Right to Information
CIC orders Ministry of Defence to release partial information on Augusta Westland Helicopters
While the Rs.3,500 crore Augusta Westland scandal is grabbing the headlines on and off since 2013, on Tuesday, Central Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha, has given a people-friendly verdict, by directing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to supply partial information to the second appeal filed by RTI applicant, within 15 days of the order.
 
The CIC order directs the MoD “to provide details of court cases in Italian courts in which India is a party and provide names of Italian advocates and law firms hired in India.’’ MoD has also been asked to provide copy of Attorney General’s opinion on sending back already procured helicopters. It also directs the MoD to provide details of Bank Guarantee amount received back by India.
Here, it may be recalled that Indian government is encashed guarantees from Italian banks to the tune of Rs.2,000 odd crore.
 
The crucial information which CIC upheld of information denied by the Public Information Officer is as follows:
All documents related to file notings/ documents/ correspondence/ agreement   on   signing   of Augusta Westland deal is in custody of CBI, the same cannot be disclosed 
Files and document s relating to termination of Augusta Westland deal be shown to the CIC before 15th June, so that it can take a call on whether they come under Section 8(1) (a) and (h). 
 
In order to understand, the information sought by noted RTI activist Subhashchandra Agrawal, following were the details mentioned in his RTI application addressed to various PIOs of MoD:
No. of helicopters already supplied to India mentioning also   respective   dates   of   supplies   mentioning   also delivery schedule for rest of the contracted helicopters
Total cost of helicopters and terms of payment mentioning also   payment   already   made   with   dates   of   respective payments
Amount   of   bank guarantee   and   name   (and   branch)   of   the bank providing the said bank ¬guarantee
Has amount held in bank guarantee been received by India?
If yes, provide details
Will the already procured helicopters be sent back to the company having delivered the same to India?
Complete   information   together   with   related   file¬ notings and correspondence/ documents etc on sending back already procured helicopters
Complete   information   together   with   related   file notings/ correspondence   etc   on   action   taken   to   recover payment   already   made   by   India   towards   the   said helicopters as in queries above
Names of Indians and foreigners (with their earlier and   present   postings)   under   scanner   for   receiving kickbacks in the deal in the Italian Court revealing full forms   of   suspected   ones   like   “POL”,   “AP”,   “FAM”   etc mentioning also amount of kickbacks reported in Italian Court
Is India also a party to the court matter in Italian Court?
If   yes,   names   of   advocates   hired   mentioning   their respective fees to represent India in Italian courts
Names of Indian and foreigners (with their earlier and   present   postings)   under   scanner   for   receiving kickbacks in the deal in the Italian court revealing full forms of suspected ones like “POL”, “AP”, “FAM” etc
• Names   of   persons   (with   their   earlier   and  present postings)   for   which   CBI   has   sought   permission   for interrogation/ prosecution etc
• Names   of   persons   (with   their   earlier   and   present postings)   for   which   interrogation   have   already   been imitated in India
• Complete   information   together   with   related   file notings   and   correspondence/ documents   etc   on   Union government   not   allowing   interrogation   etc   by   CBI   for alleged kickbacks in the said helicopter deal as referred in   queries   above   mentioning   also   if   MK   Narayan   and   B V Wanchoo   are   amongst   such   persons   against   whom   CBI   has sought permission for interrogation etc
Any other related information
File¬ notings on movement of this RTI¬ petition
 
Grounds for the Second Appeal: 
At the CIC hearing, Agrawal argued that, “if details sought in information can be accessed through foreign sources, there is no reason that the same should not be disclosed under RTI Act.’’ The CIC order states, “He (Agrawal) mentioned that the information has to be made public in public interest.”
 
MoD’s PIO argued that, “the CBI investigation in connection with the alleged scam relating to VVIP/VIP Helicopter deal is still continuing. CBI has time and again advised MoD that disclosure of any information related to this case will impede the process of investigation and disclosure of the same is exempt under section 8(1)(h). He further said the   exemption under section 8(1)(h) of RTI is also applicable to the case because Arbitration Proceedings are on to recover the already paid amount to the supplier. Keeping in view the nature of the case and stakes involved, disclosure of information related to the case could impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the offenders as well as   Arbitration Proceeding.”

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Livelihood through Handicraft Development
The slick website of Sabala handicrafts, offering chic ethnic cloths, jewellery and footwear at premium prices provides no clue about the humble beginnings and hard grind behind its current status. 
 
Mallamma Yalawar, who founded Sabala, hails from a small village in Bijapur district. A girl child in a family of eleven children, born at a time when parents did not think it was important, or necessary, to educate their daughters, she worked on farms as a daily wage labourer and earned her school fees. She went on to do her BCom and also obtained a diploma in industrial relations and personnel management, while giving tuitions to fund her education.
 
She was only 24 years of age when she founded Sabala. She was helped by the NGO Oxfam to create awareness about women’s rights. She realised that empowering women is not possible if they are not financially stable. She got the women artisans at Sabala to choose an activity that could be done from home and was not dependent on the erratic availability of electricity. Traditional crafts and embroidery, which is taught and passed on from mother to daughters in tribal communities, was the answer. 
 
After several rounds of training and effort, Sabala has started to make high-quality products suitable for the urban market. Today, its handicraft and products are sold in various parts of the country and it supplies to Fabindia and also exports to USA, Spain, Italy and France. In the initial days, Ms Yalawar tells us that Sabala hired designers from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) and NID (National institute of Design) to design clothes and jewellery. Over time, Ms Yalawar herself learnt designing and, today, her daughter Tejashwini, who had done a course from NIFT, helps out. People also bring their own designs if they want customised items.
 
But sourcing raw materials and finding markets for Sabala’s products was a challenge, since Bijapur is not well-connected. That was a long time ago. Sabala, today, is a member of the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts and participates in national and international exhibitions and shows. The organisation is also a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and Ms Yalawar is vice-president of the Asia Board. 
 
There was the issue of finance. Initially, when women formed SHGs (self-help groups), banks denied loans to these women. Ms Yalawar was involved in setting up Chaitanya Mahali Sahakari Bank Ltd at Bijapur. It is a cooperative bank which started with 1,520 women members and a capital of Rs23.6 lakh. Ms Yalawar says, “Personally, I have not invested my personal money in this Bank, but I have invested my time, energy and commitment to set it up.” The Bank now has 8,000 women members, Rs48 crore in deposits and Rs1.98 crore as share capital; but, as she correctly says, those funds are not available for Sabala’s initiatives. 
 
So what is next on Ms Yalawar’s agenda? Apparently plenty; both on the personal front as well as for Sabala. She plans to expand Sabala’s area of operations to the neighbouring district of Bagalkot. The goal is also to educate and organise women in the unorganised sector to develop a focus on sustainable development. She takes pride in Sabala’s ability to transform the lives of women like Boramma, who was married off at 14 but lost her husband and a little child within two years of marriage. She learnt embroidery and tailoring at Sabala and is an independent woman today. There are many others whose lives have been transformed because of Sabala’s contribution. 
 
Ms Yalawar is now working at promoting craft tourism around Bijapur which has many famous historical monuments including the Gol Gumbuz and a strong Lambani tribal base with their rich embroidery and dances.   
 
Interestingly, Sabala is self-sustaining enough not to have a donation request on its website. Ms Yalawar says that the organisation already has a tax exemption on foreign donations under the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) and is in the process seeking a tax exemption under 80-G of Income Tax Act mainly for support received under corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes.
 
Sabala
Samatha Building, Keertinagar, 
B Bagewadi Road, Bijapur - 586 101
Karnataka
Telephone: 91 - 08352 - 278204
Fax: 91 - 08352 - 278890
Mobile: 91 9448118204

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COMMENTS

Jyoti Dua

6 months ago

Brave act by Ms Yalawar. India need many more such courageous persons. Those who keep awaiting for job should learn a lesson from Ms Yalawar and such other persons who have changed the life of many.

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