Public Interest   Exclusive
Anti-encroachment drive: Activists come together in support of BMC officer

NGOs and social activists have together written a letter to the BMC and Mumbai Police chiefs supporting the BMC staff for taking effective action against encroachments like hawkers and structures in Dadar station area

Leading civic activists and non-governmental organisations from Mumbai have lent their support to the civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) assistant commissioner DK Jain who has been allegedly held responsible by a politically motivated union for the death of newspaper vendor during his anti-hawker drives around Dadar station following a Supreme Court order.
According to the rules—hawkers at no-hawking zone, hoardings at traffic signals and authorised slum structures where alternate accommodation is given—are deemed as encroachment and have to be razed down or evacuated by the civic body.

NGOs (non-government organisations) such as India Against Corruption, Mumbai 227, Flank Road Citizens’ Forum and Moneylife Foundation have together written a letter to municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte and police commissioner Arup Patnaik supporting the BMC staff for taking effective action against encroachments from hawkers and structures and calling for a high-level understanding between municipal and police authorities to provide support while carrying out firm action against such encroachments.

“We, as voluntary organisations of the citizens also seek properly co-ordinated support from both authorities, to the staff of municipal wards and police stations, request both BMC and Mumbai Police co-ordinate actions of your staff to enable them to take effective steps against encroachments,” says the letter.

According to a news report, Brihanmumbai Vruttapatra Vikreta Sangh (BVSS), led by senior Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, had called municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte with a demand that a First Information Report (FIR) be lodged against Mr Jain for the death of the vendor on 10th May after his illegal stall was removed, leading to a cardiac arrest. They alleged that Mr Jain had thrashed the vendor, which led to his death. The association had also called a day’s strike on 19th May demanding stern action against Mr Jain.

However, the BMC had refuted all allegations saying that the vendor died in hospital after his relative admitted him, when suffered the cardiac attack. 

Ashok Ravat, president of Citizens Forum, G/North and member of advance locality movement (ALM), Shivaji Park (Dadar), who is also spearheading the signature campaign, told Moneylife, “One ward (of BMC) has already contacted us for the help they require. Others will also seek assistance. Meanwhile, the movement is definitely gaining momentum.”

“This eviction drive has given complete relief to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the crowded Dadar station. The whole strike was politically motivated. The municipal commissioner himself has said on record that the cause of death has nothing do with the eviction drive,” says Nagesh Kini, member of Mogul Lane - Mahim, ALM, who is active in designing this signature campaign. Mr Kini has successfully collected 53 signatures and also written a letter to the municipal commissioner.

Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor Mahiti Adhikar Manch, a Right to Information (RTI) forum says that, “The BMC achieved what has been impossible in any other part of Mumbai that is in eliminating the hawker menace for a good six weeks. If we, the citizens fail to offer support, then cases of hawkers working with politicians and the police to attack and harass ordinary citizens who protest against them will only increase.”

The campaign is supported by eminent activists from various fields including Indrani Malkani, member of an ALM, GR Vora, a Mumbai-based RTI activist, Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation and Ashok Datar, a well know transport activist, among others. 

“With the support of citizens, G/North ward staff now feels empowered to continue the action against all types of encroachment,” adds Mr Ravat.

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    8 years ago

    Good job.

    Citizens drive is immensely helpful to keep municipals on their feet. Most of Mumbai is a slum.

    Dinesh B

    8 years ago

    Very good job done.We have the same problem in Borivali West.(Right from Indraprastha Shopping Centre to Goragandhi Apts.)In Borivali we have hawkers sitting around Railway Station,Police Chowki and even right around BMC Ward Office.There is no place to walk.One has to walk on the Road.


    8 years ago

    Good work by citizens in support of lawful actions!

    Public Interest   Exclusive
    Delhi HC upholds CIC order on Western Ghat report

    What is not final is the governmental policy decision on the aspects to which the Western Ghat report submitted by Prof Gadgil panel relates, the High Court said

    The Delhi High Court, while upholding the order passed by Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner (CIC), has asked the ministry of environment and forest (MOEF) to publish the report by Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) on its website.

    “There is no reason for the petitioner (the government) to entertain the apprehension that the disclosure of the WGEEP report, at this stage, would impede the decision making process and also would adversely affect the scientific or economic interests of the states. The broad-based participative process of debate would, in fact, help the MOEF and the concerned states in arriving at a policy decision, which is in the larger interest and for public good,” justice Vipin Sanghi said in an order dated 17 May 2012.

    Last month, the CIC passed an order asking the government to provide an attested copy of the summary of the WGEEP report and the report on the Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project in Kerala to G Krishnan. Mr Gandhi, the CIC, also asked the MOEF to place the WGEEP report in the ministry’s website before 10 May 2012.

    The government then filed a petition in the high court against the decision of the CIC. 

    The MOEF constituted an expert panel on 4 March 2010 called the WGEEP under the chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil. The expert panel had 13 members. The expert panel was constituted in recognition of the fact that the Western Ghats is one of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots, and is considered environmentally sensitive and ecologically significant.

    Appearing for the government, Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) submitted that before the recommendations of the WGEEP panel are accepted by the central government, the views of different states that are likely to be affected are required to be considered. “If, at this stage, the WGEEP panel report is made public, even before obtaining and considering the views of the affected states, there would be a spate of applications seeking notification of certain areas as ecologically sensitive, based on the recommendations contained in the WGEEP report,” she said.

    Earlier, while passing an order, the CIC had said, “The disclosure of the WGEEP report would enable citizens to voice their opinions with the information made available in the report. Such opinions will be based on the credible information provided by an expert panel constituted by the government. This would facilitate an informed discussion between citizens based on a report prepared with their/public money. MOEF’s unwillingness to be transparent is likely to give citizens an impression that most decisions are taken in furtherance of corruption resulting in a serious trust deficit.”

    Justice Sanghi, in his order, said, “Having considered the submissions of the learned ASG and perused the record including the impugned order, I am of the view that there is no merit in this petition, and I am inclined to agree with the reasoning adopted by the learned CIC for allowing the respondent’s appeal and directing disclosure of the WGEEP report prepared by Prof Madhav Gadgil committee and panel.”

    The public information officer (PIO) and the MOEF had tried to maintain that the report submitted by the Prof Gadgil panel is not final. However, the HC said the panel has submitted its report and now it is for the MOEF to act on it in consultation with affected states.

    “If there are any shortcomings or deficiencies in the said report, inter alia, for the reason that the same is based on incomplete or deficient data, or for any other reason, the said factor would go into the decision-making process of the MOEF and the concerned states. But it cannot be said that the said report is not final. What is not final is the governmental policy decision on the aspects to which the WGEEP report relates. The said report is one of the ingredients, which the MOEF and the concerned states would take into consideration while formulating their policy in relation to the Western Ghats ecology,” justice Sanghi said.
    The Western Ghats have complex inter-state character as they are spread across an area of about 1.29 lakh sq km, in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. There are apprehension in the government that the recommendations of the WGEEP would influence many sectoral activities, such as agricultural land use, mining industry, tourism, water resources, power, roads and railways.

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    Public Interest   Exclusive
    Political donations flagged as potential fraud in the US

    A woman in upstate New York is surprised to find a contribution to the Wisconsin governor's campaign on her credit card

    When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor's campaign committee, Nellis said.

    Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5.

    "Over my dead body," said Nellis, a potter and retired teacher in upstate New York who describes herself as "adamantly angry and upset" at Republicans such as Walker. Nellis disputed the charge and she was issued a new card.

    Though the amount of money was small, ProPublica decided Nellis' complaint was worth following up. There have been other reports recently about insecure campaign-donation websites and the potential for fraud. Earlier this month, The Washington Times reported that Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney, was using a collection system that madeonline donors' credit card information accessible to even amateur snoopers.

    At ProPublica's request, Nellis called Capital One and asked a representative about the $5 charge to Friends of Scott Walker.

    "She told me that they watch for fraudulent merchants who will put through a bunch of charges that are not legitimate," Nellis said. "I said, 'The fraudulent merchant here was Friends of Scott Walker, right?' And she said, 'Yes.' They had a little flag on any Scott Walker activity."

    As an experiment, a ProPublica employee also made a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker on her Capital One card on May 10. Almost immediately, Walker's campaign sent an email thanking her. Less than a minute after that, Capital One emailed a fraud protection alert, saying the company "noticed potentially suspicious activity" on her account and asking her to call fraud protection as soon as possible.

    When she inquired, a Capital One representative said the donation wasn't in line with her spending pattern and "our fraud department had some potential fraud concerns on the account."

    Another $5 donation, made to Walker's opponent on the Capital One card, was not flagged as potentially fraudulent. Neither was a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker made on an American Express card. (The employee is seeking refunds of all three donations.)

    We called Friends of Scott Walker and eZcontribution, the Wisconsin company that runs the website handling donations for Walker's campaign, for an explanation, but no one would answer our questions.

    Walker's campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, emailed ProPublica on May 10 under the subject line of "follow up."

    "I received a message about the story you are doing," she wrote. "The campaign does not comment on internal matters."

    "How about allegations of credit-card fraud?" we wrote back. "That's hardly internal, it's external."

    Matthews did not reply.

    Ultimately, all we can say at this point is that Capital One appears to be flagging donations to Friends of Scott Walker as potentially fraudulent.


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