Moneylife Events
Moneylife Foundation felicitates Preeti Telang, Chandita Mukherjee, Nikita Ketkar

On International Women’s Day, the three women were applauded for their special efforts towards uplifting women financially, building alternate media for education and fostering night schools for working students

On the occasion of International Women's Day on Tuesday, Moneylife Foundation felicitated three women achievers for their special contribution in separate fields: Ms Preeti Telang, general manager of Swadhaar FinAccess, Ms Chandita Mukherjee, founder of Comet Media, and Ms Nikita Ketkar, founder of Masoom.

Ms Deena Mehta, director of the Bombay Stock Exchange, presented a memento to each of the women and appreciated their special efforts. "We do not realise, but it is the NGOs which make the country liveable. We all know the kind of gaps that exist in public administration. We should thank civil society organisations that take up the responsibility to help people and better our lives."

Deena Mehta felicitates Preeti Telang, general manager of Swadhaar FinAccess, which works with urban poor women

Accepting the acknowledgement by Moneylife Foundation of her work, Ms Telang explained the mission of Swadhaar FinAccess, saying, "There are many schemes for women in rural India, but very few for slum dwellers in urban areas. It takes a lot of persuasion to get the government and banks to start zero-balance savings accounts and issue ATM cards for them. Together, we have tried to teach these women about banking, so that they can deposit their small day-to-day savings easily."

Swadhaar FinAccess is a non-banking finance company that provides micro-finance. Its activities are focused on financial literacy, savings and livelihood development programmes. Ms Telang said the NGO currently reaches out to 8,000 women, and it aims to cover 30,000 slum dwellers by 2012. Swadhaar partners with Citibank, which has provided zero-balance accounts for urban poor women. Swadhaar has also worked with ICICI Bank, to facilitate banking in areas where Citibank cannot reach. (Read her story here:Udhaar se Swadhaar tak )

Chandita Mukherjee, award-winning short documentary film maker and founder of Comet Media, accepts a memento from Deena Mehta. Comet aims to develop alternate media for education and inculcating a scientific spirit

Chandita Mukherjee spoke about the need to foster alternate media for education and innovate learning processes. She said, "There is a need to make learning enjoyable and move beyond rote learning, as well as reach out to those who don't have access to education. It is important to incorporate new, modern teaching techniques, and we are working for that."

Ms Mukherjee is an award-winning independent filmmaker, and is one of the best short documentary makers in the country. She has been part of various film committees, and her interest lies in promoting a scientific outlook and learning about India's technological heritage. Comet Media, which she set up, makes communication materials in a range of media, conducts workshops for teachers and students, and is exploring the area of community radio which is still very new in India. (Read her story here:A Different Toy Story)

Deena Mehta congratulates Nikita Ketkar, founder of Masoom, for her efforts to set up night schools for working students

Nikita Ketkar underlined the need to foster night schools, which are the only means of learning for most impoverished students, who are busy working during the day. Ms Ketkar's organisation, Masoom, does exactly this. "We have 600 students currently, and plan to spread out to the whole of Maharashtra. We are asking the government to open night schools in other states also, because there are many youngsters who have to work during the day to support themselves."

Ms Ketkar held administrative positions in the Defence Research & Development Organisation, Air Headquarters, and the NCC Directorate before setting up Masoom. She moved out of the Indian Civil Service to work with charitable organisations. (Read her story here:Turning night into dawn)

Masoom addresses the infrastructure and quality of education provided in night schools, with the intention to improve the learning environment and prospects of less-privileged students. To involve the students and parents, regular workshops are organised where parents and teachers come together, also narrowing the bridge through such meets.



chandra shekhar

6 years ago

Sh. Shankar Pai, hv underlined d 'male's
beautifully & its not far from reality, infact
i appreciate such artistic mind !

chandra shekhar

shanker pai

6 years ago

what is the message
of m/s
deena mehta
men .
on the int womens year ....
for the male gender in general
for a (1) husband
(2) father
(3) brother
(4) male inlaws
male colleagues in particular .
shanker pai
make-a-will foundation
(28 dec - philanthropy day )

chandra shekhar

6 years ago

2 encourage or appreciate, work done by
anyone in 'public or Nation's interest, such felicitations r necessary !
But, invite people from all walk of life,
having clean image & identity !!
Do not invite 'Politicians', who have no
'character', what kind of culture would
they give birth 2 !!!
chandra shekhar, south delhi, INDIA

Rajaratnam’s trial seen as biggest hedge fund insider trading case

The case is the first of its kind where authorised wiretapping and information was used and the trial is expected to be wrapped up in a couple of months. The central question in the case is whether, founder of Galleon Group of hedge funds, accumulated $45 million using leaked confidential information

The case is the first of its kind where authorised wiretapping and information was used and the trial is expected to be wrapped up in a couple of months. The central question in the case is whether, founder of Galleon Group of hedge funds, accumulated $45 million using leaked confidential information

New York: Sri Lanka-born billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, the main accused in the biggest hedge fund insider trading case in US history, went on trial and he could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted in the case which also involves several Indian-origin suspects, reports PTI.

Indian-American Rajat Gupta, former director of Goldman Sachs, is one of the persons who allegedly tipped 53-year-old Mr Rajaratnam.

Mr Gupta is not an accused in the case but US markets regulator Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Enforcement Division alleged last week that Mr Gupta fed Rajaratnam inside information about earnings at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble when he was a board member at those companies.

The high profile trial commenced with the jury selection process in a packed district court in Manhattan yesterday with US district judge Richard Holwell coming out with a 15-page questionnaire to determine whether the juror had any prejudices that would prevent the person from taking an impartial view of the facts to be presented in the case.

Judge Holwell introduced Mr Rajaratnam to 100 prospective jurors by calling him "a wealthy individual."

A total of 12 jurors are to be selected along with six alternate jurors. Judge Holwell also asked some people to approach the bench and questioned them privately. Jury selection will be followed by opening statements from both sides.

The case is the first of its kind where authorised wiretapping and information was used and the trial is expected to be wrapped up in a couple of months.

The central question in the case is whether, founder of Galleon Group of hedge funds, accumulated $45 million using leaked confidential information. Unlike many of his co-accused, the business tycoon has not pleaded guilty.

Judge Holwell said the trial would last two months and includes testimony from more than 100 witnesses, which include Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs Group.

The trial was expected to feature dozens of secretly taped conversations between Mr Rajaratnam and partners in the hedge fund industry. The Manhattan resident has remained free on $100 million bail since his arrest despite efforts by the government to have him held without bail before trial.

One of Mr Rajaratnam's lawyers, John Dowd, has said Mr Rajaratnam only acted on information that was already public whenever he instigated trades.

Mr Rajaratnam, who is charged with 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy, could face 20 years in prison if convicted. So far, 19 people have pleaded guilty in the case including Rajiv Goel, former Intel executive, and Anil Kumar, a former director at McKinsey & Co.

Mr Rajaratnam was charged in October 2009 with securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud by prosecutors who said he made more than $50 million illegally by teaming up with others in the industry to glean secrets from employees of public companies.

The case has resulted in more than two dozen arrests and 19 guilty pleas, including many people who are cooperating with the government.

Mr Rajaratnam was represented in court by seven lawyers.


Sterling examples of inspection of documents under Section 4 of RTI Act

How information procured under the law led to Dow scrapping its proposed plant near Pune and a road supposed to run through a heritage botanical garden was abandoned

Last week, we discussed the contents of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI). Here are two classic examples which will elaborate on the power of inspection of documents in government offices.

Can a multinational company (MNC) be put on the mat? Can a municipal corporation be made answerable for a thoughtless decision? Yes, under Section 4, these questions were not only answered, but the information obtained in the process, quite literally, shook the powers-that-be!

Case I: Dow Chemical bites the dust..and how!

Sometime in 2008, a few activists who came to see me in my office stated that I should write against Dow Chemical which was then setting up its chemical plant, christened by Dow as a 'Research & Development Centre' in Chakan (which is a suburb of Pune and is now known as a premier automobile hub with multinational automobile manufacturing plants set up here). They argued that since Union Carbide (which was responsible for the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal) is a subsidiary of Dow, it had no moral right to be here. Since the buzz against this company grew stronger among villagers of Shinde Vasuli (the actual site of the plant where it was allocated 100 acres, mind you just for a Research & Development Centre as it claimed) and activists led by Justice BG Kolse Patil, I decided to procure information about the exact nature of the plant here.

When I called up the secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in Mumbai and asked him for documents showing the nature of permissions given to Dow, he flatly refused saying he has no information on this, and that if I am so interested I should invoke the RTI Act.  Obviously, Dow's entry here was a high level political decision and this bureaucrat did not want to get into trouble.

I conducted inspection of files (under Section 4) at the office of the secretary in the environment department at the Mantralaya in Mumbai; at the MPCB regional office in Pune (as it gives environmental clearances), and at the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) regional office in Pune (as it allocates land). Just a week before, Dow had released full-page advertisements in most English and Marathi dailies, stating that its plant here is a purely Research and Development Centre, that it would enhance social environment and give jobs to 600 odd scientists.

The documents procured under Section 4, revealed otherwise. The MPCB documents showed that it had been given permission to set up a 'manufacturing' unit and not just an R&D centre; Dow mentioned a list of 60-70 chemicals which it would use for the sake of 'research', of which more than 20 were hazardous under Schedule I of the Environment Protection Act. Despite the use of these chemicals, no environmental clearance certificates had been sought from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and no thorough questions were asked on how safely the company would dispose off the effluents.

Also, documents revealed that MPCB had flouted its own River Regulation Policy wherein no chemical plant is permitted within 2km of major rivers of Maharashtra. In this case it was the Indrayani River-its major tributary, the Shuda River, flowed past the chemical plant site at a distance of only 1.3 km. Another document revealed that the company had cut 14,800 trees on the site. Worst, another document showed that the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), the premier government laboratory of India, had given a clean chit to the MNC on the basis of a four-page amateurish 'essay' written by Dow (no detailed project report was available).

Armed with these ground realities, I disseminated the information to the activists and villagers, besides holding a press conference, and telling them that this was the ammunition that they should use to question the authorities. The chronology of events that followed is a huge story in itself, suffice to say that it metamorphosed into a state-wide agitation (as the Indrayani River is close to the heart of the 'Warkaris'. (Warkaris are a vast rural community in Maharashtra, devoted to Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur and Alandi, from where the Indrayani River runs. It is also the starting point of the 250 km walk for more than 10 lakh Wakaris, on their pilgrimage across the state.)

The intensity of the agitation compelled the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to make an SOS call from London to ask Dow to stall construction. To cut a long story short, some three-four months ago, Dow issued an official statement saying that due to local pressure it was withdrawing from the site and returning the land to the government.

So, what did Section 4 do in this case? It was not the work, or magic wand of a journalist, but the provision in the RTI Act helped to bring the real details of the project to the fore, helping those directly affected by it to get an insight into the real facts and act. Until then, though the activists and villagers were knocking at the door of the collector's office, asking what kind of plant was under construction in their village, they did not get answers.

Citizen participation in good governance has to be two-pronged: First, to gather authentic information that can be used as a potent tool to enable you to fight for your rights or against any injustice. And second, to participate, that is become pro-active, in any issue that concerns citizens, like the villagers did.

Case II: How a 60ft road was to cut through a heritage botanical garden

Most of the times, even neighbourhood issues can be sorted out by procuring information through Section 4 of the RTI Act.

In this respect, sometime in 2009, a reader called up to say that during his morning walk that day, he heard that a road was going to be constructed through the heritage botanical garden near the University of Pune. I asked a colleague to conduct an inspection of files in the appropriate department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The young bureau chief, Partha Sarathi Biswas, procured documents which showed that the municipal commissioner had gone out of his way-at the behest of a couple of councilors-to inscribe a road through the botanical garden (we procured the map which showed this) with his pen.

A municipal commissioner does have certain powers to make such modifications, but not without undertaking a public consultation and without assessing the real need for it, as a bridge just a few metres away from the garden was already doing the job (of connecting the PMC with the PCMC, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, which was the objective of the new road too). Besides publishing the contents of the documents in our publication, we also sent a letter to the municipal commissioner. Residents of the area also signed a signature petition. Not that the road has been cancelled from the development plan, but at least it has not been budgeted for two consecutive years thereafter.

Next week: How to write a letter demanding inspection of files under Section 4 to the concerned authority.)

The writer is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan.




6 years ago

"Worst, another document showed that the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), the premier government laboratory of India, had given a clean chit to the MNC on the basis of a four-page amateurish 'essay' written by Dow (no detailed project report was available)"
What's the accountability of the NCL? In another country, some heads would have rolled. Instead, here they probably busy looking for more such "clean chits" to give.

Nagesh KiniFCA

6 years ago

Vinita has rightly highlighted the effective use of RTI Act to obtain relevant information.
From experience I can say seeking inspection of original documents and records derives better results vs.asking for written information. Those to whom the query is addressed welcome querists inspecting and collecting copies of relevant pages after paying for xerox charges. Their response is faster and less irksome.


6 years ago

Thanks for sharing this insightful experience. Its our moral duty as citizens to be aware & concerned about our environment. Infact i have always wondered why the Government does not publish the list of projects with its objective & time-frame for completion. Delays must also be accounted for as ultimately its the citizens who bear the brunt of such projects.


6 years ago

Great stuff, thanks, and more power to your keyboard!!!

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