A gathering of Mumbai's leading activists with interests in a wide range of social issues gathered today at Moneylife Foundation to mark the birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien. In line with Dr Kurien's ideals, it was decided to commemorate the day by pledging to cooperate for positive change or as “Sahakarya Kranti Diwas”. Over 12,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on India's milkman
Several activists gathered at the Moneylife Foundation Centre on Monday to celebrate 26th November, the birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien, and to appeal that his day be recognised as Sahakarya Kranti Diwas or a movement for positive change. A petition demanding a Bharat Ratna for Dr Kurien was signed on www.change.org by over 12,000 people. Many of those who supported the movement have also been writing to the Padma awards committee to bring to their attention the wishes of ordinary Indians. The petition, which has been sent to the President of India as well as all those who are part of the decision-making hierarchy in the government, has already been sent electronically. A print copy will also be sent to them shortly.
Anand Halve, co-founder of Chlorophyll, came up with the idea that the best way to honour Dr Kurien’s memory would be to recognise his birth anniversary as “Sahakarya Kranti Diwas”. The idea for a movement for positive change found quick acceptability and the meeting of activists and others at Moneylife Foundation today reflected exactly that spirit.
The meeting started with Moneylife Foundation’s founder, Sucheta Dalal providing statistics to show how only one Bharat Ratna so far has been awarded to a person who has worked with India's poor and needy, and that was to Mother Theresa. The majority of Bharat Ratna awardees have been freedom fighters, artists or political leaders. Also, plenty of Bharat Ratna awards have been bestowed posthumously. Ms Dalal made the point that a Bharat Ratna will mean nothing to Dr Kurien when he is no more. But it will be an acknowledgement that someone who pledged his life for the upliftment of poor farmers and achieved transformational change that benefitted millions of people gets due recognition in India.
Vinay Somani, founder of Karmayog.org which is probably India’s largest platform for connecting NGOs across India, provided many insights from the interactions and experience at Karmayog. He said the first step to being a socially conscious citizen was to be honest about oneself and about one’s interactions. He added there was a great need for NGOs to support one another by rising above personal egos. Mr Somani, an engineer and a Harvard Business School alumnus, then went on to provide several tips on what leads to effective action. One of these was the need to write and document various interactions—he urged people to write about issues, write letters to editors, write letters of protest and petition for various kinds of change. Putting things in writing, he said, often yields better and faster results.
Anand Halve, spoke about his interactions and learnings about what motivates people to work for change. He pointed out that people don’t react to intellect, they react to emotions. If you cannot reach a person emotionally, it invariably leads to a cop-out. In an engaging talk that drew from the experiences of those involved in the Arab Spring revolution, he pointed out that social media and visual images (through the easy reach of photographs and videos available on smart phones) had helped spread the message and galvanised people into action. But none of it would have happened if they didn’t feel emotionally charged. Mr Halve as well as several other activists spoke of similar challenges in getting their issues to be discussed and debated by mainstream media.
N Venkat Krishnan, the IIM Ahmedabad alumnus who opted out of the corporate rat-race to start GiveIndia, an NGO that provides a platform for individual and payroll giving, also related his experiences. Dr Sadanand Nadkarni, former dean of Sion Hospital, explained how the government medical system, through faulty processes is creating badly trained doctors and this has serious implications for society. Dr Nadkarni, who is 80, is a tireless fighter for improvement in medical administration and policies and his talk charged many activists to pledge support for this cause.
Another activist who drew loud applause was Samir Zaveri, an untiring fighter for the cause of railway passengers. Mr Zaveri, who lost both his legs in a railway accident at the age of 16, has been a champion for a vast array of railway passenger safety issues, medical care, ambulances and compensation. He uses the RTI (Right to Information) Act as well as the legal system most effectively.
SV (Bobby) Sista, founder and executive trustee of Population First and Nanhi Kali—two NGOs involved in population control and the girl child respectively, spoke about the vast challenges involved in his mission and the effort and strategies involved in getting these issues discussed by the mainstream media.
Also present was SD Israni, senior advocate and Moneylife columnist whose talk was peppered with anecdotes about how writing letters of complaint led to positive consequences.
Anil Kohli, an entrepreneur who has become an enthusiastic Twitter activist, provided examples of how this micro-blogging network has the power and reach to provide unexpected results. He is involved in a movement to transition from Twitter into multiple activities on the ground led by individual teams who are networked through the social media. Jemin Panchal and several other activists who were part of the move from social-media to on-the-ground activism were present at the meeting.
Justine Leigh-Bell, a project leader at Vanashakti an NGO engaged in environment protection, spoke about the effort in launching a value-based environmental education programme through schools in India, which plans an ambitious nationwide rollout.
Indrani Malkani, trustee of vCAN, spoke about how working with the administration had helped several of her causes. An important one, after the 24 July 2006 cloudburst in Mumbai was to get HAM radio operators officially inducted into Mumbai’s Disaster Management Plan. A second was the school bus project, which happened through Cathedral School and the third was the clean up of Girgaum Chowpatty.
Interestingly, the entire programme was recorded and will be uploaded on Moneylife and YouTube, due to the efforts and cooperation of another activist-volunteer Suvendu Haddar, an IT expert. Other prominent activists present at the meeting included Gaurang Damani, Ashok Ravat and Rajesh Gada.
The government had taken the decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail in November last year but put it on hold following strong objections from parties, including the then UPA constituent Trinamool Congress
New Delhi: Consensus eluded an all-party meeting called on the foreign direct investment (FDI) issue on Monday even as Samajwadi Party and BSP provided comfort to the government by not insisting on voting and Trinamool Congress sprang a surprise by speaking in a similar tone, reports PTI.
However, UPA (Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre) ally DMK kept the suspense over its position on voting while conveying its concerns over allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail.
Opposition parties, including NDA, AIADMK, BJD, Left parties, TDP and JD(S) insisted on a discussion under rules entailing voting, making it clear that trouble will continue in Parliament which failed to transact any business for the third straight day on Monday over the issue.
“There will be no compromise on (discussion under Rule) 184 (which entails voting),” said leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj after the two-and-a-half hour-long meeting.
Asked if the BJP would not allow Parliament to function, she replied, “no compromise at all... When I said no compromise, it means something.”
Highlighting the fact that there was no meeting ground between the government and opposition over voting issue, Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete said, “There was a discussion but no decision.”
The government got comfort as its outside supporters SP and BSP made it clear that they would be willing for discussion under any rule. They did not press for voting and left the decision to the presiding officers of both the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) and the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament).
Trinamool Congress, which only last week moved a no-confidence motion over the FDI issue, sprang a surprise as it also did not insist on voting and said the chair should decide the rule under which discussion could take place.
“When our no-confidence motion was refused, now let the Speaker decide under which section discussion can take place,” Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told reporters after the meeting chaired by leader of the Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde.
“Opposition is moving with begging bowl in hand for Rule 184,” he said.
Insisting that Trinamool is “totally against” introduction of FDI in retail and capping of subsidised LPG cylinders at six per year, Bandopadhyay said, “Let the opposition bring another no-confidence motion, we will support them. We had given them the golden opportunity to no-confidence motion and not just (rule) 184 or 193.”
Rule 184 entails voting while Rule 193 does not.
At the meeting, DMK leader TR Baalu conveyed his party’s concerns over allowing 51% FDI in retail. But he remained vague on whether or not his party would want voting on the issue.
AIADMK insisted on voting as did JD (U), BJD and some other parties.
Finance minister P Chidambaram and commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma justified the decision by citing the difficult economic situation.
Sharma sought to reject the opposition charge that the FDI decision was taken in haste and without proper consultations. He said the government had discussed the issue with all stake-holders before the decision.
The government had taken the decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail in November last year but put it on hold following strong objections from parties, including the then UPA constituent Trinamool Congress. The hold was removed in September this year.
BJD leader B Mahtab said his party has already given notice under Rule 184 as it feels the FDI in multi-brand retail will ruin the agriculture and manufacturing sector.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad said the hue and cry is being raised as elections are not far away. He said former NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) government had spoken about allowing 100% FDI in retail. He said the decision on the format under which discussion could be held should be left to presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath later appealed to those wanting discussion with voting to reconsider their views and hoped that a solution will be found out.
“I have appealed to those who want discussion under Rule 184 to reconsider their views. I heard everybody's views. I will discuss the matter with presiding officers of both the Houses to see how Parliament gets to work. We will find a way out,” he told reporters.
The meeting was also attended by BJP leader LK Advani, BSP chief Mayawati, BJD’s Arjun Charan Sethi and SP's Ram Gopal Yadav among others.
Describing the meeting as “very useful”, Nath said, “All political parties have given their views that House must run.
Political parties are unanimous that the House should run.”
On the differences of opinions at the meeting, he said, “Some political parties expressed their opinions that they want discussion with voting. Many others have said they want discussion and it does not matter under which rule... It should be left to Presiding Officers of both Houses.”
Asked whether the government is shying away from voting, Nath replied in negative.
“We are not shying away from the vote but we have to respect the feeling of other political parties also,” he said.
This CIC ruling could help to get citizens to monitor assets of public servants and also expose those who may not be making a truthful declaration of their assets. This is the second in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used in an RTI application
The public information officer (PIO) cannot deny information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by claiming exemption under Section 8(1)(j) and is bound to provide information about assets of a public servant, ruled the Central Information Commission. This was one of the most important decisions given by Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner (CIC).
“...disclosure of information such as assets of a public servant, which is routinely collected by the public authority and routinely provided by the public servants, cannot be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual. There will only be a few exceptions to this rule which might relate to information which is obtained by a public authority while using extraordinary powers such as in the case of a raid or phone-tapping. Any other exceptions would have to be specifically justified,” the Commission said in its order issued on 23 July 2009.
Delhi-based Sat Prakash Tyagi sought information about assets and properties acquired by Anil Tyagi, a junior engineer (JE) with the Delhi Jal Board after his appointment. However, the PIO denied the specific information citing exemption under Section 8(1)(j).
The PIO stated that the information on the assets of JE Anil Tyagi demanded in queries (7 & 8) should not be disclosed since “the property returns submitted by the official are confidential documents and disclosure of this personal information has no relationship to the public activity or interest and hence denied under Section 8(1)(j).”
The third party, Anil Tyagi stated, “My personal property details and other allied details should not be given to the appellant (Sat Prakash Tyagi), who is already having many property dispute cases in different courts in Delhi with me. Such documents will be misused against me in the courts affecting the fair decisions in the court. Moreover we and all my family members are facing acute mental agony and fear of life from the appellant. Such matters have already being informed to the police also.”
The Commission said the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that even people who aspire to be public servants by getting elected have to declare their property details. “If people who aspire to be public servants must declare their property details it is only logical that the details of assets of those who are public servants must be considered to be disclosable. Hence the exemption under Section 8(1) (j) cannot be applied in the instant case.”
While denying the PIO and the third party’s claim for exemption of the information, the CIC in its order on 23 July 2009, asked the PIO to provide information about assets and properties of Anil Tyagi to the applicant before 10 August 2009.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001436/4247
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001436
Appellant :Sat Prakash Tyagi,
S/o Bishamber Dayal Tyagi,
H.No.38, Tyagi Mohalla
Respondent : Vipin Behari
Delhi Jal Board,
Govt. of N.C.T. of Delhi,
O/o the Secretary, Varunalaya Ph-II,
Karol Bagh, New Delhi-110005.