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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Smart cities to be secret cities, beginning of the end of transparency era

Finally, skeletons of real intentions behind smart cities mission have been started tumbling out of the cupboard. Initially making governance citizen-friendly was the key objective of smart cities projects, and public participation was said to be core tool to achieve it. Now instead of transparency, the secrecy has become the buzzword for smart cities mission. The Government of India has issued a model Article of Association (AoA)  for the company to be formed under special purpose vehicle ( SPV) for smart cities, that keeps entire functioning of smart city projects behind closed doors.  


courtsey https://anticap.files.wordpress.com



There are several clauses that are controversial in this AoA, but secrecy clause has become the matter of concern for transparency activists in India. The smart city mission had already killed basic principles of the 74th amendment to the constitution of India that was brought to strengthen urban local bodies. Now with this secrecy clause, it has taken the soul out of Right to information act.

The preamble of RTI act says “Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;”. The smart city mission stands exactly opposite, it says ‘nobody has right to demand and nobody has  a right disclose any information with respect to the company formed under SPV.

 Reproduced here is secrecy clause in AoA .

(i) Every Director, Manager, Secretary, Auditor, Treasurer, Trustee, member of a committee, officer, servant, agent, accountant or any other person employed in the business of the Company shall, if so required by the Directors, before entering upon his duties, sign a declaration pledging himself to observe strict secrecy respecting all transactions and affairs of the Company with the customers and the state of the accounts with individuals and in matters relating thereto, and shall by such declaration pledge himself not to reveal any of the matters which may come to his knowledge in the discharge of his duties except when required so to do by the Directors or by law or by the person to whom such matters relate and except so far as may be necessary in order to comply with any of the provisions in these presents contained.

Cortsey informationactivism.org
(ii) No member shall be entitled to visit or inspect any works of the Company without the permission of the Directors or to require discovery of or any information respecting any details of the Company's trading, or any matter which is or may be in the nature of a trade secret, mystery of trade, secret process or any other matter which may relate to the conduct of the business of the Company and which in the opinion of the Directors, it would be inexpedient in the interest of the Company to disclose. We, the several persons whose names and addresses are subscribed are desirous of being formed into a company in pursuance of these Articles, and we respectively agree to take the number of shares in the Capital of the Company set opposite our respective names.

In short smart city mission gives all the rights to collect taxes, user charges, sell, lease public properties, take loans, earn profit for the share holders ,to the company formed under SPV and confiscates all the rights conferred upon common citizens by constitution of India

Since the Right to Information act 2005 (RTI) was introduced 10 years back, bureaucracy and politicians made several attempts to kill or dilute its provisions. Several attempts were made to sabotage it. However despite various attacks RTI has made a very small but positive impact on governance. Irrespective of the quantity of impact it has shaken wrongdoers inside out. It seems hence they have introduced “mission smart cities.

courtsey www.cartoonstock.com
As far as Smart City Pune project is concerned there is complete Lack of Transparency in the entire process. The Agreement signed between PMC & Mckinsey has been uploaded belatedly on the PMC website. PMC has resorted to a limited transparency policy by not fully uploading documents pertaining to the award of the contract to Mckinsey. Appendix B – Key experts and Appendix C – Breakdown of the contract price, which is an integral part of the Agreement have not been uploaded. The letters of invitation to the consultants along with the Annexure are not uploaded on the PMC website. Details of the selection process are completely absent. These documents are critical to the award of the contract on which the RFP for the Smart City is based.

Interestingly when asked about whether the amendments given to Pune Smart city project by councilors of Pune Municipal Corporation (  PMC ) will be accepted or not,  Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu refusing the chances they would have to strictly adhere to the guidelines laid down under the Smart City Mission and that if they refuse to toe the line, they will have to opt out of the project. On the contrary, event though there are   serious violations of the Model Request for Proposal (RFP) and the irregular concessions granted to Mckinsey against the public interest, the central government is silent on it.

The would be Chief executive officer of proposed SPV   and presently municipal commissioner PMC has already encroached upon a general body and standing committee’s rights.Though he has not revealed any of PMC’s correspondence with whom it has signed so-called nonfinancial nonbinding Memorandum of understanding (MoU) , he has gone further to assure reimbursement of the amount to an institute without knowledge of a general body and standing committee’s. It seems that he has assured reimbursement as CEO of proposed SPV.


In a letter to principal director of symbiosis Kunal Kumar writes

“I welcome our collaboration wherein MBA—IM students from SCMHRD, Symbiosis would work with us as interns for Smart Cities Mission. This is a path-breaking partnership which brings together academia with Government in mission mode in finding solutions for real life issues faced by the city.

Further, with reference to your email regarding budget proposal based on 60 days of engagement, we convey our agreement with the same. We would, however like you to undertake the expenditure up front and thereafter let us reimburse the amount to you.

We  believe  this  engagement  will  go  a  long  way  in  enabling  the transformation  of  Pune  city under Smart Cities Mission.”

Interestingly SCMHRD’s name doesn’t appear in the list of PMC’s so-called nonbinding nonfinancial MoU’s it has signed. No one knows how many such agreements he has signed on behalf of PMC.However as far as nonbinding nonfinancial MoU’s that PMC has signed are concerned. The commissioner has categorically said that they will be allowed to participate in the tendering process of SPV and there lies the threat of manipulating proposed so-called transparent tendering process.


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RTI KATTA is a platform to empower oneself through discussions amongst each other to solve their problems by using Right to Information act, Every Sunday at Chittaranjan Watika, Model Colony,Shivaji nagar, Pune, between 9.30 to 10.30 A.M.


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Monday, February 1, 2016

Threatens suicide, widow asks to stop investigation in RTI activist Vilas Baravkar’s death case

Photo courtesy dnaindia.com

Deceased Right to Information ( RTI) activist Vilas Baravkar’s widow has requested authorities to stop investigation of his suicide. Baravkar had committed suicide on 25th march 2014 and left behind a suicide note naming 52 individuals including top civic and police officials on 100 rupee court fee stamp. Now his widow ujwala has alleged that officials are repeatedly calling her and other people for inquiry to know exact cause of her husband’s suicide.


Ujwala has written to state minister for home, Superintendent of police, CID , deputy  superintendent of police, Police Inspector ,chakan . Senior correspondents’ of of TV9, IBN Lokmat , Zee 24 taas and , me ( Vijay Kumbhar).In her letter she says,’ we are not aware of exact cause of my husband’s suicide, my husband was working in field of RTI, human rights, anti corruption , consumer movement, Varkari Sampraday (a pilgrim ). He had unearthed many scams through RTI, and had also compelled to arrest fraud “ BABAs” through Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti. He had also helped resolve family disputed of many.




She further says that, today also people come to us asking for help. I and my son do our best to help them honestly. Now a days me and my family is going through various problems. Meanwhile investigating agencies (she has used word “Nyay Vyavastha” means judiciary) are calling us and others frequently asking us exact cause of  my husbands suicide. This is causing us a mental, social, economical and physical harassment and also creating a lobby against us in society.


With above allegation she has requested authorities to stop accepting RTI and other applications in her husband’s suicide case. Otherwise she fears that society and investigating agencies (She has used word Judiciary ) will  compel them to end their  life  as mentioned by her husband in suicide note.

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RTI KATTA is a platform to empower oneself through discussions amongst each other to solve their problems by using Right to Information act, Every Sunday at Chittaranjan Watika, Model Colony,Shivaji nagar, Pune, between 9.30 to 10.30 A.M.


RTI Resource Person, RTI Columnist
Phone – 9923299199
Email – kvijay14@gmail.com
Website – http://surajya.org