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