Citizens' Issues
No need to lose sleep over Lokpal. We shall overcome through RTI!

My confidence in the existing parliamentary and judicial process has been shaken badly by the recent events in the campaign against corruption

That the government had to succumb—after innumerable flip-flops-to the common citizenry, led by a small battle-scarred fauzi, who hails from Ralegan Siddhi in rural Maharashtra, speaks volumes about the aam admi's frustration and anger over the corruption and arrogance he suffers. It may be the hard-earned money he is compelled to shell out to obtain a birth or a death certificate, a domicile proof, ration card, electric connection, driving licence or passport. Or in the villages it may be the 7/12 extract of the land record, or a change of land use, sanction for a well. The list is endless. It will not be too long before millions of tired middle-class Indians hit the streets once again, seeking a change for the better, with some concrete solutions to end bribery, stop rising prices and injustice.

The Indian people have tasted success in their first major fight. The young and the old, students and workers, flat owners or shanty dwellers, they came out in thousands. Not just the men, even women and children; announced their struggle at the Marina in Chennai, Bengaluru's Freedom Park, on Mumbai's Azad Maidan, even at schools and on street corners in towns and villages, in response to the call from the Ram Lila.

The people have come to realize that it is well within their rights to take on the hitherto uncontrolled autocracy of the executive at the Centre and in the states—the netas and babus from parliament, to the state legislatures, municipalities and panchayats, perhaps even sections of the judiciary and the media which can be manipulated.

No, the Lokpal is not a magic wand that will put an end to corruption and corrupt practices overnight. There is a far more effective Bhram Astra or Rambaan that came into existence in 2005, the Right To Information Act (RTI). This useful tool is an effective and potent weapon that has worked wonders in pulling out that skeletons of corruption out of the cupboard-the 2G call, the Common Wealth shame, or Adarsh disgrace.
Today, the common citizen who seeks information, does not have to hire a legal luminary or expert to help him get it. Focused, crisp applications can receive appropriate responses within 30 days. But an applicant choosing to sleep over the information thus secured can make it a wasteful exercise. It is imperative that the information available is utilised to pursue the matter to the source; this is the first step in the fight against corruption.

The citizen's battle against corruption begins from a simple RTI query

Let me explain the reasons for my belief in the simple RTI rather than the Lokpal, as my faith in the existing parliamentary, governmental and judicial process has been shaken considerably recently.

The Lokpal bill has seen eight avatars. It was first introduced in the Lok Sabha by the government of Indira Gandhi on 7 May 1968 and passed on 20 August 1969, but before it could be ratified by the Rajya Sabha, the Congress Party split and this resulted in the dissolution of parliament. Subsequently, the bill was introduced by the Congress four times and the Bharatiya Janata Party twice. All the governments that proposed the bill seemed to have been jinxed and collapsed before completing their terms.

What I cannot understand is why the government and parliament in their wisdom, did not consider bringing the bill before the Rajya Sabha, which is a permanent body that never lapses or expires, as its members change periodically.  And now Rahul Gandhi, in an out-of-turn Zero Hour intervention is calling to convert the Lokpal into a constitutional authority, which will be an even more lengthy process that will require the concurrence and two-thirds sanction of a score of state assemblies that is nothing short of shooting the bill down yet again.

Post Anna Hazare's hunger protest, for the first time in parliamentary history, the government was forced to set up a Joint Lokpal Drafting Committee constituted of some high-profile cabinet ministers and down-to-earth members of civil society. There are provisions to fasttrack the process to enact the Lokpal Act, even bypassing the parliamentary standing committee. One of these is to convene a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, to allow members to debate the proposal in threadbare without the enforcement of party whip.

There will be enough time in the Winter Session this year. But it must also be debated in public and objections and suggestions must be sought from the people at large. In September last year, parliament apparently rushed through 17 bills in a few minutes, including an amendment to dilute the Prevention of Corruption Act!  Come what may, the Lokpal Bill must be enacted into law this Winter Session and a Lokpal appointed to office by 26th January 2012. No two opinions!  

The executive, that is the government, is next. Today, the hitherto respected prime minister is himself under a cloud of distrust for continuing to lead a bunch of ministers, some of whom are not only corrupt, but have even accused him of corruption. And still we read about the declaration of assets by some cabinet members which must be taken with a bucket of salt. Why does a former Maharashtra chief minister and now union minister not figure in the list of people disclosing their wealth? And should not the people know exactly how much, if any, income-tax each minister is actually paying?  Some years ago there was the case of a very senior cabinet minister (who aspired to become prime minister) conveniently forgetting to pay taxes for ten long years. Unfortunately there was not RTI Act then to help fish out the information.

The stock replies from the prime minister these days is that a lot of the mess we are witnessing is due to the 'compulsions of coalition dharma', obviously implying that allies like the National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Trinamool Congress are holding him to ransom, or that there is 'no magic wand' to deal with corruption and to bring back black money, both response devoid of logic and lacking in conviction. It is a sad statement of affairs that he has not been able to step in even mildly to bring any debate to an honest and meaningful conclusion. The latest is the collapse of the sports bill criticized by heavyweights with conflicting interests.

It may be relevant to point out that Dr Manmohan Singh is perhaps the only unelected prime minister (he is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam) and that he chose not to cast his vote in a general election and instead set off on a visit to China on the day of the Assam assembly elections. So much for respect for the democratic process from the head of the government.

The prime minister is increasingly seen to be presiding over a motley group of ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ministers in his union cabinet. He chose to ignore the warning by the then sports minister on the Commonwealth Games, and is today posturing about applications to Swiss bankers to retrieve black money stashed there. The United States has managed to get the Swiss to disclose the names of 4,550 individuals and foundations; the United Kingdom, France and Germany have also struck deals with the Swiss authorities to tax their citizens who might park money there, while our government is still dilly-dallying on the extradition of a 26/11 accused from the US.

Now, by allowing his ministers to defend the indefensible, through verbal gymnastics or the use of dirty tricks like the threat of a CBI inquiry or parliamentary privileges, the prime minister has forfeited the confidence of the nation, and is largely seen as a weak leader who is not capable of dealing with some equally serious situations like the rise in food prices; a far cry from the earlier image of an outstanding economist, a man of integrity, not given to verbosity, amiable  and free of arrogance.

It is time to shout the warning by Oliver Cromwell, from 20th April 1653 at the Rump Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."  It is time for UPA2 to seek the peoples' vote of confidence through a mid-term election, at the earliest.

(The writer is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant and activist.)



Ajay Chaudhry

5 years ago

All the genuine anti-corruption crusaders should take the following pledge to set an example for others to follow: 1. I will not give and take bribes to further my interests 2. Will pay all taxes and duties honestly 3. will declare my black money and hidden assets & 4. will offer my past tax returns for compulsary scrutiny.

Its very easy to criticize Govt./Govt. servants but it needs real guts to start from self. Let Anna make this pledge compulsary for his followers; u will need Candle to find even few of them. All filmstars, businessmen, traders, Doctors, jewellers, lawyers, CAs would disappear in no time. Even u mention this in ur future articles and c the response. V r hypocrats of the highest order.Always findng faults in others, System etc etc but wont change a bit, ourselves.
Ajay Chaudhry


5 years ago

A well written commentry on the present day, on going fight against corruption.Thank you Mr.Kini.

Rajan alexander

5 years ago

Why Ford Foundation's Footprint will continue to haunt the Anna Team

Ford Foundation pumped in nearly $28 million or on average of $ 7 million per year to over 90 organizations within the country during the period 2007-2011. Average ticket size of these grants was $ 304,677 or around Rs 1.4 crores per grantee.

NGO authority flows from public perception that NGOs are legitimate—that they somehow do represent the muffled masses, that their motives are good, and that they sacrifice their own comfort to help others. Now if the public has to resort to RTI to elicit information from Kabir a NGO who was one of the leading NGOs driving the Anna agitation; the legitimacy of an anti-corruption movement starts taking a hit!

Ford Foundation is no ordinary donor. Its link with the CIA is well documented, including information taken from sources from its own archives. For NGOs to accept Ford Foundation grants and avoid the perceived image of CIA agents, then NGOs should go beyond statutory requirements of disclosures. They should voluntarily and pro-actively adopt full disclosure standards that reveal all pertinent information to the accounts statement. This abject failure is probably why Anna NGOs are unable to shrug off their image as foreign agents and the image of their anti-corruption agitation as one bankrolled by Ford Foundation!

Read more:


nagesh kini

In Reply to Rajan alexander 4 years ago

Whoever said the NGOs are Holy Cows that ought to be worshipped?
A Report by GOI appointed CAPHART states that a large majority of the NGOs are bogus, floated only to collect grants that end in someone's pockets. Substantial part of the income instead of being spent on its aims go for executive class travel and five star stays for 'workshops' and seminars.
Why only Ford Foundation, there are Rockefellar, Clinton, Bill & Melinda Foundations too.
After the State, the NGO or Not-for-Profit sector is said to be the next biggest employment generator.
The present dual controls of Ministry of Home with the FCRA and Finance are no effective Regulators for this vast sector with international ramifications.

MK Gupta

In Reply to nagesh kini 4 years ago

Thank you, Mr. Kini for making this statement which I think a few others (including some ex-IRS people) have been making. Most of the NGOs are private initiatives of the powerful and successful people, for gaining more access to the power lobbies and furthering the private interests of the people "controlling" and running these "closely held" outfits. For them, obtaining IT exemptions/benefits of ss. 80G/35CCA or 35AC, FCRA, etc., is just a child's play as most of these NGOs are "floated"and run by influential professors of prestigious colleges (in search of foreign assignments of lecture tiurs at will), spouses/children of highly placed civil servants, business magnates or their fronts, apart from the political persons to route their illegal collections and siphon the proceeds of "public" donations and govt. grants. This has been institutionalised further by the association with these high profile NGOs of high ranking civil servants (both ex- and serving), journalists, ad (media) world personalities and the like and, above all, Godmen of various kinds. All this is extremely paying, in every respect. And, in return, the children of the families running these fashionable NGOs can sojourn abroad at will at the cost of the NGOs in the name of doing social work furthering the objects of the NGOs! Of course, rations are distributed among the poor people with a lot of publicity while many NGOs also shelter some very undesirable people with notorious past too. In India, everything goes. The low profile charitable societies beg for donations in their back-to-the-wall efforts to serve the poorest in the remote corners of the counytry while the globe trotting high profile NGO-runners get all the mileage and govt. funding!

Rajan Alexander

In Reply to MK Gupta 4 years ago

@MK Agree with all your observations. The high profile and the award winning NGOs are usually those who perhaps were committed in the past but lost their way as they grew big and gained public recognition. It is at this stage, they lobby to get awards.

Ironically, it is when NGOs are small, struggling and unrecognized that they usually show most commitment.

NGOs demand transparency and accountability from the govt but do not serve themselves as examples. If at all,NGOs are usually only accountable to their donors.

All said and done, by and large, NGOs do some very useful work. Like any other part of society, we are human and have an equal amount of black sheep but not anything more than other part of humanity.

Infinite Solution shares continue to sag, despite share buyback

The stock has lost more than 50% of its value since the company announced a share buyback in April. This shows a serious crisis of confidence among investors

Infinite Computer Solutions (India), which has launched a share buyback amounting Rs27 crore, continues to languish on the market, accentuating the concerns of investors.

The Infinite stock lost more than 60% from Rs186 on 13th April, when the company announced the buyback, to 30th August, when it closed at Rs Rs71.65 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

Infinite went public in January last year. But on 11 April this year, the board of directors suddenly decided to buyback 9.9% of its equity at a price not exceeding Rs230 a share. This ignited concerns among shareholders and precipitated the fall in the share value. (Read, 'Infinite Computer's share buyback after 16 months of IPO raises several questions'.)

Last week, the company informed the NSE that till 26th August it had bought back a little over 9.82 lakh shares for Rs12.36 crore, completing about 45% of the buyback amount planned.

In the past two trading sessions-on Friday and Monday-the stock has gained over 20% even while the broader market has slipped. In the morning session today, it continued to move up, to a little over Rs91.

Market sources tell us that despite the short speculative rally, this stock will be unable to attract the interest of genuine investors.

In its response to the Moneylife article mid-June, the company said that the only reason it had undertaken the buyback was that it felt its shares were highly undervalued, given the prospects, and that was the only reason. Apparently, investors don't yet agree on this. The stock has badly sagged even after the so-called buy back scheme has been well underway.

In the quarter ended June 2011, Infinite's consolidated revenues stood at Rs262.30 crore, a 5.8% growth, q-o-q, operating profit grew by 4.9% to Rs44.7 crore, but net profit (after tax) was stagnant Rs29.90 crore.




5 years ago

In your june article on this company, you had mentioned net profit of Rs7.24crore. Now you mention net profit of Rs29.90crore. Why do you call it stagnant?

Tata Docomo: Simple and nice

The campaign is single-minded, the creative takes the correct leap, and gets the message across through simple stories. All in all, good work 

Tata Docomo no longer wishes to 'keep things simple, silly'. And that's a relief. Hope that marks the death of those horrendous 'talk shows' conducted by actor Ranbir Kapoor. An idea that was actually cool in theory but got murdered by some really stupid scripts.
But Tata Docomo is here to stay and there's no getting away from it. They have launched a brand new ad campaign titled just that: 'No Getting Away'. Indicating a powerful mobile phone signal. And there are quite a few commercials on air.

In one commercial, an SUV is seen rocking hard inside an underground parking lot. Clearly, a couple is enjoying some great sex therein. (Sadly, you don't get to watch the action!) Suddenly, 'anti climax' happens; the shocked male's phone goes off.

In another ad, a dude is seen crapping inside the airport toilet. And his phone, placed in his trouser hung by the door, starts vibrating and the phone falls down. One ad features a suspicious dad. He is worried his daughter talks on the phone late into the night. The beti conceals the phone inside the cupboard, but it's of no use. The thing goes off.

The last one I watched is the cutest. A maid, while cleaning the house, finds a cell phone. Because no one's watching, she grabs it and hides it inside her blouse. But the memsaab, who arrives on the scene, nabs her after the phone starts buzzing inside the blouse. By the way, a maid did scoot off with my phone last year. Maybe I should have checked you-know-where!

I like this campaign for three reasons. One, the promise is single-minded. The Docomo signal is very strong. That it will help you stay connected wherever you might be. That keeps the communication relevant and crystal clear. Two, the creative takes the correct leap. The idea is to feature situations where you don't want the phone to work, but it does. This approach makes the ads funny, entertaining and irreverent. And hopefully, memorable. Finally, the commercials tell simple stories. So the cost of production must be very low, and therefore many such commercials can be produced ensuring freshness in the media.
All in all, good work. Full marks for the simplicity. This is what television advertising should be. And yes, let me also keep another thing simple for Tata Docomo: Now that you are on to a good thing, please immediately kill those rubbish Ranbir Kapoor talk shows.



ankeet sinha

5 years ago

One small thing.. in the ad of the suspicious dad, there is a guy hiding in the cupboard which when the ad opens you will notice the girl shuts the cupboard door. In spite of being hidden in the cupboard the phone goes off twice which he shuts of immediately but obviously gets caught. (Father must have beaten the shit out of him) as he was a hefty sardarji .. Please notice the ads carefully Anil before renewing them :)


5 years ago

The "maid in the house" ad is terrible. Very crude, and in bad taste, preying on social prejudices of weaker sections of society. Should be withdrawn with a public apology from Tata.


sucheta dalal

In Reply to BSO 5 years ago

I absolutely agree. As I mentioned to the writer yesterday, I also take serious objection to the stereotype of a marathi maid in a 9-yard sari. I challenge any ad agency to show me a marathi maid, under the age of 65 who dresses as depicted. But whether it is madhuri dixit as a maid selling cleaning products or a condom ad they haven't figured how how to depict domestic help. Pathetic advertising standards. Surely Tatas can do some homework before blowing up money.


5 years ago

The ads made me cringe -
1.) Tata Docomo's actual network coverage is rather weak, and I say this from my personal experience in Mumbai. I routinely get missed calls/ phone unreachable inside built up areas like malls. In the same places, other networks like Vodafone seem to work. It will help Tata Docomo's network coverage matched the ads!

2) Talking of Vodafone, they had the original version of this idea and executed it far better. Do you remember the 'hutch' pug ads? Wherever you go, Our network follows. Looks like Tata Docomo's is a poor copy.

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