'You own the information under RTI,' Shailesh Gandhi tells youngsters
Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner under RTI, explained to a group of 40 youngsters that it is they who own information held by public authorities. Speaking at a full day seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation, Mr Gandhi explained the concept of Lokshahi, which according to him, meant 'Logo Ki Shenshahi' (Rule of the People), wherein each individual had the right by birth to feel as the 'badshah' and 'begum' of the country.
 
 
Mr Gandhi, while explaining bureaucracy, pointed out the causes of inefficiency in the government. He said, “They (the government) are capable of making citizens feel angry and humiliated even if they approach the civic authorities to request a change of address on their ration card.”
 
Citing an example, he said when Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off a train carriage in South Africa for being of brown colour, a complaint telegram sent by him was received with attention and within the next 12-14 hours he was escorted by an official in the next train. Such was the power exercised by an individual in those early years, the torch bearer of the RTI movement said.
 
 
Explaining the Freedom of Speech in Clause 19 (1) (a) in the constitution, the RTI Activist gave the example of Aruna Roy, who first pioneered the concept of RTI in India. Ms Roy, an IAS officer, spent her retired life in a small village in Rajasthan educating the masses and led a protest in front of the government office as they refused to give the village information about the usage of funds allocated for the people’s welfare. Her point was that if it was her money, she was entitled to look at how it was being spent.
 
Tracing the roots of the RTI to Sweden when Anders Chydenius, in 1776, fought for its introduction and giving credit to Anna Hazare, for being a key element for the enforcement of the RTI Act in Maharashtra in 2005, Mr Gandhi explained the basic features of the Act. “One should know the difference between interrogation and acquiring information” he added.
 
 
Explaining the salient features of the Act, he cited the example of a certain Tukaram, who refused to bribe corrupt government officials for procuring his ration card. After two months, he filed an RTI application wanting to know the status of his ration card and the people who received the ration card in the course of two months. The next day, he received a warm welcome in the government office along and his ration card. “Such is the power of the RTI”, Mr Gandhi said.
 
 
Believing in the fact that “One person spends 4-5 hours in a month cribbing about something”, he urged the youth to take the initiative and file an RTI application with the state or the central government to bring a change in governance or exposing the crafty policies of corrupt officials.
 
The session ended with a question and answer round in which the winner was awarded a book on the RTI Act written by Mr Gandhi.
 
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    Kunti Oza motivates young students for a cleaner and greener environment
    A firm believer in 'Youth is the Asset of the Nation', Kunti Oza, founder of the Clean Mumbai Foundation, spoke to an enthusiastic batch of 40 students at Moneylife Foundation, and urged the youth to bring the change the nation as a whole requires -- a cleaner and greener surrounding.
     
    A passionate campaigner for sustainability and civic issues, Ms Oza has many successes to her credit. Undertaking various projects, which promote betterment of the environment, and encouragement of a healthy lifestyle, her Clean Mumbai Foundation worked for the beautification of A-Ward area, through socially and environmentally sustainable methods.
     
     
    In 1992, she was working with Cathedral Infant School, which was situated opposite a garbage collection point. The stench was terrible and attracted hordes of flies. 
     
    Ms Oza met the Municipal Commissioner and worked out a route for garbage trucks and covering these open trucks, which were spilling garbage on roads on their way to the dumping grounds. The Commissioner then acted to solve the problem.
     
     
     
    Wanting to adapt the practice in international countries, where the concept of green bins and closed garbage trucks prevailed, Ms Oza says she had to wait from 1992-2005, for her idea to materialise as BMC was short of funds.
     
    In her presentation, Ms Oza showed the youngsters graphics of a horrendous fire, which took place in Deonar dumping ground, as well as other images of Mumbai's pitiable condition of roads. 
     
    Ms Oza says to stop such practices, people should be made to understand the concept of non-biodegradable and biodegradable waste. The term ‘biodegradable’ is used for those things that can be easily decomposed by natural agents like water, oxygen and ultraviolet rays of the sun. Those materials, which cannot be broken down or decomposed into the soil by natural agents are labelled as non-biodegradable.
     
    A simple but beautiful concept, of reducing the waste reaching the dumps was explained, which included classifying waste as wet waste and dry waste, to encourage the practice of recycling and relieving the BMC of some burden. The young participants at the session were told they could click pictures of clogged roads and post them on the Swachh Bharat Mission app. 
     
     
    Eco-care earth machines, which processed up to 200 kgs of waste every day, setting up of recycling centres around the city and making a contribution in the generation and usage of compost, were some of the ideas presented at the session. 
     
    Her speech spurred the idea of working collectively in small groups or joining hands with her association to solve such problems. 
     
     
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    Police familiarisation session for youngsters at Moneylife Foundation
    Dolphy D’souza, Convener of Police Reforms Watch, on Friday spoke on several issues that youngsters needed to know while dealing with the police. He was speaking at a day-long summer special seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation for young students in Mumbai.
     
    Speaking on ‘Police & You – Laws and Sections of the IPC that are crucial to you’, Mr D’souza explained the importance of knowing one’s rights, especially while dealing with an enforcement agency. He started his session by highlighting the Supreme Court’s order on the zero first information report (FIR), where one can file an FIR at any police station, irrespective of where the incident has taken place.
     
     
    The complaint is then transferred to the concerned police station. He explained how a zero FIR filed in Delhi led to the arrest of Asaram Bapu in Gujarat. He also highlighted the difference between FIR, cognisable and non-cognisable offences.  
     
    Further, the civic activist explained the basic tricks to tackle police officials. He states that a blend of politeness, assertiveness and persistence is what works while dealing with police officials. “In case the officer in charge refuses to file your FIR, the senior inspector must be notified.” 
     
     
    He also mentioned that the senior-most police officers are available on social media or chat applications like WhatsApp to resolve public grievances. “Law and order is not just the responsibility of the police, it is also the responsibility of the citizens who must support the system.” Mr D’souza added.
     
    If one is witness to a fight, it may not be possible to intervene because of various limitations. In which case he advises students to notify the police about the incident and provide them with the location details. The control room then notifies the beat marshals in the locality. 
     
     
    Mr D’souza stated that the beat marshals can reach any spot in the vicinity of a police station in an average time of three minutes. He says, “One needs to cut one’s fears as there is always an element of risk in whatever one decides to do. It is the risk that one decides to take that transits everything.”
     
    He also explained that the demolition of structures put up by hawkers comes under the jurisdiction of the municipal corporation and not the police department. He said, “During such drives, police are present to protect municipal corporation officials and to maintain law and order. They have no legal stand in the matter.”
     
     
    Mr D’souza also emphasised the need for youngsters to communicate with parents, especially while dealing with issues like sexual harassment and bullying. He encouraged students to file a complaint and not be afraid, as there were effective laws against such offences. As for cybercrime, a compliant must be filed with the local police station. 
     
    During the interaction, Mr D’souza showed a demonstration of a virtual police station guide set up by the Rajasthan Police Academy, which enables one to virtually visit the Police station using the 360 degree tool. 
     
     
    “One must understand that 99% of the people police officials interact with are criminals and this affects their tone and language,” Mr D’souza says, while encouraging students to visit their local police station, even if it is to simply acknowledge the good work done by police officials. This, he believes will help youngsters develop a rapport with the police. 
     
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    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Bajaj

    2 years ago

    I would have liked to come for the seminar. But could not, cause I am a Senior citizen. Am still not able to deal with the indifference of the police because you do not have contacts ( influence)

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