#India – Chhattisgarh Diagnostics Privatisation Cancelled #goodnews #healthcare


The plan for privatisation of diagnostics services in Chhattisgarh has been cancelled. The RFP and tenders which had come in are no longer valid. This is a victory for  Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in Chattisgarh , The most heartening part of the struggle was the overwhelming support that this issue got from varied quarters.
indiahealth

Chhattisgarh diagnostic project on hold

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The HINDU

State government says the policy requires a “fresh look”

The Chhattisgarh and Union governments have decided to halt the prestigious public-private partnership (PPP) project in diagnostic services in the State.

While Chhattisgarh’s Principal Health Secretary M.K. Raut said privatisation of diagnostic services was rolled back “for the time being,” the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) refused to partially fund the outsourcing of diagnostic services. Last February, the State government invited private players to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector. Defending the programme on the government’s behalf, the Health Department’s technical assistance body, the State Health Resource Centre (SHRC), said that “outsourcing of health services” to private laboratories would enhance efficiency and facilitate delivery of services.

Mr. Raut, however, denounced the flagship privatisation project, which required a “fresh look.”

“In [the] near future we will take a fresh look at the project and decide a course of action,” he told The Hindu . A “revised PPP model” would be in place “in the coming months.”

Chhattisgarh has 154 community health centres (CHC) and 756 primary health centres (PHC). The government, Mr. Raut said, may consider implementing the PPP model in “a few” remote CHC and PHCs. “It would depend on whether it is possible for us to reach those areas or not. The PPP in diagnostic services will not be implemented in the district hospitals or 5,211 sub health centres.”

The government had issued request for proposals (RFP) from private health service providers to set up diagnostic services at public hospitals and health facilities, paid for by the taxpayer. The proposal was severely criticised by health activists and Mr. Raut said the “RFP and the floated tenders are closed chapters now.”

Explaining what compelled the government to retract a project floated only few months back, he said the “gaps need more scrutiny.” “We have to figure out a mechanism to monitor private players in remote areas.”

The Health Department is also not sure how the private players can be regulated. “A diagnostic chain may use government premises to market its services to the outpatients. We need to ask, why the government should provide incentive to a private player to do business using public facility,” said Mr Raut. He clarified that the government would not dismantle its “existing infrastructure and retrench staffs” to create space for the private players.

Owing to inadequate and chaotic public health care services in India, patients turn to private facilities, which are mostly unregulated and where quality is a concern. With the Union Health Ministry’s growing focus on more privatisation in health care, it was clear decades back that the health budget would not get the necessary boost. Rather, in view of the growing flow of private finance in health sector a National Health Policy was formulated in 2002 and the PPP model was suggested.

Chhattisgarh, known for abysmal health care in remote regions, has followed that model as it could not fill the post of 965 radiographers and laboratory technicians over the last several years. To fill those vacancies and provide necessary equipment to the health centres, the State health budget needed an additional funding of at least Rs. 30 crores, which was not available. Besides, trained technicians are generally reluctant to work in remote areas. In this context, the government opted for the PPP model.

However, in a span of four months the policy changed and Mr. Raut said the government had a “new PPP policy” in place and the “diagnostic sector policy has to fall in line with the new one.”

The NRHM has also refused to partially fund the present model and asked the State to “revise the proposal based on the Government of India recommendation” and submit a supplementary programme implementation plan.


  • Private players were invited to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector last February.
  • The Chhattisgarh Government has put the scheme on hold pending a “fresh look”.

 

#India – Plea in Kerala HC against #Aadhaar enrolment #UID


 

By Express News Service – KOCHI 19th June 2013 1

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

A petition has been filed before the High Court challenging the decision of the government to insist upon the public for Aadhaar registration as a prerequisite to avail of the benefits of government schemes.

 

 

The petition was filed by Asees Kakkadan, general secretary of the Kozhikode Jilla Pouravakasha Samrakshana Samithi. According to the petitioner, the National Identification Authority of India Bill-2010 was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in December 2011. But even then the Centre is going ahead with the project only to aid the private agency involved in the enrolment procedure, the petitioner alleged.The petitioner submitted that the government insists on Aadhaar registration for availing of benefits of schemes like LPG subsidy, welfare pension and education benefits.

 

 

“A citizen cannot be denied the benefits of government projects only for not registering under an authority. And the Aadhaar lacks legislative sanction. At present, various identity cards are being issued like election identity card, ration card, driving licence, pan card etc., which clearly establish the identity of a person. Hence insisting on Aadhaar number is illegal,” the plea said.

 

 

Press Release – Delhi protests against the arrests of peaceful protesters in Kolkata


Protest outside West Bengal govt’s bhawan, Rajiv Bhawan, New Delhi
Photo courtesy: Bijayalaxmi Nanda

June 14th

To,

The Resident Commissioner

West Bengal Bhavan

NEW DELHI

We, members of the Citizen’s Collective against Sexual Assault, women’s groups, progressive groups and concerned citizens from across the country are outraged at the unwarranted arrest of a peaceful gathering of feminist and human rights activists on June 13, 2013. We strongly condemn these arrests. We strongly uphold people’s democratic right to peaceful and non-violent dissent and protest.

The activists were trying to seek an appointment with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, in order to hand over a letter of protest against the incidents of gang rape and murder of two young girls in Barasat and Nadia. The CM had earlier refused to meet civil society activists at Writers Buildings. Therefore, on June 13, 2013, members of MAITREE Network (a network of women rights groups in West Bengal) decided to gather outside her residence to seek an appointment. They were not even allowed to enter the street leading to the CM’s residence.

When they wanted to hand over a protest letter to the CM, they were told to hand over the letter to the police instead. They rejected this on the ground that it was the CM who was the elected representative and the head of the government. Without any prior warning to disperse, the totally peaceful gathering, modest in size, was suddenly dragged by the police and bundled into police vans. Thirteen activists were arrested and taken to the Lal Bazar Central lock-up. Surely, activists of women’s organisations are not perceived by the WB State Government as a security risk? Especially when they were there to express their concern about the gang rapes of women and girls in the state.Is that an act that threatens the CM or the Government of WB?

The attitude of the West Bengal government with respect to cases of sexual assault and sexual violence against women has, at best, been dismissive. This is evident in the Chief Minister’s response to the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 30,942 incidents of crime against women in West Bengal in 2012 as against 29,133 the year before. The government’s disclaimer was, “The situation in the state has improved and rape incidents have come down considerably”. Even as the state battles the shame of the Barasat and Nadia rape and murders, Bengal has again topped the country in crimes against women, accounting for 12.67% of such cases across India. Further, as the statistics reveal the state also recorded the third highest number of rapes (escaping the second slot by a whisker) while Kolkata registered the highest number of assaults on the ‘modesty’ of women among all the metro cities in the country.

We, the undersigned, condemn the increasing incidents of sexual assault and atrocities on women and girls in West Bengal. We deplore the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in the state and how that is severely affecting the safety and mobility of women, especially high school and college-going girls in suburban and rural areas.

Some zones have become particularly unsafe, like the Barasat belt in North 24 Parganas where an undergraduate student–daughter of a day-labourer–was gangraped and killed on 7 June on her way back from college. Women are being regularly harassed, molested and raped in that area and several such incidents have been reported in the local media in the last two years. But the administration refuses to act. As the panchayat elections are drawing near, activists fear an escalation of violence against women in the state.

We also condemn the way in which women rights and human rights defenders have been treated by the Government, in complete opposition to the democratic principles of the country.

We demand:

  1. Immediate action initiated against the police personnel responsible for their arrests.
  2. That the West Bengal government accept the right of all, regardless of political leanings, to protest peacefully and democratically on important issues.
  3. That the Government, judiciary and law enforcing agencies initiate speedy action and arrest the culprits responsible for cases of atrocities against women, including the latest two cases of rape and murder against the young girls in Barasat and Nadia.
  4. That proper investigation and a fair and unbiased trial be fast tracked that would enable victims and their families to access justice and lead culprits towards due punishment.
  5. Further, steps should be taken to end instances of violence against women in the state, in consultation with the women rights’ and human rights’ groups.

——

Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA), New Delhi, is a group of individuals and organisations that has come together to protest against the extreme culture of sexual violence against women and girls in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. We raise these issues with the public, as well as the administration and the police of Delhi-NCR and work in different ways to stop and prevent sexual harassment against vulnerable groups. CCSA can be contacted at ccsaindia@gmail.com and ccsaindia@ymail.com.

 

Maruti Suzuki – What a sham #Ileadindia , you must say #ImisleadInida


kama3F

 

क्यूँ घर नही सवारते
क्यूँ घर मे सब को मारते,
क्यूँ परिवार का बना हिस्सा,
मजदूरो के  गर्व को दुतकारते …

घर मे सब बिखरा सा है,
अहंकार और दमन दिखता  है ,
मजदूरो के मानवधिकारो का ,
उड़ा दिया चिथड़ा- चिथड़ा है..

तुम मजदूरो को प्रताड़ते,
चक्रव्युह रचा रचा,
जेलो मे मजदूर थूसते,
बुनियादी मांगों पर झाड़ू मारते…

छवि तुम्हारी धुल गई,
रही सही मिट्टी मे घुल गई,
अब I LEAD INDIA कह ,
किस छवि को तुम सुधारते..

ज़रा सी , तुम करो शरम,
जो करना ही है कोई करम,
जाओ ! माँगो माफी इक इक मेहनतकश से तुम,

सब मारुती यूनियन के मजदूरों को वापिस काम पे लो

जो जेल के अन्दर हैं उनको आजादी दो ,

सारे झोठे केसेस वापिस लो

इज़्ज़त करो मजदूर की तुम…

जन जन देख रही है तुम्हे,
नारा कर रही बुलंद,

MARUTI SUZUKI – I MISLEAD INDIA !!

MARUTI SUZUKI – I MISLEAD INDIA !!

By- Rahul Yogi Deveshwar,  a contribution to #IMISLEADINDIA JOIN US ON FACEBOOK  group

https://www.facebook.com/IMisleadIndia

 

Delhi HC- Guidelines for recording of evidence of children in criminal courts #mustshare


Guidelines issued by Delhi High Court for  Courts to record evidence of children. These guidelines are in force across Delhi and all criminal courts are bound to follow them.

These guidelines provide remedy for all the possible problems witnesses face in criminal cases and take care of concerns we all face while assisting children in criminal proceedings.

Here are some key features of these guidelines :

*A child who has not completed 18 years of age is to be treated as ” Vulnerable
Witness”. *

*Practice of “Court House Tour” has been introduced which means that a
pre-trial tour of court room will be conducted  to familiarize a vulnerable
witnesses with the environment and the basic process of adjudication and
roles of each court official. *

*These guideline have recognised Stress causing factors of adversarial Criminal Justice System which cause stress on *
*child witness, rendering them further vulnerable witnesses,* *and impeding complete disclosure by the.

These factors include Multiple depositions and not using developmentally appropriate language; Delays and continuances; Testifying more than once; Prolonged/protracted court proceedings; Lack of communication between professionals including police,doctors, lawyers,prosecutors, investigators, psychologists, etc. ;
Fear of public exposure; Lack of understanding of complex legal procedures;
Face to face contact with the accused; Practices are insensitive to developmental needs;Inappropriate cross-examination; Lack of adequate support and victims services;
Sequestration of witnesses who may be supportive to the child;
Placement that exposes the child to intimidation, pressure, or continued abuse; Inadequate preparation for fearless and robust testifying;
Worry about not being believed especially when there is no evidence other than the testimony of the vulnerable witness;
Formality of court proceedings and surroundings including formal dress of members of the judiciary and legal personnel.

 

#India – Gandhian activist denied permission to fast over tribal issues


By Newzfirst Correspondent 6/3/13

 

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New Delhi – In a startling development, the Delhi Police on Monday refused permission to Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar to hold indefinite fast over tribal issues.

In a letter sent by the office of Deputy Commissioner of the Police to Himanshu Kumar, it is said that the permission to stage continuous fast for 10 days cannot be granted in view of security/law & order reasons.

Reacting to the denial of permission, Himanshu Kumar told Newzfirst that the Government doesn’t want people of the Country being educated about the tribal issues and problems.

The Government wants to project Naxalism as the only problem being faced by the country and does not want people to learn about the injustice meted out to tribals in the name of development, he said.

“This was my humble effort that we use this opportunity to ponder on this issue – how should the tribal people of this country be treated.” he said.

However, I will continue to fast, he added. “This is not just a question of the tribals but a question for all those who want to build a better society, where everyone gets justice because it is impossible to even think of peace without justice.”

Annoyed by the Government’s decision to deploy a large number of army troops in the tribal areas post Bastar incident, Himanshu Kumar has begun an indefinite fast- Aatmchintan- on 1 June calling upon the Government and the general mass of the country to do soul-searching over the treatment being meted out to the Tribal people.

24 people including senior Congress leaders were killed in an attack carried out by the Maoists in Bastar, Chhattisgarh on 25 May.

 

Himanshu Kumar on Indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar on Adivasi issues


 सभी जुड़े 
 करोड़ो आदिवासियों के जीवन एवं सम्मान के प्रश्न पर 
 
देश भर में आत्म चिंतन को बढ़ावा देने के लिए 
 
जन्तर मंतर, नई दिल्ली पर आज 1 जून 2013 से सुबह
 
 अनिश्चितकालीन उपवास
 
उपवासकर्ता हिमांशु कुमार
 
जिन्होंने लगभग  दो दशक तक छत्तीसगढ़ के दंतेवाडा क्षेत्र  में काम किया 
 
हिमांशु कुमार की हम सब से अपील 
 
 
आदिवासियों के संसाधनों पर पैसे वाली कंपनियों के कब्जा कर लेने और आदिवासियों को उनके अपने ही घर से भगा देने का मुद्दा इस देश के लिये कोई बड़ी समस्या नहीं बन पा रहा है 
 
यह बात सच है कि हम तभी चेतते हैं जब समाज में किसी मुद्दे पर कहीं हिंसा होती है . विनोबा का भूदान आन्दोलन भी भूमि को लेकर फैले हुए अन्याय और उससे उत्पन्न होने वाली हिंसा में से ही  निकला था .

अभी आदिवासी इलाकों में अमीर कंपनियों के लोभ के लिये करोड़ों आदिवासियों के जीवन , आजीविका और सम्मान पर हमला जारी है ,
 
भारत को एक राष्ट्र के रूप में सोचना पड़ेगा कि यह देश अपने मूल निवासियों के साथ क्या सुलूक करेगा ?
 
क्या हम आदिवासियों की ज़मीनों पर पुलिस की बंदूकों के दम पर कब्ज़ा जायज़ मानते हैं ? क्या हम मानते हैं कि आदिवासियों की बस्तियों में आग लगा कर उन्हें उनके गाँव से भगा कर उनकी ज़मीनों पर कब्ज़ा करने के बाद हम इस देश में शांति ला सकते हैं ?
 
एक बार हमें अगर अपने ही देशवासियों के साथ अन्याय करने की आदत पड़ गई तो क्या यह आदत हमें किस किस के साथ अन्याय करने का नहीं खोल देगी ?
 
आज हम आदिवासी पर हमला करेंगे ,फिर हम दलितों को मारेंगे, फिर हम गाँव वालों को मारेंगे . और एक दिन हम चारों तरफ से दुश्मनों से अपने ही बनाये गये दुश्मनों से घिर जायेंगे . 
 
इसलिये आज ही हमें आदिवासियों के साथ हमारे सुलूक की समीक्षा करनी चाहिये .
 
मेरी विनम्र कोशिश है कि इसी मौके को हम आदिवासियों के साथ इस देश को कैसा सुलूक करना चाहिये इस मुद्दे पर सोचने के रूप में सदुपयोग करें .
 
इस मुद्दे पर आत्म चिंतन करने के लिये मैं एक जून से जंतर मंतर पर एक उपवास शुरू करने का प्रस्ताव करता हूं
 
इस दौरान सामान मन के साथी अपने अपने क्षेत्र में इस विषय में कार्यक्रम और चर्चा करेगे तो हम देश भर में न्याय के पक्ष में और अन्याय के विपक्ष में एक माहौल तैयार कर पायेंगे .
 
आपके सुझाव का स्वागत है .
 
 
हिमांशु कुमार 

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society


Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

NEW DELHI, May 23 2013 (IPS) – For years India’s pro-liberalisation, Congress party-led coalition government chafed at civil society groups getting in the way of grand plans to boost growth through the setting up of mega nuclear power parks, opening up the vast mineral-rich tribal lands to foreign investment and selling off public assets.

Now, at the end of its tether, the Interior Ministry has cracked the whip on hundreds of non-governmental organisations engaged in activities that “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

 

“…The government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent.” — Achin Vanaik

On Apr. 30 several NGOs were informed that the bank accounts through which they receive foreign funding had been frozen. 

“It is shocking what the government has done – but not surprising given the increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive measures being directed…against anyone who is seen to challenge or disagree with their positions and decisions,” Lalita Ramdas, anti-nuclear campaigner and board chair of Greenpeace International, told IPS.

Ramdas said NGOs concerned with nuclear power, human rights, environment and ecology – areas where corporate and industrial interests were likely to be questioned – appeared to be particular targets of the government order.

Among the worst affected is the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs that is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the government’s restrictions on foreign funding reaching groups that engage in activities that can be described as “political” in nature.

In its court petition INSAF described itself as an organisation that believes that “the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India need to be safeguarded against blatant and rampant violations by the State and private corporations.”

INSAF said it has “actively campaigned against land grabs by corporations, ecological disaster by mining companies, water privatisation, genetically modified foods, hazardous nuclear power (and) anti-people policies of international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

INSAF declared in court that it “firmly believes in a secular and peaceful social order and opposes communalism and the targeted attacks on the lives and rights of people including religious minorities, and regularly organises campaigns, workshops, conventions, fact-findings, people’s tribunals, solidarity actions for people’s movements and educational publications.”

“With that kind of a profile we were expecting this crackdown,” Anil Chaudhary, coordinator of INSAF, told IPS. “Still, the government could have waited for the Supreme Court verdict.”

“At this rate,” he said, “organisations working against discrimination of women and (advocating) for their empowerment through participation in local bodies could be termed “political”, as (well as) organisations working for farmers’ rights.

“The same arbitrariness can be applied to green NGOs trying to protect the environment against mindless industrialisation.”

Chaudhary thinks it unfair that NGOs critical of government policies are being singled out. “Instead of selectively freezing the funding of groups under INSAF, the government should order a blanket ban on all foreign funding.”

Among INSAF’s many campaigns is an intiative to bring international financial institutions like the World Bank under legislative scrutiny for their activities in India.

It cannot have escaped the government’s attention that INSAF’s campaigns have run parallel to powerful movements for transparency and clean governance led by social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) that plans to contest general elections due in 2014.

 

Kejriwal, whose social activity led to the passage of the 2005 Right to Information Act, has also been closely associated with transparency campaigns led by Anna Hazare, who mounted a Gandhian-style fast against corruption in April 2011 that rallied over 100,000 ordinary people.

Street protests demanding good governance have since been a thorn in the side of the government.  When they peaked in December 2012, following the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in the national capital, police took to beating protestors.

The government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also been frustrated by NGOs’ efforts to stall work on a string of mega nuclear parks along peninsular India’s long coastline, especially at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

In February, the government froze the accounts of two leading Tamil Nadu-based NGOs allegedly associated with the protests at the site of the Kudankulam plant, signalling a new and tough stance against civil society groups fighting the displacement of farmers and fishermen by mega development projects.

The two NGOs, the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society, received four million and eight million dollars respectively over a five-year period that ended in 2011, according to declarations they made to the government.

With strong backing from the Church, the groups continue to operate despite the freeze on their assets.

During the same five-year period a total of about 22,000 NGOs across India received roughly two billion dollars in foreign contributions, going by government records.

Unexpected protests have surfaced from among the Congress party’s partners in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Devi Prasad Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and member of parliament, reminded Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the UPA is “committed to protecting and promoting secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.”

“Effectively, the government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent,” commented Achin Vanaik, professor of political science at the Delhi University.

The government’s move stands in stark contrast to promises made not two years ago at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where 159 governments and member organisations honoured the vital role played by the non-profit sector by pledging to foster an “empowering” climate for civil society.

In his most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted with grave concern that India has repressed “peaceful protestors advocating economic, social and cultural rights, such as…local residents denouncing the health impact of nuclear power plants.

 

UPA-II failed to deliver on its promises: Aruna Roy’s report card


by Pallavi Polanki May 25, 2013
 National Advisory Council (NAC) member and leading social activist Aruna Roy has come down heavily on the government for its poor performance in the social sector.
Roy, an instrumental force behind the Right to Information Act, criticised the government for stalling on essential legislations such as the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and the Lokpal Bill.
Roy spoke to Firstpost about UPA-II’s record on inclusive growth, the government’s new advertising campaign and the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014.
Excerpts from the Interview:
 
Has UPA-II delivered on its promise of inclusive growth?
While UPA-I delivered on some essential promises in the social sector such as MGNREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and the Forest Rights Act, UPA-II has made promises which it has failed to deliver.
The Food Security Bill lies in Parliament waiting to be passed with little time left for debate on its provisions or to strengthen its framework. In fact, there seems to be a real danger that it may not get passed at all.
The Land Acquisition bill which has been mired in controversy has also not moved beyond the stage of the Standing Committee. Even the much touted UID-based direct benefit transfer has encountered basic problems and is a non-starter.
Roy has said the government failed to deliver on many promises. Image courtesy: Ibnlive
The UPA-II promised a revamping of the National Social Assistance Programme to move towards universal and enhanced pensions for the elderly, single women, and disabled. However, this too remains unfulfilled. The question of money seems to have dominated all decisions related to the social sector, so much so that many states are talking about a cash crunch in MGNREGA.
The Right to Education Act was passed during UPA-II, but the implementation of its progressive provisions remains crippled due to a lack of resources needed to meet commitments.
Corruption scandals have rocked UPA-II with disturbing regularity. How has government fared in bringing more transparency in governance?
An area where the performance of UPA-II has been deeply disappointing is in its inability to deliver on basic governance legislation of critical importance to the country today. The debate around the Lokpal Bill resulted in several pieces of draft legislation which would undoubtedly help citizens ensure accountability of the government and its officials. Apart from the Lokpal Bill, the Grievance Redress Bill, the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill are legislations that should be passed immediately.
The Whistleblower Protection Bill and the Grievance Redress Bill actually affect the right to live of the poor in significant ways. An effective Grievance Redress Bill could have been like an RTI part II for UPA-II. Instead, the Government exempted its premier anti-corruption investigating agency – the CBI from scrutiny under the RTI Act, and has now been forced by the Supreme Court to promise independence in investigation of corruption cases.
If the Government has any intent of addressing corruption and arbitrary use of power, anti- corruption agencies must be made independent, transparent, and accountable, and this basket of accountability legislations, which have come to Parliament after much public action over the last two years, must be passed immediately.
What do you make of the publicity campaign released recently by UPA-II to highlight its achievements in the social sector. Is the UPA making the same mistake that the NDA made in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ campaign?
It is true that the “game changer” label given to the UID-based cash transfer/direct benefit transfer seems to resonate with the NDAs ‘India Shining’ campaign. In both cases, there is little that is delivered to the poor in real terms and the triumphant claims only served to rub salt in the wounds of large numbers of suffering and marginalised people.
Does the UID system create more problems for the poor? AFP
The attempt to ensure that money reaches the beneficiary without leakages along the way is laudable, but imposing an impractical and untested centralized delivery platform like the UID on a complex development structure can complicate existing systems and exclude large numbers of people.
The results from the roll out districts speak for themselves. Miniscule numbers of beneficiaries have received money through this platform and even in these cases there has been no additional benefit to them. For the poor as a whole, there has been the added problems and irritants associated with having to acquire a UID number on which all entitlements will be tethered.
If wisdom prevails, UPA-II even in its last year would concentrate on delivering on its social sector promises: ensure that food and pension entitlements are made a reality, enact citizen-centred accountability systems to guarantee delivery of entitlements and fix accountability of officials.
What will be the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014?
The challenge for any government is to deliver on its promises and the UPA II will be evaluated on its implementation of promises made. The questions it will have to answer are: what are ways in which it has promoted or vitiated the achievements of UPA-I ,vis-a-vis the Right to Information, MGNREGA, Forest Rights Act, etc?
Two, has it delivered on its promises of inclusive growth in UPA II – Right to Food, Pensions, Education, Health, etc? And three, has it provided a real answer to the widespread frustration of people about the lack of accountability at all levels and numbers of cases of grand corruption that have been regularly coming to light?
I don’t wish to speculate on what the results of a particular election will be. I do, however, believe that a government has a duty to deliver on promises it has made to its electorate.
The India Shining Campaign demonstrated that people are shrewd and respond only when real benefits reach them. Tall claims and slick campaigns do not get votes. Slogans are seen as mere rhetoric. It would be a mistake not to recognize that people can understand political intent through delivery.

 

RTI exposes a revenue loss of Rs 25,000 crore in Maharashtra


SHAILESH GANDHI | 22/05/2013

Would you believe that Maharashtra loses over Rs25,000 crore annually because of carelessness or corruption, and this has not been exposed so far?

Are we really poor or are we thrust into poverty? The recent scams, which have been unearthed, give me a feeling that we may actually be quite well off with enough resources. If the lakhs of crores of public resources being given away and snatched away by the few were to come to the public exchequer, we could be quite comfortable as a nation. I have been pursuing one such scam in Maharashtra in which I believe a few thousand crores of public money is being lost to benefit a few.

 

Maharashtra’ debt is about Rs2.7 lakh crore, and we pay the interest for this. A state owns many resources on behalf of its citizens. One of these is land. Governments sell some of the lands and give some on lease. The idea behind giving certain lands on lease is to basically have an inflation-proof investment and sometimes, to encourage certain activities. Hence it offers lands on lease. It wishes to retain the land so that it may basically ensure that its revenue matches with the growth in inflation.

 

A lease is legal transaction, which primarily lays down the area that is leased, purpose for which the land is to be used, period of lease, lease rent and certain other conditions. When the lease expires, it may be renewed with the lessor increasing the lease rent as per themarket price, which reflect the inflation in the intervening period.

 

When any individual or institution gives land or a property on lease and the lease expires, a fresh lease is drawn up at the prevailing market rates if the lessee wants to continue. This simple principle has not been followed in Mumbai and possibly in the state ofMaharashtra. I have been told that this is true all over the country. Some leases are renewed while some are allowed to continue occupying the land at the old rates. What are the reasons for such irrational actions?

 

This may be due to carelessness or corruption.

 

I had discovered this in 2005 and drawn the attention of the chief secretary to this in a letter titled “Arbitrariness and huge loss of public money in public lands given on lease”. I have now got the scanned copy of the file relating to this which has over 600 pages over the years and has ended on a bizarre note.

 

The Supreme Court is the 2G case has said, “In conclusion, we hold that the state is the legal owner of the natural resources as a trustee of the people and although it is empowered to distribute the same, the process of distribution must be guided by the constitutional principles including the doctrine of equality and larger public good.” The poorest man who may be starving is an equal and rightful owner of this land, and it is necessary that the appropriate revenue is obtained for him. I looked at the list of leases of lands given by the two collectors of Mumbai (obtained in RTI) and decided to calculate the worth of the lands where lease deeds have expired and unauthorized occupiers are allowed to continue.

 

Let me first share the route the Maharashtra Government has decided to adopt after eightyears of confabulations: The government has decided to offer the lands to the lessees at about 20 to 30% of the value! I am shocked at this irrational action of the government and think it is about time, citizens defend their revenue by telling the government they will not accept this approach. Below are the detailed calculations…

BOX:

 

Note on some assumptions in calculations:

I used the Ready Reckoner rates, which are for FSI of 1 (one). I checked with some renowned architects and builders and was told that the land value for the island city is reckoned at a FSI of 3 to 5 and for the suburbs at a FSI of 2 to 4, I therefore assumed land value at FSI 3 for the city and 2 for the suburbs. In the case of the suburban collector, when I could not get the value of the land from the Reckoner I took two leases which had been given. In 2007, for an access road Rs1,062 per sq mtr had been charged; I therefore assumed a rate of Rs1,200 per sq mtr in 2013 for access roads, playgrounds, etc.
For other uses, I assumed a rate of Rs5,200 per sq mtr since a lease had been given in Malad for a CNG outlet in 2009 at Rs5,348 per sq mtr. In the case of Mumbai collector, since usage has not been provided, I have assumed that the total rent would be less by 15% to take into account the open grounds/ playgrounds, etc.
My feeling is that the total figure, which I have arrived at is most probably an underestimate. I have assumed that the market would be willing to bid at least 7% of the market value of the lands. In this case the fixed lease rent would be payable for a period of about 30 years. Future escalations would be to the lessee’s advantage.
On this issue I quote from the Supreme Court judgement in Matter No.C.A.No.5559/2001 JH Wadia v/s. Board of Trustees, Port of Mumbai, where it said, “The period between 1.4.1994 and 31.3.2000 is the bone of contention. The compromise proposals proposed 15% return for non-residential use and 12% return for residential use as the fair market rent on the estate value. The division bench of the High Court has directed these rates to be reduced to 6% and 4% respectively. Instead of our undertaking an exercise afresh as to what would be a fair and reasonable return to the Bombay Port Trust, it is sufficient to record that all the learned counsel for the parties excepting the Bombay Port Trust, have agreed that the lessees are prepared to accept the rates revised as 10% and 8% respectively.”
Based on this I feel a rate of 7% today is very conservative.

In the case of the information about leases provided by the Mumbai collector, in 103 cases there is no mention of the lease date and period of lease. Despite a specific query by me using RTI, the PIO has said they will need two to three months to provide this information!
 
There are also other government agencies like BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which have similar lands in Mumbai. My calculation (see box above) estimates that there is an annual loss of about Rs1,550 crore by Mumbai Collector and about Rs1,200 crore due to the suburban collector (see below), i.e. a total revenue loss of Rs2,750 crore every year.

 

 

The government now proposes to give away ownership rights to the lessees for Rs2,248 crore plus Rs1,841 crore onetime! Citizens must protest before the government dispossess us of our land and legitimate revenue.

 

If we can get the government to auction the leases in Mumbai and all over Maharashtrawe could have a revenue stream of over Rs25,000 crore each year. Citizens and media need to make the government get the appropriate revenue by fixing lease amounts at current rates. Also this is a revenue stream which is partial hedge against inflation, saving future generations from having to pay ever higher taxes.

 

(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineeringfrom IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business, Clear Plastics. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)