RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggrawal suggests that services like of telephone, water, electricity, etc should be disconnected for non-payment of any single bill, like are done in case of normal citizens
Former and current parliamentarians like Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, C Silvera, Abhay Pratap Singh, Dalbar Sigh, Uma Bharti, Shashi Tharoor and many others have collectively failed to pay their electricity and water dues of more than Rs6.27 crore, to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), reveals the information sought under Right to Information (RTI). It also includes names of deceased members like Sunil Dutt and ABA Ghani Khan Choudhary, who defaulted for a whopping Rs42 lakh. While common citizen will be denied such services for non-payment of dues, the defaulting parliamentarians continue to enjoy the amenities.
Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggrawal filed an RTI application seeking details about the pending electricity and water dues of present and former parliamentarians including ministers and prime ministers. Mr Aggrawal also sought the details of the steps taken to recover these dues.
In the reply dated 6 March 2012, the NDMC revealed the names of former parliamentarians defaulting in making payments till October 2011. Members have pending dues in amounts of thousands and even lakhs, in some cases. For instance, Jai Narian Prasad Nishad defaulted has arrears of more than Rs13 lakh, Jagdish Tytler for around Rs4.83 lakh, Gurucharan Singh Dadahoor for Rs1.58 lakh, etc.
The list of defaulting members runs into 60 pages. It includes names like Shibu Soren, Madhav Rao Scindia, Margaret Alva, Oscar Fernandes, Prabhu Nath Singh, Raj Babbar and others. The list also contains names defaulting members for miniscule amounts. For instance Anwar Hussain defaulted for Rs57, Farooq Abdullah for Rs105, Kanimozhi for Rs26, etc. However, the RTI reply failed to provide answer on the steps taken to recover such dues.
Mr Aggrawal has filed a first appeal to seek complete information. “I have appealed to get complete and detailed information together with related and sought documents on steps taken to recover NDMC dues from former and present parliamentarians,” he said.
Moneylife had reported that the present and former parliamentarians have collectively failed to pay telephone dues of more than Rs7 crore, as revealed by Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) in reply to Mr Aggrawal’s RTI query. (http://www.moneylife.in/article/list-of-dues-from-parliamentarians-gets-longer/21610.html)
“Enquiry should be made why and how services were not disconnected on non-payment of any single bill like is done in case of normal consumers. Even now if present parliamentarians do not clear all their pending dues within a stipulated time-period of say three months, not only should recovery proceedings be initiated against them, but even their membership of parliament should be cancelled,” demands Mr Aggrawal.
He adds, “Services like of telephone, water, electricity etc should be disconnected for non-payment of any single bill, like are done in case of normal citizens. Likewise government accommodations should be forcibly vacated within one month of losing entitlement to retain these. In case of dues towards deceased parliamentarians, these should be recovered from such legal heirs who might have benefited from assets left by deceased parliamentarians.”
Earlier, another RTI response to Mr Aggrawal had revealed that the Speaker of Lok Sabha, who is in charge of looking after accommodation for Members of Parliament (MPs), has also almost Rs2 crore in unsettled dues for the bungalow which she has not handed over, even though the allocation has been cancelled. (http://moneylife.in/article/lok-sabha-speaker-owes-govt-rs2-crore-as-unpaid-rent/21589.html)
Nifty may reach the level of 5,165 and then at 5,115. A close any previous day’s high may signal a trend change
Snapping its three-day losing streak the market closed higher amid choppy trade. Consumer durables, banking and realty stock led the market higher in late trade. Although the Nifty saw gains today, it made lower high. In spite of the falling volumes the selling pressures on the bourses may continue. We may see the index reaching the level of 5,165 and then to 5,115. However, if any day the benchmark closes above the previous day’s high we may see the trend reversing. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a lower volume of 65.17 crore shares.
The market opened flat amid mixed cues from the Asian bourses on Chinese growth concerns. The Nifty opened unchanged at 5,257 and the Sensex rose 36 points to resume trade at 17,309. However, bargain hunting after the three-day decline saw the indices gaining momentum in early trade.
Investors engaged in bargain hunting after the three-day decline. The upmove resulted in the benchmarks hitting their intraday highs just the first hour. The Nifty touched 5,297 and the Sensex went up to 17,410 at their highs.
The market came off the highs and drifted lower on pressure in auto stocks. The indices were pushed into the negative in noon trade as selling became intense. The benchmarks fell to their day’s lows with the Nifty at 5,233 and the Sensex going back to 17,246.
An announcement that the government has approved State Bank of India’s (SBI) move to raise Rs7,900 crore through a preferential allotment, lifted the market in the post-noon session.
The market pared some of the gains amid a high degree of volatility but closed in the green, snapping its three-day losing streak. The Nifty gained 18 points to settle at 5,275 and the Sensex added 43 points to end the session at 17,316.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 791:885.
The broader indices witnessed a mixed close, as the BSE Mid-cap index gained 0.56% while the BSE Small-cap index shed 0.03%.
With the exception of the BSE Auto index (down 1.50%), all other sectoral gauges settled higher. BSE Consumer Durables (up 2.35%); BSE Realty (up 1.44%); BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 1.04%); BSE Healthcare (up 1.01%) and BSE Bankex (up 0.85%) were the top gainers.
The Sensex toppers were Sun Pharma (up 2.69%); HDFC Bank (up 2.08%); Jindal Steel (up 1.51%); DLF (up 1.37%) and Cipla (up 1.30%). The main losers were Tata Motors (down 4.21%); Coal India (down 2.31%); Hindalco Industries (down 1.74%); Bajaj Auto (down 1.24%) and Bharti Airtel (down 0.71%).
The Nifty was led by Jaiprakash Associates (up 4.05%); Punjab National Bank (up 3.51%); Bharat Petroleum Corporation (up 2.91%); Sun Pharma (up 2.62%) and Jindal Steel (up 1.62%). The laggards on the index were Tata Motors (down 4.07%); Coal India (down 2.55%); Hindalco Ind (down 2.37%); HCL Technologies (down 1.99%) and Bajaj Auto (down 1.51%).
Markets in Asia settled mostly lower as reports came in that China has raised gasoline (petrol) and diesel prices by 6%-7%, the biggest increase in 33 months and the second hike in a little over five weeks. The move raised fresh concerns about the growth in the world’s fastest growing economy. Nervousness ahead of the talks between the Italian government and unions on reforms also weighed down investor sentiments.
The Shanghai Composite tanked 1.38%; the Hang Seng declined 1.08%; the Jakarta Composite slipped 0.06%; the Seoul Composite fell by 0.24% and the Taiwan Weighted dropped 0.89%. On the other hand, the KLSE Composite gained 0.26% and the Straits Times rose 0.42%. The Japanese market was closed for trade today. At the time of writing, the key European indices were down nearly 1% and the US stock futures were in the negative.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs160.87 crore on Monday, whereas domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares amounting to Rs295.98 crore.
State-owned BHEL today said it has bagged a Rs630 crore contract from a private power company, Abhijeet Projects, for setting up a thermal plant at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The contract includes design, engineering, manufacture and commissioning of boilers, steam turbines and turbo-generators. The stock rose 0.81% to close at Rs262.25 on the NSE.
Tantia Constructions today said it has bagged a contract worth Rs31.40 crore from Kolkata-based South Eastern Railway for executing certain construction works on a section of Khana-Bowaichandi new line. The project work includes earth work in formation including blanketing, construction of minor bridges, level crossing, drains and other connected works. The stock tumbled 5.87% to settle at Rs42.50 on the NSE.
Engineering major Siemens today said it would seek shareholders’ nod next month for the merger of Siemens Power Engineering with itself. Under the share swap ratio for the proposed scheme of amalgamation, the shareholders will be offered six equity shares of a face value of Rs2 apiece of Siemens for every 13 equity shares of the face value of Rs10 per piece of Siemens Power Engineering. The stock advanced 0.37% to close at Rs777.75 on the NSE.
Dr Nishtha Desai, the director of Children’s Rights in Goa, was honoured for her work by Moneylife Foundation during its financial literacy seminar in Goa. She speaks to Moneylife about various issues of child rights in Goa, the laws governing it, her experience in working with CRG and the challenges it faces
Dr Nishtha Desai is the director of Children’s Rights in Goa (CRG), the first organisation in India to attempt and build a coordinated community response to tourism-related paedophilia. Apart from its active campaigning, the organisation conducts training and sensitization programmes for different sectors of society such as teachers, anganwadi workers, hotel staff and the Goa police and assists the police in investigating. It engages the tourism industry to develop a child-friendly tourism code. CRG was actively involved in the drafting of the legislation to combat paedophilia and child trafficking.
Dr Desai was honoured for her work by Moneylife Foundation during its first financial literacy seminar in Goa. In an interview with Alekh Angre of Moneylife, she talks about various issues of child rights in Goa, the laws governing it, her experience in working with CRG and the challenges it faces.
Moneylife (ML): You were working as full-time lecturer. What prompted you to start taking up the issue of tourism-related paedophilia?
Nishtha Desai (ND): The famous case of paedophile Freddy Peats who was arrested in 1991 and convicted five years later resulted in two contrary views. NGOs (non-government organisations) called it the “tip-of-the-iceberg”, while the government insisted that this was one case of an aberrant individual. I wanted to find out what the reality was and did a study, in 1999, on tourism-related child sex abuse. The study, See the Evil: A study on tourism related paedophilia (supported by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra—VAK— a Mumbai-based NGO) was conducted with the help of community workers. It examined the prevalence of tourism-related child sexual abuse and the modus operandi of travelling sex offenders. In 2000, I joined CRG. It was a part of VAK, which was already conducting awareness programmes on the issue of paedophilia and children’s rights, urging local communities to report suspicious incidents and follow-up on reported cases.
ML: What are the various activities of Children’s Rights in Goa?
ND: In 2001 we launched a campaign—‘STOP’ (Stop Tourism-related Paedophilia)—on the issue with the objective of building a co-ordinated community response against tourism-related child sexual exploitation. In 2003, we were involved in the drafting of the legislation, the Goa Children’s Act, addressing the issue of child sex abuse. It’s a good Act, with specific provisions to address the issue. CRG conducts advocacy for its implementation. We also conduct awareness building workshops in formal schools empowering students on their rights, how to resist abuse etc. We have a Child Activity Centre where children can come after school hours. This centre also conducts educational sessions. We assist in conducting awareness programmes with the village child committee, to strengthen the mechanism of child protection at all levels.
ML: Could you please throw some light on the Goa’s Children Act?
ND: Goa’s Children Act (GCA) is a first legislation in India that attempts to make the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children legally enforceable. It is a comprehensive law applicable to all children in Goa. It has sections on education, health, the girl child and differently-abled children as well as sections to address the issue of tourism-related child sex abuse and other crimes against children. All offences punishable under this Act are cognizable and non-bailable; (except those under Sections 3, 4, 5 pertaining to education, health and child rights which have a different redressal mechanism). We took an active role in the drafting of the Act, contributing mainly to the section on abuse. For instance, a boy child is not considered a victim of rape, although he may be raped and the case is dealt under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which is unnatural sex. We felt this had to change. Just like girls under the age of 16, in case of rape are considered as victim of statutory rape, we felt that boys also need to have same protection. Under the GCA, boys are viewed as victims of grave sexual assault.
Since the enactment of this Act, our major focus has been in creating awareness of the Act and its special provisions. In schools, we conduct sessions highlighting that the GCA talks about doing away with illiteracy and zero-rejection, which means no child can be denied admission in government/government-aided schools, on grounds of HIV, lack of documentation, etc. Incidentally, this was before the Right to Education (RTE) was enacted. Corporal punishment is also banned under the GCA.
We also emphasise that under the Act, the tourism industry and department is expected to adopt a child-friendly code. We conduct training in hotels on what the code is all about; who they can alert in case of suspicion and so on.
ML: Most of the time, paedophilia and tourism-related sex abuse are seen as issue for the children of migrants. Your views on this?
ND: Children of migrants may be more susceptible, but even Goan children are at risk. Many foreigners take accommodation in villages. They often call local children supposedly to teach them English, or to involve them in fun activities. It may happen more with children of the migrant community as they are under-supervised. But it holds true for Goan children, as well. (In the Freddy Peats case the children were mostly Goan.)
ML: What is the government’s stand as it earlier did not accept tourism-related paedophilia as an issue?
ND: A major outcome of the study and the campaign is the shift in the stand of the state. From an attitude of firm denial there is now state acknowledgement of the issue.
In 2001 CRG along with tourists conducted a signature campaign and submitted it to the then chief minister (CM), expressing their concern about the activities of paedophiles on the beaches of Goa. The CM organised a dialogue between the police and NGOs to discuss the issue and a possible solution to it. Police handouts kept at airport counters for incoming tourists carried a warning that sex with a child is considered a serious offence. The Goa Children’s Act, enacted in 2003, has specific provisions to address this issue. The tourism brochure brought out by the Directorate of Tourism stating that sex with a child is punishable under the Goa Children’s Act. The Goa University introduced “tourism-related paedophilia” as a subject under the sociology curriculum for the second year Bachelor of Arts (BA) course. This shows that academia also considers this a social problem.
ML: CRG works with all the stakeholders. How has been your experience with it?
ND: Overall it is a learning experience which helps us to evolve. Working with teachers, they tell us that they see students very sleepy in schools during the tourism season. They get expensive gifts from foreigners. We take these factors into account while conducting empowerment sessions for students in schools. A few hotels are receptive to the idea of adopting a child-friendly tourism code and have called us to conduct sessions for their hotel staff. People are also aware about the issue and report to us in case if they come across any suspicious activity. Police, when a case is registered, calls us or other NGOs to come to the police station to provide support to the child.
ML: You had in the past conducted sensitisation programmes for the Goa Police, considering the sensitivity of the issue of child sex abuse. Do you find any change in the way cases are handled now?
ND: There is certainly more awareness now. When a case is reported, police do call us for assistance. Working with some police officers, we find them really sensitive and understanding. But by and large the culture of policing needs to change. When we go as an NGO, we get good response. But ordinary people tell us their difficulties in approaching the police. The nature of policing has to change. Police themselves also have many issues like long working hours; they are away from their families. If they work in more humane conditions, their approach will also be more humane.
Moreover, a crime against any child requires to be seen as an offence that is taken seriously. Oftentimes dacoities or possession of drugs seem to be taken more seriously than a crime against a child.
ML: In cases where parents don’t want to register a complaint for various reasons like being unaware of the procedure or social stigma—how do you deal in such cases?
ND: In case they don’t want to register a case, we make them understand the importance of punishing the culprit. We also give moral support and counselling to the victim child. In some cases where parents were unwilling to lodge a complaint, we went ahead and complained on behalf of a child. In a few cases we concentrated on providing psycho-social support to the child. It depends on a case-to-case basis. There is no blanket solution for all cases.
ML: Over the years with intensive awareness drives, do you see any decline in the number of cases in tourism-related paedophilia?
ND: I don’t think there is a declining trend. But what we see is that people are lot more aware. It does not happen as openly as it used to in the coastal areas and beaches. We interact with tourists who tell us that they have friends who don’t want to be seen with children in case they are perceived as paedophiles. What we also see is the high prevalence of cases of child abuse within the community by family members, neighbours and other persons known to the family. And many a time people do report in case they find any suspicious case, but numerous cases go unreported.
ML: What are the major challenges?
ND: One challenge is to give moral support to the child victims and their families. There is a lot of frustration as the cases often proceed slowly even when we have a special Children’s Court.
Another area of concern is the government’s failure to prioritize issues of child rights. There are several Plans of Action under the GCA which have not been executed. According to the GCA, illiteracy in Goa was to be wiped out within seven years. Nine years have passed and we still find children out of schools. Under the GCA, the government needs to make a yearly plan on how to ensure there is no child labour and to make appropriate rehabilitation plans. If the Plans of Action under the GCA are given the importance they deserve, the lives of children in Goa would be transformed. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan should also focus on out of school children. Children out of school are more likely to be children at risk.
Often there is resentment against the migrant community resulting in discrimination against children. We constantly emphasise that every society must care for its children—children who are well cared for will grow up to be happy and productive individuals. It is in our own interests to ensure that all children are given an opportunity to achieve their potential.