Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
How to use RTI Act for civic issues

Often, municipal corporations carry out flawed projects which go against public interest and only suit vested interests. Use of RTI can help unearth such irregularities. Here’s a startling example...

The Mula-Mutha rivers in Pune resemble stinking nallahs, yet the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had a brainwave of implementing a river navigation project on a 25-odd km stretch from Ramwadi to Kharadi, envisioning boat rides as one of the activities to save Puneites from road traffic.
 
Curiously, this multi-crore project includes an exhibition ground, playgrounds, open-air auditorium, circus ground, advertisement parks, parking spaces, plazas, flea markets and pedestrian malls and Chor Bazaar on the river bed. When citizens began protesting about the nature of the project, the PMC cunningly changed the name from “River navigation project” to “River restoration project”. However, it was the document procured under the RTI Act by architect and RTI user Sarang Yadwadkar that brought out the shocking truth. In a letter signed by the then municipal commissioner Praveensinh Pardeshi, it states that the project will be re-named as a ‘restoration’ project but work will go on as a ‘navigation’ project.
 
 What does this project entail? In a situation where Pune is suffering from a water crisis even before summer has set in, the project entails increasing the depth of the river to accommodate more water and putting a wall on both sides by narrowing it. This would allow boats to sail along and the banks can be allegedly reclaimed for construction activities.  Firstly, where is the availability of water to be released from the Khadakwasla dam? Secondly, with Pune also suffering from flash floods which had killed 1o people in one such flood in 2010, the embankment would further lead to more incidences of flash floods in more localities.
 
States Mr Yadwadkar, “As the river will be walled at three different locations and made narrow, the water level in the river is going to rise. Due to the increased water level in river, there would be stagnant back water in the nearly 150 nallahs which release water/sewage water to a distance of nearly 550 metres. During monsoons, the basic role of the nallahs is to carry storm water to the rivers. This would not be possible due to the wall and flash floods will occur more frequently and with higher severity. Besides, this stagnant water in the congested parts of the city is definitely going to result in a very serious health hazard, all through the year.”
 
 What’s worse is that the PMC has already spent Rs68 crore despite objections by the ministry of environment & forests (M0EF). This fact was revealed after Mr Yadwadkar received a reply to a RTI query from the MoEF. A letter by AK Bhattacharya, member of the ministry’s expert appraisal committee has said in his report: “the most prudent action is not to interfere with the natural flow of rivers. Construction of bunds (as proposed in the restoration project) goes against this concept and is unlikely to improve river water quality, which is a major problem with Pune rivers.” Even the Central Design office Nashik has opposed it.
 
Another RTI document procured from the MKVDC (irrigation department) and PMC revealed that while the maximum discharge from the Khadakwasla Dam by the MKVDC during the monsoons has been 1,28,899 cusec in the river, while the river restoration project has catered for a maximum flow of only 60,000 cusecs. States Mr Yadwadkar, “This reduced water carrying capacity is going to result in far more severe and frequent floods as the excess water will jump all around residential areas.”
 
While the PMC kept this secret well-guarded, it has come to light through the RTI that massive excavation has been proposed for channelization of the river near the foundation of the pillars and around 18 bridges, which are the lifelines of commuting in Pune. That, it will destabilise the bridges and perhaps lead to their collapse was amply reflected in an incident in Korea where excavation near the pillars had led to the collapse of the bridge as recently as August 2011.
 
The  Detailed Project Report of the river restoration project procured under RTI shows that the excavation for the channel would amount to about 33,55,000 cubic metres of surplus rock which will be required to be disposed off. Mr Yadwadkar states that, “disposal of this surplus rock in such huge quantities would require huge area of land and about 6,75,000 trips of trucks from city to the site of disposal. The minimum cost of just transporting the debris would cost Rs200 crore. This cost has not been included in the estimated cost of the project.”
 
Armed with this vital information, Mr Yadwadkar along with other citizen groups is spearheading a citizen campaign, by first making citizens aware of the absurdity and gravity of the project.
 
Thanks to the RTI Act, such flawed projects are being brought to the notice of the people even before they have been fully implemented. You can do the same for your city or town. Do not suffer injustice of being badly governed by the local self-government. If you have a doubt, be it of the bad state of the roads; overflowing garbage; flyovers and bridges thoughtlessly proposed or any other such civic amenity, please do invoke the RTI to find out the nature of the proposal, expenditure and details of its implementation. It is only when more and more people use RTI for civic issues, that steadily good governance will show its hopeful face.

User

COMMENTS

Babubhai Vaghela Ahmedabad 9427608632

5 years ago

Excellent use of RTI in larger public interest. In my openion, every citizen should file RTI applications pertaining to own area of interest that should overall help improve governance.

Economy & Nation Exclusive
Godrej Consumer shares at Re1!

Godrej Consumer Products is quoted at Rs444. Some employees have got stock grants at Re1!

Godrej Consumer Products (GSPL), a fast moving consumer goods company, recently filed the details of its Employee Stock Grant Scheme 2011 (ESGS 2011) with Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). What caught the eye of Amit Bagaria, a smart investor, was the exercise price at which employees can exercise their stock options. The filing said, “The Exercise Price shall be Re1 per equity share. The equity shares vested in the eligible employees shall be allotted on payment of the Exercise Price.” When we first heard about it, we thought it was a typo or a joke. No, it wasn’t; we checked the BSE site and confirmed it. 

You can check the link for yourself here: http://www.bseindia.com/stockinfo/anndet.aspx?newsid=6c92015f-7948-4d5f-ae81-9bce82497a3d

The company will offer certain employees shares of the company at a mere Re1 per share. This means, the company is rewarding certain employees by giving them shares in the company at a fairytale price, one which we can only dream of.

The filing said “Godrej Consumer Products has informed BSE that in terms of Employee Stock Grant Scheme 2011 (ESGS 2011), the HR & Compensation Committee vide resolution dated March 07, 2012 approved the granting of 4470 Stock Grants to Eligible Employees of the Company.”

Each stock grant represents one equity share of the company. GSPL will to award 4,470 equity shares at virtually free prices, to certain employees, though the beneficiaries will have to collectively fork out a measly Rs4,470 out of their own pockets to acquire these grants.

Further, the company had outlined the dates at which the employees would be permitted to exercise their stock options. The first batch of 894 grants should be exercised not before 6 March 2013. The second batch of 1,788 grants not before 31 May 2013 and finally the last 1,788 grants will be exercised only on or after 31 May 2014. This dilution of shareholding vis-a-vis stock grants works against the common shareholder while the beneficiaries are getting sumptuous free lunch.
 

User

COMMENTS

somebody

5 years ago

They are not getting a free lunch, they are being rewarded for whatever hard work they may have done.
This is almost same as giving them a cash bonus, but better.
Would you have raised an eyebrow if this was a outright cash bonus? if not, why not?
Here, the actual amount of money they can make out of the reward is directly tied to the stock price. If the stock price goes up, the employess stand to make more money. So they are being incentivized to work harder and make the company more profitable, and thus, making the stock price go up. So this will be useful for non-employee shareholders as well.

Economy & Nation Exclusive
Rail Budget: Highlights of Railway Budget 2012-13

Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi hiked passenger fares, for the first time after eight years

Here are the highlights of the Railway Budget for 2012-13... 

  • Passenger fares increased marginally. The increase will be by 2 paise per km for suburban and ordinary second class; 3 paise per km for mail/express second class; 5 paise per km for sleeper class; 10 paise per km for AC Chair Car, AC 3 tier and First Class; 15 paise per km for AC 2 tier and 30 paise per km for AC I.
  •   Minimum fare and platform tickets to cost Rs 5.
  • 50% concession in fare in AC-2, AC-3, Chair Car & Sleeper classes to patients suffering from “Aplastic Anaemia” and “Sickle Cell Anaemia”.
  • Extending the facility of travel by Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains to Arjuna Awardees.
  • Travel distance under “Izzat Scheme” to increase from 100 km to 150 km.
  •   SMS on passenger mobile phone in case of e-ticket to be accepted as proof of valid reservation.
  • Introduction of satellite-based real time train information system (SIMRAN) to provide train running information to passengers through SMS, Internet, etc.
  • On board passenger displays indicating next halt station and expected arrival time to be introduced.
  • Installation of 321 escalators at important stations of which 50 will be commissioned in 2012-13.
  • Introduction of regional cuisine at affordable rates; launching of book-a-meal scheme to provide multiple choice of meals through SMS or email.
  • Introduction of coin/currency operated ticket vending machines.
  •   Upgradation of 929 stations as Adarsh Stations including 84 stations proposed in 2012-13; 490 stations have been completed so far.
  • Specially designed coaches for differently-abled persons to be provided in all mail/express trains.
  •   Introduction of Rail Bandhu on-board magazines on Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Duronto trains.
  •   Setting up of AC Executive lounges at important stations
  • 75 new express trains to be introduced.
  • 21 new passenger services, nine DEMU services and eight MEMU services to be introduced.
  •   Run of 39 trains to be extended.
  • Frequency of 23 trains to be increased.
  • 75 additional services to run in Mumbai suburban section; 44 new suburban services to be introduced in Kolkata area, 50 new services to be introduced in Kolkata Metro; 18 additional services in Chennai area.
  • 725 km new lines, 700 km doubling, 800 km gauge conversion and 1,100 km electrification targeted in 2012-13.
     
  •   Rs6,872 crore provided for new lines, Rs3,393 crore for doubling, Rs 1,950 crore for gauge conversation, Rs828 crore for electrification
  • Highest ever plan outlay of Rs60,100 crore
  • Rae Bareli coach factory manufactured 10 coaches in 2011-12; phase-II of the factory would be commissioned in 2012-13.
  •   A wagon factory to be set up at Sitapali (Ganjam District of Odisha)
  • A rail coach factory with the support of Government of Kerala to be set up at Palakkad; two additional new manufacturing units for coaches to be established in the Kutch area in Gujarat and at Kolar in Karnataka with active participation of the state governments.
  • Setting up of a factory at Shyamnagar in West Bengal to manufacture next generation technology propulsion system for use in high power electric locomotives.
  • Creating missions as recommended by Pitroda Committee to implement the modernization programme.
  • Setting up of Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority to be considered.
  •   New board members for Safety/Research and PPP/Marketing to be inducted.
  •   Rail-Road Grade Separation Corporation to be set up to eliminate level crossings.
  • Indian Railway Station Development Corporation to be set up to redevelop stations through PPP mode.
  •   Logistics Corporation to be set up for development & management of existing railway goods sheds and multi-modal logistics parks.
  • National High Speed Rail Authority to be set up.
  • Pre-feasibility studies on six high speed corridors already completed; study on Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur to be taken up in 2012-13.
     
  • Introduction of a “Green Train” to run through the pristine forests of North Bengal.
  • Setting up of 200 remote railway stations as “green energy stations” powered entirely by solar energy.
  •   Providing solar lighting system at 1,000 manned level crossing gates.
  • 2,500 coaches to be equipped with bio toilets.
  • Setting up of 72 MW capacity windmill plants in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
  •   Installation of Integrated Security System at all 202 identified stations to be completed in 2012-13.
  • Escorting of trains by RPF/GRP extended to 3,500 trains.
  •   Integration of RPF helpline with the All India Passenger Helpline.
  •   Setting up of a Railway Safety Authority as a statutory regulatory body as recommended by Kakodkar Committee
  • Three “Safety Villages” to be set up at Bengaluru, Kharagpur and Lucknow for skill development for disaster management.
  •   Over one lakh persons to be recruited in 2012-13—backlog of SC/ST/OBC and other categories to be wiped off.
  •   Introduction of a wellness programme for railway staff at their work places.
  •   Ensuring proper rest for skilled and technical staff including the running crew.
  • Institution of  “Rail Khel Ratna” Award for 10 rail sports-persons every year.
  •   New coaching terminal at Naihati, the birth place of Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay commemorating him on 175th birth anniversary.
  •   Project to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh to be taken up in 2012-13.
  • Freight loading of 1,025 million tonnes (MT) targeted; 55 MT more than 2011-12
  •   Passenger growth targeted at 5.4 %.

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