Central government appoints new CIC chief to pacify the anguish of RTI activists:


Central government appoints new CIC chief to pacify the anguish of RTI activists:

Will it serve the purpose? Because thousands of appeals are pending before commission and the new CIC chief with his very short can hardly clear the thousands backlog appeals.

Central government has appointed Vijay Sharma as new chief information commissioner of Central information commission who is retiring in the month of December 2015.

It is clear that he has only a few months in hand and already thousands of applications are piled up before the commission, how can he clear scores of appeals with very short stint of just 6 months?

It has raised eyebrows of whistleblowers all across the country, with the RTI activists claiming and alleging the central government of cheating people by appointing such a chief for very short term although the CIC chief’s post has been lying vacant for the last months.

But the question over here is that when government was not worried for the last nine months to appoint a chief does it seem logical that after the CIC chief gets retirement in December 2015, Modi govt. will be quick to appoint new chief? This is a major question hauling the minds of RTI activists.

In my opinion a chief should have been appointed for at least one year so that he could get elbow room to clear the prolonged pending cases before the commission.

To bring transparency in the functioning of the government it is of the dire need to have CIC CVC and Lokayukta seats always filled. Government should be quick in appointing and making arrangements for such key posts before they get laid vacant.

Nonetheless at last Modi government hit the nail on the head by appointing chief of CIC, now the new chief has some challenges ahead, how he takes decisions and what will be his priorities in dealing with the bundles of appeals is a major concern for him.

Any way it is a good move by the Modi government that after much too furore and hue and cry in the media and by the RTI activists, it appoints new chief and it will give, if not so much, a little breather for the withering Central information commission.


Indian Army Euthanises Retired Dogs and Horses: RTI


Indian express 05-06-2015

Indian Army Euthanises Retired Dogs and Horses: RTI

Dogs are considered the most faithful and loyal animals but they also face terrible reality after serving under the Indian Army. Though they are trained to catch, fetch, sniff and track down criminal movements while serving for the nation, they are denied a honourable life after their retirement.

The India Army gave a shocking response to a right to information (RTI) query that the dogs and horses, which serve for the nation’s security by sniffing bombs, hunting down enemies’, finding hidden places and fetching evidences are euthanised after a month of their retirement.

The canines after a month of being declared unfit to work are euthanised as it is considered unsafe to leave them in civilian hands as they might have been exposed to sensitive locations while in service.

“Army horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. The animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia,” the army said in its response.

Th Indian Army mainly uses Labradors, German Shephard and Belgian Shephards for security services. The logical reasons given by retired Army officers to a leading national daily are that the upkeep of such dogs with the kind of facilities they enjoyed while in service will be expensive and that they are exposed to severe sensitive locations while in service makes it unsafe to leave them in civilian hands.

PETA India CEO Poorva P Joshipura said, ‘Animals cannot be tossed away like empty ammunition shells. It is unfortunate that the dogs are euthanised’.


Ensure govt depts file RTI implementation report, GAD directed:


Hindustan Times: 02-06-2015

Ensure govt depts file RTI implementation report, GAD directed:

The State Information Commission (SIC) has directed the MP state general administration department (GAD) to ensure that all the government departments submit report on implementation of Right to Information (RTI) norms to the commission as required under section 25 of the RTI Act.

The commission has observed that government departments are failing to submit the annual reports on RTI implementation, which is creating hindrance in the commission’s own compilation of reports.

The SIC is expected to come out with annual reports on RTI status which would be tabled in the state assembly.

In a recently issued order, information commissioner Heeralal Trivedi observed that during an exercise to compile reports he had found reports from the some departments were missing, which was a violation of provisions of Section 25 of the RTI Act.

“We have directed the general administration department to send out circular to all government departments asking them to submit reports on implementation of RTI by all agencies/public authorities under their respective purviews to the commission,” Trivedi said, while speaking to HT.

The GAD has been asked to present a report on the action taken to the commission within four weeks after the order was issued (May 20).

Govt aided NGOs told to implement RTI guidelines

Meanwhile, the GAD has directed all government departments as well as officials at divisional and district levels across the state to ensure implementation of RTI norms by non-government organisations (NGOs) which get over `50,000 government grant.

Deputy secretary of GAD, Rajesh Kaul, has sent out a letter reiterating the fact that the substantially financed NGOs fall in the category of public authorities under the RTI Act.

These NGOs should thus take steps for voluntary disclosure of their activities and appoint public information officers/first appellate authorities according to norms, he said.

Kaul said these officials should also be provided requisite training. The government departments are also to ensure that while providing grant to any NGO, the clause of mandatory implementation of RTI norms should be mentioned in the agreement, he said.

The deputy secretary has mentioned in the letter that the SIC has been receiving complaints that many NGOs were not implementing the RTI norms.


Modi received 65 gifts including diamond cufflinks on foreign tours, RTI reveals NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received 65 gifts worth Rs 3.11 lakh during his foreign visits in the past ten months since assuming charge last year, an RTI query revealed.


The Times of India:

New Delhi 31-05-2015

Modi received 65 gifts including diamond cufflinks on foreign tours, RTI reveals

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received 65 gifts worth Rs 3.11 lakh during his foreign visits in the past ten months since assuming charge last year, an RTI query revealed.

On February 19 Modi received gold and diamond studded cufflinks, valued at Rs 75,000. The PM was also twice given tea-sets and books as gifts. He also was presented a statue of Lord Buddha, whose messages he has invoked in several of his speeches abroad, said foreign ministry in response to an RTI query.

The gift items received by the prime minister also included porcelain dishes, replica of temples, paintings, carpets, photographs, ornaments among others.

The government also said that former PM Manmohan Singh had from 2010 to June 2013 received gifts worth Rs 83.72 lakh during foreign tours.

In 2010 he was presented with a sword worth Rs 20.91 lakh, besides ornaments valued at Rs 48.93 lakh. Table-clock, pen, prayer mat, a statue of Lord Pashupatinath, a box made of gold are among other gifts Singh received during the UPA tenure.

The foreign ministry provided information on the gifts received on foreign tours by the President, the Vice-President, MPs, and government officials during the period between year 2010 to June 2013 while details for period between July 2013 to March 2015 have been mentioned on the ministry’s website, it said.


Punjab: Living man declared dead, to get pension after RTI reveals truth


Indian Express:

Punjab: Living man declared dead, to get pension after RTI reveals truth

Man alleges he was declared dead on paper at the behest of certain political leaders from his area who were upset with him for not voting for them

For over a year, Dhir Singh (75) — a resident of Jhanjjian Khurd village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district — made several rounds of the corridors of power, from his village sarpanch to the district social security officer, (DSSO), to determine why his pension had been stopped. The daily wager had last received his pension in February 2014.

It was only after Fatehgarh Churian-based RTI activist Sukhchain Singh came to his aid that Dhir discovered the reason why he had not received the meagre Rs 250 a month for a year. As far as the Punjab government was concerned, the daily wager was dead.

As per an RTI reply, signed by DSSO, Gurdaspur, Amarjit Kaur, Dhir Singh’s pension had been discontinued “due to his death on February 11, 2014”. This, after allegedly denying him the information for six months.

Singh said he had to write to the director, social security, in Chandigarh, who finally directed the DSSO Gurdaspur to provide him the information.

Embarrassed, the department has also said in the same reply that his pension would be  resumed soon.

Dhir Singh, whose right eye is damaged since birth, now alleges that he was declared dead on paper at the behest of certain political leaders from his area who were upset with him for not voting for them.

“I met the village sarpanch, made countless rounds of other offices. But nobody listened to me,” Dhir Singh said.

Gurdaspur DSSO Amarjit Kaur, however, said that Singh’s case appeared to be a clerical error as they were asked to verify the list of pensioners recently. “I was posted here only two months ago. I am not aware of the case. I will study it on Tuesday and will be able to give information only a day after that. I can only say that I will personally ensure his name is included in the list. We have asked him for the copy of his Aadhar card. The pension will be restarted,” he said.


Salman’s hit-and-run case papers with govt. lost in fire, RTI query reveals


The Hindu 28 May 2015

Salman’s hit-and-run case papers with govt. lost in fire, RTI query reveals

An RTI query has revealed that the Maharashtra government does not have any papers on actor Salman Khan’s 2002 hit-and-run case as the files pertaining to it were gutted in a fire at Mantralaya.

The RTI activist had sought to know from the State Law and Judiciary department the names and the total number of counsels, solicitors, advocates and legal advisors, public prosecutors appointed by the State government for this case.

The RTI reply informed that the files pertaining to the case were burnt on June 21, 2012, when a fire engulfed the State Secretariat and therefore, they cannot be made available.

To a query on total expenses incurred by the State government in the case from 2002 to May 6, 2015 , when the judgment was pronounced in the case, the activist was told that “the only thing that the government knows is about the appointment of Special public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat who was appointed at a fee of Rs. 6,000 per hearing.”

On May 6, a Sessions Court had convicted Salman Khan for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the 2002 hit-and-run case and sentenced him to five years imprisonment.

The Bombay High Court had on May 8 granted the actor bail and suspended his sentence pending hearing and final disposal of his appeal against conviction.


Draft notification of Capital land shortly


The Hindu May 20, 2015

Draft notification of Capital land shortly


After issuing the draft notification, the CRDA would give 30 days for filing of objections. The objections would be pertaining to land ownership.

The CRDA will publish the draft notification of extent of land taken under Land Pooling Scheme (LPS) Land Acquisition after the master plan for the core capital region is submitted to the State Government, Commissioner N. Srikanth said here on Tuesday.

With the publication of draft notification under under section 56 (2) of AP CRDA Act, yet another crucial phase in the Land Pooling Scheme would begin.

Land to the extent of 33,800 acres in 25 villages has been pooled so far and annuity payments were given for 16,000 acres. The draft notification would have a final base map along with details of extent of area and ownership status, category of land, extent of reconstituted plots to land owners in residential and commercial zones with details of sectors, zone and extent, reserved land and land use break up etc.

After issuing the draft notification, the CRDA would give 30 days for filing of objections. The objections would be pertaining to land ownership, reconsitution of plots to land owners and reserved land


Jung annuls AAP govt’s appointments; Kejriwal banks on public support


The Hindu May 20, 2015

Jung annuls AAP govt’s appointments; Kejriwal banks on public support

The Delhi Lieutenant Governor asserts that he was the sole authority in matters of ordering transfer and posting of bureaucrats.

Escalating his confrontation with the Aam Aadmi Party government, Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on Wednesday cancelled all appointments made by it in the last four days, asserting he was the sole authority in matters of ordering transfer and posting of bureaucrats.

In a letter to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Lt Governor challenged AAP government’s order to bureaucrats not to follow his directives without securing approval from the CM or any other minister, maintaining he has the power to decide on transfers and postings.

Mr. Jung also contested AAP government’s instructions to the officials to not route files through his office, saying he has been vested with power to decide on major policy issues.

In the letter, Mr. Jung explained constitutional provisions and norms laid down in Government of NCT of Delhi Act and Transaction of Business rules of the Delhi Government, and asked the AAP government to follow the rules and procedures.

Mr. Jung said orders pertaining to transfers and postings by AAP govt in the last four days were not valid as they did not have his approval.

In a directive on Monday, Mr. Kejriwal had asked the bureaucrats including the Chief Secretary to first consult him and other Ministers before acting directions from the LG.

On Tuesday, both Mr. Kejriwal and Jung had taken their bitter fight to President Pranab Mukherjee, accusing each other of violating the Constitution and overstepping their respective jurisdictions.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kejriwal asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the city government to function “independently” and accused the Centre of trying to run the Delhi administration through Jung.

In a letter to Mr. Modi, Mr. Kejriwal mentioned about the posting and transfers made by Jung and said the elected government must have a say in distribution of work to senior officials.

The appointment of Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary last week had triggered a full-blown warbetween the AAP government and Jung with Kejriwal alleging that the LG was trying to take over the administration. Each side has since appointed some officials in senior positions which were declared void by the other.

Everybody united against us, but we have public support: Kejriwal

Referring to AAP Government’s ongoing turf war with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said “everybody has got united against us” but asserted that till the time they have public support “we don’t have to think about anything”.

“Everybody has got united against us. Yesterday, I went to meet a senior lawyer who told me that he had seen on news channels that everyone is against us (AAP Government) but public is supporting… I replied to him that till the time public is with us we don’t have to think about anything,” Mr. Kejriwal said.


10 years after RTI, transparency and accountability just a day dream:


10 years after RTI, transparency and accountability just a day dream:

Ten years after the RTI Act was passed by the Parliament on May 12 2005, till now transparency and accountability in government offices are yet to flourish.

Even after a decade of enactment of RTI, government offices have poorly maintained records of their workings, as RTI act says only those information will be provided to the citizens which are kept in the government offices.

But the problem is that if government officials act irresponsibly and do not maintain records properly what information the citizens could seek?

Staffing is also at very pathetic stage, as seats of information commissioners are lying vacant and governments are not willing to fill them.

Normal waiting time for the pending cases in information commissions (in states) are as high as 60 years in Madhya Pradesh and 18 years in west Bengal and if cases are resolved at the current pace of work.

This Act (RTI Act) was passed by the Indian parliament in 2005 and it had kindled new hopes in citizens of India but now it is withering day by day and becoming toothless by the apathy of the central and state governments.

The CIC chief’s post has been lying vacant at the central information commission’s office New Delhi for quite long time and central government in no mood at all to appoint the chief.

Whistleblower protection amendment Act 2015 passed by the parliament has raised alarms about the vulnerability of information seekers, as it has diluted it and removed the protection cover earlier provided in the original Act.

In one word I would like to say in my opinion we have made so many laws but have not updated the mindset of our bureaucracy and government officials who are always giving lukewarm responses to RTIs, and always feel insulted if an RTI is filed in his/her office seeking any details of their functioning.