Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jethwa Murder: Cops in Mumbai for Accused's Custody

Armed with a transfer warrant, a Gujarat Police team arrived here today to seek the custody of a key accused in the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa. Shailesh Pandya, a former school headmaster, was on Tuesday arrested by Mumbai Crime Branch from suburban Kurla in an Arms Act case. The 36-year-old was remanded in police custody till tomorrow by a local court. Police have said a country-made pistol, a revolver and seven cartridges were seized from Pandya, who hails from Patan in Gujarat. He is accused of firing at Jethwa, who had filed PIL against illegal mining activities near the Gir forest, outside the Gujarat High Court on July 20 in what police said was a case of contract killing.

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Railways' double talk on more coaches exposed

Though the Railway authorities have agreed to increase the number of coaches in certain trains after a protest by the passengers at Thuravoor on Friday, a reply by the Southern Railway in an RTI application clearly states that the number of coaches cannot be increased. The RTI reply has revealed the double standard of the Railways on the issue.
The Human Rights Defence Forum had filed an RTI application before the deputy chief operating manager, Southern Railway.
The forum pointed out that the number of coaches sanctioned by the railways for the passenger train is 14. But, the Ernakulam-Kayamkulam passenger train has less coaches than the sanctioned number.
In a reply to the application, the Southern Railway said: "Owing to shortage of general second class unreserved coaches, it is not feasible at present to augment Train no: 339 Ernakulam Kayamkulam passenger."
The Human Rights Defence Forum has registered its protest against the Railways' decision not to increase the number of coaches. The forum has lodged complaints with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Minister of State for Railways E Ahmed requesting them to take action on the issue.

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4 years on, a bridge over Mula river to nowhere

Despite being completed about four years ago, the Pimple Nilakh-Baner Bridge over the Mula river is yet to be opened to the public, because there is no connecting road at one end. The project was undertaken jointly by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). About Rs5.25 crore was spent to build the 160-metre-long, 20-metre-wide bridge. “The construction of the overbridge was completed on September 20, 2007. But the bridge could not be opened to the public because the PMC failed to acquire the land at one end of the bridge,” claimed PCMC officials. According to officials the acquisition of the land was imperative for the construction of a road connecting the overbridge. Once inaugurated, the overbridge would link Pimple Nilakh, Kalewadi, Rahatni, Jagtap Dairy and Baner-Balewadi routes.

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Land, building queries top RTI list

In the season of land scams, data for 2007-08 from the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) show that 51% of the total RTI applications in the state - 30,432 of 59,772 - from all 33 departments, were filed with those of the revenue and urban development sections. Public enterprises and infrastructure development got just three and seven applications respectively during the same period. "Majority of the applications in these departments pertain to land sale deeds, khata conversions, mutation and record of rights copy. In the urban development department, which covers municipalities and corporations, many applications pertain to property disputes, illegal constructions and encroachments and building plan violations. The commission has asked the revenue department to digitise all land records in the state," H N Krishna, in-charge chief state information commissioner, told TOI.

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Bombay HC refuses to divulge assets of judges

The Bombay high court has told a city advocate who filed a Right To Information (RTI) application, seeking details of HC judges' assets and liabilities, that it was not possible to "furnish" the same. The application had been filed by lawyer Mathews Nedumpara. "I have to inform you that information regarding declaration of assets of the honourable judges of the Bombay high court is with the Chief Justice in a fiduciary capacity," said U S Srivastava, the master and assistant prothonotary (administration) who has been designated as the public information officer under the RTI Act.

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65 buildings illegal in East Delhi, reveals RTI

Days after the building collapse in Lalita Park killed more than 65 people, an RTI has thrown up some disturbing facts. More than 65 buildings in Shahadra in East Delhi are illegal. Also copies of some RTI replies available with CNN-IBN reveal that government officials make every effort to withhold information in order to protect interests of certain builders. The RTIs also point out that authorities from the MCD and the DDA made every effort to withhold information in order to protect the interests of builders, even if that meant furnishing wrong information. A clear modus operandi which emerges in this case is that an illegal building is constructed in 3 to 6 months and during this period neither any cognizance of any complaints is taken nor any information provided under the Right to Information Act. After the whole building is constructed it is probably claimed that this is an old building and needs to be regularized.

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Corporator filed nomination with fake certificates

Suresh Shivaji Kulkarni, a NCP corporator from Navi Mumbai, had produced fake documents while filing candidate nomination form. This was revealed in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application. What's more, even his father and grandfather had allegedly obtained bogus school certificates for political purposes. The police and the Election Commission are looking into the revelation. The matter came to light when Santosh Shrimant Jadhav, a resident of ward no 42, same as Kulkarni, sought information through RTI last week. The caste verification department, Swar Gate, Pune, replied that Kulkarni's certificate was fake. Kulkarni known to be a Telugu Brahmin from Andhra Pradesh had claimed he was an OBC (Vadari) from Maharashtra.

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Appoint Transparency Officers within 30 days: CIC

In the first order of its kind, the Central Information Commission has directed all public authorities to appoint within 30 days senior officials as Transparency Officers, who would act as an interface between the Commission, people and public authorities. The Transparency Officers shall be "very senior" officials other than Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities which are designated for replying RTI applications and listening to appeals against the replies respectively. "They will be very senior officials of the department who will act as an interface between the Commission and the public authorities on the one hand and the public authority and the people on the other," Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari told PTI.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rs 10,000 cr scam in Water Resources dept

The All Assam Shramik Krishak Kalyan Parishad today alleged that the State Water Resources Department is involved in a scam worth more than Rs 10,000 crore. Alleging that the government and the department concerned has not successfully implemented the schemes meant for solving the flood problem in the State, the Parishad today claimed that the documents it has obtained through RTI prove that nearly 70 per cent of the amount meant for flood control and other works related to water resource development has been siphoned off by the minister, officers and employees of the Department of Water Resource. The Parishad asked the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to order a CBI probe into the matter. "Only 30 per cent of the work has been completed in different districts of the State and the money allotted for rest of the 70 per cent work has been pocketed by the corrupt officials of the department," said Baleswar Rongpi, vice president of the Parishad, while addressing a press meet today.

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Apex court reserves ruling on RTI plea on judges' posting

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved the verdict on its own petition challenging the Central Information Commission's (CIC) order directing the chief justice of India to give details on the appointment of three apex court judges. While reserving the order, the apex court bench of Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar said that it would also consider a suggestion by Attorney General GE Vahanvati that the entire matter be referred to the constitution bench. The court was hearing a petition by the central public information officer of the apex court challenging the CIC order which directed the then chief justice KG Balakrishnan to make public details about the appointment of the three judges. The CIC passed its order last year on an application by activist SC Aggrawal under the right to information (RTI) law seeking details on the appointment Justice HL Dattu, Justice AK Ganguly and Justice RM Lodha. All the three judges were elevated to the apex court superseding their seniors.

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Top 'connections' save tainted babu

In an inexplicable show of alacrity that you don't associate the bureaucracy with, 11 signatures, including those of Delhi's lieutenant-governor (LG) and chief secretary, were obtained on one day to revoke the suspension of an official being probed in a corruption case. The speed with which the file moved across desks and buildings a day before the tainted official's superannuation date (July 31 this year), to allow him to retire honourably with all his service benefits in place, has taken Delhi government insiders by surprise. P. N. Jha, deputy director in the social welfare department of the Delhi government, and ten others had been arrested in a Rs 10-crore procurement scam, involving homes for destitute children in July this year, nearly two years after
investigations began in the case, which relates to the 2005-06 financial year. Insiders aware of the case allege that though the case was filed for only one financial year, the department has been mired in corruption for the last ten years.

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Cops hog Juhu flats, live in govt homes

Investigations reveal that at least 19 IPS officers who bagged flats in a posh Juhu residential society, land for which was given at a concessional rate, did not live in their flats in direct contravention of the rules under which the society was formed. RTI replies have revealed that till March 2010, the 19 officers continued to live in their government quarters instead of moving into Vasundhara Cooperative Housing Society, despite the society getting an Occupation Certificate in April 2007. Around half of Mumbai's 42,000 policemen fend for themselves in cramped rented units, as there are no government quarters to give them. Today, a PIL is set to be heard in the Bombay high court over the allotment of the Juhu plot to IPS officers, as the plot was originally reserved for police quarters and not private flats.

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BMC turns a blind eye to vacant school inspectors posts

The BMC may well have forged a partnership with Unicef to come up with the School Excellence Programme but a look at its record in taking care of its own schools tells us how neglected the civic schools have been all this while. For instance, the civic body has allowed the number of beat officers or inspectors, who overlook the functioning of schools, to dwindle over the years and as many as 25% of them have not yet been hired. Beat officers or inspectors are hired to keep a check on teachers and principals of municipal schools. They conduct an inspection of teachers and class work. One of their key functions is to pay surprise visits to the schools, as well as pay educational visits where they are supposed to give guidance to teachers. But a recent RTI query has revealed that 34 posts of inspectors lay vacant in the academic year of 2008-09. Of the 132 required posts, only 98 were filled. The details show that the record was no better in the previous years. According to the data procured from the BMC's education department, from 2004, there have always been posts lying vacant. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, there were 88 approved posts for beat officers, of which 63 were filled and 25 were vacant. The next year, the number of vacant posts increased to 32. In 2007-08, of the 132 approved posts, 104 posts were filled.

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BMC spent Rs 70 lakh to beautify one garden

The municipal corporation has spent Rs 70 lakh on laying pavements and redoing the lawn at just one of the five gardens at Dadar Parsi Colony. This is what the residents of the Five Gardens area have found through a Right to Information query. Upset with the "unnecessary work" and "unjustified exorbitant spending", the residents have now stepped up the heat on the municipal corporation over the controversial Five Gardens beautification project. "The corporation has been so covert with implementing the project that they did not even tell us what it plans to do. Hence, we had to use the Act to get this information," Activist Nikhil Desai, who filed the RTI query.

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Gujarat officer challenges order for disclosure of assets

The Gujarat High Court Wednesday issued a notice to the state government after a senior bureaucrat asked the court to set aside a state government order asking officials to furnish details of their assets. Notices were issued to the state government, its public information officer, the chief information commissioner. Arvind Agrawal, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is the vice chairman and managing director of Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC). He approached the court after the state's chief information commissioner ordered the state government to furnish the Annual Property Returns (APR) of its senior bureaucrats. This order was issued after journalist Kapil Dave filed a right to information (RTI) application in October 2008.

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CIC revokes its order on disclosure of RAW software

Revoking its direction to make public details of a snooping software developed for Research and Analysis Wing by C-DAC, the Central Information Commission has allowed withholding of information as it was a joint project with RAW which has exemption under the RTI Act. Acting on an appeal of former RAW official Brigadier (Retd) Ujjal Dasgupta, an accused in the National Security Council Secretariat spying case, the transparency panel had earlier asked the Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to disclose details sought by him about the software 'Anveshak'. The RAW challenged the decision in the Delhi High Court which referred the matter back to the CIC saying the panel has "erred" in overlooking sections of the RTI Act which exempted security organisations like RAW from the ambit of RTI law and those dealing with third party information.

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Over 300 industries in MP flout pollution control norms

More than 300 commercial units in Madhya Pradesh are causing pollution by emitting harmful air and water effluents beyond the permissible limits, the State Pollution Control Board has said. In reply to an RTI query, the State Pollution Control Board gave details of about 313 such industries which flouted standard pollution control norms during 2009-10. 170 such units are located in the industrial hubs -- Ujjain, Indore and Dhar, followed by 48 in Bhopal and 32 in Jabalpur. About 24 such commercial
establishments are located in Gwalior, 18 in Guna, 12 in Rewa and two in Satna, it said. Exercising his Right to Information, Environment activist Ajay Dubey filed an
application seeking information on number of industries emitting waste in air and water beyond the norms set by the government. "The reply is based on the result carried out by monitoring their waste during 2009-10," the RTI reply said.

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DAV hires 85 teachers, gives no appointment letters

DAV College, Sector 10, has hired 85 teachers in this academic year without issuing them appointment letters. The lecturers, teaching graduate and postgraduate courses, are supposed to receive consolidated salaries prescribed by the government, but allegedly do not. The college has been mired in controversy for over two months now. Punjab and Haryana High Court has stayed the suspension of the college principal, Dr B C Josan, by the management for alleged irregularities, pending the hearing on his petition. In response to a query filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about the hiring of lecturers on contract during 2010-11, Dr Josan said, "No appointment
letters have been issued to such teachers." Josan furnished a list of these teachers. He said this was a practice followed at the college for many years, and lecturers are issued experience certificates when they leave. The college has around 150 regular teachers in addition to these 85 `contracted' lecturers.

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Under scanner, Maharashtra rights commissioner goes on leave

Even as the Prithviraj Chavan-led Democratic Front government was considering whether or not to ask state human rights commission member Subhash Lalla to step down on moral grounds in connection with his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society (ACHS) scam, Lalla has proceeded on long leave. Meanwhile, TOI got no response from state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, who the government was also considering asking to quit on similar grounds. According to the 103-member Adarsh list, Lalla's mother Sushila Shaligram is allottee No 8 and daughter Sumeela Sethi is allottee No 53. Onkar Tiwari, Ramanand's son, is allottee No 80. Lalla told TOI, "It's a fact that my mother and daughter are members of the Adarsh society, but we are not involved in the scam. The CBI is probing the scam and we are prepared for an investigation by any agency. Pending the probe, I am proceeding on leave. I have submitted my application to the governor."

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GSIC asks cops to give info they denied earlier

Setting aside the order of the inspector general of police, the Goa state information commission has directed the SP (SP), South Goa to furnish information as sought by one Jervasio Pereira of Utorda. The commission also rebuked the police justification of denying information under Section 8 (exemption of disclosure) of the RTI Act, stating that "Section 8 should not be used so as to evade or dodge the demand for information".
Aggrieved by the denial of information by SP (South), Pereira had filed his first appealbefore the IGP, who also turned him down. Pereira then filed his second appeal before the commission asking it to direct the police to furnish him the information. He also prayed that the commission initiate disciplinary proceedings against the SP and the IGP for "deliberately and knowingly denying the documents" sought by him.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

RTI exposes Himachal govt’s claim on 100% electrification

While Himachal Pradesh government may have been boasting about 100% electrification in the state for a long time, but the fact is that the power state has still thousands of hoses yet to see light from an electric bulb. Information sought under the RTI Act has revealed that darkness still veils the Siraj area represented by rural development and panchayati raj minister Jairam. Around 12 dozen families in Ballichowki are still using oil lamps to light up their lives. Acceding to electricity department’s Kullu office, 34 families in Khalbahan panchayat, and nine families in Devdar panchayat are yet to get power from state board. And it is not so that people have not made their woes known to the government, but every time they got nothing but disappointment. Information sought under the RTI Act by president of Kamgar Mazdoor Sangh and member of State RTI Bureau member Sant Ram has exposed the state government and the electricity department’s claims, highlighting how the power revolution eludes certain parts of the state. For example, under the large division of electricity department itself there are at least 59 families without power connections.

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CIC to enforce disclosures by 330 public authorities

In a landmark move, the Central Information Commission (CIC) is set to enforce ‘voluntary disclosure’ by 330 public authorities, including all ministries, government departments and public sector undertakings. Right to Information (RTI) activists have argued that timely disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005, would likely have brought alleged scams like those in the allocation of 2G spectrum and Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Society to notice earlier. RTI provisions are now set to be used to give public authorities a deadline to implement the hitherto “obligatory” disclosures. Besides other requirements of voluntary disclosure, Section 4 provides for a public authority to make public “all relevant facts while formulating important policies or arriving at decisions which affect the public”. Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari told The Sunday Express that orders would be issued to 330 public authorities early next week, giving them 120 days to implement the provisions of Section 4. “The order will be signed by all members of the Commission... It is being done on the basis of an analysis of the generality of appeals which have not been complied with,” Tiwari said.

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Orissa Government to appoint Ex- chief secretary T K Mishra as Info

The state government has decided to appoint former chief secretary Tarun Kanti Mishra as the next State Information Commissioner. This was announced by chief minister Naveen Patnaik at Bhubaneswar on Monday. The committee under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held in the Odisha Secretariat on Monday and Choosen Sri Mishra as the next Chief Information of Odisha. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raghunath Mohanty was the committee members. The term of present Chief Information Commission Dr D.N.Padhi will be expired on 19th November and Sri Mishra will assume the Charges.

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State ordered to give list of babus' assets

In a landmark decision the AP Information Commission on Monday brushed aside the state government's objections and asked it to furnish details of immovable properties held by All-India Service officials in the state to a city-based RTI activist. The commission, headed by the Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Jannath
Hussain, was delivering an order on an appeal filed by the RTI activist, Mr O.M. Debara. The commission, for the first time, met twice before deciding on the application. The order means that Mr Debara will get, for a fee, a copy of the list of assets that is filed annually by All-India Service officers. "I compliment the AP
Information Commission for their wise judgement," said Mr Debara. "I have been fighting to eliminate corruption from society and wanted to expose misdeeds by officials." There are generally no restrictions on legal use of this information. The order of the Information Commission is considered final, though appeals can be filed
with the AP High Court and, later, the Supreme Court.

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Don't know who was our minister when Anderson left: MEA

The external affairs ministry does not know who was its minister in December, 1984 when Bhopal Gas tragedy accused Warren Anderson, the then Union Carbide chief, left the country after securing bail. In a strange reply, the ministry has said the question who held the charge of external affairs Bhopal victims oppose govt stand ministry in December 1984 relates to chemical and fertilisers ministry and referred the same to the cabinet secretariat for providing the answer. "Since the subject matters raised on these points pertain to the functioning of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, points (4) and (5) of the application are transferred under section 6 (3)(ii) of the RTI Act, 2005 for necessary action," joint secretary in the ministry, Debraj Pradhan said while transferring the application to cabinet secretariat.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Delay in supplying information Info panel notice to PPCB, Patiala admn

State Information Commissioner PK Verma has issued show cause notice to Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and the Patiala District Administration for causing delay in supplying the information sought by Jatinder Jain of NGO Sankalp under the RTI Act 2005. In its orders dated October 21, Verma has mentioned that PPCB PIO and Patiala ADC-cum-PIO, District Administration, APS Virk, should explain that why penalty should not be imposed upon them under Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005.

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Depts not keen on giving info under RTI, admits govt

Various government departments of the Punjab Government are not serious in implementing the provisions of the Right To Information Act (RTI) 2005. While various NGO’s were claiming this from past long time but now the government itself has acknowledged this harsh reality. In order to take corrective measures, senior functionaries of the Department of Information Technology (Administrative Reforms), the Punjab Government has now shot off letters to all Financial Commissioners, Principal Secretaries and Administrative Secretaries to the Government of Punjab, directing them effective implementation of the RTI Act and some specific guidelines have been asked to follow.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

After RTI revelations, new Maharashtra CM may return flat

Maharashtra's new Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan may return a flat allotted in May 2003 under the MP's quota, now that a Right To Information application has revealed that he owns the flat provided under the discretionary quota. The application by RTI activist Anil Galgali, seeking the names of those who owned flats under the Chief Minister's discretionary quota, showed that Mr. Chavan possessed the flat at Wadala here. However, official sources said he was taking steps to return it. The flat was bought for Mr. Chavan's mother, Premlatai Chavan, who was being treated for cancer in Mumbai. As Mr. Chavan did not own a house in Mumbai, he applied for a house under the MP's quota so that family members could stay there while his mother was being treated. However, by the time the flat was allotted, she had died, it is learnt from the sources.

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Chargesheet silent on BJP MP's role

The city crime branch, which investigated the murder of RTI activist and whistleblower Amit Jethava, has given a clean chit to BJP MP from Junagadh Dinu Bogha Solanki. In the chargesheet filed on Thursday, constable Bahadursinh Vadher and Solanki's nephew Pratap alias Shiva Solanki have been held wholly responsible for the killing. The chargesheet also says that Jethava was killed for a supari of Rs 11 lakh. The chargesheet, filed against five persons, is silent on the parliamentarian's role in the incident, though Jethava's family members have been claiming that it was Solanki who was behind the murder. Anticipating that the Gujarat police would not 'touch' the sitting MP, Jethava's father has even sought transfer of investigation to a central agency. The murder took place a few days after Jethava filed a PIL against the MP's alleged illegal mining activities in the prohibited Gir sanctuary.

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Prithviraj got flat under CM's poor-quota, fudged wealth declaration

In less than 24 hours since he took oath as chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan's Mr Clean image has been put to the test. An RTI activist has revealed that the CM bought a property meant for the weaker section of society, worth Rs 40 lakh in Wadala for a mere Rs 4 lakh, but did not mention it in his affidavit submitted during the Rajya Sabha elections. The documents (copies of which are with MiD DAY) reveal that Chavan had stated his average monthly income as Rs 76,000 and was allotted the flat in Bhakti Park, building no 12, measuring 1032.7 sq ft on May 20, 2003. RTI activist Anil Galgali, who obtained the documents, adds that while Chavan, who was an MP based in Delhi, had quoted his monthly income as Rs 76,000 in the application, the
ration card copy issued in his late mother Pramilabai Dajisaheb Chavan's name showed the annual family income as just Rs 1 lakh.

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Proactively disclose price lists: CIC to mining companies

The Central Information Commission has advised government-owned mining companies to be "proactive" in disclosing its information like price lists of various minerals it deals in, by putting it up on their websites rather than forcing people to use the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Dealing with a plea by Indian Rare Earths Limited, a public sector mining company, the Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra on Tuesday said, "It is desirable that PSUs like Indian Rare Earths Limited should themselves proactively publish the price lists fixed by them from time to time in its
website for everybody to know, without resorting to the RTI Act."

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Govt may exclude chief justice from RTI Act

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is considering changes to the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep the chief justice of the Supreme Court out of its ambit, prompting protests against the move by those who see it as a dilution of the law. "The proposal includes...safeguarding the sensitivity of the office of the chief justice of India," Prithviraj Chavan, outgoing minister of state for personnel,
public grievances and pensions, said in a written reply to a question on proposed amendments to the RTI Act. He said no time frame has been set for amending the law and that it was not possible to indicate the changes that would finally be incorporated as they are yet to be discussed with stakeholders.

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After complaint agst power xformer sends him behind bars, he uses RTI

An Amritsar-based insurance surveyor didn't know that lodging a complaint against a faulty transformer in his locality would give him a high-voltage shock. For, instead of giving him a patient ear, a Punjab State Electricity Board (now Powercom) employee got an FIR registered against him allegedly on trumped-up charges, landing him behind bars. Out on bail, 52-year-old Jagdish Singh decided to fight the battle using RTI. After much struggle, he succeeded not only in taking the spark out of the electricity department employee, who later filed a plea in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for quashing of the FIR, but also restored uninterrupted power supply to his locality.
"Incidentally, I was in the forefront of getting the 200 KV transformer installed in the locality three years ago. But as the load was not split, the device would often trip. I made several rounds of the department to get the fault rectified, much to the chagrin of the staff. And in July last year, when I decided to file a formal complaint, an employee picked up a fight with me," Singh said.

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Punjab Info Commission issued ‘show cause’ notice to PIO of Director local bodies dept

Taking note of the Office of Local body’s Government Chandigarh procrastination in providing information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the Punjab state information commissioner has issued a ‘show cause’ notice to public
Information officer of Director Local Govt. Chandigarh asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him on this account.
Taking note of the ‘dilly dallying’ attitude adopted by public Information officers, State Information Commissioner, Punjab, Darbara Singh Kahlon said the officials did not bother to be present at the time of hearing of the case. They had adopted delaying- tactics, which was violation of RTI Act. Kahlon has asked for written explanation regarding not providing the information, & has written in his order why action should not be taken against PIO under section 20 (1) & under section 19 (8) (1). Information Commissioner Kahlon ordered the PIO that he should be present before the court with all necessary documents on May
18, 2010 the next date of hearing.
In an application dated November 30, 2009 under the RTI Act, Chander Mohan, member of an NGO, SANKALP, had asked the PIO of Director Local Government Punjab for information about the action of a letter written by Executive Officer of Sunam Distt.
Sangrur, regarding issuing of notification for expansion of limits of Sunam municipal committee. After more than a month went by and he has not received any reply, he wrote to the state information commission on January 20, 2010.
It may be mentioned here that NGO, SANKALP’s president Jatinder Jain complained to Punjab Human Right commission (PHRC) about the non issuing of Notification for expansion of limits of Sunam municipal committee & problems arising due to non issuing of notification as the MC was unable to pay the salaries of their employees as well as MC has to sell the govt. property to run Council.
After which the PHRC taking into cognizance the matter & wrote to Chief Sec. Local Govt. & after that the Chief Sec issued the
notification to increase the limits of Sunam city, but the information asked about the EO letter from Local govt has yet not been received yet.
NGO SANKALP’s president Jatinder Jain expressed that the PIO’s was not at all serious about the RTI Act, we have been given the right to get the information under RTI Act. But this is utter violation of Act, as officials do not provide information within stipulated time. He said that some PIO initiated action only after the commission summoned for a hearing.
Jain demanded action against the public information officer (PIO) under section 20 (1) for not supplying the information. He also demanded initiation of action under section 166 of the IPC.
jatinder jain (sankalp.rti@gmail.com)

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Punjab NGO 'SANKALP' takes RTI route to nail officials negligent in water pollution in a village


This is one of the rare cases, where dedication to serve the humanity with power of RTI is finally going to change the life of crippled & innocent poor villagers of ARNATU, a village in district Patiala, Punjab. Jatinder Jain, a Sunam district Sangrur Punjab based RTI activist, President of SANKALP, an NGO who made it possible.
Jain read a news report about ARNATU village where every third home is afflicted both mentally and physically due to water pollution. I visited this village having population of 2500,situated on the bank of Ghagger & felt the pain of the villagers where most of houses has one or two person with deformities, & I complained about the water pollution as well as non seriousness of the health hazards of ‘Arnatu’ villagers to the Health Minister, Punjab Pollution Board as well as Deputy commissioner of the district, jain told to Tribune.
Even after a month time, non of department’s officer acted on the complaint, Jain filed RTI applications on 13/05/2010 about progress made on his complaint about non-seriousness about the health hazards of ‘Arnatu’ villagers & corrective measurements taken so far in this regard, etc.
However, he did not get proper reply from all of the three departments. Finally he was forced to file complaint to State information Commission. Immediately after issuing of notice by SIC, all the three departments came into action & PPCB took samples of water and found that water of this village is not fit for drinking as it has high concentration of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). Bio-chemical levels in the Ghagger were far higher than normal, village ponds as well the groundwater was also contaminated, but Punjab Health Department, on the basis of the report submitted by doctors of Primary Health Center, Shutrana, to Civil Surgeon Patiala claimed that there was nothing wrong & water is fit for drinking in four water samples taken from village from different sites. Even these two contradictory reports, have left the resident puzzled but as a result of these RTI, these departments wake up & a special team of doctors from Chandigarh visited this village to check the health hazards of villagers due to the polluted water, Deputy Commissioner sent a team of doctors to make a detailed summery of each deformity in the village. Chairman of Punjab Pollution Control Board visited the village & ordered for detailed samples of ground water for further study. The water supply and sanitation (WSS) department sanctioned Rs. 70,000 to repair non functional tube well, we could get potable water as it could draw water from the depth of 600-650 feet said, Gurbex Ram Sarpanch of this village, as villagers have to use their submersible pumps for potable water which are drawing water from the depth of 200 to 250 feet. This water is too polluted because of discharge of pollutants into this seasonal rivulet by various industrial units which led to polluted ground water in the upper layer of land in the village as it is located on banks of Ghaggar.
His struggle with the help of RTI has not only drawn the attention of the Govt. authorities towards the Arnatu resident, but also SIC found the Public Information Officer of PPCB as well as Public Information Officer-cum-ADC, District administration APS Virk guilty under the Right to Information Act for not providing information in prescribed time of 30 days and issue a show cause notice & order also mentioned that why the penalty as prescribed in Section 20 of the RTI Act 2005 should not be imposed upon them, and seek explanation of both PIO’s should be submitted to the court on next date of hearing on November 11, 2010.
Its to mentioned that due to Jain’s efforts, matter has been already raised by PPCC Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and popular environment Sant Baba Sichewal has also come with them and has also been apprised of the seriousness of the problem and has raised the matter with Punjab Pollution Control Board as well as among the Punjab govt.
Jain has also several more notable successes in using RTI to expose corruption and irregularities. "I always want to do something for the society. Now, RTI Act act is a very powerful tool by using it, I will continue to raise several issues of public importance," say Jain.
RTI has given ordinary citizens the power to expose the non seriousness & criminality of government officials. The tribe of Jatinder Jain will hopefully grow.
jatinder jain (sankalp.rti@gmail.com)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LLM students get back at dept

Students enrolled with the Master of Legal Law (LLM) programme at Mumbai University are using their eye for the fine print to get back at their own department. After a majority of them were denied hall tickets for low attendance during the academic semester, they are demanding information on attendance for all other courses at the University under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. They also want details of how many classes each lecturer took.

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Now, RTI case info via SMS

Beep, beep. Now, get info on Right to Information cases on your cellphone. Harassed information-seekers peeved over long delays in getting information from public officers have a reason to cheer. The Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) is introducing an integrated short message service (SMS) to help petitioners track their cases. The next time, you file a complaint or a petition along with your cell number before the KIC, you will get an SMS allotting your case number. Subsequently, every time you quote this case number, you will be told the case status until the verdict is announced. Currently, the commission sends notices to applicants by post.

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Use of RTI to publish minority scholarship results in Bihar

Right to Information Act is proving a useful measure to make public information on which our babus – government officers – love to sit for months and at times years. Mohd Irshad Hussain, a PhD student and leader of a Muslim youth group, uses the Act to get the results of minority scholarship schemes, which he promptly puts on his blog for all to see. Hussain files RTI for the results in the end of February and as soon as he gets the results he uploads them on his blog www.irshad-sio.blog.com.

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Sonia Gandhi's power bill: over Rs 7 lakh for 3 years

Congress President Sonia Gandhi's official residence 10 Janpath has consumed electricity worth more than Rs 7 lakh in the last three years, an RTI reply said. Out of the total bill of Rs 7.47 lakh, the Lok Sabha Secretariat paid Rs 7.38 lakh while Gandhi herself paid about Rs nine thousand. As per the RTI reply, received from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, 10 Janpath consumed a little over two lakh units of electricity between 2007-2009 for which the total bill was Rs 7.47 lakh, the RTI reply to Hissar resident Naresh Saini, said. There is no amount due against the electricity head on the Congress President, the reply added.

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90% shops fail confidence test weights and measures

The merchandise you are purchasing in the city may weight a little less than your expectations. Information procured under the Right To Information Act has revealed that during surprise checks carried out in UT shops last year nearly 90% of weighing scales and cloth meters were found unchecked and unverified. A total of 84 challans were also issued in this regard. A total of 43 electronically-operated scales were checked and only three were found to be fair. Fare meters at leading grocery and general stores were also found also unstamped and unverified.

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Project-affected people, farmers complain of missing land records

When, in 2001, the Andra irrigation project was completed in Maval taluka, 14 villages were displaced. Yet nine years later, just three of the 1,300 families affected have been resettled. Similarly , some 60 per cent of families affected by the construction of Varasgaon dam in 1974 are still awaiting rehabilitation. The hundreds of displaced and affected people already fighting to be rehabilitated in the state are now facing a new problem — the mysterious absence of land records. The state information commissioner (Pune bench) has received a number of complaints in which project-affected people (PAPs) and farmers are denied information about their land by district collectorate officers who say they cannot provide information as 'land records were not found' . The PAPs and farmers fear the 'missing' documents indicate that their land has been grabbed and the records manipulated.

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RTI Commissioner blocked info on assets: Activist

An RTI activist has alleged that the Maharashtra Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, whose son Onkar got a flat in the Adarsh housing complex, stonewalled information on the assets owned by him and other officials, who were beneficiaries in Adarsh. "It has been two years since I applied to his office for the information. I am
yet to get it," said Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve. He first applied to the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the state government in November 2008. In December, an undersecretary and PIO replied that as the officers had retired, the information of their assets could not be made available. A reply by the PIO said the information on the assets of the officials concerned was destroyed at the level of joint secretary Seema Vyas, who was authorised to destroy it, as the officials had retired from service. Interestingly, Vyas is among the beneficiaries of Adarsh Society.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Central information Commission Orders SBI to Publish Bank’s Loans Manual

The Central information Commission has asked State Bank of India to publish bank's manual on loans and advances pertaining to micro and small enterprises on its website and put these under Right to information Act. It is to mention that Chakradhar Panigrahi of Mumbai asked information under RTI act from State Bank of India, Mumbai on 08.05.2010 but SBI refused to give information to Chakradhar Panigrahi giving reason that sought information it was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act. Chief Information Commissioner A.N. Tiwari after hearing both sides has decided on November 4, 2010 vide CIC/AT/A/2010/000596 that the policies and procedures
followed by the Bank in matters of microfinance touch the lives of millions of people.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

If penalised, approach courts in personal capacity, HC tells PIOs

Creating a precedent, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that if the public information officer (PIO) of a department has been penalised by a State Information Commission on account of withholding information, the officer cannot appeal against the order through the state. The court has held that the PIO will have to approach the court in personal capacity. In one such instance, the High Court has directed the Punjab government to withdraw a petition filed by it on behalf of K B S Sidhu, the then PIO of health department who had challenged a penalty imposed on him by the Punjab State Information Commission. A fine of Rs 25,000 was slapped on Sidhu in 2007 for not supplying information.

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