Right to Information
Huge inflow of illegal money is reason for political parties ducking RTI: Anna Hazare
Anna Hazare speaks to Moneylife on why political parties are unified in opposing RTI Act being applied on them. Excerpts from the interview
 
Moneylife: The centre has filed an affidavit opposing the demand that political parties be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act?
Anna Hazre: By filing this affidavit the Centre, is keeping the door open to illegal political funding. Some parties have already decided that the political parties need not provide accounts for donations of amounts up to Rs20,000. As of today, many political parties have been accepting donations of lakhs of rupees from big businesses by dividing them into parts, each of Rs20,000. Each of these parts are shown as donations by bogus people. Thus lakhs of rupees of unaccounted money is being laundered. It cannot be ruled out this as the reason for wanting to be from the ambit of the RTI Act. 
 
Moneylife: Why do you think political parties should come under the RTI Act?
Anna Hazare: During the Lok Sabha election campaign, BJP had reportedly promised to bring back black money from abroad in 100 days and deposit Rs15 lakh in the bank account of each citizen. The black money stashed abroad was not brought back. Moreover, it seems attempts are on to allow some political parties to launder the black money by excluding them from the ambit of the RTI Act.
 
India became a republic on 26 January 1950 and thereby the citizens became owners of the country. The citizenry owns the government treasury. Therefore, being owner of the country and its treasury, every citizen has the fundamental right to know where and how the money is being spent. Political parties get many concessions from the government. This means they enjoy public money, indirectly. Therefore, the citizenry must have information about them. This was the purpose for which a number of agitations pressing for the RTI Act were staged in Maharashtra from 1995 to 2002. Maharashtra was the first state to enact the legislation in 2002 and later in 2005 the law was made by the centre too. The question remains unanswered as to why today, 10 years after the RTI Act was enacted, this government fears the misuse of this law.
 
Moneylife: Why do you think, donations to political parties should be audited?
Anna Hazare: In fact, political parties not only collect donations of lakhs of rupees but also get concessions from the government. The pertinent question is as to why special audit of such political parties is not carried out by either the government or the Election Commission? Every paisa that a political party get must be audited. If all organisations and institutions in this country are audited, why should political parties not be audited?
 
Moneylife: Are government’s fears of misuse by people, if political parties come under RTI, justifiable?
Anna Hazare: The central government’s view that the RTI Act will be misused for political one-upmanship is not justifiable. Its real fear is that if political parties are brought under the ambit of the RTI Act, they will have to provide the accounts to the people and would not be able to launder the black money and therefore it is trying to mislead.
 
Nobody will be able to misuse the provisions of this Act if the political parties and government machinery upload on their websites the information on 17 points they need to disclose mandatorily under section 4 of the RTI Act. These 17 points would contain so much of information that once it is disclosed, nobody would be required to seek any further information. Isn’t the government aware about these 17 points under section 4 of the Act? Or is the citizenry is being misled intentionally?
 
Exclusion of political parties from ambit of RTI Act is a murder of democracy. During the election campaign, those in power (at present) had promised time and again that once its forms the government at centre, it would give priority to fight against corruption. Its election agenda too contained this promise. The RTI Act may not have ended corruption. But it has certainy curbed corruption to a large extent.
 
Exclusion of political parties from ambit of the RTI Act at a time when the political parties have become infested with corruption, only shows that the government is overlooking the promises it had made during the election campaign. 
 
Moneylife: But Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of transparency in his government…
Anna Hazare: The difference between the previous (Congress-led UPA) government and this (BJP-led NDA) government would have been clearly visible if it had the will to curb corruption. However, even today no work can be done without paying bribe. The fact is that the prices are going up instead of decreasing because of rising corruption. Under such circumstances, what is the difference between this government and the previous government? We hoped that concrete steps would be taken to address problems faced by citizens in their daily life and to curb corruption and price hike. The promises of implementing the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, ensuring that farmers make a minimum profit of 50% over their costs, curbing corruption to some extent by implementing Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, have remained unfulfilled.
 
The government insists on implementing the Land Acquisition Bill that is unjust to the farmers although farmers from all over the country are opposing it. While ordinance after ordinance have been issued to keep this Act alive, unfortunately the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act have not been implemented even though these have been passed by the Parliament. 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also 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

Gunasekaran

1 year ago

POLITICAL PARTIES SHOULD COME UNDER THE AMBIT OF RTI IN A DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY ELSE HOW CAN YOU CALL THE SYSTEM IS DEMOCRATIC AND THIS COUNTRY IS A DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY.

ELSE LET THE COUNTRY CHOOSE ONLY EITHER PRIME MINISTER OR PRESIDENT AND LET HIM APPOINT ADMINISTRATORS IN ALL THE STATES INCLUDING MINISTRIES HEAD OR BY ANY OTHER EFFECTIVE METHOD TO APPOINT AND NOT ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO THE STATES AND MINISTRIES.

IN THIS WAY ALL THE ELECTED PERSONS BECOMING RICH OVERNIGHT EVERY 5 YEARS WILL BE EFFECTIVELY ARRESTED.

Slow pace of reform could lead to greater risk in banking system, says Rajan
According to the RBI Governor, wherever possible, we have to move steadily but firmly, ever expanding the scope of reforms while always limiting the uncertainty they create
 
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan has said the current stress in the banking system suggests that the real economy will not wait for the banking system, and a slow pace of reform could lead to greater, rather than lower risk residing in the banking system.
 
"Financial sector reforms need to move on many fronts," Dr Rajan said in his overview that came with the RBI's Annual Report for 2014-15. "For a country as big and populous as India, reforms cannot be shots in the dark, subjecting the economy to great uncertainty and risk. Wherever possible, we have to move steadily but firmly, ever expanding the scope of reforms while always limiting the uncertainty they create. The Chinese term this ‘Crossing the river by feeling the stones’. It is an appropriate metaphor to guide our own reforms," he added.
 
According to the RBI Governor, a regulatory view, fashionable in the past, was that the pace of regulatory reforms had to be limited by the capacity of our banks, especially our public sector banks (PSBs). "At the same time," he said, "we should recognise that PSBs undertake public interest activities (like the rollout of accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana) that are not always fully compensated. Government should endeavour to keep the competitive playing field level by fully compensating banks for activities it wants undertaken in the public interest."
 
High home price hindering genuine buyers: Earlier, Dr Rajan, while talking about housing market in India had said that there are numerous unsold properties because of astronomical property prices and urged property developers to reduce prices for the unsold properties to find takers.
 
The views of Dr Rajan also reflected in the RBI's Annual Report. It says genuine homebuyers have moved away from the housing market due to higher prices and investors stayed away due to the weakening state of the economy.
 
"The demand for residential properties has slowed down in recent times and unsold stock of residential homes has increased considerably at the same time. As the economic growth has started to take-off, the overall buyer sentiment is expected to rise. Presumably, developers are counting on this to happen and hence holding the price," the report added. 
 
According to the RBI's annual report, quarterly growth in Housing Price Index (HPI) moved up in the first three quarters of 2014-15, as against a similar period in 2013-14, and there was a moderate pickup in house price growth, particularly in Delhi and Kolkata.
 
Dr Rajan in his overview also touched upon various issues pertaining to financial inclusion, non-performing assets, banking consumer issues, priority sector lending and competition.
 
Talking about financial inclusion and banking consumer issues, the RBI Governor said, "Financial inclusion also means greater consumer protection for the newly included and typically unsophisticated customers, an easily accessed and speedy grievance redressal process, and expanded efforts on financial literacy."
 
Banking Consumer Rights: "Following public consultation, RBI has developed a Charter of Consumer Rights. Bank boards have been asked to put in place frameworks that ensure those rights are protected. After those frameworks have been in operation for some time, RBI will take a view on best practices, and needed regulation, if any. In the meantime, field visits by RBI, to check mis-selling as well as proper functioning of bank infrastructure such as branches and ATMs, will be expanded," he said.
 
Internal Ombudsman System in Banks: "RBI is reviewing its Banking Ombudsman system to see how it can be extended to nonbanks and how it can be more effective in rural areas," Dr Rajan said, adding, "Each bank has also been asked to set up an internal Ombudsman system, which will examine the bank’s grievance cases to see if resolution is possible before it is escalated to RBI’s ombudsman system."
 
Financial Literacy: According to the RBI Governor financial literacy, whether through courses in schools, through literacy camps organised by banks and RBI, or through newspaper or social media campaigns, is extremely important. He said, "All too often, unscrupulous operators have discovered that greed trumps education – even the sophisticated fail to apply the maxim that if it is too good to be true, it probably is… Nevertheless, it is our duty to try and educate our public and we have to be better than the unscrupulous at exploiting new technologies, including mass and social media, to reach them. RBI intends to increase its focus on such campaigns significantly."
 
Priority Sector Lending: Dr Rajan said, priority sector activities have to be carried out by banks as part of their normal business operations and, therefore, banks are expected not to view this as a Corporate Social Responsibility. "On the part of the Reserve Bank, one important facilitation in this regard has been that pricing of all credit has been made free, though with the expectation that pricing should not be exploitative. Priority sector efforts will not be successful unless market players are willing to take risks by innovating structures, products and processes," he said.
 
Priority sector in India pertains to those sectors of the economy, which, though viable and creditworthy, may not get timely and adequate credit in the absence of any special dispensation. Typically, these are small value loans to farmers for agriculture and allied activities, micro and small enterprises, poor people for housing, students for education and other low-income groups and weaker sections. In the context of India, such sectors are spread across the length and breadth of the country and especially prevalent in the hilly and coastal regions.
 
Effective usage of land as collateral: "We also need to ease lending to small producers, whether they are farmers, Self Help Groups, or businesses," the RBI Governor said, adding, "For this, we need to improve the structure and working of credit information bureaus, collateral registries, and debt recovery tribunals – ironically, credit flows easily only when the lender is persuaded that he will get his money back, so easier access to credit necessitates closer attention to default prevention mechanism. Perhaps the most important source of collateral value is land. We need better digital mapping and clean records of land ownership across the country so that it can be used more effectively as collateral." 
 
Efficiency through greater entry and competition: Mentioning that India need to increase efficiency in financial sector through efficiency through greater entry and competition, Dr Rajan said, "The most appropriate institutions will prevail when the competitive arena is level, so we have to remove regulatory privileges as well as impediments wherever possible, especially those that are biased towards some form of ownership or some particular institutional form." 
 
"We need more participation in our financial markets to increase their size, depth, and liquidity. Participation is best enhanced not through subventions and subsidies but by creating supporting frameworks that improve transparency, contract enforcement, and protections for market participants against abusive practices. Technology can be very helpful in reducing the costs of supportive frameworks, and can bring hitherto excluded populations into the financial fold. It is these ideas that guide our medium-term reform strategy," the RBI Governor added.
 

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COMMENTS

Gopalakrishnan T V

1 year ago

There are several takeaways for the Government to act upon. RBI alone cannot bring in the reforms either in the economy or in the Financial system particularly in the banking system. Banks which are the engines for ensuring fast growth of the economy are weak and the government and the slow performing economy are responsible for that. RBI can only give the signals to the Government to act and this annual report has really provided that. It is for the Government to understand the message and take RBI into confidence to take appropriate action to take the economy forward making the banking system as strong and as professional as possible.

MG Warrier

1 year ago

RBI Governor’s view that “we should recognise that PSBs undertake public interest activities (like the rollout of accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana) that are not always fully compensated. Government should endeavour to keep the competitive playing field level by fully compensating banks for activities it wants undertaken in the public interest." should be viewed in a wider context. The present tendency is to burden public sector organisations including public sector banks, LIC and Railways to share social sector responsibilities which are not always remunerative and many a time loss-making, when their private sector counterparts enjoy the profitable creamy layer of business. Government has a temptation to milk public sector organisations dry without caring about their intrinsic health.

Vodafone India to roll out 4G by 2015 end
Vodafone India will launch its 4G services by end of 2015 in "important data markets" including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Kochi, a company statement said here on Friday.
 
In addition, Vodafone India will also roll out its own 3G networks in another seven circles -- Assam, the northeast, UP West, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha -- to expand its overall 3G footprint across the country.
 
"Testing of 4G services has commenced successfully. Vodafone India has partnered with leading global technology infrastructure service providers for the network roll-out," the statement said.
 
"With some of the latest technological developments on the anvil; Vodafone is building a robust and resilient network architecture with a strong backhaul to support the volumes and need for speed from customers," it added.
 
Vodafone India acquired additional 4G (LTE) spectrum in five circles - Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka in the February 2014 auction. These circles together contribute close to 50 percent of the total data revenue for Vodafone India.
 
In 2014-15, Vodafone India rolled out over 23,000 sites taking its overall network footprint to more than 131,000 sites.
 
The company said that over the last few months, it has taken several steps to modernise its radio network and switching systems.
 
Charging platforms have been upgraded to facilitate a wider bouquet of products and services. 
 
Major investments have also been made in high-capacity fibre or backhaul to significantly increase the internet connectivity to the rest of the world.
 
The company said it remains committed towards making significant investments in network expansion and enhancing overall customer experience.
 
Globally, Vodafone has launched 4G in 18 countries. There are over 20 million 4G customers across the group.
 

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