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Congress MLA alleges scam in Mohali industrial plots allotment

Local Congress MLA Balbir Sidhu on Tuesday alleged scam in the allotment of industrial plots in Industrial Focal Point, Phase VIII-B, here. Addressing a press conference here, Sidhu accused the concerned department of violating its own notification issued regarding the norms on allotment. He alleged that 14 plots measuring 2500 square yards each allotted in 2008 at Rs 2700 per square yard were allotted at throwaway price in view of the market price prevailing at that time. Referring to the information procured under the RTI Act, MLA further alleged that as per norms, only 30 per cent of the total plots under the off-the-shelve scheme could be allotted without conducting draw but the plots in entire 14 acres of land surrendered by a paint factory were allotted without conducting draw under the off-the-shelve scheme, in which he alleged major discrepancies and irregularities. Sidhu apprehended that the department concerned was also contemplating to allot another 73 acres of land in the same alleged illegal
manner in blatant violation of the laid down norms.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Publish rec of EWS patients getting treatment in pvt hospitals

The Central Information Commission has directed Delhi Government to publish on their web site from next month the list of poor patients who have availed the free treatment facility at private hospitals in the city. The transparency panel directed the government to publish this information on a daily basis from October 1. Earlier, RTI applicant Dinesh Kaushik had sought to know from Delhi Government the details of hospitals who have been given land at subsidised rates on condition of reserving beds for poor patients. He also sought information on such patients availing the facility at Mata Channan Devi Hospital in Janakpuri. The same was refused on the ground that the patients have raised objection in making their information public.

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Booklets inform visually impaired of various clauses of information act

There is good news for the visually impaired who would like to seek information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Meghalaya has prepared a booklet using Braille codes in English to help them understand the power of the act. After the successful launch of the booklet on issues pertaining to filing of applications under the act and its provisions a year ago, Meghalaya is planning to release booklets of Braille codes in Khasi and Garo languages to help a large section understand the act’s positive aspects.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Provide info on Anderson's ‘safe exit' by Nov 30: CIC to MEA

The Central Information Commission has directed the external affairs ministry to "provide information" on the alleged safe passage promised to Bhopal gas tragedy accused Warren Anderson during his visit to the country in the aftermath of the world's worst industrial disaster. The transparency panel, acting on a complaint against the ministry, passed the order giving it time till November 30 to comply with the directive. "The commission...directs the public information officer, ministry of external affairs to provide the information sought by the complainant by November 30, 2010.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ex-DGP SS Virk can inspect documents against him

The central information commission (CIC) has directed the Union home ministry to allow former Maharashtra director general of police SS Virk to inspect documents related to the disciplinary proceedings against him. Invoking the right to information (RTI) Act, he had asked home ministry for inspection of the documents relating to disciplinary proceedings initiated against him. Virk, an IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, had retired as Maharashtra DGP in 2009. He had also served as DGP of Punjab. He had sought physical inspection of a letter sent by the Punjab government to the home ministry in 2008, file notings made by the Union home minister and officials and reply by the home ministry to Punjab. He lost his appeal at every forum. An aggrieved Virk approached the CIC saying the inspection can not in any way impede the process of investigation.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

CIC Habibullah spent Rs23 lakh of taxpayers on foreign trips

Chief information commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah spent nearly Rs23 lakh of the taxpayer on foreign trips, even as the government called for austerity in the face of rising inflation. The information was revealed in reply to an RTI query by Mumbai-based activist Girish Mittal. Interestingly, according to the 200-page reply received by Mittal, all other information commissioners present and former spent only Rs18 lakh on foreign tours. Habibullah undertook nine foreign trips, including three to the US, from February 2006 to May 2010.

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Too few teachers, kids in BMC schools

Though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is spending crores on education, its number of schools and teachers are dropping. Information obtained through a Right To Information (RTI) query, filed by activist Chetan Kothari, has revealed that in the past three years, the number of vacancies for BMC teachers has been rising steadily. At the same time, more number of civic schools are also merging and/or shutting down. This despite the BMC having a budgetary provision and spending more than Rs 1,400 crore on education.

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Government has no data on Swiss bank money: RTI activist told

There is no verifiable data about the quantum of Indian money kept in Swiss banks, the government has told a Right to Information (RTI) activist. Responding to queries by RTI activist Subash Chandra Agarwal, the Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance said efforts had been made from time to time to seek details of Indian account holders from the Swiss government under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between the two countries. The reply said the Swiss Federal Tax Administration has expressed its inability to exchange the information regarding bank deposits of Indian residents as the information was not necessary for the application of DTAA between the two countries but was required only for enforcement of India's internal laws.

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Higher workload for pilots could put flyers at risk

The aviation regulator allowed Air India and Jet Airways to increase their pilots' duty hours without studying how this might influence their health and alertness, a Right to Information application filed by a pilots' union has revealed. When asked if it had consulted its own or independent specialists before doing this two years ago, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation replied that it had taken the decision based on discussions with senior managers of the airlines. Normally, airlines cannot ask pilots to work more than nine hours at a stretch in a day and not more than 30 hours a week. In February 2008, the regulator amended this rule to allow these two airlines to increase their pilots' duty hours in "extraordinary situations." But the airlines appear to have asked for the amendment purely for commercial reasons, the regulator's response, which came last month and of which HT has a copy, reveals.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Political parties thrive on 'generosity'

Politics, it would appear, brings out the generosity in people who are bankrolling our political parties with voluntary contributions. So much so that the Congress has succeeded in raising funds to the tune of Rs 598 crore in two years alone through "sale of coupons." Sale of coupons, a euphemism for donations, have also added Rs 50 crore to the coffers of the NCP over the same period. The BJP too sourced its funds mainly from voluntary donations, which amounted to Rs 297.7 crore, while the BSP was able to drum up Rs 202.94 crore in contributions. Data relating to income tax returns and assessments of political parties for 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 was analysed by the Association of Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch. The information was disclosed under RTI after an order to that effect by the Central Information Commission.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Delhi: Ex-Speaker Issued 23 Ads on B'day, RTI reveals

Former Speaker of Delhi legislative assembly Prem Singh had commissioned 23 advertisements worth over Rs 10 lakh on his 75th birthday in 2007, an RTI reply has revealed. The expenses incurred on these advertisements were borne by Bureau of Legislative Studies which was headed by Prem Singh in 2007. The file notes revealed under the RTI act show that officials of Bureau of Legislative Studies prepared a proposal to issue advertisements in 23 news papers on Singh's 75th birthday. Ironically, the file was sent to Singh himself, who was heading the Bureau, for clearance.

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MCD paid R 30 crore to consultant to find parking spaces

The MCD has paid nearly Rs 30 crore as consultancy fee for the Games and other projects. The consultants were hired to find space for surface parkings and multi-level parking lots. The consultants were also meant to help in projects related to upgradation of roads, rehabilitation and upgradation of flyovers etc. "Rs 10 crore was given to a firm to find space for multi-level parking lots and for surface parking lots," said a senior MCD official. "We have 1,100 engineers in the MCD so seeking consultancy for road projects sounds illogical," said Jagdish Mamgain, chairman of the Works committee of the MCD. The MCD says it spent Rs 30 crore on consultancy for 20 projects. The Central Information Commission had asked the MCD, NDMC and Delhi government to post details of tenders, work and hiring of consultants/ NGOs for the Games projects on their site.

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‘Irregular' Doordarshan appointments quashed

The appointments of 25 Doordarshan News anchors and correspondents have been quashed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which ruled that “irregularities” were committed in the selection process in order to help certain candidates. The complainant, DD News journalist Harikesh Bahadur Singh Gautam, has alleged that the system was manipulated to favour candidates with family connections and political influence. Among those who benefited were Yashvi Tirath, daughter of Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, and Priyanka Agarwal Choudhary, close relative of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. At least two other candidates are related to current or former members of the administration. After an effort to gather information about the selection procedure by the Right to Information Act, Mr. Gautam took his complaint to the CAT. He alleged that the weightage of marks was arbitrarily changed at the last minute to allow candidates who scored poorly in the written test to be given higher scores in the interview stage.

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Lapse by co-op dept costs state govt crores

The state would have earned crores as indirect revenue had the co-operative department implemented the indemnity bond rule as per the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act. This has been revealed after Thane resident Nainesh Dolas filed a Right to Information (RTI) application early this year, seeking details regarding the number of co-operative housing societies in the state and whether they all had submitted the indemnity bond. Of the 35 districts in the state, five districts provided Dolas with the number of housing societies, but most of them did not give information about the indemnity bond.

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RTI petition exposes fund misuse

Using fabricated work programmes, a huge fund meant for different places under Patsoi Gram Sabha of Patsoi constituency has been misappropriated. This was discovered by the Patsoi Apunba Auditing Committee by invoking RTI Act. Fabricated work programmes against which due sanctions have been made included construction of a crematorium at Patsoi Part I at the cost of Rs 80,000; construction of a community hall at Patsoi Part II at the cost of Rs 3, 24, 600; development of Sanasam Mamang pond at the cost of Rs 28,000; construction of a community hall at Patsoi Part III at the cost of Rs 3,24,600; repairing of a public toilet at Uningkhong Bazar at the cost of Rs 80,000; construction of a sanitary latrine at Patsoi Part IV at the cost of Rs 49,000; construction of a market shed at Patsoi Part IV at the cost of Rs 2 lakhs and construction of another market shed at Sanasam Leikai at the cost of Rs 1,10,402. All these sanctioned amounts were drawn without doing any work. A meeting on this act of fraudulence was held today at Patsoi Tuliyaima Club under the aegis of the Patsoi Apunba Auditing Committee. The meeting sought attention of the Government to take befitting action against this fraudulence.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Village council to lift boycott on RTI families

A traditional village court in Meghalaya, which ostracised three families for filing RTI which unearthed scams in NREGS, has claimed that the action was a "misunderstanding" and that the boycott would be lifted. Deposing before State Commission for Women yesterday, Jongkhsa village headman Karmelin Rynjah said the 'ostracisation' of the three women and their families who had sought information to unearth "anomalies" in the implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was done in 'sheer ignorance of the law'. The Commission had summoned the headman and its secretary after the ostracisation of Fatima Mynsong, Acquiline Songthiang and Matilda Suting and their families. After hearing both sides, commission directed the village authorities to immediately convene a meeting to formally lift the resolution to ostracise the women and their families.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

HC: Co-operative societies are public authorities, bound to give info under RTI

A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by a sugar mill co-operative society, which had refused to furnish information demanded under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Ajay Tewari dismissed the appeal filed by the mill holding that co-operative societies are public authorities and are bound to furnish information under the RTI Act.

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NHAI has failed to explain toll revision

City-based citizens group Sajag Nagrik Manch (SNM) has complained to the chief information commissioner that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has failed to disclose the facts and exact reasons for the increase in toll rates at two spots on the Pune- Bangalore highway. The toll rates at Khed Shivapur in Pune district and Anewadi in Satara district on the highway have been changed with effect from September 9. The revised rates are displayed at both the nakas. In a letter to the NHAI project director in Pune, SNM convenor Vivek Velankar has pointed out that as per the provisions under the Right To Information Act, the NHAI is required to pro-actively publish the facts and reasons for increasing the rates at the two toll nakas. Velankar said the hike in toll rates is nearly 40 per cent and was going to affect lakhs of commuters on a daily basis.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Banking on RTI

The power of the Right to Information Act (RTI) has proved itself yet again by helping an applicant to retrieve obscured information. Rashad Shaikh, a resident of the Camp area was able to push the mechanism into action to retrieve some information about the Oriental Bank Of Commerce (OBC) with the help of the RTI tool. The reason behind this application was that Rashad received an undated and unsigned letter from a branch of the OBC at MG Road, Camp which stated that the minimum account balance has been increased. “I received this letter which had no details like the date or signature. I filed an RTI for an explanation for this letter. I received the answer that it had been inadvertently sent by the concerned officials.”

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125 police officers have faced dept inquiry: RTI

Over 50% of Goa's police officials from the rank of police sub-inspector to superintendent of police have faced some form of disciplinary action at some point of time in their careers spanning anywhere from five to 20 years in the police department.
Information procured by social activist Aires Rodrigues under the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that of 233 officers from the rank of PSI to SP, almost 125 have faced disciplinary action at some time or the other during their service with the Goa police. A majority of these are presently PIs or DySPs. Moreover, of the 14 SPs posted in Goa, only six have not faced any disciplinary action during their stint with the state police department.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Huge difference in procurement prices & MRPs of same drugs exposes profiteering by pharma cos

The vast difference in the prices of drugs procured by the government agencies and maximum retail prices of the same drugs when sold through retail pharmacies exposes the huge profiteering indulged in by pharmaceutical companies. The companies do make a reasonable profit when they offer to the government agencies against tenders but at the retail level the margins charged by them are alarmingly high. For a large number of life-saving medicines, especially for treating cancer, heart ailments, kidney diseases, etc, some of the companies are charging more than 1000 per cent of the procurement prices. This huge difference in procurement price and MRP was revealed through an Right to Information (RTI) in Kerala by an NGO named Janapaksham.

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BJP MP's nephew arrested in RTI activist murder case

The nephew of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Junagadh, Dinu Solanki, was Tuesday arrested in the murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa, officials said. Ahmedabad crime branch chief Mohan Jha said Shiva Solanki, an office-bearer of the Kodinar municipality, had been picked up from Rajkot while on his way to board a flight for Mumbai. He is the fourth to be arrested in the case. The other three people arrested so far included Bahadursinh Vadher, a police constable, Pachan Shiva, who was allegedly one of the two motorcycle-borne assailants, and Sanjay Chauhan. Solanki's arrest came after one of the arrested revealed his involvement. The activist's father Bhikabhai Jethwa had alleged that the BJP MP was behind murder.

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Punjab CIC keen on viva voce record

Punjab State Information Commission is apparently keen on keeping video records of viva voce of candidates appearing before the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). In an order passed on Tuesday, chief information commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh directed the government recruitment agency to maintain "a faithful and sincere record of what transpires in interviews of candidates". The order states: "In the best interest of transparency and enforcement of the provisions of RTI Act, the PPSC is hereby directed, in exercise of powers conferred under Section 19 (8) and all enabling provisions of the Act, that it shall maintain the record..."

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RTI effect: Ministers will have to declare latest assets

Forced by an RTI application, the government today decided to declare the assets and liabilities of Union ministers on demand by the public. The Union Cabinet approved a proposal to adopt norms for greater transparency after RTI activist Subhash Agrawal asked the Central Information Commission (CIC) to issue a notice to the PMO for not providing details of assets of ministers and their kin following an RTI application.
Agrawal complained of “non-compliance” by the PMO after it failed to provide “complete details of wealth and assets of ministers” despite a CIC order.

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