Central Railways has asked an RTI applicant to shell out a whopping Rs81,000 for copies of reservation chart of two trains for a particular day; all by twisting its own official circulars and disregarding the RTI Act
Ravindra Wabale, a resident of Ahmednagar, is not so much an activist as much as he is a victim of tragedy, for which he is fighting a seemingly hopeless battle through Right to Information (RTI) applications. His brother was allegedly murdered during a train journey in the superfast Gitanjali Express on 26 May 2013, which runs between Mumbai and Kolkata. He wants to know who could be the alleged murderer, as police investigations have got him nowhere.
A copy of the train reservation chart of 26th May of these two trains, by which his brother had travelled, is what he had asked for in his RTI application on 24 June 2011, as it would reveal the names of people who shared the compartment with him, on that ill-fated day.
Wabale received reply to his RTI from SM Kamble, chief commercial manager and also designated Public Information Officer (PIO) of Central Railways, Mumbai. Much to Wabale’s distress, the PIO has asked him to pay Rs1,000 per copy of the relevant train reservation charts that runs into 81 pages and would therefore cost him Rs81,000.
The reply states: “In reply to your RTI application for furnishing copies of Reservation Charts of train nos 12859 and 12869 dated 26 May 2013, it is to inform you that as per Railway Board’s letter dated 13 December 2011, a fee of Rs1,000 per page is to be charged for furnishing a copy of Reservation Chart to any person. You are therefore requested to pay a charge of Rs81,000. On receipt of payment from your end, the copies of Reservation Charts will be furnished.’’
By the way, uploading of rail reservation comes under Section 4 of the RTI Act and the Railways regularly put up this information on its website. Railway network - local or national, is the lifeline of the country. But officers are trying their best to hide information and in this case, using the circulars. It is shocking that Railways are not adhering to the norms of the RTI Act and instead changing crucial words in the circulars to misinterpret them and harass RTI applicants.
Pune-based RTI activist, Vijay Kumbhar worked thoroughly on this issue by digging out the circular, which the PIO has quoted in his reply and accessing some of the earlier circulars from Railways as well.
Kumbhar said, “I studied the earlier circulars and have come to the conclusion that babus here have played with words to avoid or dodge RTI queries. The circular issued in 1994 is not available, but 2007 circular clearly shows that the fee of Rs750 was for verification purpose for government employees only and not for the copy of reservation chart asked by citizens. However, in the 2011 circular, the words ‘verification of PNR’ meant for verifying journey details has been changed to for ‘copy of reservation chart’. And the words ‘government departments’ were replaced by the words ‘any person’. This clearly indicates that it was done to avoid requisitions under RTI.’’
How ‘verification details’ in 2010 circular changed to ‘reservation chart’ in 2011
2007: The extract of the 2007 circular (No.2006FlG-I/20/P/LTC New Delhi, dated 10 January 2007) clearly states, “a uniform fee of Rs750 per verification should be charged by Zonal Railway from various government departments who approach for verification of LTC travel detail. The government agencies include - 1) Police/CBI in different types of investigation/ criminal cases 2) Courts 3) Railway Vigilance in various cases 4) Railway refund offices for deciding refund cases 5) Various reports of the Railways to dispose of complaint cases. CCMs/CCM (PMs) will, have discretionary powers to waive off the fee in specific cases like requests from different Commissions, Parliament or Legislative Secretariat etc. Necessary instructions may be issued to all concerned and receipt of this letter be acknowledged.’’
2010: “(No. 2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC New Delhi, dated 31 August 2010)
Please refer to this ofﬁce letter of even number dated 4 May 1994 and 10 January 2007 (Commercial Circular No.06 of 2007) inter alia advising therein regarding charging of a uniform fee of Rs750 per PNR for LTC veriﬁcation, and non-charging of this fee from certain agencies as prescribed therein. Now a query has been raised whether these charges are applicable for verifying journey details in other cases also.”
The matter has been considered at the Board’s level and it is clariﬁed that Zonal Railways should realise a uniform fee of Rs750 per PNR for verifying journey details irrespective of the fact whether it is for LTC veriﬁcation or otherwise.
2011: (Circular No.2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC Pt, New Delhi, dated 13 January 2011,)
“The issue has been examined in consultation with Finance Directorate of Board’s ofﬁce and it has been decided that the following fee should be realized for furnishing a copy of reservation chart to any person:
(i) For furnishing a copy of reservation chart to any person, a fee of Rs1,000 per page should be charged. In this case, party will be provided a printout of the reservation chart taken out from the system without indicating the status of passenger viz. turning up/non-turning up.
(ii) In case of furnishing of copy of working chart (having indication by TTEs/TCs relating to turning up or non-turning up and other relevant details), a fee of Rs750 per PNR should be charged for all the PNRs indicated on that page’’
Once again, even in the sphere of RTI, Netas and Babus want to bend and break rules.
According to a Gazette notification dated 16 September 2005, there are specific rules for providing information under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act, about additional fees.
a. For each page (in A-4 or A-3 size paper) created or copied Rs2 per page
b. For a copy in larger size paper actual charge or cost price
c. For samples or models actual cost or price
d. For inspection of records No fee for the first hour; Rs5 per hour thereafter.
Further, for providing the information under sub-section (5) of Section 7, the fee shall be charged at the following rates:-
a. For information provided in diskette or floppy Rs50 (Rupees fifty only) per diskette or floppy
b. For information provided in printed form. At the price fixed for such publication or Rs2 per page of photocopy for extracts from the publication. The mode of payment of above mentioned additional fees shall be the same as application fee.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the 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”.)
This year the monsoon left many areas in floods, loss in standing crop, rotting grains and slow movement as a sequel. Nevertheless, will we learn some lessons from this?
Three weeks ago, we had the Ministry of Agriculture projecting the possibility of lower food grains output due to scanty rainfall in some parts of the country. The estimate was 255 million tonnes (mt) of food grains, just four million short from the previous year. Our buffer stocks from last year would cover this, should there be a shortfall.
Fortunately, in the last three weeks, the Southwest monsoon has reversed the situation and the actual rainfall now shows that there is an excess of upto 45% over the last year.
Every year the monsoon has played a very important role in the Indian economy. This year, however, it started with tragic consequences due to devastating flash floods in Uttarakhand, resulting in huge loss of life and damage to property.
This unexpected onslaught from nature could not be even imagined and thousands perished. Even months after this occurrence, as rehabilitation work is going on, hundreds of bodies are still being discovered. It would take several years more before Hardwar and the neighbouring areas can return to normalcy.
There were no drought conditions in the country that have been reported, though in some areas, there was scanty rainfall.
The Central Water Commission has released the statistical data that shows, in fact, the major reservoirs are at 10-year average, thanks to the 45% excess rainfall received. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) confirms that, overall India received 593.8mm rainfall against 517.2mm last year. The final farm output is likely to improve on the present estimated of 255mt grains, once full data is computed.
However, in the case of wheat, the output for the current year (2012-13) is estimated at 92.46mt as against 94.88mt in the previous year. During the same period, high-grade Basmati output has been 8 to 9mt, while all others were clubbed together at about 90 to 100 mt. Exports during the year 2013-14 are projected at about 11mt and expected to earn $6 billion.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) holds substantial quantity of both wheat and rice in its godowns throughout the country. But these are poorly stored under covered and plinth (CAP) areas and in custom built warehouses. Large number of these facilities is subject to natural rot, unhygienic conditions and due to lack of sufficient pest control methods in place, are the feeding grounds for millions of rodents and other pests. On top of these, pilferage is another hazard that FCI has to face in transportation of materials.
It is claimed that a large percentage of grains, stored in such awful conditions is not even fit for human consumption and can be only sold as feed and filler requirements for cattle. The debate on this issue has been going on for decades now, with no end in sight.
The FCI godowns supposedly hold a record 42mt of grains, and the buffer requirement has been estimated at 20mt, thus leaving an excess of 22mt overflowing in these godowns.
Not very long ago, a proposal to distribute the excess food grains to the needy and poor was put up, but despite overwhelming demand and support from the public, nothing happened, and grains continue to rot. New arrivals, as they keep coming in, are simply loaded on the top of the existing lot, causing removal difficulties for despatch and causing further damage at the bottom bags.
Exports by private sector enabled despatch of rice, soybean meal, maize and cotton, but when public sector undertakings (PSU) are involved in export of wheat, the result has been unsatisfactory. As usual, too many rules with too few to take spot decisions and permit export in full realization of what the market traffic can bear has affected our exports. Prices fall and tend to rise as per market situations and one has to bear in mind intense international competition in food grains, like any other product.
Rotting food grains means total loss; in addition, there is loss of interest and damages that an importer can claim if goods are shipped without proper inspection by authorized third parties. These are unlikely to occur if exports are left in the hands of private sector who will take the initiative. Once the farmer realizes that he obtains the minimum support price and guaranteed movement of goods, he will be tempted to take greater care to produce more.
The government must now persuade corporate houses to come forward and build silos, granaries and warehouse facilities in all the areas where production takes place. This should be done in such a manner that we are able to salvage and keep the stocks in good condition, both for domestic supplies and for export. This is an area that needs urgent action on the part of the government.
Rotting of food grains must stop at all costs anywhere in the country and those responsible must be punished.
( AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Sensex has declined 8% from its high of 23rd July as rupee depreciated fast due to structural problems. BNP Paribas in its India strategy report explains the factors to consider while investing now
After the recent sharp decline in Sensex, investors should look at high quality cyclical stocks and stocks in auto, engineering, non-banking financial corporations (NBFC) and private sector banks, suggests BNP Paribas in its report on where to invest now. Even as capital expenditure recovery seems pushed back, stocks that depend on consumption, could find support mainly in rural areas, thanks to abundant and well-distributed monsoon. It also believes that a few oil & gas and power utilities provide good prospects.
The Sensex has declined 8% from its recent peak on July 23rd. Its recent correction is much sharper than that in the earlier instances and it opens up the possibility of further declines, taking the market below previous support levels. In fact, the Sensex has been relatively protected by the economy-proof large cap stocks in sectors like IT, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. Several frontline stocks in financials, engineering, metals and other sectors have declined a lot more. While Sensex is still trading around the 10% band that it's been moving in over the past 8 to 10 months, the mid caps and small caps have been badly hit. Some mid cap stocks have declined between 50% and 80% in 2013 till date, as captured in the chart below.
This recent downturn was perhaps overdue, but was triggered by the RBI's liquidity tightening measures to stabilize the Indian rupee. The Indian rupee stabilized only for a couple of days. “But the damage to growth expectations was possibly more permanent” stated the Report by BNP Paribas.
The RBI’s liquidity tightening measures don’t seem to be stabilizing the rupee. Unless structural measures to reduce the trade gap are implemented, BNP Paribas believes the rupee will weaken further. In the near term, it seems the rupee will continue to depreciate unless the government imposes import controls or other quantitative restrictions on imports. After all, the main driver of India’s large trade deficit is the fact that India consumes more and produces less. In fact, as BNP Paribas points out, “gold imports and oil imports are often cited as key reasons for India’s large trade gap even though the authorities have adopted strong measures to curb gold imports. However, growing consumer goods and capital goods imports are other strong drivers of the trade gap and have not been addressed adequately. We do not expect currency stability until there’s a coordinated assault on the structural drivers of trade deficit.”
“The oil stocks could be adversely impacted from Indian rupee depreciation due to under-recovery and subsidy burden. Also, companies with foreign debt exposure like Bharti Airtel, Adani Power and Tata Power, Power Finance Corp and REC lose out. NBFCs could be impacted if RBI continues with tightening liquidity measures,” stated the report. Liquidity tightening could hurt valuations of the banks and engineering companies as well.
In this context, companies with substantial exports, “from sectors like IT and Pharma outperformed significantly and they will continue to outperform in current scenario of depreciated rupee” stated in report. Report also mentioned that auto sectors having earnings in foreign cash flows like Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto may benefit from the weak rupee.