Two more RTI activists murdered; no end seen to this sordid saga
20 March 2018: Prominent Right to Information (RTI) activist and youth leader of Nagaland, Poipynhun Majaw was killed in the State’s coal belt in the Jantia Hills district. His crime? Through RTI, Majaw exposed misuse of public funds by the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) and its leniency towards more than a dozen cement companies that are allegedly operating against the interests of the local people and harming the fragile ecology of the area. The first ever RTI murder in the state, Majaw’s body was found by the roadside.  
 
9 March 2108: Nanjibhai Sondarva (35) a resident of Manekwada village in Kotada Sangani taluka of Rajkot district was allegedly clubbed to death by six persons. His crime? He had filed an RTI application demanding transparency about funds spent on the construction of a road in his village. One and a half years back, he and other members of his family were allegedly assaulted by the village sarpanch who was said to be furious at Nanjibhai for using RTI to expose financial irregularities in the developmental works undertaken in the village.
 
States Venkatesh Nayak, RTI research scholar and coordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), “With this latest incident, the total number of victims, allegedly murdered for seeking information under RTI, across the country has gone up to 67. Also, with the Rajkot incident, the number of citizens and activists who used RTI to question the "Gujarat Model of Development" has risen to 11.  There are at least 16 cases of assault on other RTI activists in Gujarat reported in various media sources since October, 2005 when the RTI Act was operationalised.”
 
With the Whistleblower’s Act diluted and weakened even before its implementation, the safety of RTI activists who seek information for the larger common good, is increasingly in danger. Says Vijay Kumbhar, noted RTI activist,  “I am afraid the number of such assaults and killings is likely to increase considering that the government is increasingly going in for the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, where transparency is more an exception than a rule. Hence, the stakeholders like contract labourers and agents are likely to demand information under RTI if they perceive injustice making them vulnerable to goonda like elements. Also, the killings continue because neither the public authorities of the state nor the Central government are interested in making RTI citizen-empowered as they have shown their disdain for proactive disclosures under Section 4 (d) of the RTI Act.”
 
A couple of years back, The Asian Centre for Human Rights  had recommended that a separate chapter, “Protection of those seeking information under the (RTI) Act” be inserted into the Act. The protection measures included in the proposal were:
 
(a)mandatory, immediate registration of complaints of threats or attacks against RTI activists on the First Information Report and   placing such FIRs before the magistrate or judge of the area within 24 hours for issuance of directions for protection of those under threats and their family members, and periodic review of such protection measures;
 
(b)conducting inquiry into threats or attacks by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police/Assistant Commissioner of Police, to be concluded within 90 days; and
(c) trial of the accused within six months
 
(d) Changes should be made in the present RTI Act which should ensure the anonymity of the applicant, this can be achieved by removing the compulsory mention of the name and address of the applicant. And the Information should be posted on the official website. Now, most of the information, which results in a threat to the life of a whistleblower have no security concern. For example, all the Information related to MNREGA, if made public, is not going to result in a threat to privacy or security of the nation or anyone, But we have seen murders of various RTI activist seeking Information related to MNREGA.
The CHRI has posted the following on its website as tips to prevent attacks:
 
Often, there is strength and solidarity in numbers. Nothing in The Right to Information Act, 2005 says citizens cannot request information jointly. Recognising the increasing number of cases of attacks on RTI users, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled in 2012  that citizens may file joint RTI applications on any subject. So an individual may send an RTI application in her/his name and those of friends or relatives. All applicants should put their names and signatures at the bottom of the RTI form. However, applicants need to remember to indicate which of them will be responsible for paying the copying fees for the records requested from the public authority. (Similarly, nothing in the RTI Act prevents several citizens from seeking the same information from the same public authority through several RTI applications.)
 
The Calcutta High Court also showed its concern for citizens who are attacked for asking information from public authorities. In 2013 the High Court ruled that a citizen should not be compelled to give personal contact details in the RTI application. If the information can be delivered to any Post Box No. provided by the RTI applicant, the public authority must send it there. So an applicant may ask for information to be delivered to her/his Post Box to prevent vested interests from knowing where she/he lives. However if the information sought is bulky, or if applicants want the information delivered by Registered Post or Speed Post, they will have to disclose personal contact details. Recorded mail cannot be delivered to a Post Box No. because the applicant has to sign a receipt on delivery.
 
The RTI Act recognises citizens’ right to seek information electronically. An applicant may file an RTI application through email also. If the information is held by the public authority in electronic form, she/he may ask for it to be sent through email. In such cases it may not be necessary to reveal her/his postal address to the public authority.
 
If an applicant thinks that her/his potential RTI application may result in an attack on her/him, play it safe. Talk to a journalist or a social activist or a civil society organisation to seek the information from the public authority. Vested interests may then have second thoughts about attacking them. 
 
(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

    SAMUEL WARBAH

    2 years ago

    Late Poipynhun Majaw is from Meghalaya and not from Nagaland

    Mahesh S Bhatt

    2 years ago

    Ultimate Cost of Satyamav Jayate is toh Marete. Mahesh Bhatt

    Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

    2 years ago

    To protect RTI activists, all the points in this article are valid.
    The government should bring proper changes in RTI Act to implement them at earliest to protect the life of RTI Activists.

    Ramesh Poapt

    2 years ago

    when a blessing becomes curse...

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    2 years ago

    The fundamental culture of the Indian Rapeublic engendered by the Constitution, Courts and Law Enforcers is lawlessness. Under these circumstances, any appeal for truth and justice if fraught with danger. It is like living in a Barbaric and ore medieval Europe.

    #Aadhaar: UIDAI cannot make any assertion about the uniqueness of identity, RTI reply shows
    The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that is operating the Aadhaar numbering scheme for residents, is unable to make any assertion about the uniqueness of its database, reveals information received under Right to Information (RTI) Act.
     
    Dr Anupam Saraph has filed the RTI seeking information on unique names, addresses, mobile numbers, email IDs, biometrics and documents in the UIDAI's Central ID Repository (CIDR) database. Replying to the RTI, UIDAI said, "No such information is available or maintained by UIDAI, RO, Mumbai."
     
     
    "This clearly indicates that the Unique Identification Authority is unable to make any assertion about the uniqueness of its database. The UIDAI is unable to provide simple information that would be essential to establish if the database is better than the other databases that it is claiming to 'purify'," says Dr Saraph, a renowned expert in governance of complex systems, who also advises governments and businesses across the world.
     
    The UIDAI has confirmed that it has no information about the number of unique biometrics or names in its database, a prerequisite to be able to de-duplicate the database. 
     
    Dr Saraph, in his RTI application sought information about...
     
    1. The number of unique names in the UIDAI CIDR
    2. The number of unique addresses in the UIDAI CIDR
    3. The number of unique mobile numbers in the UIDAI CIDR
    4. The number of unique email ids in the UIDAI CIDR
    5. The number of unique biometrics in the UIDAI CIDR
    6. The number of unique documents associated with Aadhaar numbers in the UIDAI CIDR
    7. The number of non-unique names in the UIDAI CIDR
    8. The number of non-unique addresses in the UIDAI CIDR
    9. The number of non-unique mobile numbers in the UIDAI CIDR
    10. The number of non-unique email ids in the UIDAI CIDR
    11. The number of non-unique biometrics in the UIDAI CIDR
    12. The number of non-unique documents associated with Aadhaar numbers in the UIDAI CIDR
     
    Dr Saraph says, as per the reply received under RTI, the UIDAI does not know the number of unique and non-unique documents used as proof of identity, proof of birth date and proof of address in its database. “This information would be necessary to estimate the ghosts and duplicates that were generated by providing the same documents multiple times or not providing any documents,” he added.
     
    The UIDAI is also unable to state the number of unique addresses. Knowing the number of unique addresses would be necessary to recognise the number of households that the government may be required to target benefits and subsidies to. Knowing the number of non-unique addresses would establish number of individuals in the database that co-habit with other individuals.
     
    The UIDAI has no information about the number of unique mobile numbers in its database, however it has been treating the mobile number as an alias for the Aadhaar number and formulating programs of financial inclusion based on mobile phones, designing authentication with OTP or updation procedures that require a mobile number. 
     
    "It claims to provide authentication alerts on email IDs and mobile phones but does not know how many persons are excluded from alerts because they lack mobiles or email IDs. Without having information about the number of non-unique (or shared mobile numbers or email IDs) the government is in no position to assume that individuals in its Aadhaar database can be reached using mobile phones or email IDs," Dr Saraph says.
     
    "This information should have been available on a dashboard of the UIDAI if the UIDAI's purpose is to help the government to target subsidies and benefits," Dr Saraph said, adding, "It is evident that the Aadhaar database is not able to provide any basis or establish any confidence to serve as a way to inform the government to target any subsidies or benefits. It is absurd that the UIDAI claims to reach out to 120 crore residents and provide information about them, to provide them with benefits and subsidies, when it cannot provide mesa-data about its own database. The quality of this entire database is called to question considering that the UIDAI does not have meta-data about its own database."
     
    Earlier, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Chief Executive (CEO) of UIDAI, while making a presentation before the five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, had claimed that there can be no false positive de-duplicates because there is also a manual override process in UIDAI about Aadhaar. In addition, he stated, "Once biometrics reaches CIDR, it can never be shared on any ground whatsoever except for national security under Section 33. Over the past one and a half years, we have not received any request for biometrics from government or anyone."
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    COMMENTS

    Girish Kamat

    2 years ago

    Since there is no police verification like passport in Aadhaar there is no way of identifying duplicates. Nobody knows whether fingerprints in real life are unique but after Washington researcher found wto identical snowflakes experts think that fingerprints may also be duplicate. But Aadhaar handles biometrics in digital forms using minutiae where even for high resolution sensor like Apple there is one in 50000 chance of somebody else's fingerprints matching yours. So they moved to facial recognition where chance is 1 in 1 million. So idiots at UIDAI came with scheme of taking all the fingers which would be unique combination for single indivudual (one in 50000x50000 ten times). But by doing that opened pandora's box for duplicates. All the person has to do is bribe the enrolement agent and combine fingers of multiple persons in permutation and combination to create large number of duplicate IDs. After all UIDAI's own data shows that Delhi has 32 lakh duplicate/invalid IDs for population of 1.81 crroes and 8 states have saturation rate of 102 per cent based on whosover enrolled so far. https://uidai.gov.in/images/StateWiseAge_AadhaarSat_24082017.pdf.
    Biometrics is dubious technology imposed on more than 100 crores of this country who dont understand what identify theft or even Aadhaar replay is. If your credit card password is compromised you will change it, if credit card/debit card is compromised you would replace it but how would you replace your fingerpint.

    Krishnamoorthy Venkataraman

    2 years ago

    The government has started and run hafway. But for the ordinary citizen it should be made simple to rectify the errors they point out or to effect changes in address atleast. There is no full fledged servicing centre to deal with our grievances in every state. The UIDAI should do something for this.

    B. Yerram Raju

    2 years ago

    Why is he telling lies to the Judiciary and not being punished for telling so by the Supreme Court?

    REPLY

    Girish Kamat

    In Reply to B. Yerram Raju 2 years ago

    He himself does not trust biometrics. Afterall his log submitted to SC shows only one fingerprint authentication failed with 330 code which means biometrics is locked by the user.

    Just Rs1 crore for tribal welfare scheme in 2016-17, Congress-ruled states ignored, reveals RTI
    The allocation for a Centre-sponsored tribal welfare scheme launched in 2014 has come down to a mere Rs 1 crore ($154,000) in 2016-17 from Rs 200 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 100 crore in 2014-15, according to an RTI reply that also indicates that the lion's share of the allocations went to BJP-ruled tribal states while Congress-ruled states were ignored.
     
    The Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) was launched in 2014 by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs for overall development of the country's estimated 60 million tribal population, the indigenous people.
     
    It was included as a Central Sector Scheme in the ministry's annual plan with an initial allocation of Rs 100 crore for 2014-15.
     
    However, the then Congress-ruled states of Meghalaya, Manipur (both predominantly tribal states), Congress-ruled Karnataka and Uttarakhand (which then had a Congress-led government) don't feature in the list provided by the ministry.
     
    Among the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states that did not feature in the list are Goa, Haryana and Punjab (then ruled by SAD-BJP alliance). The last two don't have any tribal population.
     
    Andhra Pradesh received Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 5 crore in 2015-16. Arunachal Pradesh got not even a penny in 2014-15 while in 2015-16 it got Rs 6 crore.
     
    Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal received no funds under the scheme in 2014-15. However, in 2015-16, Tamil Nadu received Rs 7 crore, Uttar Pradesh Rs 2 crore and West Bengal Rs 2.45 crore.
     
    Assam and Bihar too did not receive any amount in 2014-15, while in 2015-16, they got Rs 8.52 crore and Rs. 7.6 crore, respectively.
     
    BJP-ruled states got the lion's share under the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana. Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan were allocated Rs 10 crore each in 2014-15.
     
    In 2015-16, Chhattisgarh received Rs 13.84 crore, Gujarat got Rs 17.23 crore, Jharkhand Rs 13.44 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 19.09 crore, Maharashtra's share was Rs 14 crore and Rajasthan got Rs 10.46 crore.
     
    On the other hand, Himachal Pradesh was allocated Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 while it received a zero sum in 2015-16.
     
    Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala too did not receive any amount in 2014-15. In 2015-16, J&K and Kerala got Rs 5 crore and Rs 3 crore lakh , respectively.
     
    Odisha got Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 16.50 crore in 2015-16.
     
    Other northeastern states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura -- all of which have substantial tribal populations -- received no funds in 2014-15. However, in 2015-16, Mizoram got Rs 4.95 crore, Nagaland received Rs 7.66 crore, Sikkim Rs 3.82 crore and Tripura Rs 6.13 crore.
     
    Telangana, meanwhile, got Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and in 2015-16, it was allocated Rs 42.7 crore.
     
    Stressing that the Adivasis were in bad shape, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the Gujarat election last year and asked: "Where did the Rs 55,000 crore meant for the Vanbandhu scheme go?"
     
    This was Gandhi's 10th question as part of a Congress strategy wherein he would put one question daily to Modi ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls. He had apparently got his figures wrong.
     
    "Neglect left Adivasi society in tatters, Modiji, where did Rs 55,000 crore for the Vanbandhu scheme go?" Gandhi had asked.
     
    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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