Right to Information
MPs Baijayant Panda, Ajoy Kumar, Dinesh Trivedi & Omar Abdullah oppose RTI amendments; seek public consultation

Today, perhaps, political parties will move the bill to be passed in the Parliament, to invalidate the June 2013 order of the Central Information Commission, which declared six national political parties as ‘public authorities’ under the RTI Act. Hear some sane voices from the political fraternity

The din in the Parliament has compelled procrastination of the Bill to amend the Right to information (RTI) Act, 2005 and also to move it immediately to pass it. This would ensure that political parties are not under the ambit of the RTI Act. This bill, which was listed as item no5 for 3rd September will probably see the light of the day today.

 

While leading RTI activists and members of RTI organizations are fighting tooth and nail through written appeals and protests, it comes as a pleasant surprise, that, several members of Parliament (MPs) are also as disgusted with their seniors as citizens across the country.  It is only fair that we take note of their stance, for the strengthening of the RTI Act and for the benefit of citizens at large. Instead of passing the bill in the Parliament they, like activists and citizens are appealing to the Lok Sabha speaker to send the bill to the Standing Committee, which will facilitate public consultation. Also, one of them, has succeeded in convincing some senior leaders of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

Baijayant Panda, is a MP from Kendrapara in Odisha from the Biju Janata Dal (BJU) and is active on the social media. His post in his Facebook account, on 29th August read: “My amendment opposing political parties' exclusion from RTI was not admitted in the Lok Sabha (on a technical ground). So I am filing fresh ones, including the one that says only those political parties with *no* seats in parliament or assembly should be excluded.’’

 

On 2nd September, he posted another message on Facebook: “The battle for RTI has been building up, and tomorrow is high noon in the Lok Sabha! Want to make a difference? NOW is the time. For the past couple of weeks, I have been working with many activists' and citizens'.

 

“My initial letter to the Hon'ble Speaker to refer it to a Standing Committee (where public can also contribute suggestions) was turned down; but subsequently, all the combined efforts started yielding results, and two other MPs (Ajoy Kumar and Dinesh Trivedi) also took a stand, writing to the Speaker on the same lines.

 

“Today, we had the additional gratification of having Sushma Swaraj, Gurudas Dasgupta, and some other leaders also join in making the same demand. Separately, Arun Jaitley is rumoured to have told his party that this proposed amendment is unconstitutional. Even some MPs from United Progressive Alliance (UPA) are reportedly concerned. However, not all parties are on board, and it is likely that the RTI amendment will be taken up in the House tomorrow and passed. The crucial difference, why the government can be so brazen about this, is: HOW MANY OF THE MPs/PARTIES WILL ACTUALLY VOTE AGAINST THE GOVT on the floor of the house? I certainly will, and in fact will demand a division (voting) so that a record remains of who actually stood up when it mattered. I still have a hope, even if somewhat faint, that IF ENOUGH OF YOU PITCH IN NOW and contact MPs thru social media and phone, tomorrow could, just possibly, see the tables being turned...’’

 

Ajoy Kumar, the Lok Sabha MP from Jamshedpur of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVP) party, has written a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to refer the bill to a Standing Committee. The letter states: “The RTI Act is a fundamental citizens' right and has empowered citizens across the country to access information and demand accountability from the government… As you may be aware, there has been widespread public agitation against the RTI amendments. There is also an apprehension among people that the whole political class is coming together to prevent transparency in the political process.  Therefore, as we deliberate amendments to this landmark legislation, it is critical that we have detailed debate on it. We must provide common citizens a chance to present their views on the Amendment Bill by referring it to a Standing Committee. Ensuring public consultation on the Bill will help reduce the chasm between people and political parties and will help restore peoples’ faith in parliamentary democracy.’’

 

In addition, Panda has also written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, stating, “With respect to the merit of including political parties under the ambit of RTI, I am personally of the opinion that the correct constitutional body for this should be the Election Commission, whose powers need to be enhanced to enforce political transparency, particularly with regard to funding and expenditure. This ought to be further augmented by mandatory auditing of the accounts furnished to the EC by political parties. However, until and unless these are legislated and enacted, it would be wrong to pass the proposed amendment to RTI, particularly in the face of widespread public criticism.”

 

“Several commentators have claimed certain infirmities with political parties being covered by RTI, while others have pointed to similar provisions already passed by our House in the Lok Pal bill. However, the best way to deal with this is to refer the matter to the appropriate standing committee for detailed deliberations, followed by a thorough discussion in the House.’’

 

According to media reports, Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, in his valedictory speech at the eighth convention of the Central Information Commission, stated that if political parties are availing income tax exemption, they should be accountable to the public.

 

According to reports, Omar stated that he does not see any problem in sharing records of day-to-day functioning of political parties with people. "At the end of the day, nobody can force us to collect information that we don't ordinarily collect or that we don't ordinarily use in our day-to-day operations. As a political party, if there are records that I keep about functioning of my political party, then those records should be made available to the people. And if I don't keep those records, then I can't be forced.’’ 

 

Venkatesh Nayak, an agitated scholar-activist says, “Unlike the past couple of weeks, this Bill was at the bottom of the agenda and could not be taken up due to delay or disruption of House proceedings; this time it has been placed high up on the list indicating the urgency with which the Government supported by most political parties wants to pass this Bill.”

 

Similarly, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs announced Friday last that the RTI (Amendment) Bill will be taken up for consideration and passing in the Rajya Sabha this week. His statement is available in the uncorrected version of the RS debates available at: http://164.100.47.5/newdebate/229/30082013/12.00NoonTo13.00pm.pdf

 

Lets wait and watch today, whether political parties show their true or false colours!

 

(Tomorrow: 40 countries where electoral laws compel them to pro-actively publish information about their finances)

 

(Vinita Deshmukh is the 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

nagesh kini

4 years ago

Thank God for India, we have a few rational and right thinking MPs like Panda, Dinesh Trivedi & Co to keep our democracy live and kicking. it is the old foggy 'chor company' nextwork that wants to keep matters under the wraps. this unconstitutional amendment and another one on keeping out criminals should under no circumstances allowed to go through. no way!

nagesh kini

4 years ago

Thank God for India, we have a few rational and right thinking MPs like Panda, Dinesh Trivedi & Co to keep our democracy live and kicking. it is the old foggy 'chor company' nextwork that wants to keep matters under the wraps. this unconstitutional amendment and another one on keeping out criminals should under no circumstances allowed to go through. no way!

Veeresh Malik

4 years ago

Interim, many of you will be glad to know that online submission and payment of RTI Applications is functioning very well, and support as well as responses are also faster than when submitted in hard copy.

More details can be seen here:-

https://rtionline.gov.in/index.php

What Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of RBI, needs to do

The new governor of RBI, who rose to fame when he predicted the US crisis, has a lot of work to do in cleaning up the economic mess in India.  Here is a list of things that Raghuram Rajan must do now to restore stability in the Indian economy

Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), faces challenges of enormous proportions. The RBI has been criticised like never before. Many experts believe that the Central Bank is primarily responsible for the ongoing economic woes in India. It all started with the overzealous approach of the previous governor, D Subbarao, to control inflation. Thirteen consecutive repo rate hikes killed the ability of economy to grow, while it failed to control inflation as well. The fascination of controlling wholesale price index (WPI) has not worked at all, as the entire country continues to reel under the negative impact of inflation. As if all this was not enough, the recent crisis of the depreciating rupee has exposed the hollowness of RBI measures. The new governor brings lots of hope and expectation. Here are some of the key challenges that the new governor needs to manage:

Trilemma of managing growth, inflation and currency: India's economy is at the crossroads-growth is slowing down, fear of double-digit inflation looms large with crude prices going up. The worst part is that the rupee is on a free fall. There are very few RBI governors in the past, which have faced this unique scenario called as trilemma, in which inflation along with currency needs management of enormous proportion without throttling down growth further. It is an open secret that the Indian economy can ill-afford to have 4.4% GDP growth (the last quarter GDP growth) on a long-term basis. This is far from the projected growth of 8%-9% visualized in 12th plan document.

So what is the solution?

The solution lies in propelling economic growth by attracting foreign investment and also ensuring that domestic growth picks up. In order to ensure that growth picks up, one key trigger is the cost of capital, which impacts investment environment.

Should RBI go ahead and cut the rate of interest by lowering the repo rate? This is the biggest dilemma. While RBI has recently taken measures to suck liquidity out of the economy to protect the fall in the rupee, any reversal of this can adversely impact the currency which is struggling to stay below Rs70 per dollar levels. But the growth cannot be achieved unless the liquidity is eased. In addition, inflation may go up further, if the interest rate is brought down. It has been seen in the past that monetary policy measures do not work in controlling inflation, as there are several supply side constraints.

In order to overcome this challenge on an immediate basis, there is very little that RBI can do alone. It needs to work in tandem with the government to ensure that measures are taken to attract foreign investment. This will be the first step in stabilising the currency. This is easier said than done. However, measures to attract foreign investment can be achieved by easing foreign direct investment norms. While this may take time, issuing sovereign bonds would help. As India needs dollars to flow into the economy to stabilise the rupee.

Customer focus of RBI: RBI as a Central Bank is not very customer friendly. Customers of banking services in India have to very often resort to legal measures to get justice. There are frequent cases of banks cheating investors and mis-selling products to the customers. The banking ombudsman, who was supposed to be the protector of customer's interest, works on dotted lines. Mangelal Sharma's case taken up by Moneylife is a case to justify the dotted line-approach of the banking ombudsman. There is a sense of helplessness amongst customers when they face any banking issue. Moneylife has taken up many issues on behalf of banking customers, which should have been ideally tackled by the regulator. The RBI looks completely understaffed to take care of customer's interest. The new governor needs to have a look at this.

Stringent mechanism to handle money-laundering cases: The Indian banking system is ill equipped to handle cases of money laundering. The regulator has been in 'denial mode' when it comes to widespread money laundering in the Indian banking system. Thanks to Cobrapost, the cases of money laundering were identified in many banks and RBI penalized 22 banks. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Indian banking system lacks adequate controls to check money laundered by politically exposed persons, through correspondent banking system and transfer of funds to tax havens. The know your customer (KYC) mechanism is based on the 'tick box' approach and lacks comprehensiveness to identify cases of money laundering. This is a serious issue, which deserves the attention of the regulator.

The new governor needs to have 'out of the box' thinking to manage macro economic variables at least till the time elections are held. It is very unlikely that the government will initiate changes that can turn the tide. However, the new governor needs to initiate measures to bring back Indian economy on track. It looks very difficult, but that is where the abilities of a suave, unflappable University of Chicago economist, Raghuram Rajan, will be tested.
 

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COMMENTS

nagesh kini

4 years ago

In times of utter multiple crisis situation, in Raghuram Rajan India expects RBI to put on a much better out of the box act by adopt more aam janaata friendly proactive actions away from babudom.

Vinay Isloorkar

4 years ago

4.9.13

I am reminded of a ribald joke which runs something like this: What did the gonads say to the Phallus ? For your crimes we hang !

Making Subba. Rao the fall guy for the profligacy and irresponsible and cheap populism of the government has to be rubbished. The Current Account Deficit is a child fathered by the Finance Minister, roughly CFO of the country.

Forget welcoming FDI. We must seriously consider if FDI has become a monster that contributes to volatility far beyond its perceived benefits.

Globalisation has turned out to be a sellout for the country. Let us snub FDI for a change. The blokes will stand in queue to tap this rich market. We need to delink from the outside world and go into our coccoon for sometime.

Dayananda Kamath k

4 years ago

it is rbi as well as govt which have destroyed the economy based on borrowed fund forex reserve maintained by india. i suggest the governor to go through various correspondance i have made with governor of reserve bank of india since 2003. it clearly shows how rbi has abdicated its responsiblity as a regulator.'is rbi the sponsoror of all financial scams in india' in captioned letter i have menetioned how rbi is responible for the scams.

MG Warrier

4 years ago

Copied below is an excerpt from my article on new RBI Governor published in Global ANALYST(September, 2013):
"Dr Rajan, as is evident from his academic and professional record, is a fast learner and capable of finding solutions to the toughest of economic and monetary problems. His challenges lie in (a) how fast he will be able to ‘unlearn’ the IMF lessons which were modeled with prosperity of the developed world in view and (b) how quickly he will get convinced about the historic dual responsibility of RBI to ensure distributive justice while supporting economic growth and reframe his arguments to convince North Block that after all RBI has been on the right path and what the central bank lacked was the support from GOI."

ramchandran

4 years ago

The new incumbent needs to take decisions. The environment where he predicted the crisis was completely different.Also past performance is just an indicator.His abiity to influence the government is key. We must keep our fingers crossed & not speculate !!

pravsemilo

4 years ago

I doubt if we are being too optimistic. To me it is more about setting up a FM friendly governor.

We have been bitten once by casting many hopes on recently elected young CM. There was a lot of buzz about his age, upbringing etc etc, but eventually he turned out to be of the same kind. Like father like son.

More the hype, more we are disappointed. Take the case of US President itself for example.

NSE wants brokers to collect upfront margins to shift the blame for flash crash last year

While NSE want brokers to collect upfront margins from investors to avoid a flash crash like 5th October 2012, why is Sebi going soft on NSE for a obvious systemic failure on that day?

On 5th October 2012, the Nifty crashed by over 900 points when a dealer for stockbroker Emkay Global punched a wrong order. While National Stock Exchange (NSE) quickly blamed Emkay for the crash, but has not bothered to explain why its market-wide circuit filters failed to work. And now, NSE is seeking approval from the market regulator for its proposal under which brokers will have to collect margin money upfront from investors for trading in shares or the cash segment, similar to futures and options (F&O) trading.

 

At present, Exchanges collects upfront margins from brokers, but brokers do not ask clients for money in advance in the cash segment. In short, brokers are funding the clients, who settle the trades on next day using the ‘T+1’ settlement. The NSE move follows a show cause notice issued by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), after the 5 October 2012 flash crash.

 

NSE blamed 'abnormal' orders, worth $126 million, placed by the stockbroker in multiple trades of various stocks at low prices, for the crash. NSE claimed there were no technical glitches in its system and the crash was due to 'erroneous' trade orders worth over Rs650 crore by Emkay, which was disabled by the bourse for trading.

 

According to a report from Business Standard, in the notice (to SEBI), NSE had said mandating upfront margins even in the cash segment would have prevented the flash crash in October 2012. This is incorrect and an attempt to shift the blame.

 

Even if Emkay Global had collected 150% margin and then punched a wrong order, would the results be any different? NSE has continued to blame Emkay for the crash, but has still not bothered to explain why its market-wide circuit filters failed to work. Brokers are increasingly getting angrier at being held responsible for all technology problems and want a fair and open investigation.

 

In fact, when NSE index showed a sudden fall of nearly 900 points or over 15% within seconds, triggering the circuit filter (maximum permissible limit of movement in the index) at 0950 hours on 5 October 2012, the Exchange was supposed to halt trading for an hour. This is as mandated by SEBI circular on circuit filters. However, without the halt, NSE resumed trading at 1005 hours. This by not following SEBI circular, NSE has violated the norms on circuit filters.

 

NSE informed SEBI that the decision to reopen the cash market after a halt of 10 minutes was taken by the Exchange as F&O markets and other markets were functioning normally and the fall was apparently on account of freak orders from a particular member.

 

Last year, in August, the chief technology officer of the NSE preposterously told Business Standard that the Exchange had ‘attained nirvana’ in technology by being able to put through transactions at the speed of light. This when the Exchange had already had serious issues in three consecutive months—March (ONGC), April (Nifty futures algorithmic trading) and May (derivatives snag) and a fourth bigger one was about to happen in October.

 

As Moneylife has already said, the NSE as well as the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) seem to have ignored every check prescribed by SEBI. Trading was not halted in both bourses and across market segments; but the regulator’s only reaction is to launch an investigation.

 

The NSE has always successfully evaded a close scrutiny of all technology issues for over a decade. In its initial years, especially under the leadership of the late Dr RH Patil, the NSE was seen as an extension of the regulator and the government system. Not any more. Today, the NSE is driven by profits, pay and perquisites of senior executives, which are tied to a desperate need to maintain market share.

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COMMENTS

sathyacumaran

4 years ago

sathya cumaran
operational head india
singapore media and channel group

this margin concept of stock broker is cheating even when the client opt out of this margin funding the broker desist from this concept and they lure the investors and cheat them and as such margin trading should be strictly controlled for which sebi nse bse never have intention to control infact they have formed an cartel and innocent investors is left in throught as such in india we donot have any protection for indian investors and it lies with the unscrupulous broking community and this is the ptiable status for this instead of spendig govt exchequer by establishing sebi nse bse these institution could be wounded and leave the market to broker even now the same status instead govt expenditure could be curtailed and this amount could be used for some welfare scheme instead paying hefty salary to staff of these unscrupulous govt servant is our surmise

sathyacumaran

4 years ago

sathyacumaran

noramlly the stock brokers cheat their customer with existing position of stocks they have they lure the investor by margin funding for which they cahrge upto 21% of interest and apart from this even if the client had not opted for this margin funding the brokers never divulge whether they have been removed from margin funding is not disclosed and as such there is again shady transaction going on but the sebi and nse bse are well aware of this fraud but they party to it but they say investor protection which is not so they proctector for fraudlent stock broker and as such investing and trading in stock market that to country like india where corruption in all walks of life even the govt organisations like sebi nse bse where there is lacking honesty integrity and dependability which our sole concern but with the present UPA II govt everything is lost is the pitable case and even justice is denied and officials of sebi and nse bse are highly corrupt is surmise we can say not single officer above corruption only GOD has to Punish and restore justice even if we take the case to supreme court the supreme court judges are threatened by these unscrupulous brokers and even the officials of sebi and nse bse inorder to save their skin they put the blame on others and as such there is totally collapse of justice and morale everythig is lost

REPLY

Vaibhav Dhoka

In Reply to sathyacumaran 4 years ago

SEBI,NSE,BSE has formed cartel to dupe investors and help Brokers.And you have correctly mentioned Justice system is near collapsed.

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