Saturday, June 19, 2010

TOI Story on the RTI reply given by Ministry of Home Affairs.

On RTI query, Centre says it has no records on Srikrishna panel

‘With No Official Status, The Committee Recommendations Can Only Be Advisory’
Nikhila Henry | TNN

Hyderabad: A government known for the paperwork it indulges in before arriving at any crucial decision, formed the Srikrishna Committee without using a single sheet of paper. Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, in fact, does not exist in central government records since there is no file recording its formation or the appointment of its members.
This revelation came about when a city-based RTI activist filed an RTI query seeking information on the formation of the committee and appointment of its members.
    In its reply, the ministry of home affairs stated that it had no records (government file) on the formation of the committee and criteria for the appointment of its members as both were done as per ‘discussions’ between Union home minister P Chidambaram and Justice B N Srikrishna.
    Interestingly, this would mean that the much-awaited recommendations of the committee scheduled to be given by the end of December, 2010, would at best be advisory in nature.
    “While the RTI was filed to find out the criteria of selection by studying the file noting, the home ministry stated that there is no file. Moreover, it is appalling to know that a committee which is meant to decide the future of the 10 Telangana districts would choose its members without any official discussion and with no filed records,” said Rakesh Kumar Dubbudu, an activist who filed the petition.
    Interestingly, the ministry directed the RTI applicant to press releases and official circulars stating the names of the
five members of the committee without explaining why the records were not available. Dubbudu, however, claimed that while the press releases and circulars might help in explaining the working of the committee this does not give it any legal grounding per se.
    Legal experts said that without a file on the formation of the committee it would be easy to prove the committee to be bogus or one which is nonreliable. “There is a procedure which the government officials and even ministers should follow while initiating any government action and this procedure was not followed during the formation of the committee. Any government in the future will be able to challenge the premise of the formation of the committee and thereby not take its recommendations,” experts said.
    The RTI reply also refutes the claim of Srikrishna committee that its terms of reference were drafted under the directions of the home ministry. But the RTI reply indicates that this was not the case. The terms of reference were formed by the Srikrishna committee itself.
    Incidentally, the revelation of the ‘informal’ formation of the committee has come out at a time when several Telangana activists are opposing the terms of reference of the committee and appointment of some of its members. There was widespread opposition to the inclusion of certain members in the committee including Ravinder Kaur from IIT Delhi, in the committee and the terms of reference of the committee were also considered to be insensitive towards Telangana by T supporters.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NDTV Story on the Farmer Suicide Numbers.

Story Video : Andhra Pradesh govt overlooks farmer suicides

AP government manipulating farmer suicide data?

apfarmersuicide For all its claims of being farmer-friendly, the Congress-led UPA government doesn't have impressive statistics to back it up.

In Andhra Pradesh, for example, Central government statistics point to 22000 farmer suicide-deaths in a 10-year period whereas the state has reported less than 40 per cent of that number. And hardly one in five such families got compensation. Because the rest of the deaths, the government says, don't qualify.

Narsamma's 36-year-old son committed suicide in 2005 after the only thing that grew on his three acres, was his debt of two lakh rupees. Eight borewells had failed. He drank pesticide. Unable to see her four children die a slow death, his wife Padma also chose death. And then Narsamma's ailing husband hanged himself. And yet this family in Medak district got no help.

"This government has not helped us. How can I look after the children. How long I can live? I will also die one day and then what would be the fate of these children? Who will take care of them?

"We were told that we will get compensation but we haven't received. I managed till today but our house collapsed and there is no house for us now. I am fighting for the help,'' said Narasamma.

RTI activist Rakesh Reddy has correlated data on farmer suicide deaths from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) with that reported by the Andhra Pradesh government.

* Between 1998 and 2008, the NCRB says over 22000 farmers killed themselves in AP whereas the government figure is less than 8000.

* Less than 4700 of those suicides were treated as genuine or eligible for compensation that means just 21% of the total suicides as per NCRB data

The Congress government points out that in the last five years, Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has gone up by 100 per cent, and Andhra Pradesh has been a major beneficiary of enhanced credit and debt waiver announced by the UPA government.

D.A.Somayajulu, Advisor, Government of Andhra Pradesh, said, "There is a tendency on the part of the people to classify every suicide as agricultural suicide, because they will get some benefits. Eventually, the local MLA, the local RDO, agricultural extension officer form a team. They go to the place the moment a suicide is reported to find out the truth, whether it is really for personal reasons or farm-related suicides. This scheme is only for farm-related suicides."

Chandrababu Naidu, during his tenure as the Chief Minister withdrew compensation to farmer suicide victim families because his government reasoned deaths due to other reasons were being classified as agriculture-related.

The Congress, then in opposition, had strongly criticised it. Ironically, now in power, the Congress is singing the same tune as Naidu.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Hindu Article on the Farmer Suicide Numbers.

Ryot suicides: State's bid to play down figures exposed

K. Venkateshwarlu


HYDERABAD: For the kind of pro-farmer image that the State governments assiduously projected for themselves and their affirmed goal of not allowing any farmer to take his life by adopting saturation concept of providing relief, this should come as a shocker.

A decade-long correlation of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh with the statistics furnished by the State government to an RTI applicant, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, not only shows gross under-reporting by the latter but denial of relief by classifying the tragedy as genuine and non-genuine.

Wide disparity

During the decade 1998-2008, the NCRB, an authentic source of suicides by those ‘self-employed in farming/agriculture', reported that 22,182 farmers were forced to take the extreme step. But a compilation of the State's statistics for the period shows the number as 7,683 suicides or just 34.6 per cent of the NCRB figure. The NCRB is yet to collect data for 2009 and 2010.

There is no cogent explanation forthcoming from official sources on such a wide difference except a routine elaboration on how the State machinery meticulously gathers details and verifies the suicides thoroughly by a three-member committee of Revenue Divisional Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Assistant Director of Agriculture. Whatever the methodology, the disparity exposes the attempt to play down the gravity, show a steady decline and take credit for effectively tackling the problem. Surprisingly, the variation remains, though the NCRB relies on data furnished by the State police!

What adds insult to injury, however, is the State's glaring attempt to even deny ex gratia to the unfortunate victims of mostly State policies or lack of timely intervention by categorising the tragedy. Of the 7,683 suicides recorded by it for the decade, only 4,657 were treated as genuine and eligible for relief which meant 21 per cent of the NCRB's total or 60.6 per cent of those reported by the State itself. Another interesting aspect of the 1998-2008 NCRB data is the steady rise in the number of suicides after 2004 when a slew of pro-active farmer-friendly measures, including providing ex gratia were initiated by then Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. While the farmer suicides ranged from 1,509 to 1,974 during the period 1998- 2003, it varied from 1,797 to 2,666 in the later years (2004 to 2008).

Dismal record

But comparatively and quite expectedly, all through the decade the number of suicides reported by the State for the two periods was dismal, given its propensity. The number ranged from 153 to 457 between 1998 and 2003 and from 729 to 2048 in the latter period indicating a better reporting phase. The State's reporting record of 2,048 came closest to the NCRB figure of 2,666 in the year 2004. Some consolation.