Accepting a proposal by Delhi-based tireless crusader Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra, the union government has asked all its ministries and departments to post their working hours and list of holidays on their portals
Acting on a proposal submitted by Delhi-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra, the union government has asked all ministries and departments to publish working hours and list of holidays on their websites.
Cmde Batra on 4 July 2014 sent a proposal to joint secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. He had said, "I propose that the Cabinet Secretariat may please issue directions to all Ministries, Departments and other public authorities of the government of India to upload on the home page of their Websites information regarding "Working Hours, Holidays List and Public dealing hours".
On the same day, the proposal was sent to Secretary of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (AR&PG). On 8th July, the AR&PG sent an acknowledgement message to Cmde Batra.
After waiting for about two months, Cmde Batra sent a reminder to the Secretary of AR&PG. In mid-October, he met the Secretary and explained his proposal mentioning that Indian citizens’ across the globe living in different time zones are referring to government websites for any communicating they need to make.
It must be noted that all Indian missions, posts overseas upload their working hours on the websites.
Soon after Cmde Batra's meeting, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) posted its working hours on its website under the 'contact us' tag.
On 5 November 2014, the government issued an office memorandum (OM) directing all its ministries and departments to post working hours and list of holidays on their respective websites.
"When citizens’ suggestions get recognised...I call it democracy is at its best," Cmde Batra said.
He had also sent two other proposals to the government. It includes a proposal to have a dedicated email ID for RTI applications and appeals by all Central Public Authorities as is being done by the Prime Minister's Office and few other authorities. His other proposal is to extend the e-Indian Postal Order (E-IPO) facility to all states for paying RTI fees.
It is noteworthy to mention that it was Cmde Batra's six year battle that resulted in the government facilitating eIPO for payment of RTI fees in 2,496 central government offices.
It all started in October 2008 when Cmde Batra was visiting his daughter in Boston (USA) and wanted to file follow up RTI in the Nithari case but could not do as there was no facility for payment of RTI fee/cost from abroad
Between 2008 and 2013, Cmde Batra filed 150 RTI applications to Indian Mission in the US, Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Secretariats of President and Vice President and Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A complaint was also filed in Central Information Commission (CIC).
From 22 March 2013, Indians abroad were provided the facility of paying RTI fee online, for their e-RTI applications. Since 13 February 2014, all of us living in India too were allowed to use online RTI by paying the fee through e-IPO in central government’s public authorities.
According to a media report, the PMO has asked UIDAI and NPR to complete enrolments of entire population March next year
In order to extend the use of Aadhaar number to various social welfare schemes, government has reportedly asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the National Population Register (NPR) to complete the enrolment of the entire population by March.
According to a media report, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has directed UIDAI and the NPR to complete the enrolment of the entire population of 120 crore by March.
Quoting source, the report says, the direction was given during a review meeting of the Aadhaar project last month. Earlier too, the government had advanced the deadline for completing this task to June from December next year.
UIDAI has already issued 70 crore Aadhaar numbers to residents across the country. Nine states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, have crossed 90% Aadhaar coverage, while 16 states have over 70% coverage, said a statement from UIDAI.
Aadhaar enrolments in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh are going on at a fast pace.
These four states with a combined population of about 34 crore were added earlier this year to UIDAI's mandate by the government. Aadhaar numbers have been issued to 8.93 crore residents in these states, which is 26% of the target population.
Moneylife’s sustained campaign for a year has saved Pune’s SOS Balgram from closure
It will be a happy celebration for Save Our Soul (SOS) Children’s Village (SOS Balgram) in Pune, on its anniversary day on 7th November. The Principal Secretary of the Women and Child Welfare Department issued a letter on 21 October 2014, to the SOS authorities saying that its license has been re-issued and that the SOS should entirely look after the orphanage. Until now, the state government had joined hands with the Swedish NGO to run the Balgram.
This comes after an agonizing one-year battle with the state government that time and again, threatened to close this 34-year-old unique orphanage and sending the 200-odd children to different remand homes. SOS Balgram is located on a prime 7-acre land, beside the elite Poona Club Golf Course (it shares a common compound wall).
The Principal Secretary in his order has stated: “1) The license of SOS Balgram has been re-instated 2) The state government has revoked the order issued on 22 August, 2014 (of closure) 3) The order for closure given by the Commissioner, Women and Child Welfare has also been revoked 4) SOS India should nominate an administrator for the next five years to look after the daily running of the orphanage.
An elated Ashok Ghadge, director of SOS Balgram, said, “We are relieved that it is no more a fluid situation and we can concentrate in the upbringing of children as per the high standards of SOS guidelines. I thank Moneylife, which has played a prominent role in highlighting the issue and also actively taking up the campaign on the ground, along with ex-students of SOS.”
Moneylife had carried a story in September this year, pointing out that the state government had written to the Commissioner, Women and Child Welfare dept, to begin proceedings to close the orphanage and begin the process of sending children to other homes. This had shocked the children and trustees because of the suddenness of the order and had left no hope for them.
It may be recalled that, Moneylife took up the issue way back on 6th January this year when Rajendra Chavan, Commissioner of Women and Child Welfare, ordered the cancellation of license and closure of the 34-year old SOS Balgram. Many ex-children of SOS Balgram, who are now grown up and are professionals in several fields, went on a hunger strike. Moneylife took up the campaign further by procuring information under Right to Information (RTI) and guiding/ joining youngsters on how to go about the campaign.
SOS Balgram has an impeccable reputation of running the unique orphanage wherein children live like families with a `Mother’ in every cottage, for the last 34 years. Please see http://www.moneylife.in/article/punes-sos-balgram-under-threat/36284.html
Why was SOS Balgram being shut down? This writer had pointed out that the orphanage shares the same compound wall as the elite Poona Club Golf Course. Reliable sources had hinted at vested interests keen on grabbing the prime 7-acre land.
However, the Women and Child Welfare department gave its own reasons for the closure – one of molestation and one of death of a child in the last one and a half years at the orphanage. Another spoke in the wheel was the amendment in the state government rules, wherein it is now mandatory for boys and girls to stay separately. SOS though runs on the philosophy of them staying together like children of a family with ‘Mother’ as the head. SOS provides Rs5,000 per child per month and also pays for the administrative staff. Now, SOS India is completely in charge of running the orphanage, which it has agreed to.
The trustees of the SOS foundation had sought legal intervention and moved the High Court for re-instatement of the license. They had pointed to motives of two ex-students who were constantly entering premises, for the last one and a half year and harassing `Mothers’, staff and children but police was refusing to record their complaints. This writer, in March this year, took along with her, a busload of children and Mothers and compelled the Mundhwa Police to register their complaint. Thereafter, one of them was arrested. The suspicion of whether some vested interest was propping up these two ex-students to create mischief, continues.
The High Court directed the state government to take a call on the orphanage. A couple of meetings were held with Varsha Gaikwad, the then Minister of Women and Child Welfare and trustees were positive, as she hinted at re-issuing the license but did not give any assurance. August’s letter of closure came as a rude shock, but like they say, all’s well that ends well.
SOS Balgram is all geared up for a cultural function to celebrate the anniversary of the orphanage on 7th November. Against this background, the two ex-students who created nuisance want to go on a hunger strike, to protest against Balgram’s getting a second lease of life!
Moneylife stories on the issue:
(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”.)