Activists Welcome the SC judgement on Vedanta, and mining in Niyamgiri #Victory #Tribalrights


 

vedanta

PPSS welcomes the verdict of Supreme court yesterday (i.e. 18th April 2013)  on  the issues of mining in Niyamagiri hills of Odisha. The verdict said that it’s upto the Gram Sabha (Village-level Assembly) to decide whether to allow mining in Niyamgiri Hills by the Vedanta Group. The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of Gram Sabha to control, manage and use the mineral resources in Niyamagiri hills. This comes as a very welcome judgment where community rights over mineral resources has been protected. This is a victory of long-drawn struggle of the adivasis in Niyamagiri hills and throughout the state.

It may be reminded that Gram Sabha of Dhinkia Panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha held on 18th October 2012 had passed a resolution unanimously against the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. With the spirit of the Supreme court judgement on Niyamagiri hill, the state government should respect the decision of our Gram sabhha and scrap the POSCO project outright.

I would also like to bring your attention to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report. The CAG in its latest report, tabled in the assembly has found the Odisha government guilty of extending large scale undue benefits to steel major POSCO in allotment of a piece of land in the state capital Bhubaneswar. The government disregarded all norms in allotting the land with shameless favoritism.  While allotting the land, zonal regulation was ignored and the land was gifted away at an abysmally low premium. The CAG report is very scathing on it.

The CAG report said that the country arm of South Korean steel major Posco-India had applied for allotment of a plot measuring 12,000 square feet for its chairman-cum-managing director’s (CMD) residence-cum-guest house in 2006. However, later it enhanced the requirement twice to 25,000 sq.ft. in April 2007 and later 2 acres for the same purpose. Various committees, including committees appointed by Central Government, have unearthed serious illegalities in POSCO’s other operations earlier. Many more are still buried beneath as vested authorities try their best to hide those and get away with it. While proofs are piling up, our people are bewildered by a complete hijack of governance mechanism to patronize POSCO and connive with the POSCO and harming our basic life and livelihood sources as well as the interest of the larger society.

As the government is unwilling to play the ‘Rajdharm’ we are determined to put up a peaceful-democratic fight against this unholy alliance between the government and POSCO.

On April 12, 2013, the Left parties and various mass movements staged demonstrations at Bhubaneswar demanding withdrawal of police force from the proposed plant site area. Demonstrations were also held in various district headquarters in response to a call by CPI to observe ‘All India Solidarity Day’. The protestors held the placards saying “Posco Go Back” and “Stop Forcible Land Acquisition”.

As we have shared earlier a 12-member team consisting of human rights activists, journalists, academicians, democratic rights and civil liberty activists conducted a visit to our area on March 9, 2013  to take stock of the situation after the March 2 bomb blast in which three of our frontline activists died and one got seriously injured. The report of the fact finding team brings into the fore another evidence of the state’s cruelty. While releasing the report eminent legal luminary Justice Rajinder Sachar was awestruck by the fact that three people got killed in a bomb explosion and yet no inquiry was conducted into the incidence. ‘The incident was ghastly and the action of the government is horrible’, said Justice Sachar. That Committee in its report has demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the incident. You can read the whole report here.

In a separate but bizarre development we have come to know, from media reports, about POSCO’s attempt to influence a section media in its favour by sponsoring a pleasure trip for some journalists to Pune and other such places. But we firmly believe on the impartial character of our media friends who will continue to expose the POSCO’s illegalitiesand the government’s undue favor.

Attaching herewith an e-petition for your endorsement prepared by  an organization SOLIDARITÉ based in France for your information. Here is the petition, in French and English.

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for solidarity,

Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail – prashantpaikary@gmail.com

 

Himachal BJP MLA says Nagas and Gorkhas should eat monkeys to maintain ecological balance #WTFnews


Gorkhas protest HP BJP MLA’s monkey-eating remark

Naresh K Thakur , Hindustan Times   Dharamsala, April 08, 2013

Perturbed over the statement of former minister and BJP legislator Ravinder Singh Ravi on Gorkhas, the community demanded the suspension of the saffron party leader from the state assembly here on Monday.

Moving a resolution in the assembly on the menace of stray animals, Ravi on April 5 had offered an “unusual” solution to tackle the menace of monkeys and stray dogs — deploying Naga and Gorkha regiments in the state from time to time as both the animals are their delicacies.

Holding a protest in Dharamsala and other parts of the state, the Gorkha community also demanded an unconditional public apology from Ravi.

 Raising their war cry, “Jai Mahakali Aayo Gorkhali”, the protesters also burnt an effigy of Ravi.

The representatives of the community also submitted a memorandum to governor of Himachal Pradesh Urmila Singh, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, speaker of the state assembly BB Butail, BJP national chief Rajnath Singh and state party president Satpal Singh Satti, demanding an action against the MLA.

“If the Gorkha or the Naga regiment is posted in different cantonments of the state from time to time, the population of monkeys would decline with passage of time,” Ravi was quoted as saying in media reports, adding that it would also help in maintaining the ecological balance.

The former irrigation and public health minister went on to say that some of the delicacies from the region to which these contingents belong were made from the meat of these animals.

“In the past, a regiment was posted in Holta (near Palampur town) and stayed there for three years and there was significant drop in the population of monkeys,” he had said and even urged the government to take up the matter with the defence ministry for the posting of these regiments in the state.

Meanwhile, expressing shock and pain and terming the statement as racist jibe against the Gorkhas, president of the Himachal and Punjab Gorkha Association Bhupinder Singh Gurung said it had not only hurt the sentiments of the Gorkha community, but also was inhuman and against animals.

Gurung said Ravi’s illegal suggestion was tantamount to contempt of court’s verdict and demanded Ravi’s disqualification from the Himachal assembly and requested the assembly speaker to expunge the remarks from the proceedings of the house.

“Apologise before the Gorkha community publically and in the Himachal assembly before the closure of the budget session on April 9 or be ready to face the music,” Gurung warned Ravi.
Terming Ravi’s statement as derogatory and defamatory, another Gorkha leader, Col RS Karki (retd) said such remarks by a seasoned politician tantamount to casting aspersions on the finest fighting force of the Indian Army affecting their moral as well.

He said the Gorkhas worship dogs on Diwali as a mark of reverence and worship monkeys considering them as God Hanumana.

 

Maharashtra – Co-operative societies now come under RTI Act #mustshare


 

VINITA DESHMUKH | 10/04/2013 , Moneylife.in

Co-operatives make up for one-sixth of Maharashtra’s economy; they are also abodes of chronic corruption. No wonder, many are yet to digest the fact that co-operatives have now come under the RTI Act and so public disclosures of their functioning is mandatory


Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI (Right to Information) activist from Pune, has beenresearching on the aspect of co-operatives coming under the RTI Act after the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India in March 2012. Now, “co-operativesocieties” have not only become a part of Article 19 of the Constitution of India making them one of the fundamental rights of a citizen, but have now also been given the status of local self-government in Part IX of the Constitution. This makes them accountable under the RTI Act. However, many a vested interest is trying to hoodwink this fact. A tete-a-tete with Kumbhar.
Why do you say that co-operative societies which were until recently out of the gambit of RTI Act, now come under it?
Vijay Kumbhar: With the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India and its inclusion in Article 19 of the Constitution, formation of cooperative societieshas become one of the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. Besides, they have been given the status of local self-government like rural and urban municipal bodies in Part 9 of the Constitution. Cooperative societies have thus come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
So, under what section of the RTI Act do co-operative societies come under?
Kumbhar: As per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by the State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and now as per Section 2

(h) (a) of RTI Act, any cooperative society has become an ‘authority’ or ‘body’ or “institution of self-government” established or constituted by or under the Constitution and hence it comes  under the ambit of the RTI Act.
Could you elaborate on how co-operative societies came to be included in Article 19 of the 97th Amendment of the Constitution of India?
Kumbhar: Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects certain fundamental rights of the citizens. All citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peacefully and without arms; to form associations or unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Now forming a cooperative society is also a fundamental right. (Moreover, as per Article 43B of Part IV it is now the duty of the states to promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of cooperative societies to encourage economic activities of cooperatives which in turn would facilitate progress of rural India.)
Part IX of the Constitution comprise local self-governments; Part IX pertains to Panchayats; Part IX B is about municipalities and now with the insertion of Part IX C, co-operative societies have acquired the status of local self-governments. Correspondingly, cooperative societies have come under the RTI Act.
What are the institutions that come under the co-operative societies?
Kumbhar: Cooperative societies normally include co-operative banks, credit societies, sugar factories, handloom-power loom factories, distilleries, milk producing societies, water supply societies and so on. Henceforth, all such institutions will have to appoint Public Information Officers, Appellate Authorities and comply with all the provisions of the RTI Act. This is the most revolutionary event in the history of our country in the recent past.
So, weren’t co-operative societies accountable to the government and people before the 97th Amendment? What has changed?
Kumbhar: Normally there are three sectors of industries; public, private and cooperative. The first one is wholly owned by a state or the central government and the governments have complete control over its investments and management and it is accountable to the governments as well as to the public. Although the private sector abides by the laws, rules and regulations of the governments it is not answerable or accountable to the governments or the public for the losses/profits or management. It is accountable only to its owners or shareholders as per the law of the land. The cooperative sector was a blend of the public and private sectors. So far, it was enjoying the facilities available to the public sector such as loans, share capital from the state, etc but was not accountable to the state or the public. With the Part IX inclusion in the 97th amendment, the scenario has changed and the cooperative sector is now accountable to the state and the public.
Why is it that so far there was no clarity about the applicability of the RTI Act to cooperative societies?
Kumbhar: Several information commissions and courts had given contradictory verdicts on this matter. Cooperative societies were out of the ambit of the RTI Act because it was not an ‘authority’ or ‘body’ or an ‘institution’ of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution. Hence, attempts to bring a cooperative society under the RTI Act, claiming it to be an ‘institute’, a “body owned, controlled or substantially financed by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government” failed. In addition, authorities of these institutes always took the stand that they did not come under the RTI act. Now, they cannot escape as it has become the fundamental right of a citizen.
What about the fact that some experts say that the RTI Act for co-operativesocieties applies only to those that are established after the Constitutionalamendment in Article 19 and Part 9?
Kumbhar: This is just an eye-wash because this is not a new Co-operative Act that has been implemented but an amendment to the Act as per the amendment to the Constitution of India which already exists. Hence, every co-operative society no matter how old or new comes under the RTI Act.
What about the fact that there are some Supreme Court and high court judgments which have ruled that co-operative societies do not come under the RTI Act?
Kumbhar: Constitution of India is over and above any high court or Supreme Court judgment so now with the constitutional amendments, these judgments are irrelevant.
What would be the impact of co-operative societies coming under the RTI Act, particularly in Maharashtra?
Kumbhar: In reality, considerable part of the country’s economy is occupied by the cooperative sector. It is said that about 1/6th of Maharashtra’s economy comprises co-operative societies. A major part of Maharashtra politics is also influenced by the cooperative sector. The scale of illegalities, scams and corruption in this sector is also high. The cooperative sector including co-operative banks and credit co-operative societiesblock substantial government funds running into hundreds of crores. As of 2012, the unaccounted for amount is close to Rs15,000 crore.
The statistics of the department of cooperative societies of Maharashtra in 2009-10 show that there were 2,18,320 cooperative societies in Maharashtra and the total membership of these societies was 5.52 crore. One estimate of the number of societies is at about 2,30,000 with a membership of about 6.5 crore. For the entire country, this number could go up to 6.5 lakh societies with 30 crore members.
A giant sector such as this was uncontrolled and unaccountable till now. One can hope that this sector will move in a positive direction after the 97th amendment to the constitution.
So, has this amendment already been enacted?
Kumbhar:  After the amendment was enacted in 2012, a period of one year was given to the states to amend as well as repeal existing provisions of law to bring in line with the new provisions in the Constitution. Usually, state assemblies approve such amendment. However, as the assembly was not in session, the Government of Maharashtra introduced an ordinance on 15 February 2013 and thus these amendments have now become law.
What are the highlights of Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act after the amendments?
Kumbhar: The highlights of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act and Rules after amendments are:
(i)                      Incorporation of cooperative societies on the principles of voluntary formation, democratic member control, member economic participation and autonomous functions;
(ii)                    Conduct of election of a cooperative society by an independent electoral authority;
(iii)                  A fixed term of five years for the office bearers of the cooperative society;
(iv)                Supersession of the board of a cooperative society for a period of not exceeding six months;
(v)                    Independent professional audit of the cooperative societies;
(vi)                  Convening of the general body meeting of every cooperative society within a period of six months of the close of the financial year;
(vii)                Access to every member of the society to the books, information and the accounts of the cooperative society;
(viii)              Filing of the returns by every cooperative society within six months of the close of every financial year;
(ix)                  Free, fair, impartial and timely elections of cooperative societies by independent body;
(x)                    Audit of the cooperative societies to be carried by the auditors from the government approved panel of auditors or firms;
(xi)                  Maximum number of 21 directors to be applicable to all cooperative societies irrespective of their size with two seats reserved for women; and
(xii)                Co-opted members not to be eligible to be elected as office-bearers of the board.
Also there are provisions of penalty for consistent defaults, acting against the interest of the institution, deadlock in the board of directors, not ordering elections within specified time, corruption, irregularities in duty, deliberately giving false information, disobeying orders of authorities, etc.
Is Article 19 of the 97th Amendment to the Constitution similar to the 74thAmendment which gave status of local government to Panchayats/municipalities/municipal corporations?
Kumbhar: Before 1992, panchayats and municipalities were also not bodies established by or under the Constitution. However, that did not mean that there were no panchayats or municipalities. However, due to their autonomous status, their functioning was arbitrary. They did not acquire the status and dignity of viable and responsive people’s bodies due to varied reasons including   absence of regular elections, prolonged supersession, insufficient representation of the weaker sections, etc.
Hence, to give certainty, continuity, and strength to Panchayat Raj with 73rd amendment, Part IX was inserted in the Constitution. Later as Urban Local Bodies were not able to perform effectively as vibrant democratic units of self-government, with the 74thAmendment, Part IX B was inserted to give municipalities a status. Now with the 97th Amendment, Part IX B has been inserted to give cooperative societies a status of local self-government.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

 

Pune University defies SC order by not showing answer sheets; RTI activist slams legal notice


Are information commissioners killing the RTI Act?

 

Moneylife, VINITA DESHMUKH | 03/04/2013

Although Supreme Court in its verdict in August 2011 ordered that certified copies of answer sheets is public information under the RTI Act, the Pune University continues to adhere by its 2008 circular which defies the spirit ofthe order and therefore amounts to contempt of court

The Ordinance number182 of the University of Pune implemented through a circularissued in 2008 puts stringent terms and conditions in providing answer sheets to a student, which are contrary to the provisions in the Right to Information (RTI) Act. These include: not providing certified copies of answer sheets; students to apply for answer sheets within 10 days of the results; applicant to apply for Photostat copies of maximum three subjects only and; copies to be provided within 45 days through the principal of the college.
In August 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that evaluated answer sheets are covered under the definition of ‘information’ under the RTI Act. Hence, this overrides any rule or ordinance that an educational institution may have had. (Read—Ultimate victory for students: Supreme Court judgment orders access of copies of answer sheets of all examinations. Like the Official Secrecy Act of 1923, which has been overpowered by the RTI Act, the Ordinance no. 182 of the University of Pune too is as good as non-existent and it is the rules under RTI that are applicable to the University. However, University of Pune continues to dictate its own terms as per its 2008 rules.
Pune-based RTI activist Vivek Velankar received several complaints from students of the University of Pune who are not being provided certified copies of answer sheets in thespirit of the RTI Act. States Velankar, “As per the RTI Act, the University of Pune cannot insist that the student can apply only within 10 days after the examination result. Since the University of Pune preserves answer sheets for a period of six months, the student has a right to apply within this period and s/he cannot be forced to apply only within 10 days as per its Ordinance. Also, the University of Pune HAS to provide certified copies ofanswer sheets and that too within the mandatory 30 days as per the RTI Act.”
Velankar has sent a legal notice last fortnight, bringing to the notice of University of Pune as to why its Ordinance No. 182 is irrelevant after the Supreme Court verdict of 2011which has made answer sheets as public information under the RTI Act. Says Velankar, “We are giving 30 days to the University of Pune to abide by the SC judgment and to scrap its 2008 Ordinance, as continuing to implement it amounts to contempt of court. If it does not do so, we will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).”

 

Details of legal notice sent on 16th March are as follows: 
NOT PROVIDING CERTIFIED COPIES:
As per Point No. 19 of Ordinance of the University of Pune Rule No. 182 in respect ofanswer sheets which states as under that, “The Certified copies of revalued answer sheets are not provided.’’…above Rule No. 182 of Ordinance issued by the University of Pune is completely contrary to the provisions of the Right to Information Act and to the judgment of Supreme Court of India in the case of Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr Vs Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors reported in Civil Appeal No. 6454 of 2011. The Supreme Court has thereby ruled that the definition of information in Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, refers to any material in any form which includes records, documents, opinions, papers amongst several other enumerated items. The term ‘record’ is defined in Section 2(i) of the said Act as including any document manuscript or file amongst others.
When a candidate participates in an examination and writes his answers in an answer book and submits it to the examining body for evaluation by an examiner appointed by the examining body, the evaluated answer book becomes a record containing the ‘opinion’ of the examiner. Therefore, the evaluated answer book is also information under Right to Information Act, 2005. It is further stated that if the rules and regulations of the examining body provide for re-evaluation, inspection or disclosure of the answer books, then none of the principles of the Maharashtra State Board or other decisions following it will apply or be relevant.
“Therefore it is stated that as per the Supreme Court ruling, the word ‘evaluation’ shall mean and include the word re-evaluation and therefore the Rule No. 182 of Ordinance issued by the University of Pune is completely contrary to the ruling of the apex court and hence needs to be necessarily modified accordingly to enable students to get certified copies of their re-evaluated answer sheets. It is stated that, if the mandate of the apex court Judgment is not followed by your institution then this may amount to the contempt of the court as prescribed in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.”

 

APPLICATION TO BE MADE WITHIN 10 DAYS AFTER THE EXAMINATION RESULT:
“It is stated that the Rule No. 182 of the Ordinance issued by the University of Pune also states that the student has to apply for certified copies of their re-evaluatedanswer sheets within 10 days from the date of examination result. This rule is also completely contrary to the aforesaid ruling of the apex court. The Supreme Court of India in the aforesaid judgment makes it amply clear that, “the obligation under the RTI Act is to make available or give access to existing information or information which is expected to be preserved or maintained. If the rules and regulations governing the functioning of the respective public authority require preservation of the information for only a limited period, the applicant for information will be entitled to such information only if he seeks the information when it is available with the public authority. It is stated that, period of University of Pune is of six months and therefore, the student is entitled to make an application for the certified copies of the evaluated answer books within the period of six months and the mandate 10 days time limit as prescribed in Rule 182 of University of Pune Ordinance is completely contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India and therefore, it is required to be modified accordingly. It is stated that, if the mandate of the apex court judgment is not followed by your institution then this may amount to the contempt of court as prescribed in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.”

 

REGARDING APPLICATION FOR MAXIMUM OF THREE SUBJECTS ONLY:
“It is stated that, the Point No. 2 of the said ordinance states that the applicant can apply for the Photostat copies of maximum three subjects only. This is also completely contrary to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, as the Act does not provide any such restriction as to how many subjects an applicant can apply for Photostat copies of the answer books. Therefore the said provision/point in your Ordinance No. 182 is also contrary to the RTI Act, 2005, and needs to be modified accordingly.”
REGARDING NOT PROVIDING ANSWER SHEETS OF PRACTICALEXAMINATIONS:
“It is also stated that, Point No 1 of Ordinance 182 provides for the photo copy/copies of assessed and/or moderated theory subject/s answer book/s of the current examinationwill be supplied to the examinee/s. The photo copy/copies of answer books of practicalexamination, sessional marks, marks of viva-voce/dissertation/ thesis/project, Common Entrance Test conducted by University, etc shall not be supplied to the examinee/s. It is stated that as mentioned above, when a candidate participates in an examination and writes his answers in an answer book and submits it to the examining body for evaluation by an examiner appointed by the examining body, the evaluated answer book becomes a record containing the ‘opinion’ of the examiner. Therefore, any evaluated answer book is also information under Right to Information Act, 2005. This makes it very clear that, any evaluation done by the University is also information under RTI Act, 2005 and therefore, the photo copy/copies of answer books of practical examination, sessional marks, marks of viva-voce/dissertation/ thesis/ project, Common Entrance Test conducted by University are also covered under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Point No. 1 is completely contrary to the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court of India.”
REGARDING PROVIDING INFORMATION WITHIN 45 DAYS OF RECEIVING THE REQUEST:
It is also stated that, Point No. 16 of aforesaid Ordinance 182 states that, “the University shall supply the photo copy/copies within 45 days from the date of receipt of application through the principal of the college concerned”. It is stated that, the aforesaid point of the ordinance is directly and completely contrary to the provisions of Section 7 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, which states that 7. Disposal of request—(/) subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of Section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under Section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request. either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9: 6 This provision mandates the information which is sought has to be provided to the applicant within the maximum period of thirty day and no further extension is allowed by the provisions of the Section 7 of RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, the time period of 45 days is completely and directly contrary to the provisions of RTI Act, 2005, and needs to modify accordingly.
REGARDING UNIVERSITY OF PUNE WRONGLY ABIDING BY ITS OWN ORDINANCE
It is also stated that the RTI Act, 2005, is a central enactment and has to be followed in its true spirit and any provision/ rules made by any public authority contrary to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, shall attract the provisions of the Section 22 which reads thus “Act to have overriding effect—the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act”.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.

 

#India – Lead in drinking water stunts kids’ growth


DC |
Bengaluru: With the city facing a shortage of clean drinking water, the National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI), based at St John’s Hospital, Bengaluru, is engaged in a project to evaluate polluted rivers around the city that are major source of lead poisoning.
The NRCLPI is working on the project in association with undergraduate students across six cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Dehradun and Karad. The three-month project is expected to be completed by June 2013, prior to the onset of the monsoon.
The data collected after analysis will be submitted to government bodies and policy makers, says Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, principal adviser, Quality Council of India (QCI) and NRCLPI.
Lead affects the growth and development of cognitive function among children and reduces their IQ. Among adults it affects the kidneys, bones, muscles and also blood pressure.
With the help of NRCLPI experts, the student volunteers will collect samples for analysis using the latest technology. The samples will be evaluated for lead content in soil, in agricultural products and in drinking water within 500 metres of the flowing and highly contaminated rivers and water bodies in these six cities of study. The data will be used to correlate with the health status and Blood Lead Levels (BLL) of the people living in and around the places taken up for the study.
“Rivers in these six cities are now highly polluted, especially with contaminating lead due to increasing industrial activities, mainly from lead-based industries,” says Dr Venkatesh.
“Cattle drink this water. Water from these highly contaminated rivers is used for agricultural purposes and it also recharges the nearby ground water.”
NRCLPI has conducted similar studies on lead contamination, one of which resulted in unleaded gasoline being used across the country. NRCLPI also played a major role in bringing down the content of lead in paints.
If it can rid river water of lead contamination it will go a long way in preventing many illnesses. If this project is successful, it can be extrapolated to other rivers in other cities where a similar situation is seen, Dr Venkatesh said.

 

#India – Power of Right to Information Act #RTI


Power of RTI

RTI
After its implementation in 2005, the Right to Information Act came to be known as the sunshine act as it empowered the ordinary citizen for the first time. Now, instead of pleading with babus or netas, the citizen simply approaches government offices for information on issues that matter to him. Ashutosh Shukla looks at some cases where the Act has helped the common man

Ashutosh Shukla

Dharmenddra Pawar, 35, could regain his mental balance only after he saw his answer paper procured through an RTI. For, only then he saw the examiners’ apathy and not the failure of his hard work that led to absolute distress and him repeating the year.
“I could not understand that in the first attempt I scored 27 marks and 0 in the second when I had put in more effort,” said the Girgaum resident, who works as a service engineer.
In 2010, Pawar first appeared for Industrial Training Institute’s ‘artisan to techno craft’ certificate course.
The only earning member in a family of five, Pawar opted for the course for job stability and better salary.
In 2011, he got 0 in one of the three papers he appeared for.
Dejected, he filed an RTI application. “I was waiting for the reevaluation result which never came. I did not appear in 2012 as I was confident that I had scored more,” said Pawar. “When someone said that even after reevaluation I would not pass, I filed an RTI application to know the status of my reevaluation and answer sheet.”
He was helped by Tarun Mitra Mandal, an NGO that runs 10 RTI clinics in the city.
When he got his answer sheet through RTI, he was not surprised to know that he had scored 26 marks and not 0.
“I feel that if someone would have rechecked my paper, I would have passed. The person had not given me the marks I deserved,” said Pawar.
The self-help tool
Pawar is not the only one to have suffered from the system’s irresponsiveness.
Ranjanben Dedhia’s case is another example. Had it not been for the RTI Act, the Dombivili resident would still be struggling to get her Rs7.88 lakh gratuity and Rs14,230 monthly pension from the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation, where she worked for 37 years.
After retiring as the headmistress of a municipal school, Dedhia wrote to the civic commissioner about not getting her dues. “The PA to the commissioner kept saying that my complaint had been forwarded and that I should pursue with the department concerned,” said Dedhia, 59.
After 20 visits in six months, she was tired of hearing the same excuses. “Sometimes they would say that file has not come or the accountant is new. I knew it was their callous approach because my file had been processed three months before my retirement,” said Dedhia.
That is when someone suggested she file an RTI application with a Rs10-court-fee stamp. This worked. “In 17 days, they delivered the cheque and the pension comes on time,” said Dedhia.
Quick problem fixer
However, for those who live with little savings unlike Dedhia, life is tougher.
Kundan Shah (name changed on request as he is still fighting a case with a government-owned insurance company) had to struggle with his finances when his wife’s medical bill ran up to Rs8 lakh. His wife was suffering from Acute Respiratory Deficiency Syndrome and he thought the treatment would cost Rs 2 lakh.
Grappling with the high treatment cost and an ailing wife, his troubles multiplied when the insurance company claimed that they had not got his originals papers. “They said that the agent I gave my papers to had given me a fake receipt,” said Shah.
When writing to the IRDA grievance redressal forum of the company and ombudsman did not yield any result, he filed an RTI application after approaching Tarun Mitra Mandal. But, this very step pushed the insurance company to act fast.
“First, it said I shouldn’t have filed an RTI application as they had ‘recovered’ my originals indicating that it was me who ‘couriered’ them late,” said Shah.
Shah got Rs8.28 lakh and then Rs9,000 of post-hospital bill.
“They requested me to withdraw my RTI application as they had settled my claim,” said Shah, which he eventually did.
For the people
Officials cannot dare to ignore the Act because of its stringent punishment — fine can go up to Rs 25,000 and they would face disciplinary action.
And this helped octogenarian Kishan Modi get his original property documents after18 years of excruciating wait. In 1994, he gave his documents to the department of registration of stamp.
“I made over 100 rounds till 2004 after which I gave up. Each time I spent hours travelling, sitting in their office only to hear that I should come back,” said Modi.
But the originals were needed when he had to sell his property. A neighbour introduced him to RTI. “In the application, we asked about the status and the officer holding on to the file,” said Modi.
It worked like a magic wand.
The Mumbai office first replied saying they registered it in 2006 and papers were with the Pune office. “The reply implied that they are done with all responsibilities. We did not relent and asked why it had gathered dust from 1994 to 2006. We filed one RTI application at the Pune office too,” said Modi.
Modi got his original property documents in February 2013.
Prafful Kurwa, 65, suffering from vertigo and multiple illnesses too had given up chasing his provident fund money of 1982. “The PF authorities had done away with old documents. I used to run around but gave up. After learning about RTI, I filed an application. The officer first threatened me that he would not reply. But he relented and I got my money,” said Kurwa.
Huge impact
Harnish changed his surname from Shah to Savla and wanted that to reflect in his Kandivli society’s share certificate.
He applied for the same in August 2011 after getting the change of surname gazetted, issuing ads in two newspapers, changing the surname in passport, and ration card. “Despite consulting society lawyer, signing an indemnity bond and re-issuing ads in the news paper as desired by society, the society office-bearers sat pretty. Since my son was preparing to go to Canada and the embassy demanded a letter from the society, we had to speed up,” said Savla. He complained to the registrar’s office, which issued a letter to the society but never followed it up with them.
Savla filed an RTI application, seeking status of his complaint.
“The registrar told us that he was in the dark as his junior did not even put it to him. He sent a letter to the society and within a few days our names were changed in the certificate,” said Savla.
s_ashutosh@dnaindia.net

 

Maharashtra -Ready to risk anything for water #mustread


Swatee Kher : Osmanabad, Wed Feb 20 2013, 11:57 hrs

Sitting beside a well in Pimpri village, a metal pot at his feet, 70-year-old Vaman Bidbaug hopes he will meet a passerby willing to climb down the well’s 110 steps and fetch him a potful of water. Bidbaug, a farmer, owns about four acres, but hasn’t sown for two seasons.

Nearly 1,500 villagers of Pimpri, 18 km from Osmanabad city, climb down the steep steps along the walls every morning and evening to fill two pots. With two consecutively poor monsoons, it is the only well in the village still left with any water. Villagers often trip on the steps and injure themselves, but that is a small price to pay.

“We don’t expect good rainfall here, but through my life I have never seen rivers and wells going dry as they are now. We had water in the other wells even when it did not rain in 2002, and earlier,” says Bidbaug.

The drought across the state has hit 7,064 villages, with 11 of 35 districts having received less than 75 per cent of normal rainfall.

Bidbaug’s two sons gave up on farming years ago and migrated to cities, a trend in the perenially parched Osmanabad, Beed and Jalna regions. In Gandhora of Osmanabad district, Dasu Parshuram Ade, 23, is preparing to move to Pune or Satara, having sold his two bullocks at Rs 30,000 each. He had bought each at Rs 1 lakh in 2009, after a good sugarcane crop.

“I could not have borne to see them die, so I sold them. Now I’m free to go,” he says. “I hope to earn enough there so that my family can buy water from tankers here.”

Water is disappearing from the rivers, wells and reservoirs of Maharashtra‘s heartland, 13 districts across Marathwada, parts of Western Maharashtra and Khandesh. Jayakwadi, the largest dam in Maharashtra, has no live storage. Put together, reservoirs in Maharashtra are just 40 per cent full now with levels expected to keep falling.

The state has drawn extreme plans for the extreme crisis, including transporting water through rail wagons or shifting entire villages in Jalna, the district worst hit with rainfall less than 25 per cent of normal. The crisis there extends beyond the rural interiors and up to Jalna city. The city has 45 water supply zones, and one, two or three of these (depending on size) are supplied municipal council water on any day. “This effectively means that people get water in their taps once every 20 days, for not more than an hour. People hoard up as much water as they can and, once that runs out, turn to private tankers,” says Rajesh More, engineer in the Jalna Municipal Council’s water supply department. He too depends on private tankers at home.

Tankers provided by the government visit Walki and Gunavadi villages in Ahmadnagar, the state’s largest district, once every four days and pour water into the village wells. Valmik Nagavade, sarpanch of Gunavdi, says the allotment is based on the 2001 census. “We get 20 litres per person based on the 2001 census but our families have grown in those 12 years,” he says. “We bathe on alternate days with just two litres.”

 

Rain check

7,064 of 43,722 villages declared drought-hit

Less than 25% rainfall: 5 talukas out of 355, including those in Jalna district

25-50%: 50 talukas

50-75%: 136 talukas, including those in Dhule, Jalgaon, Ahmadnagar, Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Aurangabad, Beed, Osmanabad, Nanded districts

5-year low: Storage levels in reservoirs

 

#Haryana: Khap panchayat forces couple to live as siblings #WTFnews #Vaw


HARYANA, Posted on Feb 03, 2013 at 10:05pm IST

Hisar: A Khap panchayat in Haryana‘s Hisar district has reportedly forced a couple to live as siblings. The couple has been married for over a year. Their families alleged harassment and extortion by the village head.

The families claimed that the police did not register their complaint despite several visits to the police station.

Khap panchayats are notorious for their bizarre orders and rulings, inviting even the wrath of the Supreme Court, that in April 2011 declared them illegal.

 

Bombay High Court- Absent dad can’t get access to child


 

By Rosy Sequeira, TNN | Jan 21, 2013, 03.59 AM IST

MUMBAI: A father who is absent cannot get the same rights as a father who
is available, said theBombay high court even as it recalled its order
allowing a man electronic access to his 12-year-old son.

On January 11, Justice Roshan Dalvi reviewed and set aside her October 2012
order allowing access to the child through video conference. The judge
noted that despite the video conference arrangement, the father remained
absent. Further, his whereabouts are not known except that he lives in the
Middle East. Justice Dalvi said he does not attend court, conducts
litigation through his constituted attorney and has not given his personal
address. “The father who refuses to show his presence cannot get the same
rights as a father who presents himself,” she said.

The couple married in September 1991. Their son was born in November 2000.
Subsequently, the man abandoned his wife and child in Saudi Arabia. In
August 2009, the husband filed for divorce through his constituted attorney
before the Pune family court. His application that his mother and
constituted attorney get access to the child was rejected by the FC in
March 2012.

On October 15, 2012, Justice Dalvi said access can be granted only to the
father who is the legal guardian and none other. She then directed that the
child will communicate with his father through video conference. Since the
Pune FC did not have video conference facility, it was arranged at the HC
on December 7, 2012. On that day, Justice Dalvi was informed that the
father’s advocate was absent as a relative was in hospital. The judge said
even if the advocate was absent, the father could have been told to remain
present at the video conference. His Skype identity was also not provided.
The wife’s advocate Flavia Agnes said the entire exercise was to harass the
wife and child who live in Pune.

She said the father has been abusive towards the child who is medically
fragile. “The wife’s contention that the exercise was only for the
harassment of the child is seen to be correct,” said Justice Dalvi. She
said the husband failed to avail of the opportunity granted by the court
and his conduct has proved his wife’s contention.

“The prejudice in respect of the access by video conference is seen from
the fact that it is too cumbersome to afford the father the luxury and
facility of electronic access when he is not available for personal access
and has not claimed any such access in the light of the fact that for an
unjustifiable excuse, the father remained absent and the child was made to
undergo the agony,” concluded Justice Dalvi.

 

#Pune- Week long festival of democracy starting @Jan26 #filmfestival


Dear All,

Lokayat is organising a number of public programs in the coming 10 days. Here is a brief list:

Program 1. 

Republic Day talk on:

Constitutional Vision of Education and Neo-liberal Assault:

Undoing Dreams of Freedom Struggle

Speaker:

Dr. Anil Sadgopal

Prof. of Education (retd.), Delhi University and

Member, Presidium, All India Forum for Right to Education

Date:   Jan 26, 2013, Saturday

Time:   6 – 8.30 pm

Venue: Lokayat Hall, Opp. Sydicate Bank, Law College Road, Near Nal Stop, Pune.

Program 2:

Lokayat is hosting

International Travelling Uranium Film Festival

Dates:  Jan 27 – 31, 2013 (five-days)
Time:   6 to 10 pm everyday (out of these 4 hours, two hours will be dedicated to the Uranium Film Festival. During the remaining 2 hours, films of the Vasundhara Film Festival will be screened.)
Venue: Balgandharva Rangmandir, Jungli Maharaj Road, Pune.

ENTRY FREE.

Concept note:

The International Uranium Film Festival (http://www.uraniumfilmfestival.org/index.php/en/is dedicated to films about the Uranium atom and the possible dangers to Planet Earth’s environment and the very survival of humanity, from both its military and peaceful uses. It includes both documentary and fiction films on issues like: Uranium mining, nuclear power plants, atomic bombs, nuclear waste, radioactive risks, nuclear medicine, Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Many of these films screened during the festival are critically acclaimed international award winning documentaries. The best and most important productions receive the festival award “Yellow Oscar”.

This festival is unique as it is the only festival in the world dedicated to this vitally important global issue. Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, Brazilian social scientist and filmmaker, is the Executive Director of the festival, and Norbert G. Suchanek, the German writer and filmmaker, is the General Director of the festival.

The Uranium Film Festival starts from Rio de Janeiro and then travels to other cities around the world. This year, for the first time, the festival travels to India. Shriprakash, the National Award winning film-maker from Ranchi, is the festival coordinator in India. The festival is being organised in 8 Indian cities: New Delhi, Shillong, Ranchi, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Trichur and Mumbai.

We will be screening a total of 16 films during these 5 days. The films are extremely rare and top-quality films by some of the world’s most famous documentary makers, and so if you are interested in the issue of atomic bombs and atomic energy, these are a must-see.

The discussion following the screenings would be coordinated by Norbert Suchanek, Marcia Gomes, Shriprakash and Neeraj Jain.

Inauguration of the festival takes place on January 27 at 6 pm at the Balgandharva Rangmandir, followed by screenings of two films, ATOMIC BOMBS ON PLANET EARTH and INTO ETERNITY. I shall be sending you the exact schedule of films in a few days.

Note: We are organising the Uranium Film Festival as a part of the Vasundhara Film Festival. We were invited to be a part of the organising committee of the Vasundhara Film Festival, and we agreed and proposed that they co-host the Uranium Film Festival, to which they agreed.

Program 3:

Seminar on:

Global Warming: Myths and Facts

Speakers:

Soumya Dutta, Scientist, Researcher and Activist, based in Delhi, National Convenor, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Convenor, Energy and Climate Change Group, Beyond Copenhagen Collective.

J. Srinivasana, Ph. D. from Stanford; presently Chairman of Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Lead Author of IPCC fourth assessment report, 2004-2007 and Review Editor of the IPCC report on Climate Change.

Date:  January 30, Tuesday

Time:  2 – 5 pm

Venue: College of Engineering, Shivaji Nagar, Pune.

(This seminar is being co-hosted with the Vasundhara Film Festival and Janeev, a social-environmental student club of COEP.)

Program 4:

Seminar on:

Sustainable Solutions to India’s Energy Crisis

Speakers:

Admiral (retd.) Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal awardee; former Chief of Indian Naval; awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace; active campaigner on environmental issues for many years.

Soumya Dutta, Scientist, Researcher and Activist, from Delhi; National Convenor, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Convenor of climate and energy group, Beyond Copenhagen Collective (India); member, South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy.

Neeraj Jain, Electrical Engineer, Writer and Activist; associated with Lokayat, an activist group based in Pune; author of: Nuclear Energy, Technology from Hell, published by Aakar Books, New Delhi.

Date: January 31, Thursday

Time: 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm

Venue: Seminar Hall, Fourth Floor, Marathawada Mitra Mandal’s College of Engineering, Karve Road, Behind Vandevi Temple, Pune.

(This seminar is also being co-hosted with Vasundhara Film Festival.)

Entry is free to all the above-mentioned programs. 

Other Programs

Apart from the formal programs mentioned above, Lokayat continues its campaign to create awareness about the social roots of violence against women. After talks by Prof Uma Chakravorty, we have had numerous talks by Lokayat activists in various colleges of Pune on the subject, stagings of the play Mulgi Zhali Ho and also stagings of our play on female infanticide, Ek Nai Shuruaat, film screenings of women-related films, and street campaigns on the roads of Pune on the subject. We also continue to organise lectures on various other issues in various colleges, and our cultural group has also organised numerous cultural programs all over Pune, For more details of these programs, you may visit the Lokayat Website.

Do join us for some of these programs. And if you are interested in joining us actively, rather than just attending these programs, do come down to our Sunday meetings from 4 to 7 pm every Sunday at the Lokayat hall.

in solidarity,

Neeraj

 

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