Saturday, August 17, 2013

University of Pune penalizes students for no fault of theirs.

It seems that University of Pune (UoP) is fond of harassing its students. Times and again it comes with new ideas to do so. Recently there was a big controversy over its circular on obligating students to not to lodge any complaint or make any representation regarding any matter connected with the institution to press or other outside institution/agency etc. without forwarding the same through the Head of the concerned institution. After lot of criticism UoP had to withdraw that.

Now it has come with another Idea of harassing students for no fault of theirs, and that will add lakhs of rupees in UoP’s treasury also. As per circular, last Date for online application for regular convocation was 31stJuly 2013; however Students can fill the online Application for Regular Convocation from 1st August 2013 to 31st August 2013 with late fee charges. The late fee charges for Non-professional course and for professional course are Rs.180 and Rs.245 respectively. These charges are in addition to regulars charges.

Interestingly there are some results that UoP declared after last date of applying for convocation with regular fee.And now it expects students to pay the late fee charges for no fault of theirs. There is lot of anger amongst students over UoP’s this stand. Why should students be penalized for no fault of theirs? Students are not responsible for late results. How come university declared some results including engineering faculty results exactly a day after the last day of applying for convocation with regular fees? Is it a mere coincidence or a deliberate move to collect additional money from students?.

 Thousands of students apply for convocation every year. This year by way of late fee only UoP may collect lakhs and lakhs of rupees. Normally final year students don’t make any complaints because they want their degrees and are in no mood to have any trouble for amount like two or three hundred rupees. But that does not mean UoP should take advantage of students helplessness.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Indian Railway play with words to harass RTI applicants

Indian railways have charged a fee of whopping RS. 1000 per copy of reservation chart Under RTI. An RTI applicant Ravindra Vabale had asked copies of reservation charts . They have also attached copy of concerned circular. But if we go and study earlier circulars it reveals how Babus play with the words to avoid or dodge RTI queries.  The circular issued in 1994 is not available, but 2007 circular clearly shows that the fee of RS. 750 was for verification purpose and not for the copy of reservation chart, and that too was for the government departments.

2010 circular also mentions the uniform fee of Rs. 750/- per PNR for verifying journey details but suddenly in 2011 words “verification of PNR” were  replaced by the words “copy of reservation chart” . and words “government departments” were replaced by words “any person” . This is clear indicates that such was done to avoid or harass RTI requisitions. Reproducing here the extract of all the three concerned circulars.

No.2006FlG-I/20/P/LTC New Delhi, Dated: l0/01/2007
Instructions were issued vide this office letter No.93/TG- I/20/P dated 04/05/1994 on the subject quoted above wherein it was advised that a uniform fee of Rs.750/- per verification should be charged by zonal railway from various Government departments who approach for verification of LTC Travel detail. A clarification has been sought by Northern Railway on this account regarding the fee to be charged from the following agencies in case they approach for verification of LTC Travel
details: -
l) Police/CBI in different types of investigation/criminal cases. 2) Courts 3) Railway Vigilance in various cases. 4) Railway refund offices for deciding refund cases. 5) Various reports of the Railways to dispose off complaint cases. The matter has been reviewed and it has been decided that: -
i. Verification fee may not be charged from Police/CB1/Courts, in connection with investigation/hearing of Civil/Criminal or any other cases. However, verification fee will be charged in case of verification of LTC claims of the staff of these organisations.
ii. No verification fee may be charged in Vigilance, Refund and Complaint cases being investigated by Railways.iii Verification fee may be charged from all other agencies except those mentioned in (i) & (ii) above.
CCMs/CCM (PMs) will, have discretionary powers to waive off the fee in specific cases like requests from different Commissions, Parliament or Legislative Secretariat etc. Necessary instructions may be issued to all concerned and receipt of this letter be acknowledged.

N0. 2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC New Delhi, dated 31.08.2010
Please refer to this oice letter of even number dated 04.05.1994 and l0.0l .2007 (Commercial Circular No. 06 of 2007) intevalia advising therein regarding charging of a uniform fee of Rs 750/- per PNR for LTC verication, and non-charging of this fee from certain agencies as prescribed therein. Now a query has been raised whether these charges are applicable for verifying journey details in other cases also.
2. The matter has been considered at Board’s level and it is claried that Zonal Railways should realise a uniform fee of Rs.750/- per PNR for verifying journey details irrespective of the fact whether it is for LTC verication or otherwise.

No.2006/TG-I/20/P/LTC Pt. New Delhi, dated I3 .12.2011,
The issue has been examined in consultation with Finance Directorate of Board’s ofce and it has been decided that the following fee should be realized for furnishing a copy of reservation chart to any person:~
(i) For furnishing a copy of reservation chart to any person, a fee of Rs. 1,000/- per page should be charged. In this case, party will be provided a printout of the reservation chart taken out from the system Without indicating the status of passenger viz. turning up/non-turning up.

(ii) In case of furnishing of copy of working chart (having indication by TTEs/TCs relating to turning up or non-turning up and other relevant details), a fee of Rs. 750/- per PNR should be charged for all the PNRs indicated on that page.-

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Narayanasamy’s definition of Substantial funding – One more threat for RTI ahead

If accepted,union minister of state for personnel public grievances and pensions V. Narayanasamy’s definition " Substantial funding means above 51 per cent’ "private sharks will grab the entire country in no time. All the Build Operate Transfer (BOT), Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects, Non Government Organisations (NGO) getting crores of rupees as a fund or aid in kind Co Operative societies, will automatically come out of the preview of RTI act.

There are 33.50 lakh NGO’s and around 6.5 lakh cooperative societies working since last decades for welfare of society in India. That means there are around 40 lakh organisation working for 120 crore population, i.e. there is one such organisation per 300 people. If we assume there are only 10 members in such organisations i.e. there is one person per 30 people working for welfare of society since last many decades. Major Job of these organisations is to take government policies, schemes to common person. However what we see the ground reality is, status of the common person is same as was several decades back. Each year government spends crores and crores rupees for welfare of common person , then where did all this money go?. Interesting part of this is , most of all these are directly or indirectly owned or controlled by political entities.  

There are projects like BOT, PPP where government’s major stake is involved in form of direct or indirect funding. In addition as the government has already allowed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We have to see the implications of definition of substantial funding keeping in the mind above mentioned factors .

I wonder how anybody can say that “I have taken your rupee but as my stakes are high, I don’t owe any responsibility towards your rupee because it is not substantial funding”.?. Definition of substantial funding can not be and should not be in terms percentage.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

More than three million RTI applicants got Information , Claims SIC Maharashtra

More than 96% of RTI applicants in Maharashtra got information in last seven years .This claim is made by state information commission (SIC) of Maharashtra in its seventh annual report placed before state legislative assembly. If this claim is to be believed then there is already "RAMRAJYA" (Goode Governance) in Maharashtra. The claim is based on information provided by various public authorities in the state. As per report in last seven years i.e. since inception of RTI act Public Authorities (PA) received total 31, 72,114  RTI applications,  out of which only 1,27,357  i.e. only 4% of the applicants filed second appeals , that means 96% i.e. 30, 71, 532 applicants got the desired information.

If this statistics is to believed there is no need of proactive disclosure or any other measures for implementation of RTI act in Maharashtra. However, Ground reality is far more different from this. Surprisingly in this report, it has stated that 80 % of the Public Information Officers (PIO) and First appellate authorities are unaware of procedure to be followed to address RTI queries as per the act. The act has not been propagated and reached to its beneficiaries in true sense. Many public authorities have not complied with section 4 of the act. Status of the documentation or record is not satisfactory in most of the public authorities. It is hard to believe that despite of all these odds 96% of the applicants got the desired information. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this situation is that, the data supplied by public authorities on whom this report is not trust worthy, and SIC cannot verify this data by any means.

Since last three four years SIC reports are just copy paste work. This year is also no exception. There were lot of expectations as state chief information commissioner was a former state chief secretary, has thorough knowledge of administration. When last two annual reports were submitted, he was in chair as a chief secretary. He was supposed to find the ways to tackle hurdles in compliance of suggestions of SIC and implementation of RTI act. However, nothing happened. He has same expectations from government that earlier commissions had.

Vacant posts of commissioners , vacant posts of employees , not supply of franking machines, non compliance of section 4 of the RTI act, non compliance of sic decisions, poor documentation and record keeping, Necessity of training to PIO's, FAA' and citizens all such demands are there since last seven years  but Government did not pay any heed. It was possible for Ratnakar Giakwad to do something for RTI act as a chief secretary, but he did not do anything. Now he expects that governments view must be positive towards supply of necessary facilities to SIC.

The only new suggestions from SIC this year are, syllabus related to  The RTI act , Maharashtra Public Records Act  and  Delay in Discharge of official duties  should be included in Departmental Qualification Examination of employees and scanned documents to RTI applicant should be provided to RTI applicant , it will save time and energy of public authority.

It is almost more than a year that Ratnakar Giakwad assumed charge of chief Information commissioner. There were lot of expectations from him. Getting approved "appeal procedure rules" from government was one of the major task before him, but he could not do so. The only positive thing he did was,  fast disposal of second appeals and bringing pendency his bench to almost zero.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cabinet today cleared the RTI Amendments

In a significant development, the Cabinet today cleared the RTI Amendment Act and proposed that political parties should be kept out of its ambit. But following was the press release by press information bureau on 8 july 2009., when Prithviraj Chavan was Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions. It seems that assurance given by then state minister was  just a eyewash.

Amendment to RTI Act
Lok Sasbha

The Government proposes to strengthen right to information by suitably amending the laws to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas. In this regard, it is proposed to review the number of organizations in the second schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005 and make rules for more disclosure of information by public authorities.

Government has received representations expressing doubts about the proposed amendments. Non-Governmental Organisations and Social activists will be consulted on the proposed amendments. However No time frame can be fixed for completion of the process.

This information was given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Shri Prithviraj Chavan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today (i.e. 8th july 2009 )