Right to Information
When CIC disposed 1,282 appeals of an RTI applicant in a single order
While pulling up the Indian Air Force (IAF) for lack of accountability, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had dismissed a record 1,282 second appeals filed by an applicant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A former Air Force officer Wing Commander, Sanjeev Sharma, filed second appeals seeking information from the Air Command and other related institutions across the country.
 
While lambasting Sharma for filing cumbersome RTI applications, DP Sharma, the Central Information Commissioner as on 18 April 2017, also pulled up the Air Force for lack of accountability and issued an advisory to increase the number of Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) and ensure ‘effective implementation’.
 
Sharma, who claims he had filed RTI applications in order to expose corruption in various outfits of the IAF, sought information through over 3,000 applications since 2014 on various issues pertaining to Air Force’s contingency fund, Air Force Wives’ Welfare Association, Canteen Stores departments, trees and animals in the campuses, land related to Air Force Mess and Officers’ residences, private property bought by Air Force personnel and so on. The CIC heard a whopping 1,282 second appeals in a single order, stating “these RTI applications are seeking the same information” and therefore they have been heard together “to save time and resources”.
 
In a landmark order, the CIC observed, “…the kind of time and resources spent by the appellant in filing these RTI applications and appeals do speak of a certain kind of accountability, which appears to be lacking in the IAF. The lack of sufficient number of CPIOs or APIOs in one of the three largest wings of the Ministry of Defence raises a serious concern regarding the kind of importance that is accorded to the RTI Act provisions”. 
 
The CIC has also stated that it is ‘alarmed’ over the dismal rate of disposing of first appeals by the concerned First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) of the Western Air Command and Central Air Command.
 
The CIC, in its order, has given an advisory, with a copy to the Chief of Air Staff and the Defence Secretary, asking it to mandatorily increase the number of CPIOs and APIOs and conduct RTI awareness programmes for them. The CIC order states:
  • The number of CPIOs and APIOs should be increased in all commands and there should be at least one CPIO and one APIO at every unit or station level.
  • It should be incumbent on the controlling officers to conduct appropriate workshops and sensitisation programmes for the CPIOs and FAAs regarding the various provisions of the RTI Act. 
  • A copy of this order is marked to the Chief of Air Staff and the Defence Secretary to take note of the observations made above, as well for appropriate action to implement the advisory.
 
Supporting the RTI applicant, the CIC has put the onus on the Air Force for lack of transparency on its part. In its order, the CIC states, “As is evident from the issue at hand, that the crux for filing of these RTI applications has been the lack of transparency in the operation and execution of the activities of non-public fund (NPF) ventures. A considered attempt should be made to bring such information, which affects the fees and subscriptions deposited by the members of IAF fraternity in public domain, so that the paraphernalia around the probable misuse of such funds is not attributed to deliberate and malafide tactics.” 
 
“There is no doubt that establishments where funds are raised from member contributions remain at the risk of misappropriations and unaccountability. Therefore, it is in the best of interests that there should be maximum disclosure and minimum restraint on nondisclosure of the working and management of these NPFs.” 
 
As per the CIC order, RTI applicant Sharma claims that there is a parallel economy running inside the IAF fraternity and there are different sources of corruption. He raises the issue of funds allocated in the name of non-public funds being channeled for personal benefit rather than the welfare of the forces.
 
A Delhi-based RTI activist, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), who has been pursuing the haphazard manner in which the CIC in Delhi is disposing off second appeals, says, “This is a landmark order covering a comprehensive reading of the excerpts, analysis and submissions of both the parties. The Commissioners need to emulate the practice of such a well drafted Order.”
 
 
'Cumbersome' framing of RTI application by Sharma, according to CIC
 
"A perusal of the content of the RTI Applications reflect more on the cumbersome way of framing these in having sought for ten kinds of information within a single query. The RTI Applications lack specifics and are framed in a question answer format in most places, providing information on which may practically require dwelling into records and ascertaining facts and figures, then collating it."

"For instance, some of the RTI Application queries are reproduced here verbatim, in respect of CHAF(B), TC, IAF:
(a) Who have been the CPIO/PIO/APIO from 01 Jan 2007 to 10 Sep 2014 & also for PSI, AFWWA(L), CSD Canteen, AOC/CO Contingency Fund, Offrs. Mess, SNCOs Mess, Air Force School, Gas Agency & CWF?

(b) What are their addresses, telephone No., Fax No., email-ids? Who are the approving authorities for their appointment along with policies & file notings? When they go on leave or T/D, to whom did they hand over their charges? Please provide copies of handing /taking over registers & SRO/URO entries. If they did not handover their charges, what action was taken against them?

(c) Where have they published their details, as required by RTI Act, 2005, on IAF website? If they have not done so, what action has been initiated against them? How many RTI Applications have been received & how many were not replied in time? Who were the officers responsible for this & what action has been taken against them?

(d) How many combatants/civilians are working in RTI Cells? Are the combatants working here get any honorarium & civilians any pay? Who decides that? Who issues Form 16 to these employees? Are they paid minimum wages as per govt. law?

(e) How many appeals have been disposed off to the satisfaction of applicants>

(f) Any other relevant information

(g) File notings of progress of this RTI."
 
 
(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

Meenal Mamdani

3 months ago

Wonderful. The military probably has more corruption than other areas as the strict hierarchy and "follow orders without questioning them" mentality means that blatant misuse of resources goes unchallenged.
Remember the jawan who posted the horrible food their unit was being served while funds for food were being diverted.

Emerging trend of 'Build & Sell' model in housing
Three years ago, when Manav Singh, an aviation entrepreneur from Shimla, forayed into real estate with the launch of a mega 100-acre luxury township in the picturesque Auramah Valley, next to popular tourist spot of Naldera in Himachal Pradesh, he was treading on an alien and risky terrain amidst the real estate slowdown.
 
But today, after successfully selling all the 50 units (apartments, duplex and villas) in the first phase, delivering 85,000 sq ft of residential real estate, he has made a mark with about 50 percent appreciation registered by his RERA-compliant property over the last three years and by establishing an all-new concept of Build & Sell in the housing market.
 
Singh, promoter of Imperial Realty and Developments Limited, who has now launched the second phase of his township, took to the Build & Sell model as the credibility of developers had hit an all-time low due to large-scale delivery defaults, with buyers shying away from investing in under-construction homes. His strategy paid rich dividends as he could sell all the inventory in the first phase without any marketing costs and simply by word of mouth.
 
In the present scenario, when the housing sector is severely hit due to the lack of buyers' trust, the Build & Sell model holds significance in restoring the trust of buyers/investors. Today, prospective home buyers don't want to invest in under-construction homes and see their money getting stuck. It is because of this precise reason that there has been a sharp decline in the off-take of under-construction homes. On the contrary, there is a growing demand for ready-to-move homes where buyers don't run the risk of losing their capital.
 
Moreover, they get what they pay for in terms of space, amenities, specifications and quality. It's here that the Build & Sell model comes handy. In this backdrop, India's largest real estate developer, DLF, is mulling this new model instead of marketing under-construction properties as most of them face long delays and there are issues pertaining to the quality of construction.
 
The recent enactment of the Real Estate Regulation Act (RERA) may well give the required push to the Build & Sell model as one of the key provisions of the law, cleared by parliament last year, with a May 1 deadline for its notification by states, relates to severe punishment -- including jail terms -- for defaulting on timely completion and delivery of projects. Also, only those projects with prior regulatory approvals can be sold to customers under the new law.
 
Leading real estate firms, like Mumbai-based Hiranandani and K. Raheja Group and Bengaluru-based Brigade Enterprises, are fine-tuning their development model/strategy, in line with RERA, by making their staff conversant with the provisions of the new act, besides taking the services of RERA-compliance experts to ensure that project approvals and construction happen in accordance with the law.
 
Key players like DLF have been putting proper systems into place and outsourcing project work to outside professionals and project management consultants. The companies are also deploying technology to speed up construction. Real estate experts believe that sound development strategy and efficient processes are the key to stay on the right side of RERA. This will also prove to be enabling framework for the Build & Sell model.
 
Today, the model has assumed greater significance as the earlier practice of developers raising construction finance from property buyers before required regulatory permissions were in place has been banned under RERA. Even 70 percent of construction-linked payment received from customers has to be put in a project-specific escrow account and cannot be deployed in any other project.
 
However, there are various hurdles before this model, including expensive land acquisition. Since land forms a major part of the project cost, for adopting Build & Sell model, it is desirable that the developer has land with him or, alternately, entering into partnership with land owner would come handy. Especially as there is no bank funding available for land and bank funding for real estate projects doesn't come easily.
 
A reputed developer, with credibility and good track record, stands a better chance of adopting this model as he has greater access to funding, including cheaper bank funding. The success of this model will also largely depend on significantly reducing the development cycle by using technology and by better project monitoring and project management and in turn bringing down the project cost.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Sanjeev B

3 months ago

I'm not sure what is so novel about this. In practically every other industry: automobiles, mobile phones, IT hardware, B2C sales are always 'Build and Sell'. Isn't it ironic that what should be the obvious and plain way of doing business (banao aur becho) is now becoming something novel, pioneering and oh so wonderful.

Moneylife should know better than to publish this as the Next Great Thing.

Swaroop C H

3 months ago

Is there an article that explains this "build & sell" model? I used MoneyLife search and couldn't find anything other than this article which doesn't explain it at all.

Robots are people too (The Funny Side)
Legislative officials in the European Union have been trying to decide whether robots are people or not. This is idiotic. Of course they are people. The little robot in my smartphone told me. (Not a joke. I asked Siri if she was human and she replied: "Close enough.")
 
One defines "people" as sentient beings with whom one can have intelligent conversations, right? So that must include Siri and her rivals, but exclude babies, household pets, Donald Trump and nationalist politicians in general.
 
I was thinking about this when someone sent me a video of a press conference at the White House. A reporter asked a long, rambling question and one of the nearby phones responded: "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you want me to change." Everyone laughed, since it was a straighter answer than officials usually give.
 
At the time of writing, Alexa is the hot new artificial assistant my early-adopter friends are buying. Although unattractive (she looks like a cylindrical crisp container) she exists in a permanent state of semi-sleep until she hears her name, her brain circuits clearly copied from married men, civil servants, students and the like.
 
The waking up bit creates problems, I'm told. TV news reports about Alexa ordering expensive stuff from Amazon.com causes Alexa robots near TVs to wake up and start doing the same. I heard news anchors pontificate about this as if it was a glitch, but since the machines come from Amazon.com, it sounds rather a profitable one.
 
My tech friend says the current trendy amusement is to gather several AI robots (such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Next) on to a table and get them talking to each other, no humans involved. Long conversations follow but it's incredibly creepy to hear so much chatter with no actual functioning human brain involved. It's exactly like being in a bar on a Friday night.
 
Anyway, my geek buddy thought watching machines converse was hilarious, but it annoyed me, forcing me to envision a grim future where we work for a living while our gadgets hang out chatting and joking. Wouldn't it be better the other way round? And what if the machines plot to take over the world? It happens in pretty much every robot movie, right?
 
He told me I was being ridiculous as the devices can't even move by themselves. But I told him that that was only a matter of time. "Alexa, can you close the curtains, please?" I asked. "Not yet," she replied (this is not a joke, you can try it yourself). Is that not clear proof of their ambition?
 
Anyway, this writer has decided against purchasing his own Alexa as his teenage daughter is called Lexi and confusion is likely. I already have an expensive, half-listening semi-sleeper of that name who orders stuff from the internet, and one is plenty.
 
Still technologists do create interesting stuff, although I worry deeply about their values and priorities.
 
Things That Make Me Angry: Scientists can fly people to the moon but can't find a way to transmit coffee through my phone. Come on, guys, get with the programme.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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