Citizens' Issues
Floods in J&K: Massive rescue operations underway
Rescue teams will be focusing on the inundated city of Srinagar and south Kashmir belt where an estimated four lakh people are believed to be trapped in floods which have claimed nearly 200 lives in the Jammu & Kashmir
 
Mammoth multi-agency rescue efforts were underway in Jammu and Kashmir  (J&K) to rescue lakhs of people trapped in flood-ravaged areas, with choppers from Indian Air Force (AIF) and transport aircraft undertaking non-stop sorties overnight to carry men and relief material to the submerged parts.
 
Rescue teams will be focusing on the inundated city of Srinagar and south Kashmir belt where an estimated four lakh people are believed to be trapped in floods which have claimed nearly 200 lives in the State.
 
Two more units of Army and NDRF have been airdropped to Pancheri in Udhampur where 30 people are missing after a landslide hit the area.
 
“Seven bodies and a limb of a person have been so far recovered in Udhampur but the operation to locate those trapped is very difficult,” DIG Garib Das said.
 
However, the situation in the rest of Jammu belt has stabilised and the focus is now on providing relief material on the ground, officials said.
 
They said a massive rescue and relief operation is on in Kashmir Valley with more helicopters and rescue material, including boats, pressed into service.
 
floods, J & K, Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar, rescue operations, Indian Air Force,  DIG Garib Das.Almost 30 sorties of IL-76 and AN 32 have been undertaken to Srinagar overnight to carry men and relief material, boats cutters and other equipment, besides huge quantity of medicines and water bottles.
 
Speaking about the rescue efforts, Army Lt Chetan said: “We are rescuing 10-15 people in every round we make per boat. We make 50-60 rounds per day. We have all equipment to rescue people. We will move out only after rescuing everybody.’’
 
Army Chief Gen Dalbir Suhag had said in Delhi that “Soldiers won’t return to barracks until last man is helped.”
 
Army medical officer Jagdish Singh said, “We have set up medical camps and are treating 230-300 people everyday."
 
“We have ambulances and surgeons. District hospitals and NGOs are also working with us,” he added.
 
Lt Gen DS Hooda, General-Officer-Commanding of the Army’s Northern Command had said yesterday that the focus will be now on Srinagar.
 
The heavy floods triggered by torrential rains have snapped the Valley’s telecommunication links with the rest of the country.
 
BSNL has launched an operation on a war-footing with the Army and IAF to restore mobile services through satellite network and the telecom network is expected to be partially restored today, officials said.
 
To provide relief to the displaced, 68 camps have been set up in Jammu.
 
Seven helicopters have been pressed to ferry relief material to Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Mahore, Doda, Kishtwar belts, officials said.
 
The Centre has rushed more National Disaster Response Forces (NDRF) teams equipped with boats and other flood relief equipment to Kashmir Valley. Naval commandos have also been deployed for the first time.
 
Army, Air Force, NDRF and state agencies have so far rescued more than 25,000 people and lodged them in higher places in the Valley.
 
Boats have been pressed into service in many flooded parts to rescue the residents huddled on rooftops and upper floors of their houses.
 
Meanwhile, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district was on with over 25,000 people offering prayers since yesterday.
 
Efforts are on to restore helicopter services to the cave shrine, Das said.

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Modi govt used first 100 days for 'oiling the machinery'
Modi government's approach will be incremental, although moving – ideology-wise – in the right direction. The goal is that the government machine will become more efficient, which will be positive for productivity and growth, says Nomura
 
As the Narendra Modi government completed its first three months in office there has been a raft of analysis of its performance in the first 100 days. The main question of course is, “Where are the reforms?” Amid some murmurs of disappointment, there is general agreement that the government needs to be given more time.
 
"Looking for Big Bang reforms may mean missing the wood for the trees – most of the changes are micro, rather than macro in scale. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of reforms: those focussed on oiling the machine i.e., getting work done, and then those that are more strategic and/or long term, " says Nomura in a research report.
 
Investor perceptions of government performance have often been gleaned from the media in the past, though Nomura said it believe that with the Modi administration this may do it a disservice. Compared to the previous government, the level of Prime Minister Modi's engagement and communication with the media is limited. For instance, on his travels abroad he has opted to bring a limited press entourage. "The focus, perhaps, is to let the work speak for itself. This has two implications: 1) it means harder work for journalists and researchers to ascertain the reality; and 2) at some point the hard work will reflect in better economic data. However, until that happens, there may seem to be a vacuum of sorts, while the  reality may be very different," the report said.
 
According to Nomura, over the past three months, the Indian government's focus has primarily been on oiling the machine; getting work done and getting it done faster.  Inter-ministerial co-ordination has improved. Accountability at the ministry level has risen due to the abolishment of the empowered group of ministers, group of ministers and standing committees, it added.
 
"Other changes," Nomura said, "are more hearsay."
 
'Deliverables' is the new buzzword. Monthly targets have been assigned to departments and performance review meetings are held frequently. Progress by different ministries on the announcements made by the prime minister during Independence Day and by the finance minister in the union budget is monitored closely. 
 
According to Anil Swarup, an additional secretary in the Project Monitoring Group of the Cabinet Secretariat, “In the previous government, our job was just to see that the clearances would happen and we would assume that it was translating to work on the ground. The present government has asked us to do the legwork and make sure that it is.”  
 
Nomura said, "These changes do not make for interesting headlines, but their economic impact cannot be underestimated. Few have doubted India's potential to grow, but execution has usually been the country's weak point. If work can be done, if delivery can match the promise, then the large inefficiencies in the system can be reduced and productivity, which fell sharply in the last five years, can be reversed."
 
According to Nomura, the second set of reforms deals with addressing more structural challenges facing the economy, such as food inflation and boosting productivity in agriculture, a structural fiscal correction with a focus on both cutting subsidies and raising revenues, reducing corruption, dealing with the challenge of urbanisation, governance reforms in public sector companies and public sector banks, and creating jobs for the young, which is linked to boosting the manufacturing sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
 
"In this regard, performance so far has been underwhelming. On food inflation, minimum support prices -MSP- have risen at a slower pace and the government has included potatoes and onions under the Essential Commodities Act, which empowers states to undertake de-hoarding operations to control prices. It has also urged state governments to remove vegetables, fruits and other perishable commodities from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, aiming to bring the farmer and consumer closer. However, a lot more needs to be done on food inflation and the use of trade policies to control prices is a longer-term disincentive to private sector investments," the report said.
 
Nomura said, there is as yet no clear game-plan to tackle subsidies and this decision has perhaps been deferred to the expenditure commission. Diesel under-recoveries have largely vanished, but this is due to the previous government's staggered price hikes. Hence, the government seems to be using its political capital very cautiously. Perhaps, it has the upcoming state elections in mind and wants to consolidate its position in the Rajya Sabha, or Upper House.
 
According to the report, the broad interpretation, therefore, is that Big Bang reforms are unlikely. It said, the Modi government's approach will be incremental, although moving – ideology-wise – in the right direction. The goal is that the government machine will become more efficient, which will be positive for productivity and growth, but the verdict on other structural changes is still out.
 
Nomura feels that indigenous production appears to be the policy focus for the NDA government. "The hike in foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in defence is aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing of defence equipment. One of the targets of the digital India campaign is to boost domestic manufacturing of electronics and target zero net electronic imports. The government's push to digitally empower the country, and a bank account for every rural household (under the Jan Dhan Yojana), can be used to better-target subsidies, cut down leakage and create a wider tax network, which could aid fiscal consolidation. Similarly, the move towards online project approvals will automatically lower the scope for corruption," it added.
 
Another focus of Modi government is on improving the ease of doing business. Apart from online clearance of projects, the government has proposed some amendments to the Apprentice Act to increase the availability of skilled manpower through on-the-job training. There is a desire to move towards lesser regulation: the period of validity of industrial licenses has been extended; states are urged to scrap the Boiler (Inspection) Act and move to self-certification; and a committee has been set up to review and repeal archaic rules and regulations. 
 
Labour matters in India fall under both central and state jurisdiction. At the central level, the government is actively considering amendments to a number of labour laws, including: an increase in overtime hours, relaxing the earlier bar on employing women in factories for night shifts, and initiating a single unified web portal for online registration and inspection reports, among other things, to reduce the amount of paperwork. 
 
Nomura said, "These changes are happening on the micro level, but if they can be made, they may have a more far reaching effect and can act as a bridge to the longer-term goals of better infrastructure, creating jobs, boosting competitiveness and developing the manufacturing sector. 
Maybe there is a method to the possible madness."  

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Govt destroys over 11,000 historical files on PM's order!
Between 5th and 8 July 2014, over 11,100 files were destroyed without following any mandatory procedure on directions from the Prime Minister, reveals RTI reply
 
As most of us are aware, the Government of India has stringent rules for maintaining official files as well as for destroying them. So, when word went round initially that over 1.5 lakh files, probably of historical value, were destroyed indiscriminately by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), there was a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha between 9th and 14 July 2014, demanding the specific details by the members.
 
While, some members questioned as to whether files pertaining to Subhash Chandra Bose or assassination of Mahatma Gandhi were shredded to pieces, Home Minister Rajnath Singh replied that the files were destroyed at the direction of the Prime Minister (PM) to secretaries of all department and that, only 11,100 files were destroyed with unspecified number of pages. Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad assured that none of them were of any historical value. The two ministers though, did not back their claims with any proof of having followed official procedure of destroying filed and what exactly was destroyed and therein lies the suspicion.
 
As always, one can fall back on the Right to Information (RTI) Act to find out if the government had indeed adhered to the norms. In this case, RTI activist and researcher Venkatesh Nayak, has done commendable work by filing applications to the Home Ministry. The vague replies he received confirms that the government is hiding valuable facts from people and clamping down on transparency. 
 
Ridiculously, to Nayak’s request of providing him with a list of 11,100 files that were destroyed, the Home Ministry replied that it is still compiling the data (after destroying them!) To the query of whether the six monthly report of files destroyed have been submitted to National Archives of India, the reply is 'no', although it is mandatory for the government to do so. Regarding a query of the manner in which these files were destroyed, the Public Information Officer (PIO) informed Nayak that he can get the same on payment, despite the fact that the information comes under Section 4 of the RTI Act and should be freely available and despite the fact that the PIO replied after the mandatory 30 days, in which case information must be given free of cost.
 
Nayak narrates the RTI applications filed by him, the replies he received and what they connote.
 
Nayak filed an RTI application on 18 July 2014 to the Home Ministry. Following are the points on which he had sought information and the reply that he received:
 
• A clear photocopy of the list containing the subject matter of each of the 11,100 files and records that were weeded out/destroyed by your Ministry along with a clear indication of their categorization- such as Category A’, ‘B’ and C’’ accorded to them prior to such destruction;
Reply: List of files which are destroyed is being compiled. This can be made available in due course on payment of requisite fee. You may write to us if so desired.
 
 • The number of the Officer(s) of your Ministry along with their designations who authorised the clearing of the said files and papers (names are not required);
Reply: A copy of letter No. NIL dated 05.06.2014 from the Cabinet Secretary is attached. Para (f) thereof refers.
 
• The designation(s) of the representative(s) of the National Archives that were present at the time of weeding out of the said files as required under para #113 of the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure (names are not required);
Reply: -do (i.e., same as above reply).
 
• A clear photocopy of the half-yearly report of the records weeded out during the latest clearing exercise, prepared by your Ministry for submission to the Director General Archives, as per Rule 9(4) of the Public Records Rules, 1997;
 
Reply: No such report has been sent to National Archives of India.
 
• The exact number and subject matter of files originally classified: “top secret”, “secret” and “confidential” that were declassified and deposited with the Director General, National Archives of India under Rule 7(3) of the Public Records Rules, 1997, if any;
Reply: Nil.
 
• The exact number and subject matter of files accorded with the security classification: “top secret”, “secret” and “confidential” that were weeded out, if any;
Reply: Nil.
 
• A clear description of the manner of disposal of the records that were cleared, namely the number of files incinerated (burned) and/or shredded."
 
Reply: Record Retention Schedule of MHA is available on the website of MHA (Website: mha.gov.in). This list can be made available on payment of requisite fee.
 
Venkatesh Nayak says, “the Public Information Officer's reply is vaguer than the Home Minister's statements in the Rajya Sabha.”
 
Nayak analyses as to why the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which promises transparency has indulged into a devious and suspicious game:
 
Even after more than a month of destroying the 11,100 files, the MHA does not have, in one comprehensive list, details of all files that were destroyed. Having looked at records management practices in some detail during my decade-long career of advocating for transparency in government, I find it surprising that the MHA went about destroying files without even preparing a list of files for review, first. The PIO's reply that the even the list of files that were weeded out has not been compiled till date indicates that the procedure for properly identifying files for weeding out was simply not followed.
 
Further, Section 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act states that all public authorities including the MHA must index, catalogue, computerise and network the records they hold in custody. If the MHA's divisions did not have a preliminary list of files to be reviewed for destruction, how exactly did the weeding out process take place? Did the 500 officers whom the Home Minister stated as being involved in the weeding out exercise, simply walked to the records rooms or the shelves where the old files were kept and started weeding them out one by one? The refusal to give details of this process both to Parliament when the issue was debated and now when a request is made under RTI, is shocking to say the least. What worsens the case is the audacity of the PIO's reply sent more than 30 days after the request was received in the MHA that the information will be given only on payment of fees.
 
The Home Minister informed Parliament that 500 officials were involved in the weeding out exercise. No further details were given. When I asked for only the designations of such officers because officers of all grades and ranks are not permitted to authorise destruction of official records, a vague reply is given to me. Para (f) of the Cabinet Secretary's letter only states that the entire process of weeding out files must be done in accordance with rules of record keeping including digitisation within 3-4 weeks. The PIO's reply to this query is simply not a sensible reply at all. Let alone the names, even the designations of the officers who authorised destruction of files is being denied under the RTI Act in a roundabout manner.
 
• 3) Para #113(2) of the Central Secretariat Manual Office Procedure (CSMOP) requires that records that are more than 25 years old be reviewed for archivisation in consultation with the National Archives. However the PIO's reply indicates that National Archives was not consulted at all during this weeding our process. So how old were the records that were weeded out is a serious question and this was not satisfactorily answered either in Parliament or in response to my RTI application.
 
Para #113(7) of the CSMOP requires that Category 'A' and 'B' records that are not weeded out be sent to the Archives for preservation, if not required for reference within the Department. These records are meant for preservation for 25 years or more. However the PIO's reply indicates that no file classified 'top secret', 'secret' or 'confidential' was sent to the National Archives in June-July, 2014. It is only obvious that files of shorter lifespan would also not have been sent to the Archives for preservation as they may not contain information of historical value that is worth preserving. What then was destroyed in June-July 2014 is a mystery that neither the Home Minister's reply in the Rajya Sabha nor the PIO's reply clarifies. The only saving grace is that no classified record (i.e., top secret, secret or confidential) was destroyed. Even there we simply have to take the MHA's word for it.
 
The PIO's reply to my query about the manner of destruction is also vague. According to the CS-MOP records may be destroyed either by shredding or burning. The answer to my query has to be "one of the two" or "both" depending upon the choice of mode of destruction made by the MHA. Nevertheless I looked through the MHA's website but could not find the record retention (RR) schedule anywhere on the website. The 3-4 line explanation given under Section 4(1)(b) RTI manuals under clauses (iii), (iv), (v) and (vi) is childish and shows scant respect for a law made by Parliament. These manuals have not been updated since they were first drawn up several years ago. (See:http://mha.nic.in/infoundrsec) However, if readers find the RR schedule on the MHA's website, kindly alert me and I will reconsider my views on this subject.
 
So much for transparency by the NDA government, which in reality is throttling the RTI Act, this being a stark example.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 

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COMMENTS

Dipakkumar J Shah

3 years ago

What at the stage of even High Court level we do not know. Milibhagat of Advocates in jungle raj and best known to them only. They are on higher seat also.....

TIHARwale

3 years ago

Glad to note from comments that our institutions including Judidiary have become dysfunctional and jungle raj prevails where might is right. Courts allow cases to drag on for decades and cases end with the death of litigants

Ramesh B Mhadlekar

3 years ago

Even the RBI follows the same pattern in providing information under the RTI Act 2005.For the majority of the information it simply says it has no information.To a query as to dishonestly affixing the Government of India Sticker on the officials vehicles,since RBI is a Autonomous body,it simply says that it has no information.The information is recorded daily on its CCTV on the entry of the official Cars in the premises of RBI carrying Executives of the RBI,yet it has no information.The dishonest use of GOI stickers is for dishonest gains.The Management of RBI is silent on such an issue.Dishonest act can probably termed as Corrupt act of the ones misusing the GOI stickers.

REPLY

Dipakkumar J Shah

In Reply to Ramesh B Mhadlekar 3 years ago

When you talk about Reserve Bank of India , this reminds me a well known case of State Bank of India ATM case I challenged Before Hon. High Court of Gujarat , A T M Card was issued as free of cost and started charging Yearly fees from customers!! It was on agreement Free of cost. Without having taken signature confirming debiting amount of charges . This is known to Reserve Bank of India. R B I was party to this case . Since then no action!! Hon. High Court has not passed any order closing the Case!!!! It was closed inn sense like , I had to give addresses of SBI Associates Banks addreses. If I do not file Addrese the case was automatically construed CLOSED / DISMISSED. See the working of Hon. Courts and manner!!!

Dipakkumar J Shah

3 years ago

What I have seen in High Court of Gujarat in Company Petition No 17 of 1996 the serial numbering file should be kept in tact . But many of the pages as referred in the Final order are missing. You know all the process. It is said that some of the Objectors have withdrawn their objections by way of filing Pursis. Since long time it is not on record!!!
No explanations have been given by any body. This file was also not available for more than 10 years!!!
Some part of the File is available only!!!

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