Public Interest   Exclusive
TV channels hoodwink readers with misleading advertisements about themselves

In a bid to outdo each other, channels window-dress their advertisements thereby artificially boosting their TRPs which are totally misleading.

Media channels come out with anything to make their numbers and brands look good. They advertise to the hilt, blow their own trumpets, and in the process manipulate the audience and consumers to thinking that they’re the best in business. Moneylife has thrown light on how media companies have window-dressed their recent advertisements, most notably on Budget Day and Election Day, to show higher TRPs, which is totally misleading.

Consider the following cases which Moneylife had analysed:

Times Now had proclaimed to be “Number 1” TV channel after ‘impressive’ TRP numbers it had witnessed on the budget day. The advertisement showed a graph of its viewership statistics and compared itself with its nearest competitors—CNN IBN and NDTV 24x7. Check ad below:



Using TAM ratings methodology, it showed a viewership of 32%, between 11am and 1pm, on Budget day, ahead of its competitors CNN IBN (17%) and NDTV 24x7 (25%). Similarly, during prime time (i.e. 8pm to 10:30pm), it had a 32% viewership share, far ahead of CNN-IBN (7%) and NDTV 24x7 (28%). Strangely, it has excluded other TV channels like Doordarshan and Headlines Today. Why?

“Corporate India chose BloombergUTV when it really mattered” is what the BloombergUTV advertisement chanted, insisting that it was the most watched channel on Budget day. Here, they used a different metric—a time period between 7pm and midnight was chosen; it included only eight metros and the entire state of Gujarat. It is perplexing to figure out why have they have chosen only Gujarat state. Anyway, BloombergUTV claims to have a 40% viewership share over NDTV Profit, CNBC TV18 and ET Now. Check the ad below. Again, TAM ratings were used here.



If you thought two channels were already “number 1”, you were wrong. CNBC-TV18 also proclaimed its right to the throne by declaring a whopping 79% market share on Budget day. The metrics used here was far different from the first two. It elongated the time period to include almost the whole day—from 6am till midnight—while at the same time it enlarged the geographic boundaries to include the entire country.



The Budget wasn’t the only platform which the media channels sought to assert their ‘supremacy’. During the Election Day (counting of votes) in the states of UP, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand, both Times Now and NDTV 24x7 came out with respective ads showing off misleading TRPs.

Let us look into them:

Times Now asserted that it had 39% market share during the full day on Election Day and 49% market share during prime time between 7pm and 11pm. Do you notice anything perculiar? Times Now has two definitions of prime time—one is between 7pm and 11pm in this case, and between 8pm to 10:30pm in case of Budget Day. It is clear from this finding that the channel has conveniently tweaked its own definition of primetime to boost its own numbers.



NDTV, on the other hand, proclaimed 51% market share over CNN-IBN, Times Now, Headlines Today and, surprise (!), Doordarshan. However, NDTV used a different metric to arrive at its own figure. It polled 11 cities (it did not mentioned which cities), with a sample size of over 5000 people. It did not take its figures from TAM. Why? Perhaps its TAM ratings were abysmal?



So what do we learn from this?

1)    Media companies will take a restricted sample size or a bigger sample size, depending on where they score better figures. NDTV conducted a poll and did not reply on TAM figures.
2)    Media companies can exclude competitors from the advertisement, if they wish to. For instance, Times Now did not include Doordarshan and Headlines Today to compare its budget or election numbers.
3)    The time period can be manipulated to which numbers throw impressive results. For instance, CNBC maybe the most watched channel between 4pm and 5pm but for all intents and purposes it could have been the least watched channel during “prime time”. Similarly, Bloomberg may have boosted its numbers from a including the state of Gujarat in addition to the eight other (unknown) metro cities.

Media companies will select their own sample size, geographic boundaries as well as time periods to make their TRP numbers look good. This way, consumers will focus on the graph and juicy information while skipping how advertisers come up with such artificial numbers. The bottomline is that when media companies publish these sorts of advertisements, it is best to ignore them because the numbers are meaningless when each use their own criteria.

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COMMENTS

Nagesh Kini FCA

7 years ago

How reliable are the numbers?
There is enough of blowing of their own trumpets to increase the eye balls.
I've been watching practically all the major channels on Budget Day. Nothing great. Each 'expert' churning out the same stuff year after all. Some channel hopping to get into public glare.

Parijat Bose

7 years ago

Well the media market has become so competitive as well as polarized that to establish one's own viewership, media houses project such rosy figures to enhance viewership and invite more and more advertising revenue.

Deepak R Khemani

7 years ago

The other problem is the way the Word "Exclusive" is used for every story, after the budget EVERY Channel has an exclusive interview with the FM!
Every channel had an exclusive with Anna Hazare the day he broke his fast,

Every channel has an exclusive with the RBI Governor when he announces the credit policy!
Even on budget day all the so called experts were shifting between channels, finally you had their same views on the budget being repeated on every Business channel!

Guest

7 years ago

And so are the various award functions, be they be for Mutual Funds or Bollywood or any other.

Now you know how Satyam was given the best corporate governance award?

One with the best and the most should be avoided

Public Interest   Exclusive
How did your train do this summer?

Nowhere else can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we have in India. The experience can be richly rewarding on every rail journey. Good luck with rail travel this summer

With the summer holidays fast approaching and prices on air travel shooting through the roof, it is time to look at that old favourite for long distance travel again—Indian Railways. In what some would call its new improved avatar—with more non-stop Durontos, longer Rajdhanis, efficient VFM Garib Raths, restricted stoppage Sampark Krantis and other express trains with more coaches than before, and a wide range of summer specials—trains do provide a better option from a variety of points of view. And not just in terms of cost.
 
Quite a few railway stations in India are now vastly improved and dare one say—better than some airports. You do can move usually from city centre to city centre, without any of that heavy bother of reaching airports located in remote places hours in advance and then paying huge “user development fees” and “airport charges”. Such are often running into thousands of rupees now. And as for the average speed still hovering around in the 50kmph range for most trains and working up to 75kmph/80kmph for the faster Rajdhanis/Shatabdis. Please remember—there is also a larger social good at work here.
 
Fact remains—nowhere else in the reasonable world can we travel on an extensive railway system at prices anywhere close to what we achieve in India. That’s the bottomline. Faster trains = much costlier trains. The upwardly mobile middle class, which had become hooked on to low cost airlines, is discovering high airfares with a shock this season and is reportedly returning in droves to trains, for reasons of price. Those who talk about “bullet trains” are often those for whom price has no meaning, largely because within the Indian system they have got used to travelling free.
 
For the rest of us, many of us, it is back to basics. Trains. Only to discover long waiting lists and an almost impossible state of affairs with last minute tatkal booking. (There can and will be a separate series of articles on the scams in the Passenger Reservation System / PRS)
 
Fact also remains—many people who travel by train in India ‘manage’ their reservations by one means or the other, especially when advance bookings are totally full and waiting lists are as much or more than the capacity itself. This writer has been on both sides of the fence in this context, but increasingly, is perturbed by the fact that the reservation system at the Indian Railways is heavily manipulated for all sorts of ‘quotas’—some valid, and some totally rotten.
 
This single aspect makes the experience terrible. So how do we try to make that experience better, is the point of this article, especially for those who haven’t used a long distance train in a while.
 
(Writer’s note and disclosure—I have had a love affair with trains since childhood. At this age, nothing gives me more joy than spending some portion of a journey in the general unreserved compartment, while true value for money is achieved on a window side lower berth in the ordinary sleeper (non air-conditioned class) of a long distance train. That is not to say I do not enjoy 1st AC either, and that I am not averse to tipping a sanitation worker to sanitise the toilet before I use it, but read on...)
 
# Obviously, the best way to go about things is to plan well in advance, and manage your bookings 120 days ahead. However, this is not feasible for everybody, and on some routes, advance bookings run out on trains within minutes of the train opening up for reservations on your date and route. Typically, Hyderabad-Kolkata, Delhi-Mangalore, Mumbai-Allahabad, Bangalore-Cochin, even Delhi-Mumbai, and many other routes, are routes where reservations in most classes and trains vanish in minutes.
 
# Keep an eye open for the summer specials, especially the ones announced at the last minute, which is easier said than done. Typically, these will be small announcements in the media and almost invisible advertisements in some corner, so here the Internet is your best bet. Some good links are:
Indian Railways Summer Special Trains
E-Rail
Indian Rail Info
Each of these websites is ‘dynamic’ and keep you updated in real time, and maybe some day soon the webmasters and authorities will set up automatic email alerts generated to keep people in the loop.
 
# Don’t lose heart with long waiting lists in Sleeper and AC 3 Tier class, especially for reservation in trains that have a large number of Sleeper and AC 3 Tier coaches. Multiple bookings are quite common, and the waiting lists usually start evaporating 2-3 days ahead of travel date, as people start cancelling tickets to avoid higher penalties. The same is not true in AC 2 Tier and 1AC, because there are a very limited number of these coaches, and much of their capacity goes in ‘quotas’. Frankly, with the roll-back in fares, AC-3 Tier on super-fast and non-stop or restricted stop trains like the Durontos, Rajdhanis, Sampark Krantis and Garib Raths, make a lot of sense.
 
# Assuming now that you are on a huge waiting list 120 or lesser days in advance. Use the RTI Act of India, 2005, to ask for information on the booking position on your specific train, as well as information on seats/berths held back for ‘quotas’. Address this RTI to the CPIO at the Railway Board in Delhi. This will bring your train under observation of the Railway Board, it will spook the zone under which the train runs, and there are good chances that all the hanky-panky will vanish, while the villains who mess with the bookings will leave that train alone.
Tip: If you are concerned, then run the RTI Application in somebody else’s name. The addresses are:
The CPIO under RTI Act of India or incumbent thereof,
Railway Board, New Delhi,
DD (PG) & CPIO (Registration & Coordination)
Room # 05, RTI Cell / Rail Bhavan, New Delhi -110001
email addresses are:- [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
 
#  Lower berths in 2AC and 1AC are another huge racket with the Indian Railways. Most, if not all of them, are held back by them in the name of HOR (Higher Officer requisition) or VIP quotas. Sometimes, the upper berths in 1AC are not even ‘released’ to paying passengers, because HORs/VIPs are occupying the lower berths. The Railways try to hide this data. This is the subject of another rather complicated RTI application by this writer, a copy of which can be seen by clicking here
 
# Now that you’ve hopefully acquired a confirmed reservation, standard conditions of travel anywhere in the world apply, including all common sense and logical precautions. The advent of almost seamless voice and data communications en route, the proliferation of digital photography, and an experience which can be richly rewarding await you on every rail journey. Yes, often the environs can become crowded, but hey—the other people need to travel too and with a wee bit of the passage of time, everybody ‘adjusts’.
 
Certainly, try and avoid the ‘older’ trains which have had stops added to their schedule over the years for political reasons, or trains which pass through areas with schedules where commuter and student traffic will also board the train. If you are stuck on such a train, then keep your head down, and don't mess with the locals. They are on the same train same route every day.
 
Likewise, there are more variants on rackets and con games on trains now than there were in years gone past, and they have the benefit of modern technology too. Travel light, and please don’t carry your family fortunes with you, simple. Food is another issue, and at the end of the day, home-cooked and preserved vegetarian fare is still the best—along with a ‘surahi’ of water.
 
End game: We can either sit and crib about the state of affairs, including that with the Indian Railways, or we can try to do something about it. It is not for nothing that some dry wit in the Indian Railways nick-named the quota ‘HOR’ a long time ago (evolved from HO quota, by the way). It is also not for nothing that friends of mine who are or have been in the Indian Railways helped me with this article, as they are themselves fed up with this VIP/HOR business, very often they are left with no time for anything else—and let more of us try to imagine what it does to their self-esteem and self-respect as well as dignity.
 
Good luck with rail travel this summer. And subsequently too. Because nothing is more fun than off-season travel on a good train pelting through this wonderful country of ours.
 
PS: MoneyLife Foundation is organising a seminar, Country, Before Party and Self, featuring former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in Mumbai on 16th April. He will speak on why his budget was important for the Railways and the consequence of coalition politics where key ministries are distributed like fiefs to political allies.

(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)

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COMMENTS

K B Patil

7 years ago

Dear Malik,
In the beginning of the article, you have said that you love the experience of travelling in a general unreserved compartment. To me, who has been forced to do that occasionally, the general comparment (especially on long distance trains) can only be compared to Dante's Inferno. It is far better to hitch a ride on a truck. As far as other things you have mentioned in the article, I am in agreement with your line of thinking.
One thing I have to comment upon is that the railways only seem to respond to agitations and violence. When the people of a region are docile, all their demands are ignored. For proof, I have to mention the Bangalore - Solapur line. Except for the Udyan Express which has been the only night train for over 20 years, only one train has been added a few years ago. Even in the monsoon, berths on both trains are booked days in advance and for emergencies, buses are the only option. Despite the discomfort, bus tickets are sometimes priced higher than 3 tier AC berths.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to K B Patil 7 years ago

Dear KB Patil ji, thank you for writing in.

1) I apologise for not articulating this well, but when I wrote about general compartment travel, it was not to romanticise this certainly rough way to travel, but to simply state that it was one place to learn more about India and real Indians.

2) Yes, Bangalore does appear to be kind of neglected as far as rail connectivity to the rest of the country goes. Most certainly the Bangalore to Mumbai and beyond route, including the via Sholapur/Daund or via Belgaum/Mirah options, are not as well served as they should be. I have always wondered why.

regards/VM

sharmila raopn

7 years ago

It has been nostalgic to read about the trains. By the way i don't fly unless there is no other options. :)

surajit som

7 years ago

the article does not give the larger picture. this is a common problem with our brand of journalism. take a basic question:no of travellers is increasing day be day. but what about the number of seats available ? what about some solid data? we just dont want to look at demand-supply mismatch, the macro picture. ultimately we are left to indian jugaad-mentality and "individual planning" (and not collective planning)!!. the housing-syndrome!! what individuals can do in the middle such massive shortages ? a few clever middle-class ones -like me or shri malik-may solve the problem with 120-days planning and RTI applications . what about those countless millions without no education ? no doubt touts and corruption flourish. RTI and all that can not solve the basic problem of supply.look at housing problem. our coal shortage.

our railway needs a massive dose of expansion. like what has happened in mobile telephone. the present infrastructure is basically is the one that was left behind by the British 65 years ago.much is made of railway fare hike. but nobody talks of privatisation. if PSU banks can be listed on the market ,why not railway? cash generated then can be used for expansion and safety measures . what about huge land bank that railways has (any data?) and use that as capital? instead one hears 120-days planning and RTI applications !!! long term problems can never be solved using short-term cleverness and jugaad-approach. supply -housing ,railway, you can name hundreds of items-can only be improved with massive expansion which can come only with long term planning. after all we are a nation of 120 crores of people !!! by the way , railway is not rocket science and it is not very expensive .technology is available in our country. never mind the fact it will give a huge boost to our economy and will generate huge number of jobs. instead of railway expansion for aam aadmi ,we are told of "Bullet Train" for urban fat cats. may be some politicians-and foreign companies- are waiting for some fat commisions.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to surajit som 7 years ago

Dear Surajit Sen, thank you for writing in.

I could have plugged in a large amount of data, much of which is in open domain, but instead aim to try to draw pictures with simple words.

Most certainly solutions are not overnight, nor is the mentality we seem to have of treating our public spaces differently from our private spaces going to vanish rapidly, but starting points exist everywhere.

For the rest, I would rather join the ranks of those who keep trying to do something, howsoever small. The larger issues, those we elect and those who are our lawmakers, we need to leave things to them - and keep checking on them, too. No perform, no continue.

Thank you for writing in.
VM

surajit som

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

@VM
individual efforts are important. but when demand-supply mismatch is so horrendous ,such efforts will have very limited impact.just think of telephone in pre-mobile era.think of the % of people who have access to electricity,road,water,school,hospital at present. in the swanky suburb of Gurgaon , posh apartments go without electricity for days ,dont have sewage connections !!! we need to think of the whole .there is no other way. many of our leaders , journalists and thinking people , dont give the impression that they have the larger picture in their mind.our politics is caste-based and not development-oriented.in Adarsh scam in Mumbai,top ministers and bureaucrats were scheming for flats no bigger than 1000 sq feet. this is the situation we have come to.at this rate we shall soon reach the state of some African countries.i have lived there . then no individuals will be able to make any difference.have no doubt , we are more than capable of thinking big and executing them with world-class efficiency. example ? shreedharan and delhi metro. we need tens of thousands of them.at least let us think in that direction.

Venu Mohan Madhavan

7 years ago

1.The long distance trains and railways stations are becoming dirtier by the day.
They do not seem to cleaning the tracks at Stations any more.
2. In most of the non stop limited stop trains the service staff are also bootleggers. They store and sell alcohol almost fearlessly.
3. Food in long distance trains is becoming of very poor quality.
Just some observations since I traveled long distance by trains in the recent past.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Venu Mohan Madhavan 7 years ago

Dear VM Madhavan - you are correct, and on some routes, the cleanliness is terrible - but organise a small tip for the staff and watch the coach cleaned inside out - though it is important to point out that some cleanliness has to come from the pax also.

Agreed, the pantry car staff are lately into private enterprise of all sorts, but how does one control that when this is one of the side-results of rampant privatisation in this sector?

On food - carry your own or depend on the station delivery options. Or survive on fresh fruit, boiled eggs and that's that.

I find that one can define one's environment with a wee bit of co-operation from other travellers.

rgds/VM

Venu Mohan Madhavan

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

Dear Sir,
Thanks for your response.
1.I was talking about the tracks in front of the Railway Stations. They are not cleaned of excreta and stinks.
2. Travel in the non ac class is almost un- bearable. Some times it looks like we have become insensitive to the less privileged.... lower class travelers, pedestrians, users of public utilities etc.

malq

In Reply to Venu Mohan Madhavan 7 years ago

Spot on, Madhavan ji, and thank you for writing in about this.

But then, how else are we going to solve these issues, unless we actually participate in the said issues?

Today, offices of even middle and junior level government staff have begun resembling five star suites or corporate dens, but this needs to go downstream to us, the paying public, also.

I hope you appreciate what I am trying to get across.

Regards/VM

param

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

you are spot on! i'm tired of 'citizens' spitting & shitting everywhere & turning around to point that govt is not keeping it clean. i even asked a friend why he cannot throw the junk at the dustbin that is a few steps away & he told me that he is assuring job security for the cleaning men. instead of asking 'why coaches/tracks are not cleaned', we should ask 'why are they dirty'? a very sad reflection of our current society...

surajit som

In Reply to param 7 years ago

excreta lying on tracks in railway stations shows a shocking state of public hygiene and sensibility.i dont see any solution to it.

a somewhat-desperate but natural solution would be not to have shed over tracks at all . after all tracks dont need shed like human beings. i see it in Konkan railway stations and find it lot less offensive and dangerous. sunshine and rain are abundant in our country. they would act as some kind of natural cleaner. drains are normally there by the side of the track . if they are cleaned at regular interval and kept unclogged , then rain water/jet water can remove excreta. this way at least some check would be maintained.

anil

7 years ago

to go rural India only older express trains suite. the small stops are and not only or political pressure. for e if u wish to travel akkalkot u can take only chennai mail if wish to avel to nepanagr u eed hwh mail via llahabd and incidentally it;s travel time is lesser than non stopage sperfsat trains.
also on many routes in India there are no day trains to cater for local traffic. while commuters in urban india can take davantage of cheap II class fares ( t50 nrs for mumbvai pune) on umbai -pune delhi araa rais rural people have to shell double as sleeper class fare even on day rains. u almost always find ii class local travellers in sleepers. the solutio is practcal. issue II class unreserved slleper tickets valid in day from 6-0 a,m to 10 -00 p,m (25% more are han i ordinary) and alow only thyese in sleeper class. for even season ticket holders need to apy 10 rs suprfastticket( season ticket sleeper conversion ticket) to travel in sleeper. even mumbai pune rack where many day trains run through trains run and unless such system is introduced the berths will go vacant in this section. Also if this is not done other dayintercity trains get overloaded. railwyas even if they desre can not operate train per hour on mumbai pune route and day rains on roues like nagpur akola , hyderba gulbarga etc. so a management practice is to make optimum use of through trains plying.
Also for paenger boarding at intermediate major stations reservation can and shud be allowed two hrs till departyre of train from that station and keep reerved list dynamically updated

malq

7 years ago

VERY interesting to read this CONFIDENTIAL note from the privilege committee found on the internet about how EQ is used for VIPs.

http://164.100.24.208/ls/CommitteeR/Priv...

Incidentally, the average number of berths on different quotas is an average of about 9.5 lakh seats/berths PER DAY - as per this report. (Very smartly, they have included the number of berths in "general" caregory to make the answer typical.

http://164.100.47.5:8080/members/website...

param

7 years ago

did you know that IR has removed the option to query the number of berths under HO quota from its website recently?

REPLY

malq

In Reply to param 7 years ago

Dear Param, yes, I am aware that this option was removed from erail.in recently.

However, at various forums on the internet, wide hints are dropped that some sort of programs exist which help you get past this barrier, and even more - that some agents can enter the PRS through some "holes" or "ports" to "manage" these quota bookings.

Take a look here:-
http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-ra...

Also, if you travel regularly and study the charts on the door, as well as chat up the staff, you can find out who is in the "quota" berths and then a bit more, "how" they got it.

Must be the most open secret in the Indian Railways. Here's another offline response I got on this subject:-

""Great going veeresh.This is a good area you have unearthed.A lot of hanky panky going on. If you know the right politicians and crooked connnections in the Railway Board people have got free tickets for YEARS. Do you know that there is a handicapped quota? I know somebody who fudged this showing
some kind of fake handicap and availed of benefits from the Indian Railways.""

+++

rgds/VM

param

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

Yes, the charts outside the coach (if they are on the right side & still legible) surely tell which are HO cases. Mostly HO is for requests that reach Ralways from internal or govt quarters. It also covers the EQ where citizens can apply in case of emergency provided they know whom to approach in the first place. However, the numbers allotted are out of sync with the expected demand from these, especially for 3A & SL (most of the freeloaders & connected folks would travel 1A or 2A). The bulk of 3A/SL are taken up by agents who are networked with the officials in charge of this - this is why even a WL200+ can be ensured confirmation at a steep price. Since 3A/SL is underpriced wrt market demand, it is easy to extract such a premium.

malq

In Reply to param 7 years ago

Yes, Param, I've often sat and analysed the charts with travelling TTEs and gained a lot of gyaan from them. Wonderful what a hail fellow well met approach can do.

Modus I adopt when on a huge waiting list is to file an RTI Application for the specific train, for the relevant date, one date before and one date after, demanding information on number of seats alloted on quotas and brief details like how many lower berths, on what basis the quota was given and so on and so forth. Best is to apply to Member/Traffic or Chairman/Railway Board.

Then watch that particular waiting list evaporate. Always works. Whether I get the response or not (since Indian Railways have a habit of demanding 2/- per page and if the train is starting from a non Delhi station, then that gets complicated . . .) is not important.

But yes, I need to take this further - only 13 out of 46 berths in AC 2T for genuine pax is something . . .

Thanks for writing in. Spread the word!!

Best/VM

param

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

it would be best if railways can release berths in batches & at different price, something like 50% on t-120, 25% on T-30, 20% on T-7 & 5% on T-1 - these could be at different price points. then HO can use the T-1 slot at higher price - anyway they are not paying, it is just inter-govt transfer.
i agree with you on berth availability for public - less than 50% is ridiculous. but empty upper berth in 1A is just financial rape of a public institution...

malq

In Reply to param 7 years ago

Anything is better than blocking or even not using the best seats in the train for the free riders and VIPs/HORs.

Let us see how the RTI progresses. I think it will need multiple follow up applications. So be it.

And my suggestion would be to see that all HOR/VIP quota comes out of tatkal quota - and is accounted for at those prices too wherever re-imbursed or carried on books.

The leaving unused of Upper Berths in 1AC just because an HOR/VIP is in the same compartment needs wider publicity.

Thanks for writing in.

rgds/VM

param

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

sorry to prolong this debate...
reg upper berth in 1A being empty for HO case, I'm thinking it has to do with the individuals rather than the quota. i know for sure that common public who get on HO (via sources in IR or agent) get upper/lower berths. the case you mentioned must be some high ranking freeloader (in IR or MLA/MP) who either insists that he be untouched by 'citizens', or their 'chamchas' making such a request just to please them...

Public Interest   Exclusive
Maharashtra govt’s amendments to RTI are against the Act’s objectives

The mischievous amendments to the RTI Act by the Maharashtra government have enraged RTI users and activists.  Here’s why the government needs to backtrack

By now, the amendments proposed by the Maharashtra government in the RTI (Right to Information) Act have turned into a massive public outcry. Rightly so. Not only because they have been brought in surreptitiously, but because contents of the amendments too are ridiculous.
 
Let’s understand why the state government must back track immediately:
 
I. It cannot make any decision without keeping the people informed/consulted
According to Section 4 (1) (C) of the RTI Act, every public authority (government department) shall “publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.’’
My comments: It needs to therefore undertake public consultations and opinions before it makes these amendments. Like Anna Hazare says, ‘they’ have forgotten that ‘we’ are a democracy.
 
II. Why only a pencil
The amendment says that an applicant will be allowed to bring in only a pencil when he/she goes for inspection of files. We, the people should not even have to visit a government office, as it is supposed to deliver us information at the click of the mouse. As per the Section 4 of the RTI Act, every government office (called public authority in government parlance) should suo moto display information. Here’s what the rule under Section 4 (2) and (3) says:
1.    “Section (2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.  
     Section (3) For the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public.”
 
Also, Section 2 (i) states that information to the people has to be provided through various means like Photostat copies, images, manuscripts, files and so on, so the amendment to bring in only a pencil during inspection of documents is further irrelevant. Here’s what Section 2 (f) and (i) says:
 
Section 2 (f) ‘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;  
 
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); and  
(d)  any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to—  
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;  
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;  
(iii) taking certified samples of material;  
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video
cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such
information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
 
My comments: Hence, it is more appropriate that the state government issues a new circular to all government departments to upload all the information as per Section 4 and update it from time to time which again is mandatory under the RTI Act instead of dabbling in petty nothings like getting a pencil or a pen during inspection of files.
 
III. The state government been complaining that too many RTI applications has increased workload of its Public Information Officers (PIOs) and the new amendment will make it worse
According Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, if the applicant asks a question which is not within the purview of the PIO, then he or she must transfer the application to the appropriate PIO within five days from the receipt of the application. Which means the onus lies with the PIO to ensure that the applicant is not unnecessarily harassed by making him or her run from pillar to post. Here’s what the rule says:
         (3) Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an
information—  
               (i) which is held by another public authority; or  
               (ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the
                   functions of another public authority, the public authority,to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.
 
My comments: Thus, presently, even if the citizen has filed the RTI application to the wrong government department, he or she need not worry as the PIO is required to forward it. With the new amendment, the state government is ridiculously asking the applicant to ask only one question “in not more than 150 words and that too pertaining to one subject matter” and has given liberty to the PIO to decline giving replies to every other query beyond the first one. Thus, the state government is not only suffocating dissemination of information but is increasing paper work for the citizen as well as the PIO through a series of RTI applications. The state government is clearly attempting to frustrate the citizen so that he or she will give up on the use of RTI, thus making this amendment malicious. It is simultaneously releasing the responsibility of the PIO as per Section 6 (3).
 
IV. It is reducing a RTI application to a near Twitter style by restricting it to 150 words. It is unpractical as often it is a string of questions that provide answer to one issue and gives a larger picture of the issue. Here’s an example:
A few years back, residents of Katraj were agitated due to very low water supply in their neighbourhood compared to other localities. They staged protests and even took out morchas to the municipal commissioner’s office and ward office. Both turned a deaf ear. So, they filed a RTI application to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) asking the following questions:
* How much water per person per day is provided to residents of Katraj
* How much water per person per day is provided to localities of (the application named five other localities of Pune)
* What is the reason for low supply of drinking water to Katraj?
 
It was only when they were informed that other localities were receiving 135 litres to 190 litres per day while they were receiving only 28 litres per day that they could seek legal intervention and the PMC was compelled to take appropriate action. In this case, any one of these questions would have been insufficient and asking each one of them through different RTI applications is obviously senseless.
 
Conclusion: Amendments should see the light of the day. For this, citizens and citizen pressure groups must be vocal.

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COMMENTS

PathuriVenkataSubrahmanyam

7 years ago

the explanation is very good. i belive the should have to be chlallenged by way of a pil (Public Interest litigation) in high court of Maharashtra, as the proposed amendements are unconstitutional and against to the spirit of the RTI Act. in the mean while protests may please be sent to governor from all the activists and post cards are to sent. i am in ap i will send a mail to your governor.

suresh kumar gupta

7 years ago

pl help to add private bank and insurance companies also

Ashit Kothi

7 years ago

IS RTI a Central or State Subject ? Can State Government modify the RTI ACT.? What are the ways in which any act passed by Central or State Government be challanged ? We can not trust our Legislators or Parliamentarians do pass any ACT for the betterment of common man.

If we can a website which has information on each constituency and asking respective MPs and MLAs to represent their constituency on that website and give their views on such subject. This is required because they might be from XYZ parties but they are representing public and not any party. This will help general public getting information on what views their elected candidates are having on matters such as this and no party politics here.

Aban

7 years ago

Maharashtra govt. at least negatively accepts the existence of the Act. In West Bengal, the govt. does not even recognise this law!

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Aban 7 years ago

That's amazing to hear - maybe a simple RTI application filed on the office of the CPIO of the Governor of West Bengal asking for information on status of the RTI Act would set the ball rolling, followed by another RTI application a few weeks later to the CPIO of the office of the President of India.

This has been used in the past for other States and would start some movement.

Best regards/VM

Aban

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

No, Sir, not in a state with the continuous history of despotism!

malq

In Reply to Aban 7 years ago

Hmmm, valid point. But maybe you could try this route then, anonymous RTIs . . . http://getup4change.org/rti/

rgds/VM

Aban

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

Thank you for the info.

malq

7 years ago

Good article, thanks - and best of luck. Maybe the fact that the main saboteur of the RTI in Maharashtra is now in jail (Ramanand Tiwari . . .) is some solace as well as time to reflect for others who follow in his foot-steps of trying to disrespect the common man.

Best/VM

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