Wednesday, December 24, 2008

49-0: Clarification of Election Commission on 5th Dec, 2008

Rule 49 O is a rule in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and NOT a section in the Representation of the People Act, 1951. There are lot of reports on the Internet and on emails with contradicting information. The Election Commission in a press release on Dec 5th, 2008 clarified the air around 49-0. Here is the entire press release, reproduced from ECI website. Please forward this to as many people as possible.

http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/subord/cer1.htm

Rule 49-0 is from the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 - Please do not misinterpret this provision. This only says,

1. If a voter chooses not to vote, he can fill form 17A available with the presiding officer of the booth. This will prevent your vote from being polled by some other person( bogus votes can be prevented).

2. Even if the no of people who exercised 49-0 is greater than the number of votes polled in favour of the winning candidate, there will be no re-election or cancellation of voting.

3. So this provision is only to prevent your vote being misused by someone else when you really do not like any of the candidates.


In most cases, the presiding officers wont even have the 17A forms. Loksatta tried getting the count of all votes under 49-0 , number of polled votes and the winning margins of candidates polling booth wise. They have tried getting this info from the Election commission. This is to prove that if large number of people in a booth have not voted and the candidate has won just by polling 30% of the total votes, then the campaign for NOTA (none of the above) will be strengthened.

PLEASE do not misinterpret this.

This provision is only to prevent your vote being misused by someone else when you really do not like any of the candidates.


In the PROPOSED ELECTORAL REFORMS by the Election Commission of India, which was forwarded to the Prime Minister of India on 05/07/2004, the following reform was proposed;


"7. NEGATIVE / NEUTRAL VOTING

The Commission has received proposals from a very large number of individuals and organizations that there should be a provision enabling a voter to reject all the candidates in the constituency if he does not find them suitable. In the voting using the conventional ballot paper and ballot boxes, an elector can drop the ballot paper without marking his vote against any of the candidates, if he chooses so. However, in the voting using the Electronic Voting Machines, such a facility is not available to the voter. Although, Rule 49 O of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 provides that an elector may refuse to vote after he has been identified and necessary entries made in the Register of Electors and the marked copy of the electoral roll, the secrecy of voting is not protected here inasmuch as the polling officials and the polling agents in the polling station get to know about the decision of such a voter..


The Commission recommends that the law should be amended to specifically provide for negative / neutral voting. For this purpose, Rules 22 and 49B of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 may be suitably amended adding a proviso that in the ballot paper and the particulars on the ballot unit, in the column relating to names of candidates, after the entry relating to the last candidate, there shall be a column .None of the above., to enable a voter to reject all the candidates, if he chooses so. Such a proposal was earlier made by the Commission in 2001 (vide letter dated 10.12.2001).


(A petition by the People.s Union for Civil Liberties seeking such a provision filed at the time of the recent general elections is pending before the Hon'ble Supreme Court)"


The text inside "" is what the commission has recommended.

Download the Press Release Here.

Press Note

Subject: Rule 49 O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961- exercise of option by the voters – Impact on the election result.

It has been brought to the notice of the Commission that various misleading reports are being circulated though the Press, the electronic media, emails and through SMS to the effect that if the number of voters who choose to exercise their option not to vote for any contesting candidate as provided in Rule 49-O of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, exceeds the margin of votes secured by the winning candidate over the runner up, this will invalidate the election and a repoll will be held. It is clarified that under Rule 49-O, the voter has an potion not to vote at the election after he has been identified at the polling station and his name has been registered in Registers of voters (Form -17A). The Presiding Officer shall thereupon make a note to that effect against the name of that voter and obtain his signature (thumb impression in the case of an illiterate ).
In such case, the voters who exercise the option of not voting at the election under Rule 49-O would only be deemed to have abstained themselves from voting and under the law, the candidate who secures highest number of valid votes polled, irrespective of his winning margin, is declared elected.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On tour to spread the RTI message !!

I have been travelling the last 2 weekends. Specifically to spread the word about RTI. Last weekend, i had been to Nellore to address a gathering. This weekend , i am off to Repalle in Guntur district to address 500 college youth giving lectures in colleges all day...

It is quite something to come face to face with real problems and offer advice on how normal citizens can solve problems using RTI ...


Spread the RTI Message...

Its Now or Never !!!

Use RTI !!!

JAI HIND !!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Can we do something ???

After lakhs of blog posts and countless reams of paper on the terror attack, i thought for a moment if its necessary for me reiterate the same thing which a lot of people must have already written about. Then me and a few friends were exchanging mails about the brazen attack and if anyone can save the country now. I will present here the exact text of the mail exchange. What Ravi (a BHUMI colleague) and i wrote as part of those mails.

Every word that ravi wrote fits the today's middle class indian to the T. I am reproducing the mail exchange in the blog because this is something we all need to refelct on and look at things a little more differently. Probably some self refelction of sorts. I added my two cents adding some political colour to the dicussion.

Ravi wrote ,

"I can understand how you might have felt. I was also going thru moments of anger but recovered soon enough. I am going to go on a mini rant here. pls bear with me.

There is a saying "Things sometimes have to get worse before they get better". Extending that logic, teror has struck ppl who are very high on the ladder of social power and they have seen thru direct experience the impacts of terrorism. I am hopeful this experience may make them reflect on how they have contributed to the problem. We need better quality lives for ppl who are disenfranchised. What we see is a manifestation of their frustration. may be if i were to go thru the pain of poverty, i might have taken up arms even earlier.

I kept wondering what have i done, what is my contribution to this. my answer was i kept silent all the time when the police torture muslim youth in the name of interrogation. i've kept silent and not questioned the govt. i've allowed the system to earn the power thru my silence and resignation. how can i complain now.

this makes me humble. we have a dualistic situation here: we are both pwerless and powerful. i cannot fix this, thinking that i can is being egoistic. at the same time, i can do a whole lot on a personal front. society starts from the individual and if i firstly cannot be at peace and balanced, how can i expect others to be balanced and how can i come up with any meaningful action. action borne out of imbalance is bound to cause greated imbalance.

such incidents are opportunities to rally people into a talking circle for reflection and action. it calls for skilled facilitation. if we can all look with a critical eye, that may change us in ways we dont imagine. but r we even ready to drop our prejudices, our anger and old way of thinking ? how can u blame pakistan or taliban or al qaeda when all that they r doing is taking advantage of our internal lack of unity. they've identified the weak points in the system and leveraging them. in being rude to the boy/girl who works in my house, haven't i made him feel inferior, haven't i oppressed him and wouldn't that oppression grow to this sort of terror. there is a lot we need to relook. we treat our servants as though they are not humans. how will we like if we are given instructions the way we give to our own servants. i'm blamming myself here not anyone.

so with humility, i want to look within and work on my self. i hope to remind myself that there are no easy answers to these questions and this reminds of a beautiful poem that i read on questions :

"Try to love the questions themselves, as if they were lock rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don´t search for the answer, which couldn´t be given to you now, because you wouldn´t be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer"

Thank you for listening to my rant."


Then i replied....


"Ravi,


You have wonderfully summarized what every middle class indian should feel like at this point in time. I would also add an other dimension to this whole saga which i think is specific to India and its polity.

The issue here us with the system( we constitute the system) and the leaders. The rot has been created over 60 years and it will take time if we are to clear the mess and even start trying to make amends.

More so, i believe the main culprit is the congress and its pseudo secular stands on various issues in the last 60 years. Be it 1947, be it 1985 or uniform civil code or any such thing. People might have different opinions, but even for the rise of the BJP, congress is the reason. With its gandhi tag name, they have ruined this country and the wounds are now showing up.

We live in very dangerous times and its only becoming worse by the day. There is an identity crisis brewing up both within the majority and the minority sections. With the fear of seclusion and being targeted for no mistake of theirs, the minority now wants to show its identity. You see educated professionals donning the beard in a bid to protect and show their identity (not that its something wrong, but its on the rise). Minority feels they are being targeted and being made scape goats. This will only give rise to ghettoizing and further exclusion.

The majority feels their identity is under threat in their own country and they are being sidelined in their own country. So here starts the vicious circle.

I am usually a very emotional person, tears automatically flow out of my eyes. All yesterday it continued with every second of footage i watched. But beyond that, the sense of despair does not engulf me, because i have seen enough. I know its coming and its becoming brazen and open by the day.

Its time to look at ourselves, our leaders and possibly the root cause. Till the pseudo seculars and their policies remain, the fundamentalists (on both sides of the religious divide) of this world will have enough to feed on and they will only make hay while the sun shines. I always said and still maintain that the rise of the BJP is the sin of the congress and its only because the majority feels that their religion and their identity is under threat in their own country.

God will certainly save us, only if we take some initial steps. Time for some self reflection before doing anything else...

May all the souls who lost lives fighting those sinister minds in the last 3 days rest in peace "


And i also feel with rising international pressure (from US, Britain, Israel)because of the death of their citizens, to have a better system to tackle terror, there might be some change in the policies. Its unfortunate that a disaster of this magnitude and some foreign nations should trigger a policy shift and our ways to deal with terrorism. But better late than never.

Hope those of you who read this blog will do some self reflection.....



JAI HIND !!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Productivity Analysis of APSIC !!!

Below is the productivity analysis of the APSIC (Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission) done by a fellow RTI Activist and a good friend 'C J Karira'.

The analysis only reinforces everything that i earlier wrote in the blog about the APSIC's working and that its a sheer waste of money. Its time we do something about the commission and its working. To quote another dear friend and RTI activist Umesh "Its getting depressing by the day"

Read my earlier post
Read more about my report on the commission's working

Download the analysis from here..

(Please Download the pdf onto a local drive and then open. There's a download option on the sky drive)

Abbreviations expanded on a friend's suggestion:

IC: Information Commissioner
CIC: Chief Information Commissioner / Central Information Commission
PIO: Public Information officer
SIC: State Information Commission
APSIC : Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission


" Productivity analysis of the APSIC"

The period covered is since the inception of the Commission (November 2005) till 31 August 2008.

The expenses data ONLY includes Salaries/HRA/Vehicle allowances. It does not include establishment expenses, rents, utilities, etc. Nor does it include the depreciation on fixed assets. These will be incorprated as and when available.

Comments:

1. Although the Commission had a total of 569 days available, the days of actually conducting a hearing ranged from 61 (IC K Sudhakar Rao) to 122 (IC A Subba Rao)
2. On an average, the APSIC conducted hearings only on 19% of the days the office was attended by CIC/IC - that is to say hearings were conducted on only 1 out of 5 days when attending office. The figure anged from a lowest of 1 out of 8 days to 1 out of 4 days.
3. The number of days the CIC/IC's actually attended office is obviously incorrect or probably misunderstood by the PIO. As per newspaper reports, the CIC and IC's are regularly touring the Districts, attending Conferences, etc. Toose days definitely cannot be counted as days when they attended office. They might have been on "official" work but they definitely did not step into the APSIC office.
4. For the days when hearings were held by CIC or the IC's, the average number of hearings ranged from 0.8 per day (IC Dileep Reddy) to 4.9 per day (CIC C D Arha) - with a overall average of 2.3 per day for the Commission as a whole.
5. It must be remembered that as per various analysis done previously, the APSIC has a a 50 to 60% rejection rate at the "admission" stage - that is at least 50% of the second appeals and complaints are rejected on admission due to procedural lapses. - This is as per our report
If one takes into account the minimum rejection rate of 50%, the average reduces to 0.38 to 2.44 hearings per day with an average of 1.14 per day for the whole Commission !
6. As far as cost per decision is concerned, the costs ONLY include Salaries/HRA/Vehicle Allowance for all the staff of the Commission. There is no inclusion of establishment expenses, running expenses, terminal benefits, other benefits like medical, depreciation of fixed assets, interest costs, etc.
7. The average cost per decision ranges from Rs. 1009 (for the CIC) to Rs. 6782 (for IC Dileep Reddy) with an overall average of Rs. 4882 for the commission.
However, if one factors in the rejection rate of 50%, the average cost per decision is Rs. 9765

Based on information available on other websites of SIC's and CIC, it can be estimated that Salary/HRA/Vehicle allowance are about 50% of the total expenses. If the same criteria is used for the APSIC and the total expenses factored in, the average cost of each decision works out to Rs. 19,530.00 !

At last weeks closing price , each decision is worth aproximately 15 Gms of 24 Carat Gold ! "


Use RTI !!!

Jai Hind

Monday, October 27, 2008

CNN IBN Citizen Journalist Awards !

Here are the videos of the first ever Citizen Journalist awards function where i was given the special Jury award in the category 'FightBack". The function was held in Delhi on 16th October, 2008.







Use RTI !!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Special Jury Award Winner @ the firstever “Citizen Journalist” Awards !!

The IBN Network has announced a new editorial initiative of CNN-IBN and IBN7; the Citizen Journalist Awards. These are the first ever Citizen Journalist Awards and I have been chosen for the Special Jury Award in the "Fightback" Category.

Not that this is a great achievement considering the fact the issue i am being awared for is a story that is still an unfinished... But this will definitely be an inspiration for me and lot of others.


Blog Story2

The stories on CNN - IBN,

Story1

Story2


Here are the weblinks of the awards,

CJ Awards

Fightback Category

Articles about the awards,

1. Agency FAQs

2. Televisionpoint.com

3. Indiatoday Online

4. Yahoo

5. AOL


The Citizen Journalist Awards Function would be telecast on October 25, at 9:30 pm with a repeat telecast on October 26, at 5 pm on CNN-IBN and on October 25, at 8 pm with a repeat telecast on October 26, at 10 pm on IBN7.

Do watch if you have time :)

PS: I am not 28 as is given in the awards link. I am just 25 and will turn 26 in December. Being Young Matters :)


Use RTI !!!

Jai Hind !!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

AP State Information Commission and the Senseless Rules !!!

Information Commissions are the corner stones of the implementation of RTI Act. The success of the act largely depends on the support of the Government in power and more importantly on how the Information commissions work. From the time the act came into existence in AP, the commission's functioning deserves less than pass marks. If you ask me to rate them on a scale of 10, i would give them a '2'.

The spirit of the act is to bring in more transparency and accountability in the working of bureaucracy and thereby paving the way for a corruption free system. The act should be used by the poorest of the poor irrespective of their education, caste, class and creed. Hence the act was kept simple and it was imperative that all the rules made by respective commissions were simple and people friendly. Unfortunately after 3 years of RTI act, things are gloomy and it has become the tool of only the educated.

Part of the reason is the senseless and foolish rules by the AP State Information Commission. The Govt and the Commission brought out GO Ms. No. 66, GA (I&PR) Department dated 25.2.2006. This specifies rules to be followed while filing an appeal to the state commission. Even till this day, most ground level activists themselves are not aware of such GO and continue filing appeals normally. The GO talks of some foolish things such as self attesting all the papers of the appeal etc. It is very important to note that even courts do not have any such rules where professional lawyers file appeals and fight cases. In case of RTI, we expect the 'Aam Aadmi' with or without education to file appeals and when we make such cumbersome and foolish rules, it is only to be understood that this is a covert attempt to weaken the act.


What GO 66 says??

What is more disturbing is that almost 50% of the appeals are rejected citing this GO. This is what some of the decisions of the Commission say,


" On scrutiny, it is found that the Appellant has not self-attested the enclosures.
For the above defects and deficiencies this appeal is hereby returned as not maintainable at the admission stage and the appellant is advised to rectify the same, and resubmit it, if he so desires."

"On an examination of the material papers, the following defects are noticed:
i) The appellant did not approach the 1st appellate authority, as provided for under Section 19(1) of the RTI Act, 2005 and
ii) He did not follow the appeal procedure rules issued in GO Ms. No. 66, GA (I&PR) Department dated 25.2.2006.

In view of the above, the appeal is bot maintainable and hence rejected with a direction to the appellant to follow the provisions of the Act, as well as the appeal procedure rules issued in GO Ms. No. 66, GA (I&PR) Department dated 25.2.2006 before approaching this Commission"

The commission has recently framed its 'Management Regulation Rules'. And this again talks of the same old senseless rules and procedures.

"Every appeal, complaint, application, statement, rejoinder, reply or any other document filed before the Commission shall be typed, printed or written neatly and legibly and in double line spacing"

The existence of these rules was known to me when i filed an RTI application to know on what grounds did the commission declare summer holidays. I am sure that 99% of the people do not know there are such rules.

In a country where 50% of the people are uneducated and we are racing towards a being a super power, these type of rules only exemplify the unwillingness of those in power to serve the people better.

Its time the commission simplifies its rules and makes it people friendly. Unless that happens, the commissions are only thwarting public attempts to better the system rather than being the custodians of the Act in its spirit and not just in letter !!!

USE RTI !!!

JAI HIND !!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

NREGS in Andhra Pradesh - a Status check !!!

I always wanted to understand issues on ground first hand - the problems related the implementation of Govt welfare schemes and other programs .

I am now freelancing as a part time consultant with WASSAN. I am working with Ravi, the Coordinator of Bhoomi Kendram – Center for Land & Labor, WASSAN. Its been a wonderful experience so far.

The initial focus is on NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), the flagship program of the UPA Government. You can download first extensive report as part of an agreement with WASSAN. The link is given below. I signed a 9 month agreement with them for consulting on development issues and preparing reports with occasional field visits. This is to gain a lot of on ground experience on issues related to employment, land, caste, gender etc.

The report is a status check on NREGS Implementation in AP. The report will give a lot of interesting insights. Download the report from here.

I would like to hear form you. Comments are welcome :-)


Use RTI !!!

JAI HIND

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bihar floods - Time to standup and contribute !!

You may have been hearing /reading/watching in almost every kind of media about the Flood situation in bihar and the havoc. Things are quite bad and its time we stand up and contribute in whatever way we can. Please go through this blog that brings the ground zero information everyday. You can get in touch with people listed on the blog and find ways of contributing.

http://biharfloodrelief2008.blogspot.com



Please contribute. Its about time we did.



JAIHIND

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The AP State Information Commission and its Story!!!

Activists across the country are of the opinion that the information commissions are soon becoming a bureaucratic wing rather then being the watchdogs and the custodians of the act. We all know they are not working as they are supposed to. They have the powers of a civil court. They can penalize govt officials up to Rs 250/- per day which will be deducted from the salary of the government official. They can recommend disciplinary action. They can even order compensation be given to the applicant.

Even though they have all these powers, they are not exercising them. Me and a fellow RTI activist Umesh decided to do an objective study on the Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission's working. The report was possible only because of 400 hours of volunteer effort. Kudos to Bhaskar Yella, David King, Harinath Mallepally, Prasanthi Uppalapati, Raghavendra Turaga, Santoshi Rani, Suresh Ediga, Shukti Das and Suman Panjala. I am also thankful to the state committee of the United Forum for RTI Campaign – AP, its conveners Sri B Ramakrishnam Raju and Sri N Nagendra Babu for their guidance and support and for publishing the report.

The report was released on 2nd August,2008. You can download the report from here..

This is a first of its Kind Report in the entire country and a lot of activists in other states have started this exercise based on this report.


It was covered in the press quite well.


1. The Hindu



2. Times of India




3. TV 5

4. In Eenadu









Let me know what you make of this report.

USE RTI!!!

JAI HIND!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What can RTI do – The simple & practical example !!!!

"What can RTI do?" This is the most frequently asked question in my workshops. Is it the panacea to all the problems related to bad governance? Not exactly. But it is a very important tool and a trigger to start the process of solving all these problems. I also tell people to experience the power of RTI by using it for very simple things.


I was doing a RTI workshop to a group of people who were studying Social Entrepreneurship. After the session, one woman came to me and asked if RTI can help solve a problem related to her school. The problem is, "GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) – the erstwhile MCH had collected Rs 12,000/- in 2006 from schools that were situated on busy traffic areas and Main Roads. The money was to be used in putting up School Zone Boards and Provide Zebra crossings on the roads in front of the schools. 2 years on, there is no sign of either the School Zone Board or the Zebra crossing. In spite of repeated appeals, there was no progress on the issue."


I promised to help her and filed an RTI with GHMC asking the following questions,


  1. The name and designation of the official responsible for providing zebra crossing and the school zone board
  2. Why hasn't a zebra crossing been provided till date?
  3. Did you initiate any action on the officials who did not start this work? If No, why such action has not been initiated?
  4. What is the time required for laying a zebra crossing?
  5. By when will the proposed Zebra crossing be laid (with exact date) and what action will be initiated on the responsible officials if the zebra crossing and the school zone board are not provided by that date?


There was no reply in 30 days. I filed an appeal since there was no reply. After about 45 days, the senior engineer called me saying the Zebra crossing and the school zone boards were provided a few days before. He sent me the reply saying the proposed work was completed and there was nothing pending. He even sent me xerox copies of photographs as proof. He requested not to press with the appeal and admitted that RTI does help in expediting issues and solving problems that would have taken years together to complete.


The School

The School Zone Board

The Zebra Crossing



A problem that was pending for 2 years was solved in a matter of days after the RTI was filed. The women experienced what I tell people in my RTI sessions. Use RTI and you will believe its power.


Need I tell more??

Use RTI !!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Hindu article on the GIT SEZ Land Allocation !!

This is the article in "The Hindu";

Andhra Pradesh - Hyderabad

Turning varsity into a multi-services special economic zone !
K. Venkateshwarlu

-----------------------------------------------------
Centre, State transform project into SEZ
YSR overrules panel’s suggestion on price of land

-------------------------------------------------------

HYDERABAD: Chinks have been detected in the allotment of 250 acres of land to the US-based Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) at Mucherla in Ranga Reddy district and its conversion from an university to a multi-services Special Economic Zone (SEZ) having malls and star hotels.

The GIT had actually sought 50 acres of land near Hyderabad Central University for locating its “not for profit” university but the Central and State Government, through a series of eyebrow-raising decisions, transformed it into a SEZ project, allotted 250 acres valued at Rs. 18 lakh per acre (or Rs. 45 crore) in the market at Rs. 1.5 lakh an acre.

Education as an excuse
Notwithstanding the controversies dogging SEZs, this “unique temple of learning in SEZ” project was cleared in the name of promoting higher education, research and industry, according to copies of the documents and file notings obtained by an enterprising software engineer, D. Rakesh Kumar Reddy, using the Right To Information Act.

“When I pored through the 289-page file some of them marked ‘strictly confidential’ which I obtained on May 14, I was shocked by the way both the Governments encouraged the university to scale up its requirement and seek SEZ status. Considering that for a high-tech university even 50 acres is huge, I have doubts over the use of the remaining 200 acres and if real estate lobby is behind it,” said Mr. Reddy.

Twists and turns

The twists and turns taken by a simple university project began on April 7, 2007 when the GIT or Georgia Tech India made a formal application. On May 21, 2007, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy munificently decided that the university could be given 20-25 acres in Hyderabad and 70 acres in Visakhapatnam and an MoU signed on June 5. “The GIT must have been surprised with the offer, as it never sought any land in Visakhapatnam,” says Mr. Reddy. Three months later the project took another turn. Gary B. Schuster of the GIT wrote to the Chief Minister seeking 250 acres “following the advice given by the officials of the PMO and the Commerce Ministry on housing the university within multi-services SEZ…”

As a follow- up, Robert K. Thompson of GIT wrote another letter to the Chief Minister to allot the land, to “enable GIT to establish multi-services education, research and technology programme that could be integrated with a technology park.

This will be Vigyan City.” Mr. Thompson attached a report prepared by Ernst and Young for GIT to support his letter. When it came to fixing of price, the Chief Minister overruled the empowered committee’s suggestion of offering land at the prevailing market rate of Rs.18 lakhs an acre. Instead, he reduced it to Rs. 1.5 lakh per acre unusually citing the case of BITS near Shamirpet.

“From a university campus it became a giant commercial multi-services SEZ only to get land and tax incentives. If the allotment was confined to 50 acres at nominal rate, the MoU would not have raised doubts ,” says Mr. Reddy.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Role of Youth in the Socio- Political Transformation of the Country...

I was recently invited to address a gathering of young people on the "Role of Youth in the Socio- Political Transformation of the country". The gathering turned out to be a flop show not because there were no attendes. The hall was house full. But the topic took the backseat and something else took center stage. I would like to leave it at that.

But i wanted to share the text of the speech i prepared and also the PPT here so that people can go through and comment..

Download the speech text from Here..

Download the PPT from Here...


JAI HIND

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Dark Side of SEZs – Govt and its Ugly Face !!

All of us are made believe that SEZs will usher in the next revolution in this country that will get millions out of poverty and unemployment. Lakhs of acres of farmland has already been grabbed in the name of industrialization and SEZs. Not sure how many thousands and millions they brought out of poverty, but this has exposed the ugly and the dark face of the Government. This is the new Avatar of the Government – the most ugly face of being a Land broker. I cannot fight against all that is happening, but decided to find out and probably expose this ugly face I believe is ruining the country. All this using RTI.

Dileep, a good friend of mine and myself decided to do some work on this. I filed an RTI application with the Revenue Department, Govt of Andhra Pradesh on the issue of Land allocation to Georgia Tech University on 9th April 2008. I received the information of 289 pages on 14th May 2008. I paid Rs 578/- to get this information. Information in 30 days. Surprised?? This is because I have a special relationship with the revenue department which you will come to know if you read my previous posts in this blog.

Govt allocated 250 acres of land at Mucherla in Ranga Reddy district to Georgia Tech University to setup a university and an SEZ. University and SEZ – probably for the first time in the world. By conservative estimates the scale of corruption and loss to the state exchequer is to the tune of 100-200 crore rupees. All this by just looking at the papers given to me. I asked for the following information in the RTI application,

1. Please provide me a copy of the complete file including all the file notings related to the of Land allotment to Georgia Institute of Science and Technology (Georgia Tech) for setting up an SEZ.

2. Please provide me a copy of all the communications between the revenue department, CM’s office, CCLA and any other Govt. Agencies/Organisations including APIIC involved in the allotment of land and related permissions for setting up the SEZ.

3. Provide me a copy of the MOU signed between Georgia Institute of Science and Technology (Georgia Tech) and the Govt of AP.

4. Provide me a copy of the proposal submitted to the Government of AP by Georgia Institute of Science and Technology (Georgia Tech) for setting up an SEZ.

In the guise of a University, 250 acres of land has been given to Georgia Tech at Rs 1.5 lakh an acre. The current market value of this land is about a Crore rupees per acre. So the loss to the state exchequer is more than 200 crore rupees. The drama and the turn of events that preceeded this land allotment are very interesting and I will try to present a time line view of the whole thing,


Year 2005: In a special meeting with APJ Abdul Kalam, it was decided to give a push to the setting up of foreign university campuses in the country. Georgia Tech University (GIT) expresses interest in setting up a campus in Hyderabad. Discussions with Govt of Andhra Pradesh begin.

7th April - 2007: GIT sends a draft MOU to the Govt of AP. They request 50 acres of land near Hyderabad Central University in this draft MOU. They also express their interest to setup a “not-for-profit” university.

25th May –2007: In the review meeting with the Chief Minister, it was decided to provide 20-25 acres of land near Hyderabad and 70 acres in Visakapatnam. It was also decided that the MOU signing ceremony will be held on 5th June 2007. It is very important to note that GIT never asked for land in Visakapatnam.

5th June – 2007: GIT and Govt sign an MOU which says that GIT will be provided 25 acres of land near Hyderabad and 70 acres in Visakapatnam. It was reiterated that a not for profit university will be established with the name “Georgia Tech India”.

8th June –2007: In the meeting attended by the CM and Smt Usha Rani (collector, Mahbubnagar Dist), it was decided to provide land in suvey number 292, in mamidipally in kothur mandal.

Ideally,the story should have ended here. But out governments are so very intelligent. The real drama began after this. All the while Georgia Tech maintained that it did not have enough funds to build the campus. In their own words, “We have been exploring relationships with industry and provate philanthropists in India to establish the necessary research and funding partnerships;developing a plan for the campus and the associated community;and exploring the potential for raising significant sums of money to build and endow the campus”. Govt of AP also assured GIT that it will bring in investors. The real story as it happened

21st September – 2007: Gary B Schuster from GIT writes a letter to to the CM. He says, “The Prime Minister’s office officials and the Commerce Ministry Office officials advised us to setup an SEZ and hence we need 250 acres of land as per the norms of the SEZ policy. We have also identified Mucherla village in Ranga Reddy district on srisailam highway located at about 25 km from the International Airport as suitable to our plans. Kindly keep this area for our purpose”

The land was also identified by them.

12th November – 2007: Robert K Thompson from GIT writes another letter to the CM requesting him to allot 250 acres in Mucherla IT park in Rangareddy district. He says,”This will enable GIT to establish a multi-services education, research and technology program that could be integrated with a technology park. This will be called Vigyan city.” He also attached a proposal document prepared by Ernst & Young for GIT. This proposal document is the most interesting one. It says,

“In lines with the special emphasis of the Vigyan city in developing the industry-academia linkages, it has been proposed that the city should be located in the multi-services SEZ (as suggested by Commerce Ministry/Central Government). This is primarily due to the direct and indirect tax incentives; the research wing will attract the companies. As per regulations of SEZ act, 2005 for multi-services SEZ, a minimum area of 250 acres is required”

GIT never had plans of an SEZ. It is only the advise of our officials that made them think of setting up an SEZ. And that too only because of the incentives. The proposal also says that the whole area will contain 5 star business hotels, commercial complexes. Malls, apartment complexes, research facilities etc. It also says that the potential companies in the SEZ will be IBM. Oracle, Microsoft, Dr Reddy’s , Ranbaxy etc. None of them ever expressed their interest. This was a perfect consulting assignment for EnY that could design a dream project to get the land it wanted.


23rd November – 2007: CM writes a letter to Collector, Ranga Reddy to issue orders allocating 250 acres to GIT in Mucherla IT park.

29th February – 2008: The empowered committee that decides the selling price of Government lands meets. It proposes to provide 250 acres of land to GIT at Rs 18 lakhs an acre as per prevailing market rates.

13th March – 2008: CM issues signed orders to concerned departments to provide 250 acres to GIT at Rs 1.5 lakh an acre citing the land allotment to BITS,Pilani as per GOMs 59, MA& UD dated 16-02-2006. He says, since land was given to BITS at 1.5 lakh an acre, it is proper to give land to GIT at same terms. It is very important to note that GIT never asked for concession in land rate.

CM in his own words,
“The academic campus of GIT will offer MS/PhD degrees, recognized world wide as a US Degree, will be accessible to the best and brightest of students. The results of the research will be transferable to industry through the co-located technology park, operating in the typical SEZ model, facilitating significant economic and industrial growth in the AP State.

We need such “Institutes of Excellence” in this state to produce quality manpower to sustain the rapid growth of the state economy. It positively adds value to the district of Ranga Reddy and will further make the district an attractive investment destination.

I feel it is proper to allot the land as required by GIT, on the same terns and conditions of allotment made applicable to BITS, Pilani vide GOMs 59, MA& UD dated 16-02-2006.”

17th March –2008: Council of Ministers meeting passes a resolution to allot 250 acres in Survey No 288, Mucherla Village, Kandukur Mandal in Favour of GIT.

27th March-2008: Revenue Department, Govt of AP issues G.O.Ms 553 allotting 250 acres of land to GIT in Mucherla at Rs 1.5 lakh an acre.

The final MOU given to me is very interesting. It says, “ AP Govt will provide Georgia Tech India on long term lease ADEQUATE LAND”. The figures are replaced by adequate land, all in an effort to give these 250 acres in the guise of a University.
It is also very important to note that, BITS is an educational institute and it does not have any commercial activity in the land alloted to them at Rs 1.5 lakhs an acre, where as GIT plans to setup an SEZ where there will be commercial activity of real estate, malls, hotels etc. Then why did the CM felt proper to give entire land to GIT at the same rate as BITS? Only YSR Reddy should know the answer.

The proponents of Globalization will jump on me and say, “ We need universities, and we need growth”. I am neither against growth nor against setting up of world-class universities. I only have the following questions and doubts,

1. When GIT never had plans of setting an SEZ, why did the central and state Govts push them
to setup an SEZ?
2. It is quite clear that GIT planned to setup this SEZ only on the advise of the Central govt and
also primarily because of the Tax benefits, but not for the research as it says.
3. Why did the govt give 250 acres at 1.5 lakh rupees when it is quite clear that the university
campus will not be more then 25-30 acres?
4. Why does the state Exchequer has to loose close to 200 crore rupees because of the foolish
policies of the govt?
5. Why not give those 30 acres at Rs 1.5 lakh as was done in the case of BITS and the rest at
existing market Value?
6. When GIT says it will setup a not-for-profit university, will all the companies, hotels,
commercial complexes, malls inside this SEZ be working on a not-for-profit motive?

I strongly believe that a big real estate lobby is behind all this encouraging these very GIT people to get 250 acres of prime land allocated in the guise of a University. I will bet that all these land sharks will be out with their investments in due course of time.

These are not just my questions. These are our questions. Any citizen who looks at these documents will ask the same very questions. Why grab land from poor farmers and give it to these land sharks?

200 crores. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Its time we wake up and take note. Tomorrow, it may be our land that will be grabbed. Lets fight these inhumane and corrupt policies. This entire expose using RTI !!!

Please use RTI!!!

JAI HIND

Friday, March 21, 2008

'The Hindu' article on the publicity spending of AP Govt...

This is the article in "The Hindu";

Andhra Pradesh

‘Spending on RTI publicity a pittance’

K. Venkateshwarlu

HYDERABAD: Along with National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information (RTI) Act is often billed as the flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance Government that gave information-seeking weapon to the people.

But is the State Government doing enough to take RTI to people? Not much, going by the spending on publicizing the programme, according to the response given to an RTI applicant, D. Rakesh Kumar Reddy. He was curious to know the priority accorded to the highly public interest oriented RTI , the advertisement budget allocated and spent on it and compare the same with other Government programmes.

Expectedly, the amount spent on publicizing RTI was the least at Rs. 7.12 lakh ending October 2007. “In sharp contrast, programmes like rededication ceremony I am not sure to what and Mahilalaku Andaga, Neeti Kosamu Tapassu etc got the lion’s share,” he said.

But a resourceful Mr. Rakesh stumbled on much more interesting details. The Government’s eye- brow raising publicity splurge combining outdoor, electronic and print media has crossed Rs.100 crore mark or Rs. 108.96 crore by October 2007. And this is official and spending through not-so-official means like corporations could be much more. It also means RTI publicity got just a pittance (0.065 per cent of Rs. 108.96 crore) and confined to electronic media.

Mr. Rakesh says the Government took its own time to respond to his RTI application which he had filed on November 21, 2007. A reminder and almost after 75 days it responded but as the information was incomplete, he had to make two more rounds.

“As a citizen I am surprised at such massive spending of public money on publicity. Most of it is centered round Chief Minister and his image building like his tour to US for which Rs.7.60 lakh was spent,” he observed.
Use RTI!!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Its now the SON's turn to Splurge!!!

On Dec 21st-2007, the entire city of Hyderabad was decorated on the occasion of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's Birthday. In a typical political publicity fare, all important public junctions were covered with banners, flags, boards, posters, billboards etc.
The message was loud, clear and also unanimous,
"JANAM KOSAM JAGAN
JAGAN KOSAM JANAM"

Now, when did we say that?? I am not sure if I said it though...



I was a little perturbed with all this publicity blitzkrieg and filed an RTI application with GHMC on 22nd Dec, 2007 wanting to know if the GHMC got its due payment. After almost 70 days of following up, they gave me the reply.
The reply says,



With reference to your letter cited, under RTI act, 2005 it is to inform that this office has not received any request from any individual or organization for permission for erection of arches, flags etc., on the occasion of birthday of Sri Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, This office has not accorded any permission in this regard.

Ask any kid in Hyderabad and he will tell you what happened those 2 days. Only the GHMC officials lost sight and could not find anything that was putup without their permission. The irony is one bill board was right infront of their office.

The fact of the matter is GHMC turned a blind eye to what was an ostentatious and vulgar display. Public property was brazenly used for about 2 days. We lost valuable public money to the political power mongers. What ought to have gone into GHMC's coffers is lost. That too, it is the son of the Chief Minister. Someone has to pay back. Not that he is the only one who does it. Every politician does it, but this is extreme and that too from the son of a 'responsible' Chief Minister who is supposed to set an example.

Who will pay back the lost public money? The father used public Money for publicity and personal glorification. The son on the other hand uses public property like his own. Both are ultimately doing the same thing, albeit a bit differently !!! The perfect COMBO..

Time to make them pay...

Use RTI!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Publicity Splurge!!! The Story gets Interesting.....

After I received the first bit of information, I remembered that I had also asked for the publicity expenditure on print media and Electronic Media. They had not given that information. So the for the last 2 days, I was busy roaming around the office of the "Commissiner, I & PR". After 3 hours of successful roaming around, the information is finally here,

PRINT MEDIA EXPENDITURE
2004-05: Rs 20,00,66,000/-
2005-06: Rs 25,79,24,000/-
2006-07: Rs 21,26,05,000/-
2007-08: Rs 18,36,37,000/-

Total: Rs 85,42,32,000/- (85.42 Crore Rupees)

ELECRONIC MEDIA EXPENDITURE

2004-05: Rs 1,17,43,300/-

2005-06: Rs 1,22,72,632/-

2006-07: Rs 2,64,47,937/-

2007-08: Rs 1,72,89,679/-

Total: Rs 6,77,53,548/- ( 6.78 Crore Rupees)

And by God's grace, they spent Rs 7,11,504 (7.12 Lakh Rupees) on Tv ads for the promotion of RTI act.

Wowwww.....What a magnanimous gesture!! And the spending on RTI is comparable to the promotion of the programmes like
"YSR's USA tour - Rs7,60,127 (Rs 7.6 Lakh Rupees)"
" Prawasi Bharatiya Diwas - Rs 7,54,488 (Rs 7.54 Lakh Rupees)"


YSR's USA tour’ promotion is as important , if not more important than the promotion of the RTI!!!

THE TOTAL EXPENDITURE

1. Outdoor Publicity - Rs 16,75,58,717 (Rs 16.76 Crore Rupees)

2. Electronic Media - Rs 6,77,53,548 (Rs 6.78 Crore Rupees)

3. Print Media - Rs 85,42,32,000 (Rs 85.42 Crore Rupees)

Total - Rs 108,95,44,265 (Rs 108.96 Crore Rupees)

And do you know the share of RTI promotion in these 109 crores....its Rs 7.12 Lakh Rupees. In percentage terms its 0.065%

We must all thank the Government and Mr YSR for all the wonderful work they are doing!!!
109 crores of public money spent on publicity and still counting!!!

Time to wake up and take note. Lest the state coffer will soon be empty!!!

Use RTI...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Publicity Splurge!!! Become the CM, use 'Public Money' for Personal Publicity.....

I always wondered if govt was doing enough for RTI awareness and publicity. So how to unravel this mystery?? File an RTI to find out how much money was spent on RTI publicity Vis a vis other Govt programmes. What an irony!!! RTI to findout something about RTI...

I did file one and as always, the usual running around for a couple of months. And finally i obtained the information...just go through them and you are in for a wonderful treat!!!

Publicity Expenditure on various Govt programmes from June 2004 to October 2007

2004-05
1. Nandi Natakotsavam-Hoardings - Rs 38,12,000/-
2. 10th National Youth Festival, Rajiv Nagarabaata -
Bus Shelters,Digital Prints- Rs 13,26,000/-
3. Krishna Pushkarams-CCTV- Rs 90,000/-
4. Hon'ble CM's Message- Flute Boards- Rs 10,64,000/-
5. Govt Developmental schemes - Rs 1,59,00,000/-
6. Rajiv Pallebaata - Rs 42,35,250/-
7. Nee Gunde Balaaniki prabuthvam andagaa nilustundi- Rs 13,94,930/-
8. Jalayagnam- Rs 60,00,525/-
9. Rajiv Nagarabaata - Rs 26,41,000/-
10. Modati Vidata laskha ekaraala bhu pampini (1 lakh acres of Land distribution to poor-phase1) - Rs 29,34,735/-
11. Generic - Pamphlets (5,60,000)- Rs 5,07,500/-
Posters (65000)- Rs 2,93,500/-

2005-06

1. Rajiv Nagarabaata,kalachakra, 1 lakh land distribution-Hoardings-Rs 3,34,82,000/- Bus shelters-Rs 44,46,000/-
2. Govt Dev programmes- Pillar Boards-Rs 1,72,25,000/-
3. Completion of one year- Flex scrolls- Rs 33,50,000/-
4. Publicity in urban areas- Translites- Rs 9,00,000/-
5. Kalachakra- Flex Boards- Rs 2,75,000/-
6. Chinnarula Gundeku kotha oopiri,Mahilalaku andagaa YSR, Neeti Kosam YSR tapassu - Rs 2,09,715/-
7. Rendo Vidata laskha ekaraala bhu pampini (1 lakh acres of Land distribution to poor-phase2) - Rs 57,45,988/-
8. Generic- Pamphlets (10,00,000)- Rs 9,00,000/-
Posters (62000)- Rs 2,66,600/-

2006-07
1. Indiramma Rajyam-Intinta Sowbhagyam,
Govt Dev programmes-Hoardings-Rs 98,27,000/-
2. Indiramma Rajyam, Haj Publicity in rural areas-
Bus shelters,Wall paintings,Bus paints,Pillar Boards etc- Rs 3,15,65,000/-
3. Palleseema Kaavali paadipantala sowbhagyaseema- Rs 23,50,789/-
4. Jalayagnam - Rs 45,48,185/-
5. Generic- Pamphlets - Rs 0/-
Posters (450000) - Rs 13,50,000/-

2007-08
1. Rededication Day (Punarankitha dinam)-Hoardings,Bus shelters etc -Rs 69,28,000/-
2. Jalayagnam & Indiramma Rajyam-Megadoot post cards- Rs 2,00,000/-
3. World Military Games- Hoardings- Rs 17,49,000/-
4. Haj Yatra - Hoardings- Rs 8,86,000/-
5. Generic - Pamphlets(2,00,000)- Rs 1,80,000/-
Posters (3,25,000)- Rs 9,75,000


All in all...16.76 crore rupees. What a gargantuan waste of public Money ??? Do you see the yearly celebrations and the money spent on Rededication day (on the occasion of the successful completion of the third year in power)?? Not sure what they were rededicating to(rededicating to more corruption!!)

And what an image building exercise for the CM and see the names of the campaigns.
'Mahilalaku andagaa YSR' 'Neeti Kosam YSR tapassu'

And as expected, they spent a BIG ZERO on RTI and its publicity. And understandable i guess. RTI is their enemy. The enemy of corruption. Am i right??

So..easiest way to fame..become the CM..spend public money for your image building!!!

Use RTI!!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The "STUDY" Tours Continue!!!

Here's the list as on today..i keep receiving letters everyday...so will keep adding to the list...result of 6 months of dogged pursual...

APIIC

1. Malaysia - Rs 25,717 /-
To attend malaysia telugu association interactive session for investments(2006)

2. China - Rs 2,43,252 /-
To get exposure and to understand the concept of high rise buildings in cities and interaction with builders(2006)



Central Power distribution company of AP Ltd

1. South Africa
2. Singapore
3. South Korea
4. Korea(Goyang)


AP Mineral Development Corporation Ltd

Russia- Rs 11,94,834/-

Team lead by Sabita Indra Reddy and Botcha Satyanarayana- For inspection of the technical capabilities of the companies M/s Stork Handelsges and M/s VSMPO-AVISMA corporation and investment oppurtunities for exploitation of heavy mineral beach sand deposits in srikakulam district under joint venture


AP Transco and Discoms

1. China - Rs 39,975/-
2. Germany - Rs 1,65,200/-
3. Brazil - Rs 4750/- (with Rs 4750 ppl went to brazil and came back!!!)
4. USA - Rs 67,487 /-

Southern Power Distribution Company of AP Ltd

1. Thailand
HV Distribution System

2. Italy

To assess the feasibility of implementing SP financial solutions for the APSPDCL - tirupati

3. Switzerland- Rs 82,954 /-
Training on different meter testing equipments and exposure to other latest testing equipments of MTEAG, Switzerland


AP State Police Housing Corporation Ltd

1. Australia - Rs 3,72,253 /-
Intensive Training programe on "Good Urban governance, sustainable Development and poverty alleviation

2. Canada - Rs 2,12,259/-
Delivery of Housing and related Infrastructure at world Urban Forum- III


AP Handicrafts Development Corporation Ltd

1. Russia - Rs 2,00,000 /-
International Trade Fair world autumn- Chairman Bandaru Anjan Raju visited

2. Italy- Rs 2,52, 000/-
International Trade Fair artigiano fiera -Chairman Bandaru Anjan Raju visited



Do they convey something????

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Complaint and the after effect!!!

Recently, my HR representative in the company called me up and was telling me this…. “Our sales guys met a senior IAS officer and he was complaining about you. You seem to be filing RTI applications in all departments and are using the company business card, official mail ID and even wearing our t-shirt when you roam around in the secretariat.” I told him in very clear terms that I never used my official mail ID. And as far as the t-shirt and business card are concerned, I was not aware that the T-shirt is to be worn only in office!!! And I exchange business card only with I people I know. I told him that this is a much bigger issue and they are trying to suppress my fundamental right by doing this.

The bureaucrat may be of the opinion that this will pull me back and show restraint in future and since it’s to do with my job and all, their expectation is very much valid. May be they would like to hit the sales of my company. Little did they know that I am not that kind of a guy. The very next day, I filed 4 RTI applications in the secretariat. This time something to do with regularization of lands in Hyderabad- the real estate capital. A lot of ugly deals would be out when I get this info.

I think it’s a bigger issue than any individual and if the bureaucratic mindset is this way, then it needs to be changed. I asked my HR to share the name of that IAS officer. I have decided to take a legal course.

But for the moment, I will wear a Government manufactured KHADI shirt whenever I file an RTI application…Let them complain to the chief minister that somebody wearing a KHADI shirt is filing RTI Applications!!!!!!!