Citizens' Issues
US to help India develop Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam as smart cities
US will help India in developing Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam apart from joining hands with civil society and authorities to provide clean water and sewage facilities in 500 cities
 
In a boost to India’s 100 smart city programme, the US will help the country in developing three such cities apart from joining hands with civil society and authorities to provide clean water and sewage facilities in 500 cities in the country. The three cities are Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam.
 
This announcement was made after the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama.
 
The Indian government plans to develop 100 smart cities and in this regard an allocation of Rs7,060 crore was proposed in the Union Budget.
 
While presenting the Budget for 2014-15, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the Prime Minister has a vision of developing 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising the existing mid-sized cities.
 
“With development reaching an increasingly large number of people, the pace of migration from the rural areas to the cities is increasing,” Jaitley had said.
 
Wounding up his whirlwind five-day US visit yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “thanked” America and called his trip a highly “successful and satisfactory” one.

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Should NATGRID, the center of integrated intelligence information, be so secretive?
NATGRID, born after 26/11 terror attack to centralise databases of several intelligence agencies, is out of the ambit of the RTI Act. Now that it will execute contracts and acquire property with taxpayer’s money, shouldn’t it come under RTI? 
 
National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) developed by C-DAC Pune, is a centralised and integrated data base system to monitor details of a potential suspect through his database. These personal details are procured through banks, credit cards, internet, cell phones, immigration, motor vehicle licenses, National Crime Records Bureau, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Income Tax (I-T) Department. 
 
A group of central and state agencies, which collated the information and made it available at NATGRID, accesses these details. It has the ability to provide a complete profile of the suspect’s movements. The government agency called NATGRID has its headquarters in Delhi and was established post the 26/11 Mumbai Terror attack. It aims to nab Headley-like characters by accessing their personal details and nipping terror in the bud.
 
However, NATGRID, since its inception in 2011 has been caught in a vortex of controversy. As per Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports, its chief executive Raghu Raman, was allegedly involved in personal and professional misconduct involving foreign nationals during his five year tenure because of which his contract was not renewed recently. Considering that he was paid a fat salary of Rs10 lakh odd per month (highest for any babu?) and has a team of 20 or more which is paid between Rs1 lakh to Rs2.5 lakh a month, it is expected that the citizen has the right to know about the public money that is being lavishly spent. 
 
The current financial outlay is Rs1,000 crore for this project so should the public be kept in the dark? Newspapers have recently reported that very little has progressed since 2011 although 70 people have been appointed at various levels.
 
In June 2011, as soon as NATGRID became operational, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government notified it as ‘exempt organisation’ under Section 24 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Venkatesh Nayak, RTI activist and programme coordinator of National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) says, “Even information provided by NATGRID to the central government is out of the RTI ambit under Section 24. Under RTI, it can only furnish information about allegations of human rights violation or allegations of corruption. Even this information has to be approved by the Central Information Commission.” 
 
However, on 14 September 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a notification through the Official Gazette declaring the Director of NATGRID as an authority competent to execute contracts and assurances of property in the NATGRID on behalf of the President of India (See below).
 
 
This implies that the Director’s duties are beyond issues of only security as he is now in-charge of executing contracts and therefore these areas come under the RTI Act. 
 
Nayak says, “…the Gazette notification is clear indication of the fact that the MHA, under which NATGRID falls, thinks it fit to proactively disclose the decision taken for making the Director competent to enter into contracts and assurances on property. Technically, this is proactive disclosure of information for the purpose of Section 4 of the RTI Act.”
 
“The argument for protecting national security concerns which such organisation deals with is valid no doubt, but Section 24 (of the RTI Act) amounts to overkill as it does not differentiate between non-sensitive information, which may be disclosed without harming any public interest and other kinds of information whose disclosure may be harmful to the public interest,” Nayak added. Thus appealing that NATGRID cannot be a closed secret and have the privilege of completely hiding all information.
 
What is most curious though is the fact NATGRID does not even have a dedicated website. All other organisations that are exempt from RTI Act and are under the Ministry of Home Affairs have a website. Some examples include the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and so on which have put up information about their vision, mission and other activities. 
 
According to Nayak, SSB discloses a wealth of information that falls under Section 4 of the RTI Act such as organisational structure, transfer policy, monthly list of achievements, including arrests and seizures made and believe it or not-the Immovable Property Returns of its senior level officers (since 2011). NATGRID and IB are the only organisations under the Home Ministry without dedicated websites. IB too discloses the total number of RTI applications it receives and the data is published in the annual report of the CIC. “Perhaps this is a calculated move not to provide any intelligence to the citizenry about such organisations,’’ Nayak said.
 
Vappala Balachandran, columnist in The Sunday Guardian, writes about NATGRID in Wednesday’s column: “I am not sure that NATGRID will prevent incidents like 26/11, because the state police or different defence departments are not mentioned among the 10 ‘user agencies’. As a member of the state government appointed 26/11 enquiry committee, which, however, was not allowed to examine the Central agencies, it is my impression that intelligence pointers already available with some Central agencies were not communicated to the state government or the Navy and Coast Guard. How will NATGRID help if the agencies are not willing to share current intelligence? As for Headley's repeated visits, why did the Intelligence Bureau, which controls the computerised Bureau of Immigration, need NATGRID to tell them this information, which was already with them?”
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is 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 and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

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COMMENTS

Mahesh S Bhatt

3 years ago

Sir I come from Cybersecurity background in Telecom & IT.

This seems to be nothing but a government overt cover sham.

Our data of IP addresses by Service Providers is non secure/breachable.With advanced IP morphing techniques/botnets NATGRID shall be only paper Tiger/sham.Government donot want to pay for expert Tech Security solutions.

Next watch smart cities capturing citizens data for Financial tax purposes.

Our politicians support Mafia/Kill whistle-blowers.

Dawood Ibrahim is creation during Sharad Pawar CM's days,a smalltime Dongro goon.

Today he is active agent BCCI match fixer & group of Politicians/Businessmen are fighting SC investigations Mudgal is working hardly.

Each Political party has criminals which EC is unable to cleanse.

There is doha Ram Chandra kahe giya siya se aisa Kalyug aaye ga.

Raja aur Praja mein nis din hogi kichha taani.Choti Choti Bhaaliya Badi Badi Booraiyan.

Happy Navratri/Dushera.bhat_mahesh

Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

All these days the RBI had assumed the status of the 'holiest of the holy cows' with the divine right to deny any legitimate information and now there comes another entity. at this rate many more will follow suit and get away scot free with blue murder!

SuchindranathAiyerS

3 years ago

There are two sides to the "secrecy" coin in matters of national security. The first is, of course, to walk off with other people's money without having to exercise the usual bag of tricks. The other is to avoid accountability and fundamental assessment of "fitness for purpose". This is true of all Indian "Governance" functions, but "security" provides a more rigorous excuse for "secrecy"

A Pill for every ill? - I
The business goals of pharma companies influence the mission of research institutions and the final results. Young doctors are learning that there is a pill for every ill and a surgical correction for every anatomic deviation from the normal
 
“Who lies for you will lie against you.”  -  Bosnian Proverb.  
 
The recent disclosures by the The New York Times that more than 47% of the Harvard Medical School faculty is on the regular pay roll of drug companies should give us a wakeup call. All thinkers need to believe what I had been writing for years that most of what doctors learn from textbooks and their teachers is the ‘wisdom’ distilled by the vested interests in pharmaceutical and medical devices industries!  
 
The Harvard revelation is only the tip of the iceberg. In India, where we do not have such audits, the numbers must be prohibitive. Many doctors make a comfortable living thanks to the largesse of the industry. The unholy marriage between the academia and the industry should cease forthwith for the good of humanity. 
 
Intelligence is derived from the roots inter (between) and ligere (to choose). An intelligent doctor, therefore, should be able to choose between the good and the evil for the sake of his/her patients as also to become a person of value and not just a person of success. Albert Einstein wrote that one should “try to be a man of value, rather than a man of success.” An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine deplores the evil in medical science. 
 
My lamentations about medicine having gone to the market place, riding piggyback on technology, making it almost impossible to believe any of the short case-control studies published even in the “respectable” journals for years, had only fallen on deaf ears. I have become a laughing stock in the higher echelons of the Indian medical academia! 
 
I am told that a group of cardiologists in Mumbai, when asked to assess me for the Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences some years ago, had opined, “He is only a quack and has no idea what cardiology is all about!”  I did become Fellow-thanks to a few thinkers still in the organisation.
 
“The ties between clinical research and industry include not only grant support, but also a host of other financial arrangements. Researchers serve as consultants to companies whose products they are studying, join the advisory boards, and the speakers’ bureaus, enter into patent and royalty arrangements, agree to be listed authors of articles ghost written by interested companies, promote drugs and devices at company sponsored symposia, and allow themselves to be plied with expensive gifts and trips to luxurious settings. Many also have equity interest in companies. Academic medical institutions are themselves growing increasingly beholden to industry. Harvard used to be an exception; but they are also softening their stand,” wrote Marcia Angell.  
 
I could quote some of my bitter experiences, which I had shared with readers from time to time, here to complete the picture. Time was when a symposium on treatment of high blood pressure was held in a five-star hotel in Goa. I was pitted to speak against a star speaker from America. This gentleman is a regular company “employee”, having a very high academic status in addition. The drug in question was a receptor blocker of a particular new variety. 
 
While the American went on to describe the drug as the panacea for all hypertensives and should be the first drug of choice, I had to, per force, take the opposite stand as I was convinced that this drug was not the drug of first choice. This great master ridiculed me and the audience, of course, was with him! 
 
In March 2000, while I was on a lecture tour of some Universities in the US, early morning wake up alarm in my hotel room was blaring out the news item that this very drug, in the first-ever human study, had caused many more heart failures, while it was being touted as the drug to prevent heart failure. 
 
The study has since been stopped and the newscaster was asking nearly a million Americans who are already on the drug to contact their doctors to get the drug changed immediately. I tried in vain to contact the “great” man but to no avail. This happens again and again. 
 
The drug in question was one of the alpha blockers. Any blocker, alpha, beta, ACE or H1—or, for that matter, any other drug that blocks any normal body function, is not conducive to normal body physiology. Recent revelations about metaprolol in the POISE study are a good example. There are others ills, which follow all the above blockers but space does not permit me to go into them in greater details.  
 
No one has so far described science in a way that satisfies everyone. “Science, for example, can not give absolute proofs of the laws of nature because, although we can test an idea repeatedly, we can never be sure that an exception does not exist,” says Michael Cross in the New Scientist 2000 February 19th.  Every time something goes wrong and is detected, anyone could take refuge under this clause. This statement of Cross should not be misread to say that science is not good. It only goes to emphasize the fact that scientific methods are but one of the many ways to human wisdom. 
 
One other subtle way of taking the practicing doctor for a ride by the companies is the use of confusing statistical jargon, which, unfortunately, most medical students do not get to study in the medical school. This specially applies to the risk factor correcting efforts using drugs, a real money-spinner. 
 
While there are 17 studies (RCTs) in the area of blood pressure lowering drugs where the collective relative risk reduction (RRR) was only -20% and this is the one sold in the journal articles and company literature. If one were to analyse the absolute risk reduction (ARR) it comes down to -0.8% only! This will translate into a very insignificant survival benefit (SB) of just 0.8%. 
 
To put it differently, if a healthy man with moderately raised blood pressure were to take the drugs religiously for five years to reduce his box blood pressure, despite lots of other inconveniences due to the drug in question, his chance of survival becomes 96.8%, whereas it would still be 96% without any drug at all for five years but with simple change of mode of living!
 
Almost identical figures arise from all the cholesterol-lowering drugs. That is not all. The number needed to treat (NNT) unnecessarily is another serious matter. To save one young man with mild to moderate hypertension from a possible stroke in the next five years the doctor will have to treat 850 normal people with the same level of BP for a period of five years. The adverse drug reactions of those drugs in five years would be enormous, to say the least, both in morbidity and mortality, leave alone the cost! Practising doctors get to see only the RRR figures that look very impressive. The table below shows it all! 
 
 
In the next part we will examine why there is such a large nexus between the academia and the “for-profit” industry. 
 
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)
 

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COMMENTS

Rajesh Pandey

3 years ago

This article, and other articles by Dr.B.M.Hegde, have hit me so hard that I am really scared to go to a Doctor or a Hospital now.

Recently, some Doctors from AIIMS have opposed the 'fad' of Executive Health Check-ups, i.e. routine periodic Health Check-up of normal individuals. Hope the MCI & the Govt. listen to them and to eminent Doctors like Dr.Hegde.

I now firmly believe that these periodic Health Check-ups are primarily to utilize the idle installed capacity of diagnostic machines, to increase turnover of Hospitals.

REPLY

Narendra Doshi

In Reply to Rajesh Pandey 3 years ago

No scare is required when going to a doctor orhospital. It only requres you to remain alert, inquisite, discuss logic through independent minds etc.
Nature is the best . Avoid/reduce all medicines,antibiotics, injections, steroids, operations and research for alternative solutions.
A family doctor or a GP -general practitioner will in most cases be more han sufficient for your routine family needs. Select him carefully.
Periodic checkup is not advisable though made very popular. Most times your death is delayed but RARELY eliminated esp say in cancer tratment.

Narendra Doshi

3 years ago

worth reading and remembering

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