RTI:TNEB staff fined for denying information

TNEB staff fined for denying information

Julie Mariappan | TNN

Chennai: The State Information Commission (SIC) has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the public information officer (PIO) of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) for not supplying information to a petitioner last week. This is the maximum penal amount which can be imposed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

R Natarajan, an RTI activist wanted to know the irregularties involved in billing a private firm located in North Chennai in 2007. However, the petitioner received the copy of the anti-power theft squad report alone, which recommended departmental action against seven officials who had failed to check periodical power consumption patterns of the firm.

Immediately thereafter, the petitioner made another application under RTI to the TNEB seeking information about the billing card. The PIO preferred to state that the billing card was not traceable and there was a chance of missing the card, as the case was 16 years old. The PIO also said that no official was to be blamed and recreating the file did not arise.

Aggrieved by this, Natarajan filed another application, wanting to know if any complaint was registered with the police, as the issue was deemed a criminal offence. When the public authority chose not to reply, the petitioner sought the commission’s help. Despite the latter’s intervention suggesting speedy disposal of the queries raised by the petititioner, the officer refused to give complete information. He also failed to oblige the commission’s directive to appear in person.

In it’s reply to the petitioner, the office of the PIO, TNEB stated that it had no obligation to answer questions as to “when, why and which,” which were not defined as information under RTI Act. During an inquiry by the commission last month, the TNEB’s public authority could not give a convincing reply as to why he absented himself during the previous summons.

Pointing out administrative lapses, the commission directed the TNEB to pay a compensation of Rs 500 to the petitioner for the instransigent non-supply of information. It also directed severe departmental action against the staff for violation of RTI Act, within a month.

NREGA: Implementation woes


Pucca work, kuchcha payment

Ashish Tripathi | TNN

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When the gram sabha announced the scheme a couple of years ago, young Manoj Rawat’s heart swelled with hope: a guaranteed job for 100 days every year meant that the boy could stay at home earn, take care of his parents besides pur suing his studies.

Today, the NREGA is this landless Dalit labour er’s last option. The 18 year-old says: “During the last season worked for two months but got paid only for 28 days, and that too after a long wait. It’s better to work as a farm labourer which at least gets you Rs 34-40 at the end of the day.”

Asti village, situated in Bakshi Ka Ta lab block, has over 500 Dalit, backward and Muslim families. Payment delays is a common complaint here. Which is why the half-completed kuchcha road being laid under the scheme looks deserted these days. With the sowing season on no one is reporting for work. There are also complaints of caste and communal bias in enrolment.

The pradhan, Rajveer Singh, belongs to the dominant Thakur community and keeps all the job cards and bank passbooks issued to villagers under NREGA in his custody. Many al lege that he takes “their thumb impres sions to withdraw money from the bank but takes away a substantial amount on the pretext of paying government offi cers for getting funds sanctioned.”

The pradhan denies this but admits villagers are unwilling to work because of payment delays. He blames the bank for this. “The staff doesn’t cooperate and most of the time their computers are down.” As for ‘custody’ of job cards and passbooks, he says most of the villagers are “anghootha chhap” (illiterate), so he has to maintain records for them. The scheme seems to be faltering here.

However, the ambitious project has made an impact in districts such as Bara banki where activists have been able to mount pressure on the administration to act. G K Shukla, a Lucknow-based con tractor, says the inflow of labour from Barabanki has dropped significantly “People now get easy employment in their village,” he says. But in places like Asti, the old feudal system continues with pradhans replacing the landlords.

Lucknow district UTTAR PRADESH


Suicide belt on debt row

Snehlata Shrivastav | TNN

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Yavatmal MAHARASHTRA  New Picture (60)

Sometimes it only takes a single statistic to tell the whole picture Driven by penury and despair, at least 860 farmers have commit ted suicide in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal dis trict during the last three years — the same period that the NREGA has been in operation.

The scheme’s poor show ing in one of India’s most industrialised states is most glaring where it is need ed most — the state’s debt-ridden cot ton belt. Of the Rs 20-crore cumulative grant for the scheme, only Rs 8 crore has been utilised so far.

The unutilized Rs 12 crore allocated to 1,205 gram pan chayats was diverted to other projects in the district. While the villagers claim they never got any work, the adminis tration and the panchayats are busy blaming each other for the situation.

The TOI team visited three villages in Pandharkawda taluka — Mandoli Wanzari and Umri — and found that a majority of villagers registered under the NREGA had not got any work at all since 2006. A handful who worked on a check dam in Wanzari for about 15 days are yet to be paid.

“We had to lift huge boulders, it was hard work. But none of the 25 men and women employed for the job have got their money. We don’t even know whom to approach,’ says Laxmi Maruti Atram, one of the workers.

At Umri gram sewak Prakash Dhamankar and sarpanch Dattatrya Malgade claimed to have employed 15-20 people on seven projects for roads and ponds, but prevented the team from meeting any of them.

The only beneficiary around was Maruti Domaji Meshram, who said he had earned Rs 12,000 from about 30-40 days of work in a year. But other villagers in Umri alleged that Maruti was a favourite of the sarpanch. Kantabai Maruti’s next-door neighbour and many others said they had a job card but only got work for a day.


RTI:The hungry ones get rations now in Fulzar vill, Gujarat

RTI fought off hunger for these BPL families

Vijaysinh Parmar | TNN

Farmer Laxman Chauhan

Farmer Laxman Chauhan

Rajkot: The written word can’t fight pangs of hunger, but a Right to Information (RTI) application can. If some of the poorest families of Fulzar village in Jasdan taluka of Rajkot are not living a desperate hand-tomouth existence today, it is largely because one among them filed an RTI application and exposed loopholes in the Public Distribution System.

Farmer Laxman Chauhan, 25, has ensured that his family, and others like him, don’t have to live a desperate hand-to-mouth existence any more by demanding to know his right under RTI.

In the last few months, the families have started receiving the ration entitled to them under the Central government’s Antyodaya Anna Yojana, a specific scheme for families who are the poorest of the poor even among those living below poverty line (BPL).

Chauhan filed the RTI application five months back to know the amount of ration entitled to BPL, above poverty line (APL) and Antyodaya families. He sought all details including the number of BPL, APL and Antyodaya families in his village, how much ration (wheat, rice, kerosene and sugar) was distributed in the village and how much ration should reach beneficiaries of the Antyodaya scheme.

“When we received the reply under RTI, we came to know that Antyodaya card holders are entitled to 16.5 kg wheat at Rs 2 price per kg every month. Also, each Antyodaya card holder is entitled to 16 kg rice at Rs 3 per kg every month from fair price shops. But the ground reality was Antyodaya families in our village barely got five kg rice and 5 kg wheat every month. After the RTI application, everyone gets the full ration,’’ says Chauhan.

“We accepted whatever was given under the scheme as we had no idea what was entitled to us. Now that we know and ask for it, we get it,” says Vallabha Sarviya, an Antyodaya card holder and casual laborer in Fulzar. “There are 318 ration card holders in our village.

Of them, 12 are Antyodaya card holders, 32 BPL card holders and the rest of holders are APL. A single RTI application has given them their right on their doorstep,” says Chauhan.

Farmer Laxman Chauhan files RTI application to know the amount of ration entitled to BPL, above poverty line (APL) and Antyodaya families

In the reply, he comes to know that Antyodaya families in his village barely got 5 kg rice and 5 kg wheat every month.

After the RTI application, everyone gets the full ration

Chennai Corporation seizes Artificially Ripend Fruits

Chennai Corporation has done a good deed.

Other States must follow suit.

7,000 kg of artificially-ripened fruits seized


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Chennai: In an intensive drive on Friday, the Chennai Corporation’s health department seized 7,000 kg of artificially-ripened mangoes and papayas from various shops in the city. Two shops at the wholesale fruit market in Koyambedu that stored calcium carbide and ethrel — artificial ripening agents — were sealed.

The drive covered Tondiarpet High Road, Poondi Thangammal Street market, VOC Nagar market, Govindappa Naicken Street, Anna Pillai Street, Kothavalchavadi, Royapuram market, Lloyds Road market and CIT Colony First Cross Street. About 300 kg of calcium carbide, used to ripen fruits fast by being wrapped in clothes and kept in piles of fruits, was seized from these places.

On Friday, sanitary inspectors found that 11 of the 124 shops in the Koyambedu market stored chemical agents and two shops stocked more than 150 kg of calcium carbide. “A 500 ml bottle of ethrel, a chemical compound for colour development, was also seized.

To instill fear among the traders, we decided to seal the shops,” a health official said. In the last one month, seven inspections have been held in the wholesale market. Last month, a shop was sealed after an informal test on a ripened mango revealed traces of calcium carbide and the fruit was found unfit for consumption.

Calcium carbide, a hazardous chemical, is prohibited from being used for artificial ripening of fruits “Those eating fruits ripened with calcium carbide and ethrel could suffer from neurological disorders, headache, dizziness, memory-loss and mouth ulcers.

The corporation will take stern action against traders who use such chemicals,” said mayor M Subramanian.

Karnataka: Muddled Language Policy

A complete generation was devastated and made uncompetitive by the No English policy of Basu and his communist cronies in West Bengal.

Politicians  from UP and Bihar with their chauvinistic approach towards English crippled a whole generation.

Karnataka, once a state of flowering intellectuals , has fallen on hard times.  Last two decades have seen chauvinists taking over the education policy. Much to the disadvantage of children.

Who will stem this rot and when?

Long-winded journey…

… Of School Language Policy

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Bangalore: The state’s troubles with the language policy in schools date back to the mid-’90s, and has seen many a twist and turn over the years. Here’s a look at the chronology of events.
1994: Private societies are allowed by the government to run English-medium schools under the grant-in-aid code
1995: Following a Supreme Court order, government disallows setting up of English medium schools. Medium of instruction from Class 1 to 4 in schools set up post-1994 must be in a mother tongue or Kannada. Medium of instruction can be in English only from Class 5. Private schools challenge the government rule in the high court. Final verdict is awaited.
2003: The Raja Ramanna committee recommends the re-defining of primary schools from Class 1 to 5 and not Class 1 to 4. Government accepts the proposal. Schools were told to submit fresh registration to teach in Kannada medium up to Class 5.
August 2006: Government realizes that over 2,400 schools were teaching in English though they had obtained permission to teach only in Kannada. Primary and Secondary education minister Basavaraj S Horatti orders immediate closure of these schools.
September 2006: Following public outcry that three lakh children cannot be penalized, that too in the middle of the academic year, for the fault of school managements and an education department which didn’t even know about these violations, government says they will be allowed to continue till April 10, 2007.
October 2006: Government de-recognizes 2,200 schools and says these must shut down on April 11, 2007 immediately after the academic year ends.
March 2007: Government directs errant school managements to pay a penalty ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh to get recognition once again.
April 2007: School managements/association led by Karnataka Unaided Schools Management Association (KUSMA) approach the Karnataka high court.
May 2007: High court stays penalty levied on schools but says they must teach only in the medium instruction for which they have been given permission.
July 2008: The Karnataka HC partially quashed the language policy, going in favour of schools. HC says the policy is not applicable to unaided institutions and also restores parents’ liberty to choose the medium of instruction.
November 2008: Government challenged the Karnataka HC verdict in Supreme Court. Meanwhile, schools took shelter in the HC verdict and applied for English medium schools. State government applied for Special Leave Petition.
May 2009: Schools fighting to retain English as medium of instruction have said they will urge the state government to maintain status-quo in private unaided and minority schools on the language issue until the Supreme Court responds to a Special Leave Petition filed by the state government.
July 2009: High court directs state government to implement the verdict.
ANGRY JUDICIARY Governments may come and may go, the society and the rule of law must prevail. We doubt how many of them there have read the verdict. Persons in higher offices have ridiculed the court’s order. They have no common sense and they are not serious. Everybody has become an expert. Nobody, not even the government is above the law. Today’s kings think that they are above law; they have to be grounded to show their place. We’ll not be party to this lawlessness. Of late, excuses have become rule of law.
RELIEF FOR KAGERI A division Bench headed by Justice Manjula Chellur rejected the criminal contempt plea against minister for primary and secondary education minister Visweshwara Hegde Kageri for his media statements on implementation of language policy. The Bench opined that the complainant M S Khan, who runs a educational institution in Ejipura, can file a civil contempt against the authorities. MANY VOICES
There are approximately hundreds of applications pending before the state government for starting an English medium school. Most of these are from Bangalore. We are yet to get the exact number of applications. Meanwhile, we are studying the high court’s directions, and a decision will be taken soon.
Over 3,000 schools took permission from the state government after 1994. Around 1,000 schools have applied for English as medium of instruction across the district. Though the state government has filed Special Leave Petition (SLP), there is no stay on that. Hence, the court has asked the government to file court orders.
The session on Friday was adjourned to July 8. There was no final judgment, so I can’t really comment on it. But I am expecting better results.