Wishing you a prosperous 2008

Wishing you and all your family members all the very best and a prosperous 2008

Wishing you and all your family members all the very best and a prosperous 2008

Wishing you and all your family members all the very best and a prosperous 2008


Wishing you and all your family members all the very best and a prosperous 2008

Andher Nagari: Orissa

    Violence in the name of relegion can have  no place in this country. India cannot and should not turn into a Nazi Germany, Pakistan or Arabistan.

     Religious riots must be controlled with utmost severity. Reasons for the riots must be enquired into impartially. It is understood that the root cause was the demand of converted Christians to be declared as SCs/STs. Relegation to backward castes has been the bane of our populist democracy.

     Politicians have been dividing the people into castes and more castes for votes. This must stop immediately.       

 I N ORISSA, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence against Christian institutions. At the same time State Minister of Steel and Mines, Padmanabha Behera, has resigned owning “moral responsibility” for the Christmas carnage.

      These actions were taken after a curfew and after the presence of paramilitary forces proved to be no deterrents to the criminal elements who continued on their hate campaign. The minister’s resignation was one of the demands of the tribals in the district, who were opposing a proposal to grant Dalits the status of a Scheduled Caste.

     This hadn’t much to do with the attacks directly. So, the issuance of caveats by all parties to not “make this a political issue” rings hollow. If this is not politics, nothing is. The state response leaves much to be desired.

     The matter-of-fact acceptance that the attacks were likely in response to an assault on a VHP leader is shameful and tiring. As there had already been an attack on an ‘anti-conversion’ activist, which in turn had inspired the VHP to call a bandh, surely the state machinery should have been alerted to the possibility of such a ‘response’? Communal vandalism and violence have been played out with almost meticulous precision.

     It is incomprehensible how 15 churches and in stitutes were targeted while there was no intelligence on the ground about any such activity Or did the state machinery . simply not bother? Communal tension has festered in Orissa for years.

     One of its worst manifestations was the 1999 Graham Staines case, where the Australian missionary was burnt to death along with his two young sons. While the murders shocked the nation, the case ended finally with a judgment that exposed the wide chasm between a deterring penalty and the ground realities. While the lower court sentenced the main perpetrator, Dara Singh, to death and 12 others to life imprisonment in September 2003, the Orissa High Court ended up commuting Singh’s death to life sentence and acquitted 11 of the others.

      The gap in the severity of the penalty , slashed to mere tokenism, cannot have sent the right signals to those inciting such hate crimes. And clearly little has , been done to address the basic welfare issues involved in such communal divides.

     This is a politically-motivated crime and the upkeep of law and order is an issue that the state machinery alone can address. Yet, the moves have been tactical and little is yet being done to grapple with the ground reality that Orissa may be becoming a cesspit of intolerance.

     The rot must be stemmed now, Mr Patnaik’s reassurances notwithstanding.

RTI:Bureaucrats use RTI to serve themselves

Bureaucrats use RTI to serve themselves   

    Babus are most reluctant to part with any information to any one , least of all a harassed citizen, a helpless citizen. Information is however available to the ‘right person’ who demands it in the ‘right way’.    

     The very same babus who deny information the ordinary citizen have no hesitation in claiming their ‘Right’ to information.


     When senior IFS officer Veena Sikri was superseded by Shivshankar Menon for the post of Foreign Secretary, she sought the file details of Menon’s appointment through a Right to Information (RTI) appeal. Sikri even went on to move the Central Information Commission (CIC) for access to the Cabinet files leading to the decision.

But it’s not just high-profile appointments like these that flood the commission, the CIC is turning out to be more of a grievance redressal forum, at least for government servants and bureaucrats.
Disgruntled bureaucrats have been using the RTI Act to obtain information on a variety of issues ranging from their promotions, denial of pension and at times even out-of-turn house allotments.
Says chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, “The single-largest chunk of the applications that we receive is from bureaucrats. They comprise the bulk of all applications at the CIC, about 40 per cent at least.”

     The most frequent RTI plea filed by the government servants is regarding their promotion seeking details of their Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs). Apart from this, the other issue is regarding pension details post retirement.
     At times, government servants have appealed to the CIC to obtain the promotion details of their adversaries — citing how they had been ‘irregularly appointed’. For instance, Anil Kumar from the Department of Telecom who alleged that R.P. Sinha had been “irregularly appointed” as the managing director of MTNL and demanded to see his ACRs.

However, this plea does not work in most cases with the CIC not allowing disclosure of ACRs. Its only when it has involved some ‘public interest’ that personal confidential reports have been disclosed.
     At times moving the CIC has backfired, like in the case of a chief vigilance commissioner in Assam who filed an appeal alleging that his pay had been withheld by the state government. Finding that he instead had made irregular payment of house rent, the commission hauled him up for “unbecoming behaviour”.
     “One would have expected him to be a role model”, the CIC stated and was “pained”at his manner, considering that he was “a CVC of an important State”.

     Habibullah, however, sees it as the duty of the government departments who should be voluntarily putting up general information about ranks and grades of staff and their entitlements online.
“Not only would this bring down our work load considerably but it would also give satisfaction to the employees.”
Citing his experience while dealing with pension complaints of retired employees, Habibullah says its appalling at how government officers are dismissive of their former colleagues. Trivial issues also find their way to the CIC with officers moving the CIC at being denied higher grade government accommodation.
     He says, “The CIC is the only forum where government servants feel their grievances can be addressed.”

Delhi Traffic Police: A woman driver

     Here is a personal encounter with the DelhiTraffic Police, by a woman driver. In this connection also see earlier posts dated 13 Dec & 21 Dec 07.

I  want to highlight an incident that shows how a woman driver is harassed in the city.

     She not only has to face road rage by fellow rude men on the wheels, even the traffic cops don’t leave any opportunity to harass her.

     On December 26, 2007, I had gone to a skin clinic at Bungalow Road, Kamla Nagar. As there was no sign of ‘No parking’ in the area I parked my car outside the gate. I even checked with the guard of the clinic and he said it was safe to park there.

      But when I returned after sometime, my car was missing. People around told me that it had been towed away. I quickly went to the nearby police station which proved to be the worst experience of my life. The cops were rude and they outrightly asked me to pay Rs 800 if I wanted a receipt of the challan or the matter could be settled for Rs 300 without a challan.

     When I asked them to mention on the challan copy that the place didn’t have a ‘No parking’ board, they refused outrightly.      They even refused to tell me their names. When I argued further, they threatened to put me behind the bars and even file fake cases against me.I’ve even filed a complaint against this in Sabzi Mandi police station but I’m sure nothing would be done.

     I’m a post graduate from Delhi University and work as a jewellry designer.

Parul Agarwal, Ashok ViharLetters @mailtoday.in

Benazir Bhutto: Comments

Pervez Musharraf

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has condemned the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He said it was a terrorist act.The Pakistan president has appealed for peace. He has also announced three-day mourning in the wake Benazir’s killing.

 Nawaz Sharif
Thursday, December 27, 2007 (Islamabad)

Nawaz Sharif describes Benazir Bhutto’s assassination as the most tragic incident in the history of Pakistan. ”I myself feel threatened,” says Sharif, whose party temporarily suspended the electioneering in the wake of the assassination. ”Are things in control now? Had things been in control, would this have happened?” he said, adding that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would have to give answers.

     I also feel unprotected and the lady must also have been feeling very unprotected,” Sharif said.Criticising Musharraf, he said, ”If Musharraf can spend crores on his own security, could he not spend some amount on the security of Bhutto.

Mr Wali Ahmad has made a comparison of the tragedy bound House of Bhutto in Pakistan and the House of Nehru -Gandhi in India.

Thursday, December 27, 2007 (New Delhi)The assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto draws a bloody parallel with the Gandhi family of India.The Bhutto clan across the border and the Gandhis in India — arguably the most important political lineages in their respective countries — have lost generations violently to political vendetta and religious fanaticism.

     The two families have also been deeply associated with each other in Indo-Pak relations.A young Benazir was famously by her father Zulfequar Ali Bhutto’s side when he signed the Simla agreement with Indira Gandhi in 1972. Seven years later, Zulfequar Bhutto was sent to the gallows by General Zia-ul Haq on April 4, 1979. He was hanged despite international appeal for clemency.In India five years later, then prime minister Indira Gandhi was killed in 1984 by her own bodyguards.

     Her son and political novice Rajiv Gandhi stepped into her shoes, coming to power after a huge victory in the elections held after his mother’s assassination.

     Benazir Bhutto first became Pakistan’s Prime Minister in 1988. She had a lot in common with the equally charismatic Rajiv across the border. Both were educated abroad, in England in fact, were articulate and impressed the world as leaders at a young age. In 1991, Rajiv was assassinated in Tamil Nadu by a suicide bomber during an election campaign. Another violent death in a family already rocked by the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi in 1980 in a plane crash.

Benazir lost brother Murtaza to a police encounter in 1996 and another brother Shahnawaz under mysterious circumstances a decade before.

On Thursday, Bhutto too was killed by a suicide bomber while campaigning for elections.

The assassination of Bhutto draws the curtains down to the two families on either side of the border

Pakistan:Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto Assasinated

This is a terrible time for Pakistan. A terrible time for Democracy.Violence appears to have over taken all norms of behavior.

This is a senseless crime by criminal elements, who Definitely do not have the interests of Pakistan.

      This is  NOT the handiwork of a small group of individuals. Clearly these criminal elements could not have carried out repeated attacks without active support of powerful elements in Pakistani Government (ISI, Army) and  Pakistani Society.

      Perfect security for any VIP is never possible especially when he or she has to mingle with crowds. Mrs Bhutto has been crying from the roof tops that she is a prime candidate for assassination and she must have adequate security.

       She had even named persons who she said were most likely to foster these attacks The incident of 18th  October had only confirmed her statements.

           The Government of Pakistan must have ensured that she has adequate protection, at least officially, so that the administration cannot be faulted. But no specific action was taken against individuals whom she had mentioned.

          ISI and the Army have no love lost for any civilian who might take over and run the Government of PakistanPakistani Army has often been termed as the ‘Rogue Army’.

          The ISI is a Frankenstein establishment under no body’s control. It has its own aims and objectives. It has Billions of US $ and arms at its disposal, thanks to American Aid, and its dealings in narcotics. It has many fanatics trained, equipped and brainwashed over many years through the Afghan War and later.

         ISI raised, funded, trained and equipped the Taliban, initially for the US and later for the funds and the power to destabilize the Government of Afganistan, and Kashmir valley. ISI has been always headed by a trusted Lt General from the Pakistan Army.

           Interactions between the Army, ISI and the Terrorists are regular. In fact the Taliban can be considered to be an extension of the Pakistan Army. Subsequent to 9/11 there has been a drastic change in US attitude towards terrorism.

          US has no objections to terrorists operating freely anywhere in the world. But Americans will not spare their government if American lives are involved. So they have been pressurizing Pakistan to control their minions.

          Taliban has always  had a free run in the NW province of Pakistan. Today Taliban terrorists have grown bold and do not always listen to their erstwhile masters , ISI.

          So far Musharraf has been able to con the US. The Army has been able to hoodwink the Pakistan Public.

           However the actions of Gen Musharaf in the recent past has aggravated the tensions between Jehadists in the North West and the Army. People of Pakistan are also being alienated by what they feel is the General’s kow-towing to the evil USA.

     Bhutto had stated that she will put down terrorists. This made her enemies among the Taliban groups,and obiviously the ISI.

           In fact Many in Pakistan feel that the Army was always out to eliminate Benazir Bhutto. Public will demand justice.

          Musharraf is going to under tremendous  pressure. The Army is going to be under tremendous pressure. A scape-goat is needed.

          Day break 28 Dec is going to bring people on the streets. The mobs will howl. Some heads will have to roll. Whose will it be? Small heads of minor functionaries wont do. 

         Will it be Musharraf? Can he stay without declaring emergency?      Army may well consider him a liability and allow him to proceed to US or UK or Saudi.

           Elections now will have little meaning. Nawaz Sharief has already been side lined. Now PPP is without a leader. Civilians have lost another round.

      What will it mean for India?

RTI : Delhi Police Attempts to Scuttle

RTI Delhi Police Attempts to Scuttle

Please also see blog of 17 Nov 

     INFORMATION IS the key to any batt1e, and no one knows this better than government officials.

    So what do they do when the Right To Information (RTI) Act ensures that they can’t refuse information legally? Create other sorts of roadblocks to discourage the public from asking uncomfortable questions.

     In the latest instance, three Delhi Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) have asked for ‘fees’ from an RTI applicant who sought details of impounded vehicles that lie dumped at police stations in the city The law is clear on the ‘fee’ for RTI applications: Rs 10 at the time of filing an application. If an applicant needs data from official files, it will be supplied free of cost. But if he needs photocopies of files etc, then the cost is calculated at Rs 2 per page. In case, the information is available in electronic form, it will be Rs 50 per CD.

     The information has to be made available within 30 days of the application. Instead of asking for the legal fee, the three DCPs asked the applicant to deposit Rs 50,000 as ‘fees’, which includes photocopying charges and per day salaries of the officers given the job. Interestingly, this demand was made after three other DCPs had already supplied the same information to the applicant without asking for any extra fee, paying only for photocopying charges.

     This kind of corruption is not new. Similar cases have been reported from other states too.

     An RTI activist was threatened at gunpoint by a police officer in Behalf while in Uttar Pradesh, a similar ‘fee’ was demanded from activists looking for information on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) workers.

But people have managed to use the Act to get their work done in other government departments without paying bribes. That is probably where it hurts the babus the most.

   It is understandable that government officials are stretched and information gathering is an additional burden. But that should not be used as an excuse to demand payment to a government servant, whose salary is being paid by the tax-paying public. This also undermines the progressive piece of legislation that hopes to redefine the patron-client relationship that exists between babus and the public.

     The attitude only shows that changing a feudal mindset is not an easy job. The battle has only begun.

extracts fro HT of 27 Nov