Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
Threat to RTI in Maharashtra

 Maharashtra CM dilly-dallies on filling up key state information commission posts. In a reply to Central Information Commissioner’s letter to the state CM, the latter replied that “he would keep the matter in his mind”, and it still remains there without any action

Key posts in the Maharashtra information commission have not been filled by the state government even though there were around 22,000 pending Right to Information (RTI) as of November 2011, according to Shailesh Gandhi, India’s Central Information Commissioner. He further adds that if citizens and activists in the state are not all alert and voice their protest against this callous attitude of the Maharashtra, the RTI Act will die a natural death in the state, with other states following Maharashtra’s lead in killing the RTI Act.

Mr Gandhi had pointed this out in his letter in November last year to the state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to take up the mater urgently as without key officers at the helm of the state information commission, RTI applications in the state may not be even looked into. The CM had replied that “he would keep the matter in mind”. But months have gone and the matter still remains in the Mr Chavan’s mind. 

Here is the letter...

                                                                                          12 November 2011

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,

Chief Minister,

Government of Maharashtra 

Hon’ble Shri Chavan,

I am writing this letter to you, to draw your attention to a serious problem facing the implementation of RTI in Maharashtra. Presently, there are no Information Commissioners for Mumbai and Konkan. The pendency is mounting and if urgent steps are not taken, RTI will suffer a grievous blow, from which it may not be able to recover.  I understand that most cases are taking around a year to be decided. By inaction and allowing pendencies to mount, RTI could become dysfunctional and the aam admi in whose name we undertake most activities will stop using this important tool. I am aware of your personal commitment to transparency and RTI, and urge you to please ensure that information commissioners for Mumbai and Konkan are appointed urgently through a transparent process.

It would be a good idea to publish a proposed process and get public reactions and suggestions before finalizing it. It is necessary that the process of selection of information commissioners should be made accountable and transparent. I am briefly outlining what such a process could be:

  1. The government should advertise its intention to appoint a certain number of information commissioners. Eminent people could be apply or be nominated by others.
  2. A search committee—perhaps—consisting of the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha, chief information commissioner, vice chancellor of some universities, and RTI activists could be formed to shortlist a panel which could be three times the number of commissioners to be selected. These could be announced with the minutes of the meeting at which the short-listing was done.
  3. A public hearing could be held to give citizens and groups the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the candidates. Based on these inputs, the final decision to select the Commissioners could be taken by the committee as set out in Section 15 (3) of the RTI Act.  

Various commissions are the checks and balances of our democracy. If appropriate people are appointed, these important institutions would help in delivering democracy to citizens. It may be prudent to select most commissioners who are below 60 years in age. It is also necessary that Commissioners deliver adequate number of decisions and are accountable to people. Information commissioners are not delivering at an adequate pace to meet the requirement. Whereas it is possible to adjudicate 5000 cases in a year—as I have demonstrated—most commissioners are adjudicating less than 50% of this. Those appointed as information commissioners must undertake to deliver an account of their job to the citizens.

Hoping for a positive response, and thanking you in anticipation,

Yours truly

Shailesh Gandhi

 

User

COMMENTS

Anil Galgali

5 years ago

We meet CM at VARSHA today 7 pm & oppose New Amended made in RTI without any Public Notice by State.Secondly We Demand to appiont SIC & IC on fast track.Also discuss &Former Cop Julio Riberio,Narayan V appeal to CM that Pending Plea in RTI should resolved. Under leadership of Ex DGP of Maharastra & Punjab Shri Julio Riberio & Narayan Verma the RTI Activists Anil Galgali,Krishnaraj Rao,Bhasker Prabhu,G R Vora,Chetan Kothari, S K Nagiya & Nitai Mehata Delegation meet CM. Shri Prithiviraj Chavan assures to consider our demand.

Public Interest Exclusive
Lies on coal scam blacken UPA’s face more

Why did the PMO try a defence that was bound to be exposed within an hour?

Not telling the truth is equal to lying. Not telling the whole truth is also a form of lying. What do you call editing a letter to present a wrong picture that makes you look pure as driven snow?

In my book, that is the worst form of lying and this is what the Prime minister’s Office (PMO) has to done protect the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in the coal scandal, which looks ten times as bad as the second generation (2G) scam.

The Times of India has reported two days ago that a draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had uncovered a Rs10.7 lakh crore scandal in the allocation of coal mining blocks to private and public sector companies. The CAG said if the government had auctioned the blocks, this huge amount would not have accrued as unintended benefits to the companies.

The next day, the PMO released parts of a letter from the CAG, Vinod Rai, to the PM on the Times of the India report. The key sentence, plucked out of context, stressed in the PMO’s press release read as follows:

“….Pursuant to clarification provided by the ministry (of coal) in exit conferences held on 9 February 2012 and 9th March, we have changed our thinking….”

Please note the dots in front of and after the sentence, which indicate that the sentence has been excerpted from Mr Rai’s letter.

The Times of India published the full text of Mr Rai’s letter which gives the correct picture and pins the lie of the PMO.

An earlier draft of the CAG report has used the phrase “windfall gain” while referring to the advantage gained by the companies to whom the coal blocks were allocated.

The relevant part of Mr Rai’s letter to the PMO (this part was left out of the press release) says: “The words ‘windfall gain’ were reproduced in our earlier draft as they were used by the joint secretary/secretary, ministry of coal in their notings. Pursuant to clarification provided by the ministry in exit conferences on 9.2.2012 and 9.3.2012, we have changed our thinking on the expression as in many cases the profits have not even begun to accrue.”

The PMO’s press release gives a clear impression that the CAG has said in the letter that it has changed its thinking on the whole issue of ‘Coalgate’.

But the CAG’s letter says it has changed its thinking only on the phrase “windfall gain”. It says nothing about changing its mind on the whole issue

Liar, liar, pants on fire
, as the children’s song goes. And is the prime minister’s nose getting longer, like Pinocchio’s nose in the fairy tale?

No one can understand why the PMO was so amateurish and tried a defence that was bound to be exposed within hours. Is not the prime minister surrounded with intelligent people?

A bit of history needs to be recalled.US president Richard Nixon was impeached solely because he told a lot of lies during the Watergate scandal.

And I must tell you what a wag said yesterday about Coalgate. “Not even toothpaste can remove the coal dust from the UPA’s face”.

(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)

User

COMMENTS

Java

5 years ago

Man mohana bade jhoothe
Man mohana bade jhoothe
Haarke haar nahi mane
Haarke haar nahi mane
Man mohana, mohana

Baneythey khiladi piya
Baneythey khiladi piya
Nikaley anaari
Mo sey beimani kare mujhse hi roothe
Mo sey beimani kare mujhse hi roothe

Man mohana, man mohana
Man mohana bade jhoothe
Man mohana, mohana

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXGMxTTB_...

Nadey

5 years ago

Is there anything new or different as compared to every party in power has been doing? Was the Janata rule different? Or, the NDA regime? Who does not know that a senior most cabinet minister in the NDA was the person-in-charge of the animal husbandry ministry in Bihar and during his stewardship the fodder scam happened? I cannot understand whether our journalists and columnists are so naiive as to fail to realise that, whosoever is in power in this ex-colony of the British (who still rule us culturally) will be corrupt by the very compulsion of the system. Anna Hazare and his "I AM ANNA"s are making a mockery of a word called 'anashan' (hunger strike) without being prepared to accept the truth that most of his ex-babu soldiers are also the products of this very system. Forget about politicians and bureacrats who are essentially corrupt, but what about lawyers? How many of them, even the most media-savvy ones, accept entire professional fees in cheque and disclose their true income in their IT returns? All of us know the real game--but remain intellectually dishonest to attack the ruling family whereas, given a chance, everyone is ready to make money in only dishonest ways. Coal has been a mafia fiefdom ever since the British established its rule. The CVC/CBI can make a study of the growth of personal wealth all the officials (and of their families) in all services posted ever in the coal belt (Dhanbad, in particular) to gauge why even the post of a constable or an IT inspector is on sale for no less than 15-20 lakhs plus the annual rental of an equal amount!

A nation of hypocrites must keep playing games as the so called social activists want their pound of flesh too!

rk

5 years ago

PM MMS is a habitual liar. To enter the Parliament he stated that he is 'ordinarily a resident of Assam'. To get his appointment signed he put back dated papers to Chandrashekhar who had already resigned as PM, his denial of knowledge about 2G-scam, ISRO-Antrix scam and now Coal scam only confirms the pattern. He has to be willing to do so and cannot take refuge that he has done so under duress.

Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

Knowing the way the CAG operates, as I do, at the end of each audit assignment after going through many filtering and vetting processes the Draft Report is submitted to the Auditee to elicit their final responses which are incorporated and considered in compiling the Final Report. The basic essence remains essentially the same, only the final conclusions will take into account the last comments received.
The PMO seems to be playing on words using fig leaf protection modes.
"Wind fall gains" is yet another term that goes to add to "Zero loss" all bye products of the underlying scams!

sohan modak

5 years ago

A list containing names of every Minister in the present and two previous Governments be submitted to the Swiss government authorities and german Government asking them for details of foreign bank accounts in their or their relatives' names.

Ashok M Rane

5 years ago

We do not know as to what extent this Govt. has looted our country and common man. An Audit of all properties of all Ministers should be called to measure the black money generated by them during their tenures. Unaccounted money and properties should be confiscated.

RAMESH KAPADIA

5 years ago

God save the King

REPLY

Aban

In Reply to RAMESH KAPADIA 5 years ago

No. "God save the Royal Family" !
In a country where entire polity and bureaucracy run only for and by money, and bribe taking is the accepted mode of life for the two categories of the ruling elite, nothing would be achieved by the publication of these articles. And, the joke is, the so-called anti-corruption bodies with foreign patronage are themselves immersed in corruption and/or run by former corrupt retired officers!

Public Interest Exclusive
B Rajaram appeals to the Chief Justice for implementing proven rail safety solutions

The former managing director of Konkan Railways feels that there is a strong lobby of bureaucrats who are hand-in-glove with multinational companies in order to get hold of the ACD technology, which is an exclusive patented product of the Railways.

Rajaram Bojji, former managing director of Konkan Railway, never got a chance to implement his revolutionary, indigenous, and government owned anti-collision device (ACD) technology in the Indian Railways. Over the past three-four Rail Budgets, the ministers, including Mamata Banerjee had mentioned about ACDs but nothing much has happened. And this year, it was not even mentioned in the Budget by ousted railway minister Dinesh Trivedi.

In addition, there was statement by the Railways that said the ACD technology does not suit Indian conditions. There are ongoing efforts to buy expensive and unproven technologies from abroad. Peeved off by the derailing of an exclusive patented product of the Railways, Mr Rajaram has written a letter to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court requesting his urgent intervention in the matter. Here is the letter...

Hon'ble Chief Justice of Supreme Court,

May I submit a prayer for your consideration and action as your Honour may deem fit, in the name of those innocent lives lost in train collisions with another train or with vehicles at level crossing gates, purely in public interest and in the interest of the young engineers and scientists of India, who love their nation!

Deaths of hundreds of passengers in train collisions, forced ministry of railways to invest and develop India’s own Anti-collision device technology, because international technologies do not provides solutions for many a peculiar situation when such collisions occur on a railway network.

In 2003 the technology got approved after extensive trials and proving tests for spread over five years and finally cleared for large scale implementation on NF Railway. The results on such a large network were evaluated and confirmed that the technology indeed meets the safety standards prescribed by the ministry, by the ministry themselves. The entire development process followed well laid down international standards for such non-signal but efficient in protecting against collision product.

But it did not have a western country’s certificate, because it is our own Indian product. In the world even today there is no product which can compare with the performance levels of ACD as developed and implemented in 2004-05.

National Geographic conducted a simple confidence test on the technology, by asking the inventor to stand between two colliding trains, and see if he would be saved by the ACD technology. They monitored the loco driver so that he does not apply brakes. Of course the challenge was taken, and the technology performed as promised. This is now a world wide circulated event.

But ministry of railways, after proving the product in 2005, on NF railway, suddenly put the deployment of ACD on all other zonal railways, even though they did go to Parliament and promised to implement, and got allocations too.

The ministry further tried changed the specifications for ACD and restarted the research and development effort—only to block wide use of ACD in 2010.

Strangely, people were getting killed, but still giving some vague reasons, the ministry remained indifferent.

Again when large number of passengers got killed in 2010-2011 in train collisions, instead of using own developed solution, hectic efforts to get imported technology at 10 times the indigenous technology were initiated.

Then suddenly in 2012, an arbitrary statement was made that ACD technology does not suit Indian Railways, but western certified technology alone will be adopted at 10 times the cost.

While the ministry can take such complex technical decision, commonsense dictates, the ministry should be able to explain what is the extra protection that the new technology will give to the passengers as compared to ACD?

If the western technology has better confidence levels because it has western certificate, then at least it should do better than ACD, is a question any one should ask and answer.

By design the ACD provides safety in the entire network of railway, but the western technology, which is promoted, protects less than 10% of network!

In fact it cannot compare at all with ACD in providing safety network—the ministry should publish a comparative chart for the public, when they want to spend ten time more to get one-tenth of protection afforded by ACD.

Then confidence level. The ministry tried to justify that the western imported one is more reliable because it has their certification. If so, then the member of the Railway Board who had the courage to arbitrarily condemn the ACD because he lacks confidence in ACD, should demonstrate his confidence, by conducting similar experiment as done National Geographic, for ACD. That means the officer should stand between tow colliding trains fitted with the imported technology. When one is spending ten times more, in midsection, let him demonstrate this expensive technology meets the safety requirement of Indian Railways. The ACD of India certainly has proven many times in many areas of testing. But not the western technology.

Questions:

1. Is the individual officer technically misleading the ministry, knowing fully well the facts to favour foreign imports at such high costs, while people are dying on tracks, even though we have the solution is ready, and cleared by the Parliament, criminally culpable for the loss of lives or not? It is not one life, more than 500 lives lost since 2005, which is preventable.

2. What made the ministry to mislead the nation, saying on one hand they are taking steps to implement over all zonal railways and then internally block the process? They too are criminally accountable for loss of lives.

3. How and why inferior technology from west is favoured without comparable tests as compared to ACD?

4. ACD is a product into which more than 1000 engineer-years of effort has been put in, making an impact on world scene, which attracted National Geographic and World Intellectual property Office Geneva too to take note. Now arbitrarily the ministry of railways dumping without giving any justification sends a wrong message to Indian engineers and technologists. However well you perform and get recognised even by respected foreign agencies, but still, even an inferior product from foreign country and costing many orders more, is preferred by the Government of India. Is this what we want?

5. What is the lacunae that is discovered suddenly in one year, while the entire development effort involved continuous guidance and direction form the full Railway Board, not one Board, but starting from 2000 to 2004 the various Boards, extended technical committees, RDSO, even TUV Rhineland Germany, Lloyd’s UK, Electronics testing lab of the government of India were all involved to the full satisfaction of all the stakeholders, and no short cut was adopted at any stage in proving the product. It is matter of facts—all test sheets jointly signed by all concerned. Then how come without any provocation, merely to favour imports, an announcement is made ACD is not suitable? Is the ministry accountable to the Parliament?  Are they not required to give cogent explanation?

6. The least one expects is the technical  member who spearheaded  to condemn ACD from his seat in Railway Board, in favour of "superior" by his definition, western technology should now be able to undergo the same test National Geographic conducted with ACD, but this time with trains fitted with the western technology, which he professes.

Saying it is all technical and so we need not look in to this may not be acceptable by those who lost lives and those likely lose again while the railway ministry is in such self-denial mode.

Personally I have nothing to gain whether ACD is implemented or not. The rights are all with the government, as assigned by me. It is not one man’s work. Thousands of engineer-years both public and private produced this product, making our country proud.

It is indeed a very sad day for India, if with all the checks and balances provided in India’s governance, we keep killing people even after the ministry has completed development of solution, but allow one or two officers in own ministry to sabotage national interest, by making the Ministry look like a fool for having invested and developed successfully own solution and then dump it in favour of a very inferior solution at many orders higher cost, not serving the stated purpose of safety too!

I wonder how justice can remain mute, if passengers’ lives are wantonly sacrificed by those who are responsible for safety of the passengers, after assuring the Parliament too, that they have successfully developed Indian solution and would take quick remedial steps.

Hope India and Indian engineers get justice, your Honour!

Rajaram Bojji
M Tech. IRSE (Retd), FIE, FNAE, AMASCE

You may also want to read...
Mamata says yes to anti-collision device, but will it see the light of day?
Is the anti-collision device system being derailed?
B Rajaram to present paper on Gravity Power Towers at 13th APM-ATS in Paris

User

COMMENTS

Java

5 years ago

Own technology = No money for the Ministers, party and babus.

Foreign Tech = Free luxury jaunts + Univ admissions for babalog + $$$$s for living happily everafter.

Now which is the better choice, regardless of huge recurring cost to country?

Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

Close on the heels of the attempted bribery to the Army Chief, anyone trying to sabotage tested and accepted indigenously built anti-accident solutions should be exposed and action initiated to take the technology forward at any cost and all such foreign vendors and their lobbyists/agents blacklisted by the Rail Ministry.
In the interest of Passenger Safety, let the present Minister and his Party Boss, a former RM act as fast as they derailed Trivedi.

K B Patil

5 years ago

Mr. Dhiti, Rajaram does not seem to be gaining monetarily by promoting the indigenous ACD technology. If it is a question of believing in Rajaram or a yesman of Mamta Bannerjee (the Railway Minister), I would go with Rajaram. Seeing the daily list of scams and also the news about our esteemed President creating a record of sorts by spending about Rs.200 crores on foreign trips, our government seems to be plumbing the depths of incomptence and deliberate inefficiency. The cabinet seems to be doing its best in ruining our economy.

Dhiti

5 years ago

Somehow Mr. Rajaram appears to be interested in promoting his invention. The ACD technology has been mentioned in the Kakodkar Committee report as required further improvement.

malq

5 years ago

Thank you very much for this article.

I have been following the convoluted path of ACD for some time now, and over the last few months, the strident noises for privatisation of Indian Railways by any means including sabotage of the sort that ACD would prevent, is not difficult to imagine.

Here's an excerpt from the NatGeo video:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3iUvZJVE...

Pity the full video is not available as yet.

Humbly submitted/VM

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