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No beating about the bush.
Proving the point that the ministry of external affairs has outsourced passport work to TCS and has given authorization, permission as well as 100% funds for the work, TCS is a public authority under the RTI Act. A complaint has been filed with the Central Information Commission, Delhi by the Pune Passport Grievance Forum
The Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) which continues to receive several complaints everyday regarding non-issuance of passports to eligible applicants and has been trying to resolve problems through interaction with TCS and MEA officials, is now gearing up for the next step of taking the campaign forward.
On 11th March, at 9.30am, the PPGF will hold an agitation at the TCS’s Passport Seva Kendra office in Mundhwa, Pune. It will also hold an on-the-spot citizen meeting there. Complaint forms will be made available for affected passport applicants. The PPGF will demand streamlining of the passport issuance system; making a friendly and easily accessible online appointment system; putting up of boards at the entrance to list the exact nature of documents required for normal and tatkal passports so as to avoid unnecessary harassment to citizens and; demand ousting of passport agents who are given easy entry into the Passport Seva Kendra whereas citizens can enter, strictly by appointment. A deadline of 15 days would be given to TCS as well as MEA’s Passport Office at Senapati Bapat Road to rectify the above faults.
The PPGF will also demand from TCS to put the Master Service Agreement between the company and MEA in the public domain. TCS has put up the Master Service Agreement in the public domain for its venture with an American firm, AC Nielsen (US) Inc. If it can do it in the case of a multi-national company why not in the case of Indian government’s Public Private Partnership venture. Master Services Agreement, by and between Tata America International Corporation & Tata Consultancy Services Limited and ACNielsen (US), Inc. Effective as of October 1, 2007.
Meanwhile, Vijay Kumbhar, one of the conveners of the PPGF has filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission, demanding transparency from TCS, which is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as the Government of India has given authorization, permission as well as 100% funds for the work in the public private partnership (PPP) venture.
Kumbhar, in his complaint has made the following arguments, which makes it mandatory for TCS to disseminate information under the RTI Act:
“1) As a public authority named ministry of external affairs of India (MEA) performs passport related work as per the Passport Act, through its division consular, passport and visa (CPV);
2) As MEA has outsourced above work and has given authorisation as well as permission to Tata consultancy services (TCS) for the same;
3) As MEA gives 100% funds for above work, mode of funding is built, operate, transfer;
4) As per RTI Act 2005 “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—
by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and includes any body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
5) As per above provision TCS is a public authority;
6) As MEA has entered in to master agreement with TCS and such an agrreement is called authorisation or permission;
7) As per section 2 (i) ‘record’ includes—
(a) any document, manuscript and file;
(b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
(c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not);
(d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
8) As per Section 4 (1) (b) (v) of the RTI Act, it is duty of the public authority to publish the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions;
9) As per Section 4 (1) (b) (xiii ) of the RTI Act, it is duty of the public authority to publish particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it;
10) As per Section 4 (c) a public authority has to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;
11) As per Section 4 (d) a public authority has to provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons;
12) As information covered in point no 7, 8, 9 and 10 is always available in permits authorisations called agreement or work order,
13) As lot of other information is available on websites of MEA and TCS;
14) As none of the above authorities have sou motu disseminated above mentioned agreement between MEA and TCS;
15) As, I personally along with Ms Vandana Chavan , MP (Rajya Sabha) , Vinita Deshmukh and Sandeep Khardekar from Pune, went to Regional Passport Office, Pune and requested for above agreement, but it was not available with them;
16) As, I am the person, who has been denied access to records under this Act,
I am filing this complaint u/s 18 (1) (f) of the RTI Act, I request you to initiate an inquiry u/s 18 (2) of RTI act and compel both the public authorities to disseminate the said agreement and all other transactions between them and publish it on their websites.”
To a question about the role of the TCS in the passport project posed by MP Laxmant Naik in the Rajya Sabha in August 2012, E Ahmed, minister of state in ministry of external affairs had replied, “As per the agreement, it is the duty of TCS to ensure ‘Under the contractual obligations, the role and responsibilities of service provider include provision/ setting up of
Vinita Deshmukh earlier wrote about problems faced by applicants at the Pune Passport Office. Please access these stories through the following links:
(Vinita Deshmukh is 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 and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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The CAG has also found instances of tampering of records and criticised the Department of Financial Services in the finance ministry for deficient monitoring of the multi-crore scheme
Expressing serious concern over the implementation of Rs52,000 crore farm debt waiver scheme, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in several cases ineligible farmers were given benefit while deserving ones were left out.
The CAG has also found instances of tampering of records and criticised the Department of Financial Services (DFS) in the finance ministry for deficient monitoring of the multi-crore scheme.
“Overall, the Performance Audit revealed that in ...(22.32% of cases test checked) there were lapses/errors which raised serious concern about the implementation of the scheme”, said the CAG report tabled in Parliament today.
The report deals with Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (ADWDRS) 2008 under which 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers and 60 lakh other farmers were given debt relief to the extent of Rs52,516 crore.
The CAG report said in several cases “farmers who had taken a loan for non-agricultural purposes or whose loans did not meet eligibility conditions, were given benefits under the scheme.”
It said several farmers who were eligible for the benefit under the scheme were not considered for loan waiver by the lending institutions.
Besides other observations, the report said the microfinance institutions (MFIs) were given benefit under the scheme in violation of the debt waiver guidelines.
The banks, it said, also claimed undue benefits like penal interest, legal charges, miscellaneous charges from the government. Under the scheme, banks were supposed to bear these charges themselves.
Referring to the issue tampering of records, CAG suggested DFS should review such cases and take “stringent action” against erring officials and banks.