Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel is conducting a drive across Gujarat to file RTI applications for procuring copies of answer sheets. Interestingly, it has invoked Section 7(1) of the RTI Act under which information has to be given within 48 hours as it concerns ‘life and liberty’
Taking the issue of recurring student suicides across the country every year after results of various public or class examinations are declared, a state-wide campaign is presently underway in Gujarat to make students aware of their right to get copies of their answer sheets under the RTI (Right to Information) Act.
Already 500 students have filed RTI applications and interestingly, the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) which is steering the campaign, has invoked Section 7(1) of the RTI Act. Under this section, the citizen can demand information within 48 hours as it concerns 'life and liberty'.
The campaign's initiative also leans upon the historic Supreme Court judgment of August 2011 wherein the apex court had ruled that evaluated answer-sheets are covered under the definition of 'information' under the RTI Act. This judgment applies to all examinations including the Public Service Commissions, Universities, CBSE and other boards, professional bodies like ICAI-in fact, every examination conducted by any agency in India. (Ultimate victory for students: Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment orders access of copies of answer sheets of all examinations).
The Supreme Court order is important for MAGP as a case is pending in the Gujarat High Court against the Gujarat State Information Commission's order of 2007 which gave a similar order like that of the Supreme Court.
RTI expert and member of MAGP, Harinesh Pandya states, "an evaluated answer-sheet is of vital information to a student as his/her career depends on it. There have been many incidences in the past of students committing suicides because they have got lesser marks than what they had expected, particularly in school board examinations. This trend is seen across the country every year after Std X and Std XII results are declared. Therefore, this information falls under Section 7(1) (life & liberty) of the RTI Act. Students need not wait for 30 days for this information, but are eligible to get it within 48 hours. Once a copy of evaluated answer-sheet is given, the mystery of getting less marks will be resolved-which may save several lives."
The first such campaign was conducted three years ago, when 4,000 students across Gujarat had invoked the RTI Act at the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Board for procuring copies of their answer-sheets. Information was denied to them. The MAGP appealed to the state information commission. The Gujarat State Information Commission gave an order in favour of the students. However, at that time, the Board filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court. The case is still pending but on the backdrop of the Supreme Court order, there is hope again.
States Pankti Jog, founder member of MAGP who is leading the initiative, "In the light of the Supreme Court judgment and now that the time is nearing for the declaration of the results of various examinations, MAGP decided to launch this campaign. We have created a help desk and already 500 students from schools, colleges, competitive examinations and also examinees of UPSC and GPSC have been educated as to how to use the RTI after their results are declared. We are very keen to see if the Gujarat Board provides information on the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgment."
The helpline number of the "Help Desk" is 09924085000. From Monday to Saturday, students can visit the MAGP office for guidance on filing RTI applications to get copies of their evaluated answer-sheets. Every Saturday, between 4pm to 6pm, experts will guide students. MAGP's mobile RTI clinic will also move through various cities and towns to spread awareness and give guidance. "Legal help will also be given at the doorstep of people who request it," adds Ms Jog.
Ms Jog informs that, "during the last four years students from across the country used RTI to seek copies of evaluated answer-sheets. The Supreme Court also in its judgment gave a clear verdict that evaluated answer-sheets are not exempted from RTI. Several state boards, including the Rajasthan Secondary Board has now decided to provide photocopies of evaluated answer-sheets proactively. In the light of this we hope that Gujarat students, who pioneered this movement, will be able to access copies of answer-sheets from the board. We also appeal to the students and parent community to volunteer for the campaign."
What does Section 7(1) say:
The section states: "7. (1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of Section 6, the central public information officer or state public information officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under Section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9: Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request."
Contacts for MAGP's answer-sheet drive:
MAGP: Pankti Jog and Harinesh Pandya : 9824048842; 09909006791
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel
B-3, Sahajanand Tower,
RTI Helpline: 09924085000
MAHITI ADHIKAR GUJARAT PAHEL's photostream
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also 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. She can be reached at [email protected])
Gender determination can be stopped if stricter audits on how ultra-sound machines are followed. But this would mean a straight 70-80% drop in business in India. Which manufacturer of ultra-sounds wants to see that happen?
The previous article Satyamev Jayate: Follow the money trail to catch a criminal ended with a promise to reveal more about the core reasons behind gender determination. Here it is, and let me be frank, this has not been an easy article to write. It is very difficult to try to present these facts in a simple and lucid fashion. The reality is that one is living through these issues, and the strain that medical episodes have on oneself, close friends and family, do have an impact. Most of all, there is this amazing reluctance, bordering on fear, within many in the medical community, to discuss this subject-unless in the strictest of confidences. So, some facts first:
Fact # 1: Today, the business of 'healthcare' as it is known is almost 15% of the GDP (gross domestic product) of the United States of America. This percentile figure would be the natural target in a rapidly evolving economy, like that of India's, especially with the middle-class as a target.
Fact # 2: It takes immense strength of purpose, character, intelligence, scheming, support as well as available power, to be able to take on the multiple lobbies which support this global healthcare business. These are not just the direct lobbies from within the profession, but also the lobbies representing other entities which stand to gain from expenses incurred on healthcare.
Fact # 3: Within the Indian context, there is the additional issue of superstition, social issues like female infanticide and more. And they are being misused for fiscal gains by the explosive mixture of religion and politics that prevails in India.
Fact # 4: The benefits of modern medicine and healthcare are, at the same time, not to be denied in any way whatsoever. Many of us are alive and kicking today because of this boon to mankind. Some of us have the strength to live out our truths because of this, too, present company included.
But it is the misuse which has deeper roots than simply the superstitions and social evils that provide business opportunity for the petty greed of clinics and hospitals offering gender determination and infant or foetus murder services. And, as always, this misuse starts from the top. In this case, both corporates and authorities are involved, without which this business can not survive.
Simply defined gender determination would not be possible without an ultrasound machine. Typically, the gender of a baby is known around the 18th week or so, though some clinics claim they can do so earlier-14th week also-the reliability decreases the earlier the ultrasound is done. It is also claimed that there is a DNA-based test available, which can be used as early as the 10th-12th week, with a blood sample, but results from this are not reliable at all. In both cases, it is not unknown for these illegal gender determination clinics to claim that the foetus is that of a girl, so that they make more money in the abortion.
If the manufacturers of the ultrasound machines and consumables used wanted to participate in blocking gender determination, then it would be as easy as (a) installing a hard drive that will retain data for an extended period of time and (b) audit with electronic records the consumables used on these ultrasounds. Matching the data thus obtained with the identity of the patient would provide a very decent mapping of misuse, if any, by the people owning and operating the ultrasound machine.
It would also mean reduced business for the sellers of the ultrasound machine and consumables, and the full business chain therein, as well as reduced income for the authorities if this was implemented. That part is simple to see, it is pure economics, and the parties involved will do anything to protect their business. Include kill the fully-formed girl child, if required, and let us not squirm away from these hard facts. And let me not name the global MNCs involved, because that is simple to find out, and dangerous to publish.
That's one part, the business model of the purveyors of a technology which has its good side also-the same technology is used, as mentioned in the previous article, also to help childless couples have babies. And more. But then, as more than one source from the ultrasound industry told me-if the illegal gender determination business were to somehow stop overnight, then business in India would be down by a straight 75%-80%. Which manufacturer of ultra-sounds wants to see that happen?
But it is the dark side of the foetus termination and infanticide business, which goes deep into the economics of life re-generation therapies and supposed cures for everything from sexual disorders to skin rejuvenation, and much more-including organ farming. This is the one which flourishes and provides what commerce has always called a "new income stream" -and becomes the subject of much speculation. That it exists is a simple fact of life-and that it is getting absorbed in mainstream healthcare is also becoming acceptable.
So how does one follow these diverse money trails?
1) Stricter audits on how ultra-sound machines are used. Implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Test Act of 1994 on a war footing with exemplary punishments. Existing and new ultra-sound machines to be provided with un-eraseable hard drives and "silent observer" tools which can be monitored online. External audits to hold the manufacturers, who typically also provide AMCs, liable for not detecting compliance by the owners/operators of these ultra-sound machines.
2) Stronger tracking back of airway bills and customs documentation from the Indian customs and central excise sources pertaining to the export and domestic movement of body parts, amino acids, and foetuses-exported for whatever reason. This will require opening up of such information into the public domain without the typical issues of 'privacy'. The rules for carriage of such human remains, organs, tissue, amino acids or any other nomenclature, by air cargo out of India, are a good point to start from, without going into grisly details here.
If just these two money trails are suitably tracked, and action taken, then a large part of the problem can get solved.
Of course, the solution from the sociological approach is not covered here. But then, this was more about the money trail.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love-writing.)
CBI has asked banks to freeze accounts of Sakshi TV and the newspaper owned by the Kadapa MP while a special CBI court has summoned YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and 12 others including heads of three pharma companies to appear before it on 28th May
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the case of amassing allegedly disproportionate wealth, asked banks to freeze accounts of Jagati Publications, publisher of Sakshi Telugu newspaper, Indira Television which owns Sakshi TV and Janani Infrastructure, all related with YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. In its third charge sheet filed on Monday, the CBI has named Mr Reddy as prime accused.
Mr Reddy, son of Andhra Pradesh's chief minister (CM) late YS Rajasekhara Reddy (popularly known as YSR), is at loggerheads with the Congress, especially the high command, after his father's accidental death and has been demanding to be made CM, which he claims as his hereditary right. After failing to become CM, he floated his own party YSR Congress.
Separately, a special CBI court has asked the Member of Parliament (MP) from Kadapa and 12 others, including heads of three pharmaceutical companies to appear before it on 28th May in a disproportionate assets case. Managing directors Srinivasa Reddy (Hetero Drugs), Nityananda Reddy (Aurobindo Pharma), Sarat Chandra Reddy (Trident Life Sciences), senior IAS officer BP Acharya, AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation's former officer Y Vijayalakshmi, former company secretary of Aurobindo Pharma Chandramouli are among those issued summons by the CBI court.
According to a PTI report, IAS officer Venkatarami Reddy, Ramky Group chairman Ayodhyarami Reddy, Jagati Publications (publisher of Sakshi Telugu daily) and Ramky Pharma India have been named as the other accused in the case. The CBI has said Ramky Pharma invested Rs10 crore in Jagati Publications as a quid pro quo for the benefits it secured from the then government headed by Jagan's father YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
Seeking to allay fears of the industry, Andhra Pradesh CM N Kiran Kumar Reddy said the ongoing CBI inquiries against some industrialists in the state should be seen as "temporary shortcoming". "The ongoing probes were a 'slight problem' to the industry, but these probes should be viewed as temporary. The government would shortly announce a new policy framework bringing uniformity in land allotment ensuring that there was no discretion in either price of extent of land given to the industry," the CM said. His remarks assumed significance in the backdrop of CBI inquiries into the investments made by some industries in the companies owned by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The CBI has so far filed three charge sheets in the assets case of Jagan Mohan Reddy in which Jagati Publications represented by Mr Reddy is one of the accused. It is alleged that Jagati Publications got around Rs1,246 crore from companies which were benefited in various ways by the YSR government, said a newspaper report.
Meanwhile, raising heat over the arrest of Mr Reddy, political parties from the state has alleged that the UPA government is protecting him. Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member and state secretary BV Raghavulu asked why the central agency has not arrested Jagan and other accused, including some industrialists and bureaucrats, in the case so far despite serious charges levelled against them.
Telugu Desam Party on the other hand, alleged that the central government was desperately trying to protect the YSR Congress President in the assets case. "Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram took the responsibility on them to protect Jagan," senior TDP MLAs Devineni Umamaheswara Rao and M Linga Reddy alleged.
At 12.20pm, Aurobindo Pharma was trading 4.3% down at Rs118.5 on the Bombay Stock Exchange while the benchmark Sensex was marginally up at 16,561.