Dinesh Trivedi, former railway minister, spoke to a packed audience on his brief but highly eventful tenure as a the minister, when he tried to effect many fundamental changes but was stymied
“I am surprised that it took a Supreme Court to sack A Raja, who has shortchanged the country of billions of dollars and I was sacked in a few minutes when I have acted for the country, ” quipped Mr Dinesh Trivedi, former railway minister. He was speaking at a seminar titled ‘Country, Before Party and Self’, organized by Moneylife Foundation.
“The Parliament may not represent real India and may be out of touch of reality. Indians out there know more about the state of affairs” said he.
In a short speech and highly inspiring speech, Mr Trivedi spoke on why his railway budget was important after presenting which, he had to resign. He said, “I don’t have any regrets or complaints. If I were to re-present my budget, I would present exactly the same one. I have, however, wondered what went wrong.”
He said, “I don’t know how it happened. Every state, every minister got something. The whole Union was happy. But when they talk about the Budget, everything but my proposals get discussed. No technical aspects, no safety measures, no financial concerns.”
He said, “The railways badly needs modernization, and I told the Planning Commission that I required Rs25 lakh crores for that purpose. One can raise the money through the following ways: public private partnerships, public funds and fare hikes.” In the short term the option was to raise fares.
Mr Trivedi said that he consulted all the top advisors and experts and they were unanimous that fares should be hiked. He said this budget started the say after he witnessed the horror of a train accident in Kanpur. He got in touch with two of India’s top nuclear scientists – Dr Anil Kakodkar and Dr K Kasturirangan. He also reached out to R Sreedharan, who set up the Delhi Metro against all odds on improving the operational aspects and Deepak Parekh on railway finances.
These experts presented their report, which showed that the Railways were in a huge mess. “After that what did you expect me to do? Throw that report out? I did whatever I had to do. I was confident that the railways would achieve its targets. And with that confidence, I prepared my speech.” He defended his decision to raise the fares, saying that people don’t travel long-distance every day, so the impact would have been minimal on the individual.
He said that there is an urgent need to modernize the railways for the people. “The way people travel in general class compartments is a human rights violation.
Everyday people lose their lives.” But this can be changed radically. After all young Indian scientists and engineers are innovating in the US which are used by foreign governments. Indian railways could have profited from their expertise too.
He also spoke about the consequences of coalition politics, where portfolios are distributed like fiefs to allies. Mr Trivedi said that now political compulsions and interests have taken precedence over the country, and that has to change. “My Budget was for India. It was not for any particular region or any state. That may have been my undoing,” he commented.
Mr Trivedi talked about his unrealized plans about Mumbai Railways. “I had plans about renovating the stations and integrating the three different lines.
Mumbai got the most from my Budget. But now, everything will be rolled back. I was rock and roll he quipped. I was rocking and they will roll. ”
He said that the felt that the media was wrong to highlight only on his ‘losing the chair’. “People die everyday, and they lay down their lives for their country. If I had done something which is good for the country, why should the focus be on a chair? Politics cannot become your profession,” he asked.
“We take a sacred oath of discharging our duties without fear, and to look at only my country and my people. Some of us have forgotten that. It was fear and favour behind my sacking. There was the fear of losing the government and someone had to be favoured,” he said.
He said “I have great respect for our Prime Minister but I think it is time for a generational change in our administration and politics. Now, people are scared of approaching the police or the authorities. Why should that be? The Vora committee report says that the country is now run by a parallel mafia administration, and general government has become irrelevant,” he said.
However, he said that he is overwhelmed by the response he got, and expressed his optimism. He said, “I know things are in a turmoil right now. But I believe that this is a great country, and things will look up.”
His talk was followed by a lively interaction with the members of the audience.
The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (ISEM) and related defence NGOs have begun galvanising support
On Saturday evening, around 150 citizens, mostly jawans and retired officers gathered at the National War Memorial in Pune Cantonment to protest against President Pratibha Patil’s land grab by lighting candles.
The Delhi headquarters of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) has already amplified the protest. In an email to Col Suresh Patil (retired) and Comm Ravindra Pathak who are spearheading the campaign from Pune, Major Gen Adityajung Bahadur Jaini wrote that the IESM has started galvanising support at their end through their national and international network of members. IESM, Delhi is also staging a big rally at Jantar Mantar on 22nd April wherein besides their core issue of one rank-one pension, they would be protesting against the President’s post-retirement home issue. “Although we are not at the forefront of this protest as our mainstay is the pension issue, we are supporting the Justice of Jawans in its endeavour.”
The anger against President Patil’s brazen encroachment on 2,42,000 sq ft of defence land against the backdrop of Pune, which is the headquarters of the Southern Command, facing crisis of accommodation for its several thousands of its serving soldiers and officers, has echoed not only in all parts of the country, but around the world as well.
States Col Patil (retd), “We have received a communication from retired Air Force officers from Dubai who have joined this campaign. Retired defence personnel from Toronto have also joined it. Similarly, I have got calls from Vishakhapatnam, Jabalpur and Lucknow who are all fired up to join the protest until the President gives back the land. What tugged my heart most was when an 86 year old lady from Mhau, Ms Sohoni whose 93 year old husband (who recently died) has fought the World War II, called me up yesterday. She told me that she had approached President Patil in connection with a land that the government gave them but it was grabbed. Ms Patil did not address the issue. Hence, she has also joined our campaign.”
The two bungalows—No 38 and 26A—both of which have been illegally demolished to make way for President Pratibha Patil’s palatial bungalow were studded with more than 100-year old trees. These have been mercilessly cut down and are lying all around the construction area. Col Patil is taking up the issue with the Principal Director, Defence Estates. He states, “Despite merciless tree cutting, there seems to have been no legal action. We are going to first question him about what kind of permission was given to fell the stalwart trees. Secondly, as per the law, the local military authority has to auction them officially and deposit the revenue in the treasury. Has it done that?”
In a day or two, Col Patil and Comm Pathak are dashing off a letter to Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia asking him to intervene and consider this letter as a writ petition.
Clearly, the battle-lines are drawn until victory (who’s will it be?). Meanwhile, enthused by the world wide outcry over the President’s brazenness in using defence land for her personal benefit, founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ) Col (retd) Suresh Patil, Indian Ex-servicemen Movement’s (IESM) head of Pune Ravindra Pathak and former Navy officer and RTI activist Anup Awasti say they will not stop till the President backtracks from the land.
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also 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 on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at email@example.com)
Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ruled, “The award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual and satisfies him personally, but also helps in curing a social evil”
In probably the first reflexive ruling, the Central Information Commission has issued a show-cause notice to its own CPIO (chief public information officer) and asked him to pay Rs3,000 as compensation to an appellant who was given piecemeal information, that too after much delay.
In a recent order, central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ruled, “Harassment of a common man by public authorities is socially abhorring and legally impermissible. It may harm him personally but the injury to society is far more grievous. The award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual and satisfies him personally, but also helps in curing a social evil. It may result in improving the work culture and help in changing the outlook. The Commission in exercise of its power under Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI (Right to Information) Act awards a compensation of Rs3,000 to the appellant for the loss and detriment suffered by him in having to pursue the appeals and getting the information late. The Commission recommends that the secretary, CIC may consider recovering this amount from the salary of the persons responsible for this.”
The Commission also directed the PIO to provide the information before 10 May 2012 and the cheque be sent to the appellant before 1st June.
On 7th September, 2010, the appellant Haroon Siddiqui had filed a query with the CIC, asking for a copy of rules under which the deputy registrar authorized to return the second appeal and state the reasons on record for the return. He had earlier asked for information related to a CIC ruling involving the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and had asked for the company’s reply to the CIC. He received mostly evasive answers from the CPIO and deputy secretary S Padmanabha. Dissatisfied with the answers, Mr Siddiqui filed the first appeal, which was rejected.
The CIC deemed that the CPIO’s refusal to disclose IFFCO’s reply was ‘erroneous’. The ruling said, “This refusal was erroneous since Section 11 is only a procedure which requires the PIO to inform the third party of his intention to disclose the information if the information was received in confidence. After receiving any objection from the third party, if the information is exempt as per the provisions of Section 8(1) or 9, the information may be denied by the PIO after giving reasons. In the instant case the respondent states that there is no evidence of any letter having been sent to the third party seeking objection. Besides, the appellant has a right to get any counter statements or submission made by the opposite party. It appears that a completely unreasonable rejection was made and the appellant has not received the information so far at all.”
Mr Gandhi said that Mr Padmanabha is directed give his reasons to the Commission to show cause why penalty should not be levied on him. He will also send the information sent to the appellant as per this decision and submit the Speed Post receipt as proof of having sent the information to the appellant, along with the copy of the information.