TCS refuses to share in public, Master Service Agreement with MEA for its passport venture; says it will consult its legal cell

At the high-level meeting held at Moneylife Foundation’s office on Wednesday to discuss the Passport mess in Pune, TCS officials showed hesitancy in making the document public.  Indeed, an earlier CIC decision ordering TCS to make it public has been defied
 

During the Wednesday high-level meeting of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) conveners with top officials of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) at the Moneylife Foundation office in Mumbai, one of the points raised was making the Master Service Agreement (MSA) between TCS and the ministry of external affairs (MEA) public. This would make responsibilities and roles of both the entities transparent.
 

Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist, who was also present at the meeting, informed that in one of the hearings in 2012, while he was CIC, it was TCS which had shown unwillingness to make the document public. He said, that “we need to know who is objecting to making it public, MEA or TCS? In my experience during a hearing, it was TCS that was unwilling.” Tanmoy Chakrabarty, vice-president and head for government-industry solutions unit at TCS put the onus on the MEA for making it public, when this query was asked by Mr Gandhi at the meeting, but then went on the defensive stating that, “We will have to ask our legal cell.”
 

Vijay Kumbhar, one of the conveners of the PPGF has already filed a CIC complaint against TCS for not putting up the MSA in the public domain. He is waiting for the date of hearing. At the meeting, he brought it to the notice of the TCS officials, being in a public private partnership (PPP) venture with the government body, wherein the MEA has outsourced the above work and has given authorization as well as permission to TCS for the same and as the MEA provides funds for the above and mode of funding is Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT), TCS is public authority.
 


Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, had in a hearing pertaining to TCS on the issue of a Passport Seva Kendra having been built on an allegedly illegal property in Ghaziabad had ordered that the Master Service Agreement should be made public, barring the portion.
 

The TCS representative had brought the copy of the order at the time of hearing. Mr Gandhi in his order had stated that, “The Commission has looked at the agreement and the contentions of the respondent (TCS person). The Commission agrees that the rate mentioned in the contract if disclosed could harm the competitive position of the service provider. In view of this the Commission directs that the rates mentioned in the Agreement can be severed as per the provisions of Section 10 of the RTI Act. The Commission asked the respondent to specifically point out the information in the contract which could be said to be held in a fiduciary capacity. The respondent (TCS) states that he needs to get instructions from the ministry on the matter of disclosure of the Master Service Agreement as part of its Section 4(1) (b) obligations. The Commission therefore adjourns the matter to 1 May 2012 at 05.00pm.”
 

On 1 May 2012, the TCS representative remained absent and asked for more time to consider whether the Agreement should be made public. Mr Gandhi, in his order stated: “Respondent: Absent; The Commission has been informed that the third party Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has asked for time to voice its objections to disclosure of information. In view of this the Commission adjourns the hearing to 27th June 2012 at 4.00pm. All parties may send their written submissions, if they wish, before 30 May 2012 and copies of such submissions would be sent to opposite parties. Any rejoinders will be sent by the third party M/s TCS, MEA and the appellant to each other and to the Commission before 15 June 2012.”
 

The Commission directed TCS as well as the PIO (MEA) and the appellant to appear before the Commission on 27 June 2012 at 4.00pm to give their arguments.
 

On 27th June, again the TCS representative remained absent at the hearing. However, Tarunima Vijra and Dushyant Manocha, advocates for TCS were present. They asked for adjournment and a fresh date as their senior official VP Singh was travelling. Mr Gandhi denied another date stating that, “The Commission is conscious of the fact that its time is paid by the poorest man in India and it therefore does not have the luxury of giving another adjournment.” Mr Manocha also argued that the information is exempt under Section 8 (1) (d) & (e) as the information is “commercially competitive and disclosing would harm competitive interest of the TCS.”
 

Shailesh Gandhi, ordered the PIO of MEA to disclose information.
 

His decision on 4 July 2012 read as follows:
 

“The Commission had given adequate opportunity of hearing to the third party M/s Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to explain its objections and put forth its arguments before the Commission to establish that the information sought by the appellant was covered by the exemptions of Section 8(1)(d) &(e) of the RTI Act.
 

“The third party TCS has claimed exemption under Section 8(1) (d) & (e) of the RTI Act but has given no explanation as to how the information sought by the appellant is exempt. The third party TCS has undertaken a commercial transaction with the ministry and has been given the authority to run the Passport Seva Kendra on behalf of the government. The government has effectively sub-contracted its function through a contractor. 
 

“Since the third party TCS has not given any arguments to support its claim for exemption under Section 8(1) (d) & (e) of the RTI Act the Commission does not have any basis for accepting whether the said claim is justified. Since no justification had been provided for the claim of exemptions the Commission cannot see any justification for denial of information to the appellant.
 

“This is information that can certainly be obtained by the ministry from TCS if it is not available and would squarely fall in the definition of information as defined under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act which states, ‘information’ means ‘any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force’. When the government asks a private party to conduct any functions which it has been conducting earlier in the nature of providing vital services to the citizens such as providing a passport, it certainly has to be able to access all information regarding the activity from the private body to which it has given the contract.
 

“The Appeal is allowed.
 

“The PIO is directed to provide the information to the appellant before 25 July 2012.” -Shailesh Gandhi, Information Commissioner 04 July 2012.
 

Tanmoy Chakrabarty has promised the PPGF to seek advice from TCS’s legal cell and revert at the earliest.
 

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    COMMENTS

    Mahiti Adhikar Manch

    8 years ago

    Dear friends,

    In continuation of my msg on 15th, just to keep you updated, tried again for appointment today as got message on passport site earlier at 3.00 pm. Tried to get appointment for 01.04-13 for 4 passports.

    Got appointment only for my daughter's passport but rest of us again to contact on 18-03-13. The slot got closed at 3.07. Total appointments given 1010. So now for each person different dates. So visit for passport at different dates. At least while submitting in hard copies you could do submission at one go for all the members.

    It is not necessary that all appointments taken will come on that day and time, there will be some not coming on the allotted appointment.
    So off-line passport application also need to be accepted as it was done before on-line application started.

    Just to keep you updated, will try again tomorrow and post the msg, so from 10-03-13 I have been trying to get appointment got on 17th March for one application.

    Yours in service of RTI
    Bhaskar Prabhu
    Mumbai

    REPLY

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    Try a walk-in appointment for the rest of you, by visiting the Passport Office. This way you might get the same date for all of you.

    Mahiti Adhikar Manch

    In Reply to Vinita Deshmukh 8 years ago

    Dear Vinitaji,

    Yes, that is what I will have to do and what passport applicants were doing earlier. But when I went to the pass port seva kendra they had earlier said it is only in online. After such episode they said visit passport office with my on-line registration and latter they will give me the dates and so on. Then what is the necessary for registration compulsory they need to accept passport application as they were doing earlier times, accepting in hard copy.
    There should be option eighther go off-line or on-line. May be TCS gets paid for per passport registration.

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    harassment? By another method

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    the link is:
    http://www.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlin...

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    They are worse than public sector/Govt sector I suppose, they should give best services, FEEL you should make complaint at GRIEVANCE CELL-MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    8 years ago

    See the plight of MCA both TCS and Infosys slugging out, sufferers who?

    Seshamani

    8 years ago

    The argument of TCS objecting to disclosure of its commercial agreement with the MEA on the Passport Services, during the RTI hearing, is misleading. The following points should be considered:
    1. Public disclosure prior to the decision in favour of TCS would have commercially affected TCS.
    2. After the above event, it is not commercially harmful to TCS to have the terms disclosed to anybody, inn fact this should rightfully be open commercial information, as is the case with ANY government tender anywhere in the country, for any item or service.
    3. At the time of the request for disclosure as reported in the Moneylife article, it was factually wrong to state that disclosure would have been commercially harmful to TCS.
    4. The disclosure of the entire agreeement in the concerned website should be required in any case of PPP and public services, more so in this case, considering that the agreementg would have specified the terms of reference and therefore details of the services to be provided and standards to be maintained.
    5. It is interesting the the Tata Group often requires non-disclosure of their terms of Government dealings, which makes one wonder why such disclosure is so damaging for the Tata Group. It can only make one think that the termks are not fair to the People of India.
    6. Singur is another case which comes to mind, but that was a public matter, so the fact of the legal binding on the Government of West Bengal not to maintain secrecy was in the open, but, by the very nature of such dealings, there must be many similar things in the secret hideaways within the Tata cupboard.

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    8 years ago

    A contractor is bound to follow Rules applicable to parent organisation

    CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

    8 years ago

    Being Professional should not comment, but, not happy with the working of Tata's

    manoharlalsharma

    8 years ago

    It is a matter of uncompetent staff and wasting of valuable time of AAM AADMI.

    V Rajendran

    8 years ago

    It is time we did something seriously to get information on such critical issues. Some Public Sector institutions too are no exception. Though SBI comes under the ambit of RTI, I once raised a query to SBI seeking some details about their cards. SBI replied stating that card issue is outsourced to a private firm, which does not come under the purview of RTI queries.
    V Rajendran

    TCS assures smooth passport delivery system

    The high-level meeting of Pune Passport Grievance Forum with senior-most officials of Tata Consultancy Services organised by Moneylife Foundation at its Mumbai office has raised some hopes for the generally harassed passport applicant 

     
    Tata Consultancy Services’ (TSC’s) vice-president and head for government-industry solutions unit, Tanmoy Chakrabarty, assured the conveners of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) that they will submit to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) a proposal to extend online appointments stretching to 20 to 30 days in order to lessen citizens’ distress in not getting online appointments promptly. Presently, citizens can take appointment only for the day.
     
    While stating that TCS would consider giving more appointments than 650 per day currently, he appealed to citizens to be present for the appointment. He said that presently, 20% of applicants drop out every day, thus denying genuine passport applicants his or her fair chance. The meeting started with a detailed presentation by Mr Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Head Government Industry Solutions Unit at TCS on how its contract with the government on passport seva works across India. This was followed by a presentation by Moneylife Consulting Editor Vinita Deshmukh on the problems faced by applicants at the Pune passport office at each level. 
     
    Very importantly, it was revealed that a passport applicant can book his appointment for seven days from the day he logs in and not ONLY one day as is the common understanding. Shalini Mathur, senior Manager, TCS, stated that, “It has always been open for seven days from the day you log in, but most applicants are unaware of the same.’’ For some strange reason, this was not given adequate publicity.
     
    Passport applicants undergo the trauma of revisiting Counter B or Counter A in Pune due to the supposed inadequacy of their documents. Rajesh Dogra, operations head of Passport Seva Project, stated, “We shall propose to the MEA to appoint seasoned passport officials at one more counter, which we will create, called Pre-A counter. Here, the documents will be verified by veteran passport office employees before they are scanned, so that number of trips are reduced when the applicant goes to Counter B for verification of documents.’’ 
     
    This was a sequel to a question posed by conveners of PPGF as to why untrained and raw TCS personnel have been appointed at Counter A, where documents are blindly scanned without even basic verification. Presently, applicants are required to make several visits, on the whims and fancies of the passport officials.


    In order to bring complete transparency to the number of documents that a citizen is required to bring to the passport office for his application, Dogra stated that, “Public information boards will be prominently put up on the premises of TCS and the Regional Passport Office (RPO), at several places, so that citizens are clear about the list of documents required. This will ensure transparency.’’
     
    Regarding the inconvenience caused to applicants waiting for hours on end outside the Passport Seva Kendra of TCS, Chakrabarty has appealed to citizens to come only 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment. As for the inconvenience caused to applicants travelling to Pune, TCS officials assured that they would take up the opening up of mini Passport Seva Kendras in all six districts based on a proposal by MEA last year.
    TCS officials will also request RPOs of the MEA to lodge complaints against illegal passport agents who roam in the premises. TCS will request MEA officials to hold passport melas in various towns and cities to make people aware of the working of the passport offices.
     
    Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife, stated that, “The Pune campaign has had an overpowering impact, which has led the highest authorities of TCS to take notice. Citizens of Pune should keep up the campaign till it reaches a logical end.’’
     

    Conveners Vinita Deshmukh, Vijay Kumbhar and Sandeep Khardekar represented PPGF. They have decided to intensify the campaign through a thorough follow-up with TCS. They are also writing to minister of external affairs Salman Khurshid and are taking up the issue of police verification and security with the Pune police
     
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    User 

    COMMENTS

    Mahiti Adhikar Manch

    8 years ago

    Dear friends,

    I Congratulate the efforts of done at moneylife to bring TCS to listen the greivances.

    I request my comments be not taken personal, my apologies, if they have hert the some participants from citizens side.

    I don't think TCS should feel bad, actualy transparency is very less from them. Otherwise they would have complied the Information Commissions order. They still say will have to consult legal department. Is their legal department bigger than the order of commission.

    TCS is having most of the contracts of Mahaharastra government, including the BMC. Maharashtra and BMC website also does not have any agreement posted on the website which need to be as per to Seqction 4 of RTI.

    You may find some time potehole tender on website of BMC but not of any IT company.

    I applied for passport of myself, daughter and wife on on-line application on 8th March, two times got msg to contact on 10th, 13th and now 17th. It is surprising how come the slot gets full before the time allotted to get in touch online. This is my experience.

    I just came to know about the meet when I spoke to Vijay for some other issue, when he was travelling to Mumbai for the meet.It was just a coincidence of my application for passport and the mail of Moneylife on passport on 13th. So thought of informing of very current problem.

    I may not be able to participate to take responsibility as already there involvement for formtion of SALT(Social Audit Local Team), Mahti Adhikar Manch and added one more of NCPRI. So I may not be able to do justice for additional responsibility.

    Thanks
    Bhaskar Prabhu



    R Balakrishnan

    8 years ago

    I had three to four experiences with Chennai Passport Office. Must say that their pre-checks of documents helps us a lot. The queue system works, though it is like a fish market. A govt employee is best suited to check the documents is not right. After all, the law is clear cut about what documents are needed. Does not need an Einstein to figure out. If there are three to four pre checking counters, life will be smooth.
    The bigger issue at Chennai is the one about police verification. That takes time and a lot of 'push'. Hope the police verification at Pune / Mumbai is greasefree.
    Again, it is sad that a routine experience becomes a nightmare and requires high profile intervention.

    PATTABHI

    8 years ago

    Congratulations.. but as Shri Bhaskar Parabhu has pointed out, all these can be sabotaged by the online appointment software logic and operation and the so-called help-line guys..The team that has taken up this issue should keenly follow up and test the system at very stage instaed of waiting for complaints to surface.

    REPLY

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to PATTABHI 8 years ago

    Like I said, lets not be cynical - we are not some roof top howlers to let go of an issue. Also, TCS officials have promised to look into this - they claim the software is not at fault. Lets give them time to rectify. I am confident something good is going to come out of this

    rajeshpai

    8 years ago

    Hi Moneylife,

    Congratulations for bringing the TCS officials to the table for discussions.

    I am surprised that their manager is quoted as saying like:

    "Shalini Mathur, senior Manager, TCS, stated that, “It has always been open for seven days from the day you log in, but most applicants are unaware of the same.’’ For some strange reason, this was not given adequate publicity."

    Now as an applicant I have no choice in this.As i log in for an appointment, I see a date and some time slots.I click randomly and pray that it goes forward.Now where is the choice of 7 days??Almost all applicants are seeking any day any time and not trying for an appointment of their date and time.Most likely when the applicant clicks on any time slot, the system goes slow and will not result in the appointment getting successful.

    You may also call the TCS officials to your office to try out the exercise of getting an appointment fixed by them using your system.You may call for some volunteers who have not been able to get an online appointment for their log in ID and password.This may be tried by TCS to know first hand the problem faced by the common man.If the TCS guys get an appointment by their trying, the person who got the appointment fixed will be happy and thankful.Else TCS will know the problem first hand.

    REPLY

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to rajeshpai 8 years ago

    yes you are absolutely right about this as I got a call to air the same doubt late last night. Will be speaking to Shalini today to clarify further and will revert to you.

    Mahiti Adhikar Manch

    8 years ago

    I feel this is one more attempt by them to just do the PR agency.

    I am trying to get the appointment via net for the past 3 days I am not getting at all. It gives us the next date to get in touch. Every time to they give date of contact and time to contact is 3.oopm but when you go to their site the slot is full before time. Latter when you visit their site at 3.00 pm again they will give next date to contact so again it come try on and on ...

    So I contacted the help line they said visit the Pass Port office at Mumbai with online registration number and they will help to get the appointment then what is the use of online form submission.

    It is all an eyewash and just one more pr from TCS.

    Bhaskar Prabhu
    MAhiti Adhikar MAnch
    Mumbai

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    Hi Bhaskar

    I wish you were there for the meeting yesterday. It was certainly open to all activists. We had also asked people to send in passport related issues and received just three or four that have been passed on to TCS.

    Had you come, you would have been able to make your point.

    The meeting was frank and open and as someone who has spent over 27 years in journalism and activism, I can tell you that it was a genuine attempt to understand issues, explain bottle necks and find a solution.

    I dont think it is fair for you to dismiss it as PR without having been there.

    In fact, what TCS has done, if you want to call it PR in the most positive sense, must be appreciated and emulated by the rest of corporate India.

    I dont see Infosys, which is in a similar situation over MCA21 as well as the Tax website, try and reach out to people. They simple wash their hands off and tell us to talk to the government.

    What made the meeting so meaningful yesterday is that Vinita Deshmukh, Vijay Kumbhar and Sandeep Khardekar were so well prepared.

    Hats off to Vinita for waking up at 2.45 in the morning to prepare a power-point presentation and to come all the way from Pune to be in for the meeting before 10.30 am.

    Even after the meeting there is a flurry of activity in the passport office at Pune. Why not make an attempt to do a serious study of the problem in Mumbai? Document the problem and lets take it up.
    best
    Sucheta

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 8 years ago

    I totally agree with Sucheta. Bhaskarji, we could give you all our ``expertise'' if you want to lead this campaign in Mumbai.With Sucheta around, be sure of pillar-like support.

    nagesh kini

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 8 years ago

    Bhasker, I entirely agree with Sucheta.
    After my two appearances at the Sub-Registrar's Worli office, I'm convinced with a dedicated person at the helm of affairs assisted by a lean and mean staff and working software and hardware even the most ancient of state govt. bodies can deliver more efficiently.
    The Sub-Registrar has funded from his pocket a wheel chair here and also at his two earlier rural postings.
    In Mumbai there is no lift for the elderly and handicapped to
    access the steep 2nd Floor. His requests are in vain! He needs help!

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to Mahiti Adhikar Manch 8 years ago

    yes you are right that online appointment should be accessible to each applicant and he or she should not have to go for a walk-in. We have taken up this issue. However, lets not be too cynical - the fact that TCS top most officials came for a one-to-one meeting, means they are serious about it. And of course, you think Moneylife and Pune Passport Grievance Forum is going to let them go with the alleged `PR' visit? I am sure you know us better! Cheers

    nagesh kini

    8 years ago

    I've just witnessed two documents at the Office of the Sub-Registrar Mumbai City III at the MTNL Building, Smashan Bhumi Marg, Off Adarash Nagar, Worli.
    Though a Maharashtra Govt. entity it is most unlike one.
    Most Citizen-friendly in the truest sense and needs to be replicated by all Pass Port offices too.
    Operates in 7am-2pm and 2-9pm.
    Grants appointments too.
    Everything computerized - Finger printing and iris scanning. Enough comfortable seating with all day Marathi TV channel.
    Sub-registrar Mr. Samudre extremely friendly, Cell 9730273300. Suggests SMS before calling.
    Worth a visit by all activists.

    REPLY

    Vinita Deshmukh

    In Reply to nagesh kini 8 years ago

    sounds good. Maybe TCS could at least have a look at this model. Tks

    Sunil

    8 years ago

    Wow I am impressed with this. TCS did the right thing by at-least meeting and talking. I am sure this communication will go a long way in delivering a better service to us - the citizens. Congratulations Moneylife and the Vinita and team in Pune for the persistent efforts . Thank you.

    Centre approves Rs1,207 crore drought relief package for Maharashtra

    Out of the total amount, Rs807 crore will be released under the National Disaster Relief Fund to 3,905 villages in the state and the rest Rs400 crore will be released under the National Horticulture Mission to 1,100 villages where drought has hit kharif crops

     

    An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on drought headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday approved Rs1,207 crore relief package for Maharashtra.

     

    “Rs1,207 crore drought relief package has been approved for Maharashtra,” home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who is also a member of the EGoM, said after the meeting.

     

    Out of the total amount, Rs807 crore will be released under the National Disaster Relief Fund to 3,905 villages in the state where drought has affected rabi crops, sources said.

     

    The rest Rs400 crore will be released under the National Horticulture Mission to 1,100 villages where drought has hit kharif crops, they said.

     

    The Maharashtra government had demanded a relief package of Rs1,801 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund, but the central team after assessing the situation recommended Rs 872 crore.

     

    Last year, Rs778 crore was approved to the state under this fund to mitigate losses to crop.

     

    Shinde said the EGoM has approved drought relief packages for Kerala and other states as well.

     

    Of the total 34 districts in Maharashtra, the worst- affected are Solapur, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Pune, Satara, Beed and Nashik. The situation is also serious in Buldhana, Latur, Osmanabad, Nanded, Aurangabad, Jalna, Jalgaon and Dhule districts.

     

    Some districts in the state are facing acute shortage of fodder and drinking water problem. Drinking water is being supplied through tankers in most affected villages.

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