Right to Information
Maharashtra CIC orders details of welfare schemes to be put on website
The Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) has directed all public authorities in Maharashtra to upload complete information of all welfare schemes on their respective websites before 30 April 2017. Those public authorities which do not have any public welfare schemes should categorically mention so on their websites, the SCIC has stated.
 
In a hard-hitting directive to the chief secretary to ensure compliance with this order, SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad has provided a detailed format in which information should be made public on the websites by every government department. Details to be included are: name of the scheme, its salient features, especially budget provisions, number of beneficiaries likely to be covered, eligibility criteria, format of application for the scheme, date of receipt of application, date of approval, and date of rejection with brief reasons for rejection. 
 
Public welfare schemes otherwise largely remain a secret and there have been alleged cases of large-scale irregularities and financial misappropriation. Besides, there are many welfare schemes of various government and municipal bodies but, often, intended beneficiaries are not aware of these schemes, their eligibility criteria or how to avail of them.
 
It is thanks to former Central Information Commissioner and leading Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi that people will now have access to this vital information, at the click of the mouse. Mr Gandhi was impressed with Haqdarshak Empowerment Services, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which has been accessing such information under RTI and presenting it in an easy-to-understand format for the benefit of beneficiaries of such schemes.
 
On 25 March 217, Mr Gandhi made a complaint to the SCIC, under Section 18 (1) (f) of the RTI Act, pointing out that there are many welfare schemes of various government and municipal bodies of which there is not enough public awareness. He appealed that “the (SCIC) Commission may consider issuing a directive to all government and institutions of local self-governance to give details of their welfare schemes in detailed format. It would also be very useful if the status of application is made available in the format indicated.”
 
SCIC Gaikwad immediately took cognisance of Mr Gandhi’s complaint. In his order, Mr Gaikwad states “…the Commission views this lapse on the part of the public authorities with serious concern. It is sad that after a lapse of more than 11 years since RTI Act has come to force, public authorities by and large have shown a lackadaisical attitude towards proactive disclosures as laid down under Section 4 of the Act.”
 
Mr Gaikwad invoked the following sub-sections of Section 4 of the RTI Act in support of his directive:
  • “Section 4 (1) (b) of Right to Information Act, 2005 is the heart and soul of the RTI Act, which makes it mandatory to all public authorities to disclose information about 17 aspects of public authorities which, inter alia, covers schemes implemented by public authorities, and list of beneficiaries to be displayed on the websites of respective public authority.
  • “So also Section 4(1)(c)(d) mandates that all decisions, Administrative/Quasi-Judicial, taken by public authorities, and material/facts based on which such decisions are taken, must be suo motu be communicated to the affected persons forthwith by public authorities. All welfare schemes implemented by the government are obviously covered under the above provisions of the RTI Act. But, unfortunately, no department yet has implemented in letter and spirit above provisions, with the result there is hardly any transparency and accountability in the implementation of various welfare schemes implemented by the government.” 
 
Commenting on the SCIC’s directions, Mr Gandhi says, “The Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Gaikwad, has issued a landmark order, which should benefit intended beneficiaries of government welfare schemes. Showing great promptness and sensitivity to the public cause, empathy to the disadvantaged and understanding of the law, Mr Gaikwad issued an appropriate order immediately directing all departments to display the information in the suggested format. This could help to reduce corruption in these schemes.”
 
Mr Gandhi has appealed to NGOs and others working on these matters to monitor if this order is complied with and, in case of non-compliance, file a complaint under Section 18 with the State Information Commission. 
 
Here is the copy of the order issued and format suggested for public authorities to disclose information on welfare schemes by the Maharashtra SCIC:
 
 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is 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”.)

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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

3 weeks ago

Wow, this is truly excellent. With this move, the applicants get the information they need to apply for this scheme with a public display of the decision.
I hope that each scheme is also compelled to publicize the total that availed of this scheme by year end.
RTI is an extraordinary powerful tool. I think as people get more accustomed to using it, the fraud and pilferage would decrease dramatically.

Amazon to soon refund $70 mn of in-app purchases for illegally billing users
New York, Amazon has decided to refund up to $70 million to its users, a move that comes a year after the company was found guilty of illegally billing users for unauthorised in-app purchases.
 
The in-app charges occurred from purchases made by kids when playing with freemium apps. 
 
A US federal court in 2016 ruled that Amazon had failed to "clearly inform parents that free apps may still include in-app purchases, and did not provide enough notice and password requirements to prevent unwanted charges."
 
According to a report in Verge on Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated that parents were charged upwards of $70 million between November 2011 and May 2016.
 
According to the FTC, Amazon will begin is refund programme "shortly". 
 
In November 2016, Amazon had requested a US district court that it would make refunds in form of gift cards, but the request was rejected. 
 
It is, therefore, expected that the company will refund affected customers money back directly to their debit or credit card, or through paper checks.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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How India lost an island chain in the Bay of Bengal
A chain of islands that once existed in the Bay of Bengal now lies buried under water, according to a new study by Indian oceanographers.
 
If this long island chain that stretched from north to south had not been swallowed by the sea, it could have offered a natural barrier against tsunamis like the one that killed thousands in 2004, they say.
 
These islands had existed during the Late Cretaceous age -- about 68 to 80 million years ago, according to their report in the journal Current Science.
 
Currently they lie as a "ridge" buried beneath the enormously thick sediment discharged by the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems.
 
The ridge, known as Eighty-five East Ridge -- so named because it runs nearly parallel to the 85 degree east longitude -- extends north-south for about 2,500 km from the Mahanadi Basin in the north Bay of Bengal to the Afanasy Nikitin Seamount in the equatorial Indian Ocean.
 
That part of the ridge in the Bay of Bengal that once hosted the islands "is completely buried under the Bengal Fan sediments," says the report by K.S. Krishna at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa and his co-workers.
 
According to the authors, "In spite of more than three decades of research carried out by scientists from different countries, the origin of the ridge still remains a conundrum." In their research, they studied the seismic structure of the ridge.
 
Their study showed that at the time of ridge emplacement about 80 million years ago, the ocean floor was around four kilometres below sea level and about 500 to 1,000 metres of the ridge summit existed above sea level.
 
The researchers say their study has provided strong evidence to indicate that the ridge peak remained above sea level as an island for a short period during the Late Cretaceous age before it subsided "due to thermal subsidence and volcanic load".
 
It may have taken about 6 to 12 million years for all the peaks of the ridge to subside below the sea level, says the report. "The processes of thermal subsidence and sedimentation load together placed the island chain below the sea level, and then below the thick pile of Bengal Fan sediments."
 
In conclusion, the authors say that "the 85 deg.E Ridge remained as a series of island mounts with variable reliefs in the middle of the Bay of Bengal during the Late Cretaceous and got completely submerged below the sea level around 68 million years ago".
 
"In case such submergence had not happened, the 85 deg.E Ridge would have remained an island chain analogous to present day Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean and Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean," they say.
 
"Then it would have acted as a 'natural geo-wall' protecting mainland India from devastating tsunami waves generated near the Sunda subduction zone."
 
Now, an important question. Did India lose additional land part under her territory?
 
"The answer," the authors say, "is probably an unfortunate yes."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Sanjeev B

3 weeks ago

So can we do a 'South China Sea' here and recreate the islands artificially? Will this be a. ethical, and b. ecofriendly?

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