lokesh batra | 1 Oct 08:36 2010
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Re: NDTV says Prof Ansari as CIC in December

 

Input
 
Learnt that Prof Ansari is schedule to complete five years as IC in October 2010, hence he will have to retire in Oct.
 
The date of his joining Commission is not available under his profile on Commissions website.  
 
rgds,

From: lokesh batra <batra_lokesh-/E1597aS9LQAvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>
Sent: Thu, September 30, 2010 11:14:38 PM
Subject: [AntiBriberyCampaign] NDTV says Prof Ansari as CIC in December

 

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/an-tiwari-to-replace-wajahat-habibullah-as-the-new-cic-55831

AN Tiwari to replace Wajahat Habibullah as the new CIC



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    urvashi sharma | 1 Oct 19:59 2010
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    The official National RTI Day

     

    Dear Sir/ Madam,

    The Right to Information Act, 2005 is turning five on Tuesday, 12th
    October, 2010. Let us all make an appeal to the Union Government of
    India to declare 12th October as “ The National RTI day ”

    May I request you all to make unified efforts in your best capacity
    so that the Indian government should declare 12th October as "
    National RTI day " to mark the importance of this beautiful
    legislation .

    This 12th October Please take a resolution of this effect and strive
    to achieve it by next year.

    Regards

    Urvashi

    --
    Urvashi Sharma

    RTI Helpmail( Web Based )
    aishwaryaj2010-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org

    Mobile Rti Helpline
    8081898081 ( 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. )

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      urvashi sharma | 2 Oct 04:36 2010
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      Dead Right

       

      http://www.tehelka.com/story_main47.asp?filename=Ne091010Dead_Right.asp
      Dead Right

      The RTI Act 2005 was meant to bring about a silent revolution. But
      judging from the way petitioners are being victimised, it’s a bloody
      one, finds PRAGYA TIWARI

      United stand These are seven of the 10 Mumbai activists who backed
      Srikant Prabhu, 68, (far right) when he sought information on a
      powerful builders’ lobby. The police was called when they accompanied
      Prabhu to his hearing at the State Information Commission. They spent
      two days in jail. The case against them is still on

      PHOTO: TUSHAR MANE

      THREE RIGHT to Information (RTI) activists were murdered in this
      country in three months — Datta Patil on 26 May, Amit Jethwa on 20
      July and Ramdas Ghadegaonkar on 27 August. Besides, TEHELKA has
      tracked many more who are living in fear of their lives. Here we tell
      heartbreaking stories of petitioners who have been harassed for having
      the temerity to use this Act. This is not the kind of stock-taking
      that a democracy should be doing to mark five years of the RTI Act
      2005.

      Amit Jethwa, a 32 year old RTI activist from Gir, was shot dead by two
      assailants on a motorbike outside the Ahmedabad High Court on the 20th
      of July. Less than a month ago Jethwa had used information obtained
      under the Right To Information Act 2005 to expose the network of
      illegal mining run by BJP MP Dinu Solanki in the Gir forest area. On
      the 7th of September, the MP’s nephew Shiva Solanki was arrested for
      Jethwa’s murder.

      The horror of this story is a small part of the sweeping phenomenon of
      intimidation, harassment and murder of RTI petitioners throughout the
      country. 9 RTI activists have been killed this year.

      But murder is usually the last step in a build up of harassment that
      takes many forms. Invention of cases and imprisonment is the most
      common form of police harassment, but it is not unlikely for the force
      to physically assault petitioners either.

      In other cases, intimidation is dealt out via less ‘legitimate’
      channels. From Jharkhand, Sumit Kumar Mahato, Convenor of the RTI
      Forum, talks about being manhandled by goons for seeking information
      about funds spent on the building of a road. Rolly Shivhare of Jaano
      Re Abhiyaan from MP says, “I filed an application to ask for the
      Midday Meal Scheme budget from the Panchayat and Rural Welfare
      Department. I received a threatening phone call asking what I would do
      with this information. The caller said he was the ‘Development
      Commissioner’. When the police traced the call, it was found that it
      had indeed come from his office, though the commissioner himself
      denied any knowledge of it.”

      RTI activists have learnt through unfortunate examples not to take
      such initial threats lightly. Down south in Karnataka, Venkatesh, 32,
      had filed an application to expose the Bangalore Development
      Authorities’ involvement in a land scam case. Despite receiving
      threats, he continued to pursue the case alone. In April 2009,
      Venkatesh’s body was found near the divider of a highway. His death
      was registered as a traffic accident. The RTI Study Centre filed an
      RTI application for the post-mortem report which revealed that his
      head injury was caused by a blunt instrument. On investigation, four
      people were charged. They have all been linked to the contractors
      involved in the scam.

      Malay Bhattacharya, secretary of the West Bengal RTI Manch
      differentiates between the harassment in urban and rural areas, “In
      urban West Bengal, applicants are harassed by the police who come to
      their house and threaten them and their family members.” In villages,
      he says, the authorities ensure that those filing RTI applications are
      boycotted socially.

      Patterns differ from state to state but every state can be mapped with
      such stories, each one more horrific than the other. From tiny tribal
      villages to the bustling lanes of Mumbai and Delhi; from farmers and
      lorry drivers to middle class professionals- cases of criminal
      harassment following RTI applications abound everywhere. The monitory
      and emotional fallouts in all cases are life altering for the
      petitioners and their families.

      In most cases, the petitioners that are attacked have already been
      through harassment, because of rigorous attempts to obstruct their
      application. Almost always the information is refused at first.
      Harinesh Pandya, founder of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel says, “Under
      s.4 of the Act, all departments must pro-actively make mandatory
      disclosures. But they routinely fail to do so. From over 55,000 calls
      received on our helpline, nearly 80% relate to information that is
      already covered under S. 4.”

      It is common practice for officials to say the information one is
      asking for endangers ‘national security’ or is ‘secret’. “We were
      denied basic information like the names of people booked under the
      UAPA and the number of Special Police Officers in Orissa,” says
      Sharanya Nayak, from Action Aid, Orissa. In almost every state rules
      that go against either the spirit or the letter of the Act impede its
      affectivity (effectivity? check this). For instance, Chittaranjan
      Behera, freelance consultant on governance issues, informs us that the
      Orissa government’s rules relating to payment required to access
      information make it extremely difficult for villagers to avail of
      their rights. Similarly, activist Izhar Ansari tells us, “In UP the
      summons for the appeal hearings are sent by plain post by the State
      Information Commission – not even registered or speed post.” So often
      those summoned claim not to have received it to get away.

      What is most dangerous is that in many instances the RTI application
      form requires the applicant to provide their permanent address, photo
      identification and father/spouse names .The availability of these
      details makes the applicant vulnerable to attacks.

      So what needs to be done to reinstate the spirit of the Act? Clearly,
      there’s a need to re-assess the rules for filing applications made by
      each state under the Act and ensure that they do not undermine its
      intent.

      Secondly, it is imperative that all departments covered by the Act are
      made to follow S. 4 and make mandatory disclosures pro-actively. This
      will reduce the burden of numbers of applications and protect
      applicants against the risk of having to ask for it personally. To
      begin with the Commissions can allocate a PIO from within each
      department who takes on the responsibility of disclosure. In addition,
      providing monetary compensation to applicants who have to file for
      information that must be in the public domain will act as a deterrent
      for the errant departments.

      Thirdly, a central advisory body, similar to the one set up to
      supervise NREGA, must be constituted. This council, comprising all
      stakeholders, can act as mediator between the users of the Act and the
      government. Its principal role will be to monitor problems of
      implementation and complaints of harassment and make recommendations
      on these bases.

      The fourth issue which needs to be addressed is grievance redressal.
      RTI applications throw up three kinds of issues- related to monetary
      corruption, improper governance or misuse of power. Once you have the
      information you seek, it can only be useful if it allows you to take
      action against wrongdoers. The existing investigative agencies are
      either toothless or biased. For instance, in most states the Anti
      Corruption Bureau directs a complaint back to the department against
      which it is filed for rectification. The police, on the other hand,
      when not directly the subject of the complaint, are almost always in
      cohorts with the politician-bureaucrat-businessman nexus implicated.
      Setting up Ombudsman bodies – Lokayuktas – can fill in this vacuum if
      they are empowered to act strongly and the public plays a role in
      electing the members. These Lokayuktas will investigate charges of
      corruption against different organs of the government. Similarly a
      properly enabled and constituted nationwide Public Grievances
      Commission can take up issues of mis-governance where these organs are
      not functioning properly.

      Finally, people’s movements should take up the harassment of RTI
      activists in one of two ways- whenever harassment is reported in a
      case, several applications by different persons or organizations must
      be filed for the information being sought by the harassed person. It
      is always more difficult to silence a collective voice. In the
      unfortunate instance of an RTI activist being murdered or tortured,
      civil society groups should focus their attention and ensure the
      information the individual was seeking is brought out. This will act
      as a deterrent to those responsible for such crimes.

      However, no legislative reform is complete without a reform of the
      executive that implements it. This reform too must begin within the
      Commissions themselves. A source, who does not wish to be named,
      reveals that in UP all Information Commissioners are political
      appointees. “Four out of eleven are affiliated to the BSP, seen in
      every major rally,” says this source. “And the rest are from the
      Samajwadi Party, who will be replaced by candidates from the ruling
      party as soon as their term runs out.” This is a nation wide trend. In
      Haryana, Subhash, Editor of India Post – an RTI newsletter that is
      published fortnightly from Rohtak filed applications that revealed
      shocking corruption within the State Information Commission.

      At the root of this is the lack of transparency in the selection
      procedure. Centrally, the PM along with a cabinet minister nominated
      by him and the leader of opposition choose the Commissioners. At the
      state level the selection is carried out by the CM, one of his
      ministers and the opposition leader of the Legislative assembly. In
      principle the Act envisages people from all walks of life in the
      Commission – allotting a greater role to civil society. However in
      practice the commission is seen as an extension of the civil services,
      populated almost entirely by retired bureaucrats who are so entrenched
      in the system, it is impossible for them to act against their own
      colleagues. To repair this, posts in the commissions must be reserved
      for members of civil society who do not have a background in
      government service.

      All of these changes can and should be brought about without amending
      the Act, because over the last couple of years the government has
      proposed several amendments that will water down its effect. There is
      a fear that opening up the Act to improve it might make it vulnerable
      to more regressive changes as well.

      Besides, the drafting of the Act to a great extent is competent in
      itself. The larger problem lies with its implementation that requires
      political will. And given that the Act is under the supervision of the
      Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, a portfolio
      held by the PM himself, the culpability for its failure goes to the
      very top.

      This backlash against petitioners is proof of the potency of the RTI.
      But what is it that is making thousands of ordinary citizens—who have
      hardly ever used laws without the interface of lawyers and
      law-keepers-- risk life and liberty for this Act? India fought long
      and hard for democracy in a movement that has informed the imagination
      of every generation since. Today its very idea is endangered for an
      electorate that has limited choices when it comes to choosing leaders.
      This Act provides an opportunity for every single citizen to
      participate in the governance of the country by asking questions about
      decisions made by the state. And when citizens set out to reclaim
      their right to govern, there is bound to be a struggle for the
      inversion of power. Many activists see this as the new fight for
      freedom. But Right to Life is more fundamental to freedom. And without
      it, Right to Information cannot fulfill its revolutionary potential.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The farmer who knew too much

      Datta used RTI to expose the worst scams in Ichakarlanji. He was
      murdered in May.

      Srikant Prabhu is a 68 year old veterinarian doctor from Mumbai. His
      voice trembles when he talks and he has trouble hearing but he logs
      his complaints with the earnestness of a child. “MHADA gave away my
      flat for redevelopment even though it didn’t qualify,” he says. The
      only weapon he had against a powerful builder lobby was the RTI. After
      infinite visits to the commission to plead for information he thought
      he rightfully deserves, his appeal came up for hearing in May 2009.
      Not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that he would
      spend that night in prison. Nor could any of the other 9 activists who
      were put behind bars that fateful day for demanding proper
      implementation of the RTI Act. Krishnaraj Rao narrates the antecedents
      of this act of terror. “On attending hearings at the State Information
      Commission in Mumbai we identified two major problems. The Public
      Information Officers who refuse information were not being asked to
      justify the refusal as required by the Act. Nor were they being
      penalized when the refusal was found to be unjustified. So, we began
      to urge the Information commissioner to bring about reforms in this
      area. In May 2009, after months of putting us off, the Commission
      decided to silence us once and for all.” On the day of Prabhu’s
      hearing 9 of them accompanied him with a letter outlining the
      shortcomings of the commission. Before handing it in, one of them
      decided to sing the national anthem. The commissioner refused to stand
      up. Instead he called the cops and had them arrested for singing the
      anthem in an ‘inappropriate manner’ and ‘forcing their way’ into a
      court hearing, even though it is by law an open court. “In Arthur Road
      Jail, as we spent two nights in extreme discomfort, we found out that
      the FIR also included rioting, assault and other criminal charges that
      were not made out,” adds Rao, the shock of betrayal still fresh in his
      voice. “We have been out on security since but have received the
      chargesheet only in June this year. It has over a hundred pages
      missing from the middle, and I think they might add to it later.”

      The case came up for first hearing in August. But Rao has not given up
      on the RTI. He blogs on the victimization of activists and looks for
      solutions to the problems of the Act. After years of activism, he is
      so used to harassment, he cannot differentiate it from the integrals
      of his job. But many of the others are finding it hard to cope with
      the harassment of fighting a criminal case and deal with its stigma in
      their conservative middle class environments. Prabhu’s wife had a
      nervous breakdown when she was told he has been arrested. 56 year old
      Ravikiran Haldipur is a high school teacher. He tries to imagine his
      father’s past as a freedom fighter to cope with his ordeal. 49 year
      old Chauhan struggles to make sense of the irony that his singing the
      national anthem could land them in jail. “For seven generations my
      family has been in the army but today the real enemies of the country
      are within it so I became an RTI activist,” he explains. “It is the
      one good thing that has happened to this country after independence,”
      he says of the Act. When Gaurang Vora, 48, a pathologist by profession
      also falls back on the example of the freedom struggle to justify his
      fight, one begins to see clearly that for a generation that inherited
      the dreams of independence straight from its harbingers, the right to
      participate in governance through the RTI Act has become the meaning
      of freedom. But it is not easy to hold on to this meaning after their
      personal liberty has been put on stake with such callous ease by
      authorities. When Prabhu tells you that he has still not received the
      information he was appealing for on that day the difficulty of their
      larger pursuits becomes even more entrenched.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      Did curiosity kill?

      An investigation into a controversial sand mafia case might have cost
      Ramdas Ghadegaonkar his life

      RAMDAS GHADEGAONKAR

      In death, as in life, Ramdas Ghadegaonkar is stuck in ‘due process’.
      Ghadegaonkar’s body was found at Naya Monda, in Maharashtra’s Nanded
      district, at around 11 pm on August 27, 2010. Initial reports that
      spread like wildfire through Nanded said he had been stoned to death
      at around 7 pm. Yet the local police station has registered his death
      as an accident. Nanded’s Superintendent Of Police, Sandeep Karnik,
      maintains, “there were no external injuries on his body”.

      If only things were so simple. Nanded is the hometown and erstwhile
      constituency of Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. It’s still
      a Congress bastion. And Ghadegaonkar was a member of the Shiv Sena. So
      an angry protest has been sparked off by Shiv Sena Zilla Pramukh Dilip
      Thakur. This spark has set the local papers on fire. It has caught on
      to national news to transform into a raging inferno that the Sena
      leaders are basking in the glow of. A postmortem of Ghadegaonkar’s
      body has been ordered and carried out. Why? What would the nation want
      with a Shiv Sainik murdered in a small town?

      Truth is, Ghadegaonkar hadn’t visited the Sena office in three months
      before his demise. And he had joined the Sena only three years ago.
      Well before that, and since, Ghadegaonkar has been – first and
      foremost – an RTI activist. His death is the ninth death of an RTI
      activist this year. And he is still stuck in due process. For in
      Nanded, a post mortem report takes fifteen days to be prepared – and
      Ghadegaonkar’s is still in the waiting.

      And due process had paid off before for 43 year old Ghadegaonkar.
      Hailing from a village called Ghadegaon, he worked in a clothes shop
      for fifteen years after passing his class 10. “Then things began to
      change,” says his brother Shivaji. “He would leave home early in the
      morning and come back late at night. He would keep talking about some
      andolan or the other.” What andolan? Ghadegaonkar had joined the Janta
      Dal, but politics was never his mainstay. Social activism was. “He had
      a group of friends – local activists and journalists – who would
      ‘inspire’ him,” says Shivaji, not knowing whether to rue or be proud
      of his brother’s lofty ideals. “He did whatever he did for the
      people.” Corruption, a simple but core issue in such parts, was the
      target that Ghadegaonkar set his sights on. When his newfound circle
      of friends told him about the RTI Act, he knew he had a shoulder on
      which to rest his gun.

      And fire. Ghadegaonkar hit bulls eye by filing an RTI questioning the
      allotment of food grains under the Public Distribution System. An
      investigation spurred by his efforts revealed how most of these grains
      were being black-marketed mid-way. His next target was the sand mafia.
      Contractors were paying their way into silencing officials as they
      freeloaded on sand which belonged to the state. Moreover, they were
      flouting contract norms by using machines when they had a deal with
      the state to provide employment to the poor. Ghadegaonkar’s RTI put a
      stop to this. It is rumoured to have caused Rs 15 lakh worth of
      penalty to certain contractors.

      To whom? This is not known. “He wouldn’t make his family a part of his
      activism,” says his brother. Ghadegaonkar has left behind a wife and
      two sons aged seven and thirteen. His eighteen year old daughter is
      married. She has fallen terribly ill on hearing of her father’s death.
      His wife can’t afford that luxury. In terms of material wealth,
      Ghadgaonkar has left behind an acre of farmland, which his wife has to
      now look after, and on it a one room hut.

      “The RTI doesn’t fit into Shiv Sena’s modus operandi,” says Prakash
      Marewar, a fellow Shiv Sainik. This is hardly surprising given that
      after Shiv Sainiks have gotten away with a plethora of criminal acts,
      Ghadegaonkar died while lawfully exercising his right to information.
      “It was made clear to Ghadegaonkar that his RTIs were his own business
      – so we don’t know the details of the sand mafia case,” adds Marewar.
      All that is known is that Ghadegaonkar had an argument with two or
      three men at around 2 pm, at Naya Monda itself, on the day of his
      demise. The argument nearly came to blows, and policemen who were
      around had to intervene to ward off a fight. This is what local
      witnesses say. But the police deny any knowledge. National coverage of
      his death has led Shivaji to hope that the CBI will come in on the
      case. “But that will only be possible after the post mortem report is
      out,” says Shivaji. “If it takes too long,” he adds. “I will file an
      RTI.” That will cut through the process.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The leak he rejected

      Gopubandhu was beaten, jailed and lost all he owned

      GOPUBANDHU CHHATRIA

      PHOTO: SHARAT KUMAR
      PUTEL

      In a remote village called Jarasingha, in Orissa’s Bolangir district,
      Gopubandhu Chhatria (45), born into a family of poor Dalit farmers,
      has been tilling his share of less than an acre of land ever since he
      can remember. A couple of years ago the Block Development officer of
      the area passed orders for a portion of his land to be taken for the
      construction of a check dam. Chhatria was not compensated but he
      believed in the project too much to care. For a farmer at the mercy of
      erratic rainfall year after year, continued supply of water for
      irrigation holds the promise of a life of sustenance and dignity. But
      his hope was shortlived—- the dam was built with such substandard
      material, that it leaked out the water meant to irrigate farmlands.

      After he had fruitlessly knocked on many doors to complain, a clerk in
      the collector’s office told Chhatria about the RTI Act. In 2008, armed
      with a booklet detailing the procedure in Oriya, Chhatria went on to
      become the first person from his district to file an application and
      ask the authorities about how they had spent the money sanctioned for
      the dam. He believed in this tiny booklet as he had in the promise of
      development. In February 2009 the Assistant Block Development Officer
      summoned him to his office and after refusing to answer any of his
      questions, offered him a sum of Rs. 10000 to not bring up the matter
      again. When Chhatria refused this bribe he was beaten up in the ABDO's
      office itself. As he stood outside the office wailing, policemen from
      the local police station arrived and arrested him on charges of
      assault and for ‘creating a ruckus’ in the ABDO's office.

      For four days, he was locked up and beaten. He was given no food nor
      water for the first three days and not allowed to meet or speak to
      anyone either. For the whole of next year Chhatria fought his case
      drawing on every bit of his meager resources. Finally on the 24th of
      July 2010, he was acquitted of all charges.

      But his land, which he had hoped to turn fertile, and filed an RTI
      for, had been mortgaged in this process. Chhatria is now a landless
      labour, sustaining a family of three young children, an aging father
      and wife on daily wages of Rs 70. “There are days when I have to ask
      my wife to work as a labourer to make ends meet”, he says in a low
      voice. But the fear that usually keeps ordinary folks from taking on
      the system has given way in the face of extreme hardships. All the
      corruption and injustice he sees around him is now part of his own
      reality. He has gone on to file RTI applications to enquire into
      corruption related to development funds, distribution of land and
      grains to the poor and NREGA. He has received no information from any
      of these RTIs, only fresh threats. But Information about the check
      damn on his land did come finally - eight months after his arrest. He
      has written his complaint based on it to the Chief Minister of Orissa.
      He believes he will hear from him. “I believe the light of justice
      will spread across the country,” says Chhatria, who lives in a
      dilapidated hut with no electricity. “Because I routinely pray for
      this.”

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      ‘They said they’d kill me’

      Goverdhan Singh asked policemen about their assets. He is now on the run

      GOVERDHAN SINGH

      Goverdhan Singh, 30, has been on the run for the last six months. In
      February this year he had filed a case against the SP and Additional
      SP of Bikaner district for forging the documents that an RTI
      application filed by him had asked for. As soon as the High Court
      ruled against them, the force unleashed its vendetta. Within a couple
      of days nine criminal cases were filed against Singh. Similar cases
      were filed against his family, friends and lawyer. His house was
      sealed and the police confiscated all personal property. During the
      raid one of the officers told his aging mother that her son would be
      killed in a fake encounter if she didn’t urge him to withdraw his
      case. Immediately after, she suffered a brain hemorrhage that left her
      blind in one eye. Singh breaks down while narrating this last incident
      but otherwise his resolve is steely. “All I want is that an agency
      outside of Bikaner investigate this. Then I am sure all the cases
      against me will be proven to be false. How can the police that has
      manufactured them be expected to do justice with me?” he asks, his
      logic as infallible as his faith in the legal system. Singh claims his
      wife was beaten up during the raid as well. Now the 25 year old who
      has spent most of her adult life as a traditional Rajput woman in
      Purdah, has taken to fighting her husband’s case, representing him
      before authorities while he is in hiding. In this period he has been
      able to meet her and their infant son only once briefly.

      The birth of Singh’s tragedy can be traced back, like many others, to
      the passage of the RTI Act in 2005. Enthused by its possibilities,
      Singh, began to take on the corruption in the system by filing RTI
      applications and following up the information he received by FIR’s
      against those incriminated. He claims to have taken on the might of
      politicians in land scams and bank authorities in frauds, but it was
      only when he took on the police, that threats that always loomed large
      finally materialized. Singh worked as a collection agent for telecom
      companies, a line of work that is often dubious in reputation. As he
      changes disguises, fleeing cities, friendless and afraid, Singh asks,
      his voice breaking with despair once again, “Even if they think I was
      a goon, is a goon not entitled to human rights?” Everyone is. And
      everyone is entitled to ask questions under the RTI. The only thing is
      relevant is what is being asked and what the answers portend.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The RTI Boomerang

      Asith Sangma exposed massive corruption but he is the one battling lawsuits now

      ASITH SANGMA

      PHOTO: THOMAS LIM

      32 year old activist Asith Sangma is a harried man. He lives in
      Baghmara, at South Garo Hills district in Meghalaya with his wife and
      five children – all below the age of 15. He draws Rs 8,000 rupees a
      month as salary from a cultural and environmental NGO he has helped
      found. He has a defamation case against him for Rs 60,00,000. He has
      lost Rs 2,00,000 in the last two years in fighting this case. “All
      because I believed in the power of the RTI,” he says.

      Sangma and his wife came to Baghmara, newly wed, when he was 22. He
      made it his home with time, but was struck by the rampant corruption
      he saw in development schemes that had sprung up all around the town.
      In 2005, he read about the RTI in the Shillong Times. He asked a
      friend who was with the district council how the RTI could be used and
      proceeded to use it in 2007. In 2008 he tasted success with RTI
      applications which exposed the misappropriation of funds by the local
      Assistant District Magistrate Santosh Marak. Most of the scam lay in
      the misappropriation of rice meant for food for work programmes, and
      in siphoning off of money meant for buying government vehicles. The
      Anti Corruption Bureau stepped in and filed a report on Marak, but no
      action was taken. The buck stopped there.

      Or did it? Marak knew where to hit Sangma. His vengeance did not
      indict him in a criminal case or break his bones – it drained him
      financially.

      His Rs 60,00,000 defamation case has left Sangma, who was already
      struggling to make ends meet on a meager salary, with little appetite
      for activism. “The money apart, the case kills me because of the
      amount of time I have to spend reporting to court,” says Sangma. All
      because he believed in the power of the RTI.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      Chennai’s need to know

      One RTI too many landed these three in a police station or two

      MADHAV, ELANGO AND GOPAL

      At 11 15 am on September 1, 2010, three men, each in their thirties,
      stood blindfolded outside the Raj Bhavan at Chennai. They held up
      placards that read: “Non Transparent Appointment To Uphold
      Transparency?” They were protesting the appointment of former Chief
      Secretary K S Sripathy as Chief Information Commissioner of the state.
      The appointment, they believe, is unlawful, because applications from
      other candidates had not been invited and an approval of the selection
      committee (mandatory under the RTI Act) not taken. Also, Sripathy is
      close to Chief Minister Karunanidhi, and had as a bureaucrat blatantly
      opposed the implementation of the RTI Act. The three youth shouted
      slogans: “Save RTI”. Once. Twice. On their third shout, they were
      picked up by policemen, tossed into a white Tata Sumo and whisked
      away.

      What made these three blindfolded men so dangerous to the State of
      Tamil Nadu? Why were they not allowed their right to peaceful protest
      in a public place that they had rightful access to?

      One of these three was 30 year old V Madhav, an ex Infosys employee
      who gave up his job in 2006 to join an NGO that would help him use the
      RTI. In a short span of four years, Madhav has become an icon of sorts
      for RTI users in Tamil Nadu. His applications have made IAS and IPS
      officers disclose their assets. They have inspected the records of the
      State Secretariat, state government hospitals, the Chennai Central
      Prison and the Chennai Municipal Corporation. Most significantly,
      Madhav’s RTIs have questioned the RTI itself – ensured that charges
      not be levied on those seeking information and exposed that the Chief
      Minister’s office itself was lacking a PIO. Madhav also liaisons with
      the media, so that information obtained under these RTIs are available
      to all in the next day’s newspapers.

      Another was Gopalkrishnan, a 36 year old mechanical engineer who
      remembers bitterly how he was refused admission into engineering
      colleges for two consecutive years because principals everywhere
      demanded a capitation fee that he was unable to pay. “My father had
      been a bus driver and labour unionist,” he says. “He had taught me to
      fight.” So Gopalkrishnan fought a court case for two long years to
      secure a college admission that his merit should have earned him. But
      he did not give up on the fight. Two and a half years ago he joined an
      NGO called Five Pillars which taught him how to use the RTI. The Tamil
      Nadu Electricity Board, the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, the
      Chennai Municipal Corporation – have all faced the brunt of
      Gopalkrishnan’s RTIs. He has forced them to address issues ranging
      from garbage disposal and mosquito control to road building.

      The third blindfolded man was Siva Elango, 33 – a post graduate in
      journalism and politics, whose 60 page Tamil guidebook on the RTI was
      a bestseller at the last Chennai book fair – doing over 10,000 copies.
      The guidebook has a helpline number which Elango runs to provide step
      by step directions on the phone to those filing an RTI. And he writes
      from experience. Among others, Elango filed an application demanding
      the accounts of every state government department in Tamil Nadu by
      February. The reason? This ensured all of them had their accounts
      ready by the end of the financial year – in March – a rarity for lazy
      overconfident state bureaucracy.

      No wonder these three men, each in their thirties, were tossed into
      that Tata Sumo without a warrant. No wonder they were taken away to
      Guindy Police Station and made to wait in a sub inspector’s office,
      then in a dark room – filled with mosquitoes and the stench of a
      nearby toilet. No wonder they were interrogated by policemen who posed
      to them poignant questions on the subject of state security, such as:
      “What is the colour of your underwear?”. No wonder that they were
      driven off then in the direction of the magistrate’s court – only to
      turn at the last minute and detain them at another police station
      instead. The Velucheri Police Station. Here Sub Inspector Laxmi
      Narayan tried to sweet talk them into never using the RTI again – by
      offering them philosophical gems like: “How can you ever eradicate
      corruption anyway?”

      At 5 15 pm, Madhav, Gopalkrishnan and Elango were released, without
      being given an explanation for why they were detained in the first
      place. They will file an RTI for that. Even if the appeal has to go up
      to Sripathy.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      KISHORI RAM

      PHOTO: SONU KISHAN

      ‘They dismantled it brick by brick’

      When Kishori Ram asked why land meant for the poor was being used by
      the rich, he lost his own home

      50 year old Kishori Ram rues the day he filed an RTI application. “And
      I rue the day I believed in the state,” he screams, crying.

      Kishori Ram’s ancestral home at Matatpur, in the Bhabua district of
      Bihar, belonged to his family for four generations and 50 years. It
      had five rooms, occupied by his mother, his three siblings – and their
      spouses and children. “We had planned to build more rooms,” he says
      before breaking down again.

      A two-storeyed house with twelve rooms had come up close by. This
      belonged to a business family headed by two brothers – Mukh Ram and
      Sukh Ram. Mukh Ram was once an officer with the local fire brigade.
      The family now ran successful auto parts and car hire businesses. They
      had two jeeps and three motorcycles of their own. They were well
      connected.

      So well connected, that they had built the house they lived in on
      government land, meant to be allocated through the Indira Awaas Yojana
      to Below-Poverty-Line (BPL) families. What was worse was that the
      house extended even beyond this illegally allocated space, and blocked
      the road leading to Kishori Ram’s home, and 25 other houses in
      Matatpur.

      His family had gotten used to this nuisance. “No one could do nothing
      against Mukh Ram. He had connections in the state police as well as in
      the local block development office,” says Kishori Ram. “But I thought
      otherwise.” Kishori Ram lived in Patna. He was a clerk in the state’s
      Labour Resources Department. Here he had seen and grown to believe in
      what he calls “the due process of law”.

      His family home offered his wife and four sons respite when they
      wanted to get away from their cramped apartment. It also offered them
      “a connect to history, far away from the disconnect of a city”, he
      recalls. So he decided to fight Mukh Ram, his wealth, and his
      connections with a simple right that was legally made available to all
      of India in 2005.

      On February 12 2009, Kishori Ram filed an RTI application asking why
      government land meant for BPL families was given to Mukh Ram who ran
      two prosperous businesses. Soon after Kishori Ram left for Patna,
      leaving only his youngest son Inder, aged 12, behind.

      They came on the 21st of July, in the dead of the night, at 2 am.
      “There was Mukh Ram, Sukh Ram and 12 goons,” says Inder, his voice
      shaking even today. “They were accompanied by the Police Station in
      Charge (Anand Lal Mathur) and Block Development Officer (Ram Vilas
      Paswan).” The goons went into the house and pulled out and thrashed
      Kishori Ram’s brothers and brother in law. They threw the women of the
      household out next, dragging some of them by the hair. Then they
      looted the home. Sacks of grain, vessels and clothes were bundled up
      and taken away.

      All this, before they delivered the final blow. Kishori Ram’s
      ancestral home was dismantled as it had been built. Systematically.
      Brick by brick. In front of his family’s eyes. “The police officer and
      BDO stood by and watched,” says Kishori Ram. “Till nothing remained.”
      Then his family was told to leave Matatpur and never to set foot on it
      again. This – that the family who questioned the legitimacy of his
      home would be left homeless themselves – was Mukh Ram’s idea of poetic
      justice. Kishori Ram learnt the hard way that “due process of law” is
      defined by the rich and influential.

      Today, Kishori Ram’s family seeks temporary refuge in the homes of
      distant relatives in other villages. Kishori Ram back at his tiny
      Patna flat, tries to fight for their right to return. Even if they do,
      it will take nothing less than Rs 3,00,000—a sum they can ill afford,
      to build a new home. And it will not be their ancestral home. The last
      person in his immediate family to see that was its youngest member.
      Sights of this home being torn down, his family being beaten and their
      belongings being plundered will be Inder’s last connect with history.
      He too, will rue the day his father filed an RTI application.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      A lawyer’s plea

      Kiran was allegedly kidnapped and tortured for asking the Ferozpur
      Cantonment Town uncomfortable questions.

      “A revolution is something that must go on,” says Kiran Pandey—Words
      that resonate in the context of his difficult circumstances. The 31
      year old son of an electrician in the Military Engineering Service was
      in the 8th standard when he wrote a letter in Hindi asking authorities
      to clear garbage from in front of his house. Nothing came of his
      petition and there was no way for him to find out why. Years later, in
      2005 when the RTI Act was passed, Pande found the tool he had been
      looking for back then.

      Ferozepur in Punjab is a small cantonment town that is referred to as
      ‘Honeymoon Station’, Pandey informs us. Administrators enjoy their
      posting to the fullest and leave. The town languishes, lacking basic
      civic amenities and development. Between August 2007 and January 2009,
      Pande claims to have filed 90 RTI applications to the Cantonment Board
      to seek clarifications on how funds had been utilized by them. The
      board only replied to 30 of them with obscure and insufficient
      information. Pande kept filing appeals to the Central Information
      Commission and waiting for them to come up for hearing for two years.
      Meanwhile he had been getting threats, allegedly from members of the
      board to stop his activism. He notified every institution he could
      think of – from the DIG and District Commissioner to the High Court
      and Sessions Court. Despite his pleas, on the 12th of July he was
      kidnapped from a temple on the outskirts of the town. For a week after
      that Pande was tortured brutally. He was attacked by knives everyday
      and starved of food and water. With 37 odd slashes on his body, the
      heat became all the more unbearable. Pande claims he had no hope of
      coming out alive at all. Meanwhile the Bar Council went on strike to
      protest one of their colleagues going missing. The local media picked
      up the news and with Legislative elections around the corner, pressure
      began to build up on the government. Finally, unconscious and severely
      injured, he was left on the road outside the police station. Despite
      pressure from civil society, all that the police did was register an
      FIR for kidnapping.

      His kidnappers are on the loose, the scars on his body have not healed
      and his back still hurts from the beatings he got. In January this
      year unknown goons demolished his chamber in the District Court
      complex as well. With his source of income affected, Pande finds it
      increasingly hard to support his paralysed father, aging mother and
      young sister. But he intends to carry on filing more applications and
      FIR’s against corrupt officials. He sounds resolute, even manic at
      times. “ Whenever I find my confidence wavering I go to Bhagat Singh’s
      Samadhi. It is only 7 kms away”, he says. “Trust me you can feel his
      presence there.” His assertion takes you back to a time when
      revolution was religion in Punjab. There is just no other way to
      explain such grit.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The activist’s environment

      Ramesh was slapped with criminal charges for taking on corporate giants.

      It is said that most RTI activist who have been harassed are loners.
      Not Ramesh Agrawal of Jan Chetna – a group of activists who keep in
      touch with each other so they are not alone in their fight against the
      powerful. Agrawal, now 55, has been involved with activism since his
      college days. He has close working relationships with names of
      national importance – like Medha Patkar. One would imagine that these
      ties, coupled with his stellar reputation as a social worker, afford
      him some protection – no matter who his RTI applications riled.

      Agrawal imagined this too. He earns his living from a computer
      hardware shop he runs with his two sons, but has been involved in
      activism and social work from his college days. He gradually decided
      to specialize in environmental activism, but his true calling lay in
      defying corporate land grabs. In 2006, for instance, he took on
      corporate giant Jindal Steel & Power Ltd because it had procured
      agricultural land for a factory near Raipur without the consent of the
      villagers in the area – which they were required to take by law. He
      obtained this information through the RTI. Then he filed an
      application to enquire as to why the Chattisgarh Ministry of
      Environment and Forests didn’t update their latest projects on their
      website. He would go on to file many such RTI applications against
      many such giants. “I would be offered bribes, then threatened when I
      refused them,” says Agrawal. “But noone actually did anything.”

      Till last year, when he filed an RTI enquiring about a 2400 MW Jindal
      Thermal Power Plant 50 km away from Raigarh. The private project had
      been set up on Chattisgarh Municipal Development Corporation land –
      with neither lease nor a transfer of ownership. “The concerned
      ministry cancelled this project, on my filing the RTI,” says Agrawal
      excitedly. Then the excitement in his voice fades away. For
      immediately after this cancellation police cases for blackmail and
      defamation were registered against Agrawal. As they were about to
      arrest him and throw him into a lock-up, members of Jan Chetna
      intervened – and bail was granted.

      Agrawal’s wife and three children – all in their twenties – were
      “shocked when the police came to arrest me”. They are equally shocked
      that the charges against him – which lack evidence – haven’t been
      dropped, and the case is ongoing. “I have to keep going to court for
      this,” he says. “And every time I go my wife and children remember
      that day when the police came knocking.” They suddenly feel very
      alone.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The trapped patient

      Davinder, an ageing cancer patient, was charged with assault for
      exposing a ration scam.

      Davinder Khurana, a 60 year old cancer patient, resides at Sarabha
      Nagar at Ludhiana. He lives with his wife and two daughters. Khurana
      had a glass scrap business which would pay him Rs 15 to 20,000 a
      month. But that was when he didn’t have cancer. His cancer treatment
      at Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Centre has taken away muscle from his left
      jaw and chest – and severely impaired the functioning of his left
      hand. It has also taken away his earning.

      Sarabha Nagar is a posh colony where few, if any use ration cards. But
      Khurana, due to his compromised circumstances had to do so. Yet, when
      he went to the ration depot in his locality and applied for one it was
      denied to him. So he filed an RTI application. This led to the
      discovery that government rations in posh Sarabhanagar were being
      shown as taken – and then siphoned off to be sold in the black market.
      On August 6 Information Commissioner P K Verma asked the DGP Punjab to
      institute an enquiry into Khurana’s allegations.

      On the very same day a criminal case was launched against Khurana and
      he was arrested. He was granted bail on the same day, but the
      allegations against him are strange. He is accused of beating up the
      same ration depot owner who refused him a ration card with a lathi.
      “This is impossible,” says Khurana. “Because my left hand doesn’t even
      function.” His lawyer has pleaded likewise. Khurana’s cancer, that got
      him into this spot in the first place, is his only alibi for getting
      out of it. But as he calls us regularly, crying about continued police
      harassment, his spirit to fight—both the system and his cancer is
      giving way.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      The tireless crusader

      Saleem has been jailed and threatened for his wide-ranging activism.

      Saleem Baig was 28 years old, in 2000, when unrest erupted in his
      small town of Bhojpur in Moradabad. The police had allegedly
      desecrated the Quran in a religious leader’s house while interrogating
      him. Tension was mounting—communal violence was imminent. Baig joined
      the protesters asking for action against the police, but amidst the
      chaos he had a simple epiphany—whatever is to be done he must do
      himself. Allowing this thought to lead his way, Baig traveled to
      Allahabad and filed a PIL in the matter. This is the first time he saw
      the inside of a court of law—a place that was to become a second home
      to him in the years to come. In 2001 Baig set up an NGO with a small
      group of friends to look into matters of development and injustice
      locally. He was fuelled solely by the passions of youth. It was not
      until 2005 that he would find a real weapon to pursue his causes. The
      introduction of the RTI Act was the biggest turning point in his
      activism. “More than 80% of my work that was stuck went ahead because
      of the RTI. Before that all we could do was protest. There was no way
      to hold anyone accountable,” he says. Baig has since filed over 3500
      applications in various matters. In 2007 he asked for information to
      expose the communal and caste bias in the appointments made in the
      police force. On refusal, he took the matter to the State Information
      Commission which penalized the SSP for Rs 25000 and asked the ASP to
      pay Rs 6000 to Baig as compensation for harassment. Immediately after,
      Baig was charged with two separate cases of criminal intimidation and
      assault. He went into hiding and put together evidence proving he was
      innocent.

      The High Court quashed both FIR’s, but the police reopened the
      investigation and put him in jail for 19 days. The Jailor told him he
      had orders to put him through severe mental and physical humiliation.
      While in custody the SSP threatened him saying that as a Muslim he
      ought to be even more careful. “He said he was Behenji ki naak ka baal
      (very close to Mayawati) and that they would slap so many cases on me
      I would not see the outside world again.” True to their word, Baig
      found out as soon as he was released on bail, that a new warrant had
      been issued in his name—this time by the CMO, alleging his hobby of
      studying Ayurvedic medicine was a covert unlicensed practice of
      allopathic medicine. Baig had filed various RTI applications against
      this CMO to reveal corruption and ill administration in the Medical
      Council. All his wife’s jewelry had by now been sold and the family
      was practically penniless. Baig’s young children had to be taken out
      of school and he went into hiding again. In Delhi, he got in touch
      with several Human Rights organizations who were familiar with his
      work and due to their efforts along with support from the media, Baig
      managed to slowly get back to normal life. But normal life for Baig is
      RTI activism and he has now resumed that in full measure.

      The cases against him continue to tax his life. He is currently
      working on about 250 applications that will reveal how funds meant for
      the welfare and development of Muslims in the state are being
      mismanaged and misappropriated by various authorities including
      certain Madarsas. He has received severe threats by concerned parties
      in the case, but plans to continue undaunted. On the 18th of
      September— on Minority Rights Day, he is organizing a rally in Lucknow
      to protest against the state of minorities. Ask him if he is skeptical
      about taking on a religiously sensitive matter or afraid for his
      future, and Baig answers with a straight no, moving on swiftly to tell
      us about the various issues he plans to pursue—imploring us to look
      into them as well. “To work for humanitarian reasons is the will of
      Allah,” he signs off. And in this pursuit the RTI Act is no less than
      a scripture to him. One that is being desecrated today like the Quran
      that brought him to the path of activism ten years ago.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      Struggle and the man

      Akhilesh was crushed under a gypsy for ruffling the authorities’ feathers.

      Akhilesh Saxena, now 52, was 12 when he was about to audition for a
      radio programme at Lucknow. It was his first audition, and he had
      chosen a fiery nationalistic speech to recite. Waiting at the studio
      for someone to call out his name, he thumbed through a copy of the
      Hindi magazine, Dharmyug, that was just out. He read, for the fifth
      time, a short story published in it - based around the independence
      struggle, and written by his mother. He read, for the fifteenth time,
      a line in that story: "Sangharsh Ke Path Pe Chalte Raho. Ye Desh
      Tumhaara Hai (Don't give up this struggle. This country belongs to
      you)." "I remember that line written by my mother," he says today. "I
      don't remember the story clearly, nor the characters. But that line
      sustains me." It sustained him when he was 21, and jailed for one and
      half months near Simla for protesting against the emergency. It
      sustained him when he was retrenched from his temporary job at
      Doordarshan in 2001, because he was part of a movement for the free
      and fair regularization of it's employees: "6500 people around the
      country were employed permanently because they paid a fixed bribe of
      one and a half lakh rupees. The rest, who protested against this, were
      kicked out."

      Saxena's mother was a journalist and author brought up on, and driven
      by, what she called the "ideals of democracy". "She believed democracy
      stood upon simple things," he says. "Never give a bribe, always
      protest, always ask questions." He was done with not bribing and
      protesting. When the RTI movement came about in UP around 2002, he
      started asking questions. And the line from the short story continued
      to sustain him. It sustained him in May, 2007, when a DCM Toyota
      nearly ran him over near Gol Market, Lucknow, for an RTI he had filed
      to find out whether 180 builders authorized by the Lucknow Development
      Authority had followed fire safety norms in their construction
      projects. And at the Lucknow University campus, later the same year in
      December, when some goons poured petrol all over his scooter, because
      of an RTI he had filed to find out whether the Deputy Registrar at the
      university was complying with the rules of the All India Council Of
      Technical Education (AICTE): "Luckily I arrived in time, and they fled
      without setting it on fire."

      Saxena was not so lucky in 2008, when he went all out to help Salim
      Beg, another often-harassed RTI activist from Moradabad with his RTI
      application: "He called a Lucknow RTI helpline that I volunteer for.
      And I advised him on what to do, did his paperwork, and went with him
      to every office and hearing." As a result of their efforts Saurav
      Kushar, SP Moradabad, had to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 out of his salary
      as penalty. As compensation for his harassment, Beg was paid Rs 10,000
      by the UP Police. Saxena accompanied Beg when he went to pick up this
      compensation as well – from the Lucknow Information Commission office
      on August 11,2008. Then Saxena and Beg parted ways. Saxena remembers
      seeing a white gypsy parked outside the office compound as he was
      leaving. "A uniformed police officer sat next to the driver," he
      remembers. "He nudged the driver when he saw me coming out." The
      number plates of the gypsy were covered. Saxena mounted his scooter -
      that has survived almost as many attacks as him - and drove off. He
      forgot about the gypsy as he climbed the flyover near Lucknow
      University. He felt happy about Beg. Rs 10,000 could go some distance,
      if stretched. Saxena's own income - from private tuitions and some
      freelance journalism - was Rs 4000 per month. Perhaps, if he was
      re-instated in his Doordarshan job - the 2001 case is yet to be
      decided - he could earn more. Then he and his wife and 10 year old son
      could move out of that one and a half room flat they were renting.A
      jolt shook Saxena out of his reverie. He remembers flying into the
      sky, and seeing the concrete on the road - all in less than a second -
      before blacking out. When he came to, a crowd was carrying him to the
      hospital. "They said a white gypsy with covered number plates had hit
      me from behind and driven off," he says. "But I had no enmity with the
      police.” Then I remembered two names - Beg, and Kushar." Then he
      blacked out again. Saxena suffered three broken ribs, a wrist
      fracture, and a near fatal injury to his head. His associates at the
      Youth Initiative - an association of over 3000 professionals who file
      RTIs and encourage youth in rural areas to do so - called Kushar. "He
      said it was very sad that this had happened. He had no idea why. But
      he would be careful that it doesn't recur," says Saxena. "Maybe, he
      felt the score was settled." Was it? Saxena still hears a humming in
      his head because of the head injury. He still earns Rs 4000 per month,
      because his 2001 retrenchment case is pending. So he still lives in a
      one and a half room flat with his family. His wife asked him to ease
      off RTI applications after this incident, but he hasn't. He has most
      recently received threat calls because of an RTI he had filed in
      January 2009 asking how many sugar factories along the Gomti river
      have installed the effluent treatment plants that they are required to
      install by law. Those threatening Saxena also want him to ease off RTI
      applications. But they lack information. They don't know about that
      line his mother wrote 40 years ago.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      Why the whistle may not blow

      New legislation to address some RTI Act lacunae is full of dodgy clauses

      The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection To Persons Making The
      Disclosure Bill, 2010 will be tabled in the next session of
      Parliament. The Bill has been dogged by delays. Had it been passed
      already, it could have saved the life of Murugan- a civil supplies
      department official in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. He exposed a scam about
      pulses being smuggled out of godowns to be replaced bu chep rice. He
      dies of poisoning on the 7th of Septmeber. His wife, who went on
      dharna for 12 days to demand justice, was jailed. Now that it is
      finally in public domain on its way to realization, experts find that
      it still does not spell good news for RTI Activists. Some of its key
      problems are listed below.

      • Technically the Bill covers whistleblowers outside the government
      but its thrust is towards the protection of those within it.
      • The definition of what qualifies as ‘disclosure’ (in s. 2(d)) is
      problematic. It requires the complainant to demonstrate loss to the
      government or gain to the public servant as a result of the act in
      question. This might not cover acts of pure injustice to people.
      • It excludes the armed forces and police entirely. Given that they
      are most susceptible to corruption, this makes little sense.
      • It requires that the complaint be made within 5 years of the
      occurrence of an act. Again, an unnecessary restriction.
      • S. 7(1), which lists what is excluded from the scope of disclosures,
      is extremely limiting. Particularly because it stipulates that the
      HOD/Secretary of the department complained against can certify any
      matter as excluded.
      • The recommendations that the CVC makes after investigating a
      complaint are not binding in any way. Whistleblowers will be reluctant
      to risk their lives in making disclosures that are not likely to yield
      results.
      • S. 16 provides monetary penalty and a maximum imprisonment of 2
      years for a whistleblower if his disclosure is found to be mala fide.
      This can be misused against complainants and will discourage them.
      • The Bill does not do enough to protect the identity of whistleblowers.

      pragya-pwcLuReEr8pBDgjK7y7TUQ@public.gmane.org

      From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 40, Dated October 09, 2010

      --
      Urvashi Sharma

      RTI Helpmail( Web Based )
      aishwaryaj2010-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org

      Mobile Rti Helpline
      8081898081 ( 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. )

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        urvashi sharma | 2 Oct 18:27 2010
        Picon

        RTI reveals Lok Sabha has no records of criminal antecedents of MP’s

         

        RTI reveals Lok Sabha has no records of criminal antecedents of MP’s

        No records regarding Criminal Antecedents etc. of any of the Members
        of Parliament from the first to current Lok Sabha are available in
        the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

        RTI reply sent vide letter no. 1( 778)IC/10 Dated 24th September 2010
        by Sri Harish Chander , Deputy Secretary of Lok Sabha Secretariat ,
        Parliament House , New Delhi -110001 ( Telephone no. 011-23035289 )
        has made these shocking revelations .

        The RTI petition was filed by me on 20-09-2010 with the CPIO of Lok
        Sabha Secretariat .

        As a citizen , I am in a state of shock and at the same time wonder
        that Since Independence , the secretariat of Lok Sabha has kept no
        records of Criminal Antecedents etc. of its own Members .

        Then what did it do ? isn’t it required ?

        Want to share this with all of you .

        Regards

        Urvashi
        8081898081

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        Urvashi Sharma

        RTI Helpmail( Web Based )
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          Dipak Shah | 2 Oct 23:05 2010
          Picon

          Re: [loksatta_initiative] CORRUPTION AND DEVELOPMENT ARE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: - Lok Satta Party

           

          What do u say about any case wherein Hon. JUdge without  hearing of either side Judge dictating the Judgment !! having only on record of my Case petition !! Jumoing Judgemnt only. How can we expect more from !!!!!!! The same Judges were/ are  in Hon. Supeme Court of India....!!!!!!!
           I have full proof !!!!!!!!
          Shah D J
          USA

          From: Surendra Srivastava <surendra.srivastava-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>
          Sent: Fri, 1 October, 2010 10:09:30 PM
          Subject: [loksatta_initiative] CORRUPTION AND DEVELOPMENT ARE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: - Lok Satta Party [1 Attachment]

           

          Media Release

          (Hyderabad, 01/10/2010)

          Corruption and development are Strange bedfellows: Dr. JP

          Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said today that India is at the
          crossroads of history, with an unprecedented opportunity to become the world’s second
          largest economy at one end and the tremendous danger of becoming a failed State at the
          other. Paraphrasing novelist Charles Dickens, Dr. JP said, “It is the best of times and it is
          the worst of times” in India’s history.

          Interacting with the media on the eve of the party’s fourth anniversary, Dr. JP recalled
          that India’s share in the world’s GDP was 25 percent until 1700 AD. It plunged to about
          8 percent by 1900, two percent in 1947 and one percent in 1991. Thanks to the corrective
          steps taken since 1991, it has grown to about 2.5 percent now. “If we do the right things,
          our share in the world’s GDP can go up to 18 percent by 2040, making India the second
          largest economy in the world, next only to that of China.

          Dr. JP said that such a miracle would not happen on its own. “We have to make the
          miracle happen with every one of us joining hands.”

          By weathering the global recession and recording an annual growth rate of around 8
          percent, India has demonstrated its potential to leap forward economically. A high growth
          rate, however, will not last if we pursue 19th century politics of plunder, partisanship, and
          divisions.

          The corruption and incompetence that marked the organization of Commonwealth games
          has not merely sullied the country’s reputation but also posed a threat to the continued
          foreign direct investment and institutional investment and trade relations with other
          countries. Scandals over allocation of 2G spectrum and mining leases highlight the
          unprecedented plunder of the State exchequer. Now even the integrity of the highest
          judiciary of the land has come under a cloud.

          “We cannot achieve a high growth rate, eradicate poverty, and maintain ecological
          balance if people remain passive spectators and allow plunder to go unchecked.”

          Dr. JP appealed to sane elements within and outside political parties and civil society
          organizations to join hands for bringing about fundamental changes in the nature and
          practice of politics. Constitution of a strong and independent anti corruption commission
          to ensure swift and exemplary punishment to the corrupt, a national judicial commission
          for appointment and removal of judges, and empowerment of local governments and
          citizens are some of the immediate tasks before the nation.

          “Ushering in new politics is everybody’s task. The young and the enlightened of the
          country should assume leadership in this battle for India’s soul.” The Lok Satta Party, he
          said, has provided a platform and has been practicing what it preaches. It has provided

          an unmatched clarity to public issues and stood for upholding constitutional values and
          maintenance of integrity in public life.

          Dr. JP said that all people should unite to banish “the seven scourges” plaguing India.
          They are poverty, corruption, centralization, absence of rule of law, deliberately
          created divisions in society, rural-urban divide and drug abuse and alcoholism.

          Andhra Pradesh, said Dr. JP, exemplifies what is wrong with India. Nowhere else, there
          is so much of unbridled lust for power, exploitation of caste and money power, and abuse
          of invective as in Andhra Pradesh. “We have mastered the art of replicating the worst
          practices, instead of learning the best, from all over the country and making them national
          norms.”

          “What the Lok Satta is waging is not a battle for power; it is a battle for transformation of
          society. The Lok Satta is humble enough to realize that it cannot fight the battle single-
          handed. It, therefore, would like to work with all those who are prepared to eschew
          politics of dynasty, caste, parochialism, and corruption. The uphill journey is bound to be
          long and arduous but we will succeed if we have the will.”

          The Lok Satta movement, as an NGO, has demonstrated what citizens can accomplish
          through sustained movements. It rescued consumers from being fleeced tens of thousands
          of crores of rupees year after year through under-measurement of fuel at petroleum
          outlets. It was instrumental in ushering in many reforms like disclosure of criminal
          antecedents of contesting candidates in elections, transparency in campaign funding,
          tightening of anti defection law, limiting the size of Cabinets, right to information,
          village courts, National Rural Health Mission and autonomy for cooperatives.

          Dr. JP said the nation had for the first time showed remarkable respect for rule of law
          a couple of weeks before the Ayodhya verdict was out with every section of people
          deciding to leave the matter to courts. The quiet and dignified manner in which the
          people reacted to the verdict demonstrated their maturity.

          Dr. JP launched a website developed by young IT professionals titled
          kukatpallynow.com. Mr. M. Sidhhanti, speaking on behalf of the developers, said the
          site would help people of Kukatpally, which Dr. JP represents in the Assembly, get their
          grievances redressed.

          Mr. D. V. V. S. Varma, Lok Satta Party Working President, said the Lok Satta enjoyed
          enormous goodwill among people. The party was now engaged in the task turning out
          change agents.

          For Lok Satta Party



          --
          Regards

          Surendra Srivastava
          Founder - Maharashtra Chapter & Volunteer - Lok Satta Aandolan
          Base Unit-4, Bycula Service Industries Premises,
          Dadoji Konddeo Road, Bycula (East), Mumbai 400027
          Tel: 00 91 22 2377 2242
          Email: info.maharashtra-5jtuXRad+w1g9hUCZPvPmw@public.gmane.org
          Web: www.loksattamovement.in
          If India wins, who loses?

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            Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh | 3 Oct 00:00 2010
            Picon

            my mother is no more

             

            Dear Friends


            I came back from London on the evening of October 1 and the next morning on October 2 my mother passed away.
            My mother was ailing since the last month from liver cirrhosis (she was diagnosed thus last month) but we never expected her to go so early. She has surely been spared of her sufferings but I never realised that her death would cause such a deep dent in my heart. I guess that's what mothers are made of - they somehow are firmly woven in our existence. I will surely miss her daily phone call which she unfailingly made around 8.15 am, since the last so many years. Will miss her scoldings for the hectic life I lead and will always miss her penchant for healthy, delicious cooking.
            In grief
            vinita
            P.s: lost my mobile in London, hence could not sms. Pl send me your contact nos so that i can re-do my address list. tks



            Vinita Deshmukh
            Editor
            Intelligent Pune
            Prabhat Newspaper Group
            304 Narayan Peth
            98230 36663
            www.intelligentpune.org
            co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet'
            Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan

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              urvashi sharma | 3 Oct 04:10 2010
              Picon

              Re: my mother is no more

               

              vinitaji ,
              its a moment of grief n sorrow.though not present with you physically
              ,mentally i am with u.
              may god give u power n couurage to come over and take care of the
              mother india , incidently who is also ailing .

              with u always n forever

              urvashi sharma
              lucknow

              On 10/3/10, Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh <vinitapune-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org> wrote:
              > Dear Friends
              >
              > I came back from London on the evening of October 1 and the next morning on
              > October 2 my mother passed away.
              > My mother was ailing since the last month from liver cirrhosis (she was
              > diagnosed thus last month) but we never expected her to go so early. She has
              > surely been spared of her sufferings but I never realised that her death
              > would cause such a deep dent in my heart. I guess that's what mothers are
              > made of - they somehow are firmly woven in our existence. I will surely miss
              > her daily phone call which she unfailingly made around 8.15 am, since the
              > last so many years. Will miss her scoldings for the hectic life I lead and
              > will always miss her penchant for healthy, delicious cooking.
              > In grief
              > vinita
              > *P.s: lost my mobile in London, hence could not sms. Pl send me your contact
              > nos so that i can re-do my address list. tks*
              >
              >
              >
              > Vinita Deshmukh
              > Editor
              > Intelligent Pune
              > Prabhat Newspaper Group
              > 304 Narayan Peth
              > 98230 36663
              > www.intelligentpune.org
              > co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet'
              >
              > Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan
              >

              --
              Urvashi Sharma

              RTI Helpmail( Web Based )
              aishwaryaj2010-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org

              Mobile Rti Helpline
              8081898081 ( 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. )

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                M K Singhal | 3 Oct 07:40 2010
                Picon

                Re: my mother is no more

                 

                Very sorry to hear the sad news. May God give you strength to bear this terrible loss. With regards,
                mksinghal

                From: Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh <vinitapune-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>
                To: Vinita Deshmukh <vinita.intelligent1-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>
                Sent: Sun, 3 October, 2010 3:30:06 AM
                Subject: [AntiBriberyCampaign] my mother is no more

                 

                Dear Friends


                I came back from London on the evening of October 1 and the next morning on October 2 my mother passed away.
                My mother was ailing since the last month from liver cirrhosis (she was diagnosed thus last month) but we never expected her to go so early. She has surely been spared of her sufferings but I never realised that her death would cause such a deep dent in my heart. I guess that's what mothers are made of - they somehow are firmly woven in our existence. I will surely miss her daily phone call which she unfailingly made around 8.15 am, since the last so many years. Will miss her scoldings for the hectic life I lead and will always miss her penchant for healthy, delicious cooking.
                In grief
                vinita
                P.s: lost my mobile in London, hence could not sms. Pl send me your contact nos so that i can re-do my address list. tks



                Vinita Deshmukh
                Editor
                Intelligent Pune
                Prabhat Newspaper Group
                304 Narayan Peth
                98230 36663
                www.intelligentpune.org
                co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet'
                Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan


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                  Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh | 3 Oct 13:44 2010
                  Picon

                  Re: my mother is no more

                   

                  tks you so much for sharing my hour of grief
                  warmest
                  vinita

                  Vinita Deshmukh
                  Editor
                  Intelligent Pune
                  Prabhat Newspaper Group
                  304 Narayan Peth
                  98230 36663
                  www.intelligentpune.org
                  co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet'
                  Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan



                  On Sun, Oct 3, 2010 at 11:10 AM, M K Singhal <mk.singhal-/E1597aS9LQxFYw1CcD5bw@public.gmane.org> wrote:
                   

                  Very sorry to hear the sad news. May God give you strength to bear this terrible loss. With regards,
                  mksinghal

                  From: Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh <vinitapune <at> gmail.com> Sent: Sun, 3 October, 2010 3:30:06 AM
                  Subject: [AntiBriberyCampaign] my mother is no more

                   

                  Dear Friends


                  I came back from London on the evening of October 1 and the next morning on October 2 my mother passed away.
                  My mother was ailing since the last month from liver cirrhosis (she was diagnosed thus last month) but we never expected her to go so early. She has surely been spared of her sufferings but I never realised that her death would cause such a deep dent in my heart. I guess that's what mothers are made of - they somehow are firmly woven in our existence. I will surely miss her daily phone call which she unfailingly made around 8.15 am, since the last so many years. Will miss her scoldings for the hectic life I lead and will always miss her penchant for healthy, delicious cooking.
                  In grief
                  vinita
                  P.s: lost my mobile in London, hence could not sms. Pl send me your contact nos so that i can re-do my address list. tks



                  Vinita Deshmukh
                  Editor
                  Intelligent Pune
                  Prabhat Newspaper Group
                  304 Narayan Peth
                  98230 36663
                  www.intelligentpune.org
                  co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet'
                  Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan



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                    urvashi sharma | 3 Oct 21:07 2010
                    Picon

                    RTI in Pakistan

                     

                    http://tribune.com.pk/story/57772/we-have-a-right-to-know-says-ngo-shehri/

                    We have a right to know, says NGO Shehri

                    KARACHI: What Pakistan needs right now, as it battles the
                    after-effects of floods and as aid from foreign countries pours in, is
                    freedom of information, said a press release by Shehri-CBE on
                    Saturday.

                    The reason everyone, including aid agencies, foreign governments and
                    even the general public, is unwilling to give money through government
                    channels is because of a dire lack of transparency and poor
                    governance. According to Shehri, an effective tool for transparency is
                    freedom of information legislation.

                    Freedom of information legislation are rules that guarantee access to
                    data held by the state. They establish a legal process by which
                    requests may be made for government-held information, which should be
                    given to the public free of charge or at minimal cost, barring
                    standard exceptions

                    Democracy can only be effective if citizens are well-informed, for
                    only then can they participate favourably in a country’s public realm.

                    Pakistan has promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 at
                    a federal level. The law allows any citizen access to public records
                    held by a public body of the federal government, including ministries,
                    departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. The bodies have
                    to respond within 21 days.

                    Sindh also has a similar Freedom of Information Act, which was passed
                    in 2006. “We might have the laws but they are not effective,” said
                    Shehri member Sameer Dodhy.

                    The NGO gave two examples in which they tried to invoke the
                    information law but were unable to get a positive response. In August
                    2009, Shehri asked Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) the
                    details of the buildings regularised under the Sindh Regulation and
                    Control (Use of Plots and Construction of Buildings) Ordinance, 2002.
                    According to the NGO, this legislation regularised illegally built
                    buildings in Karachi in exchange for a fee. This was to find out the
                    assessed value for regularisation of various buildings and the actual
                    payment received in the government coffers. However, there was no
                    response from the KBCA. Shehri waited for a reply and then wrote a
                    complaint to the Sindh Provincial Ombudsman Secretariat. Finally, the
                    KBCA sent a number of confusing replies without giving the actual
                    requested information.

                    Meanwhile, India has similar RTI (Right to Information) laws but in
                    its case, these laws are effective. The reason they have managed to
                    implement these rules is that they have a specific body to deal with
                    these laws and to redress complaints. Moreover, if a government
                    official is found guilty of delaying the process, he can be fined up
                    to Rs25,000. The fine comes from the personal salary of the official.

                    In the case of Sindh, the ombudsman can scarcely be looked upon as an
                    effective control on RTI laws. “The ombudsman has a hundred other
                    things to handle,” explained Dodhy, adding that if the ombudsman’s
                    reminders also yield no result the complainant can write to the
                    President of Pakistan. “But even at that level, officers are never
                    punished, a case can drag on and on and at a certain level it will
                    finally be dealt with by a civil servant. And the decisions made by
                    civil servants are usually not very citizen-friendly,” said Dodhy.

                    When the information is benign, government departments sometimes do
                    reply. However when requested information is sensitive or there is
                    corruption involved, bureaucrats can delay and obfuscate for years.
                    This defeats the very purpose of the FOI law, said the press release.

                    According to the 18th Amendment Bill, after Article 19, the following
                    new article shall be inserted: “19A. Right to information: Every
                    citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all
                    matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable
                    restriction imposed by the law.”

                    However, in Pakistan the reality on the ground remains different and
                    unless there is a total overhaul of the Freedom of Information Laws,
                    this legislation shall exist on paper but will not make a difference
                    to the citizens of Pakistan nor will it increase transparency,
                    concludes Shehri.

                    Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2010.

                    --
                    Urvashi Sharma

                    RTI Helpmail( Web Based )
                    aishwaryaj2010-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org

                    Mobile Rti Helpline
                    8081898081 ( 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. )

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