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Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Archive for the ‘PARIVARTAN’ Category

NCPRI, PARIVARTHAN, CHRI need to become TRANSPARENT and ACCOUNTABLE !!

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 1, 2006

Is there an indication that Arvind/Parivartan/Bhushan are interested in anything other than the SKD complaint?

Not a lot of people are happy with them assuming a sort of a monopoly on the role of an intermediary first with the legislative draft-making people (I found out the version they were working on only after an MP put it up in Rajya Sabha – see my blog, this one from Bhushan et al. is severely deficient that has not picked up threads from IWBA including my work with Mr. Shetty) and now with the supreme court.

There has to be an unequivocal communication from them to whistleblowers who have written to the CVC – including VBS whom they know — that they will represent them also or will gladly work with the lawyers representing whistleblowers other than SKD. Please reflect on this.

This is not a simple issue of just working with an organization of that organization does not represent in words and action it wants to stand up for other whistleblowers thus justifying its arrogation of the intermediary role.

Cheers,

SANJAY

___________

Parivarthan does not respond to TRANSPARENCY ?

PARIVARTHAN thinks that they are not ACCOUNTABLE to any one !! WHY ?

Do’t you think that some of them MESSED up CASE of martyr SKD ?

You must know that more people are getting to know the FACTS about NGO’s or GROUPS.

Problem is some of these people in these groups think that they are the only one need to be handling the issues and others need to listen to them.

VMK

____________________________

Respected Sir,

I cannot resist to agree with you 100%. It is more than one year since when the directorate general of vigilance is after me, merely to scuttle my deputation to CBI. Had people like you, Vidshal, Sanjay, Shadiji, YP Sngh , Rajesh, Sucheta, etc. were not there, vigilancewould have digested me by now.

Parivartan and others NGO think that whatever they aredoing for whistleblowers is the best and the first condion of whistleblower s that he should be a martyr.

I don’t seen any ponit in approching Arvind for rederessal.

Regards,

VB Singh

________________________________________________________

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Indiatogether: RIGHT TO KNOW : PARIVARTAN

Posted by rtiact2005 on September 18, 2006

RIGHT TO KNOW | PARIVARTAN

http://www.indiatogether.org/campaigns/parivartan/

INTERVIEW: ARVIND KEJRIWAL
RTI: An enormous power with the people
In conversation with Vinita Deshmukh, Arvind Kejriwal talks about India’s RTI movement, and worries that a formidable tool of empowerment might slip out of the hands of citizens if amendments proposed by the UPA government are enacted.
Right to info | Interviews | Delhi
August 2006

Another step towards Parivartan
Ration shopkeepers wont divulge their records, Food Department officials wont file complaints, and the police wont act on their own or accept complaints from the public. Is the cycle of corruption complete? A public hearing in Delhi shows there may still be some options. Varupi Jain reports on the latest from Parivartan.
Delhi | Right to know
August 2004

Popularising the right to know
New Delhi’s citizen crusaders seeking enforcement of the state’s Right to Information law are now scaling their methods and inspiration. Following its early successes, the Delhi based non-profit Parivartan has formed a new platform – a Right to Information ‘manch’ – to bring interested people together. Varupi Jain reports.
Parivartan | Delhi | Rights to know
April 2004

And Parivartan goes on …
From halting massive siphoning of food supplies to a restoration of fair operations, some neighbourhood communities in New Delhi have made steady progress in making the Public Distribution System work. Varupi Jain provides an update on the work of Parivartan, whose efforts are leading this change.
Right to know | Delhi
March 2004
Parivartan, here to stay?
This non-profit’s initial success in effective enforcement of Delhi’s Right to Information Act has woken up the establishment to implementation of existing regulations just as much as it has informed citizens about them. Varupi Jain reports on the recent upswing for Parivartan.
Delhi | Right to know | Local govt.
December 2003

Delhi’s citizens act en-masse
On August 29, over 150 citizens filed applications seeking information about PDS ration records in Delhi’s Food and Civil Supplies department. This action followed an episode of harassment of Triveni, a poor citizen at the hands of inspectors of the Food department.
September 2003

Seek and hide
Citizen pressure through the Right to Information Act led to Delhi’s Food & Civil Supplies department procuring PDS records from ration dealers for public release. Subsequently, a large number of ration dealers moved the High Court for a stay on the release. Surprisingly, the Court issued a stay order.
August 2003

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POINT-TO-PONDER: Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC

Posted by rtiact2005 on September 9, 2006

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “parivartan india” <parivartan_india@rediffmail.com>
To: antibriberycampaign@yahoogroups.com
Date: 8 Sep 2006 17:36:22 -0000
Subject: [AntiBriberyCampaign] POINT-TO-PONDER: Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC
Dear Naveen,

I fully agree with what u are saying. In fact, I have been insisting with all RTI activists that we need to focus on Info commissioners. These commissioners have silently amended (or ruined) the RTI Act. Whereas the entire country fought agsint amendments, none is paying attention to this critical question.

But the bigger question is “what do we do?” In Delhi, we are organizing a public hearing on 24th Sept, in which the info comm will come and their orders will be publicly discussed. We hope to build public pressure on them to change.

But what else should we do? Please suggest.

In solidarity

Arvind

On Fri, 08 Sep 2006 asha wrote :
>POINT-TO-PONDER: Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC
>  Mr Naveen Tiwari
bantus_interiors@yahoo.com
>  ———–
>
>  Comment: Mr Naveen Tiwari has rightly highlighted critical damages
>  impeding RTI movement which will become all the more vital in the
>  long run. While the entire thrust was to save RTI Act, Governments
>  have been making adhoc appointments of people not-necessarily apt for
>  the job, to Information Commission. If we dont stop ignoring this, we
>  might land up with another ineffective institution to deal with. In an
>  open letter to Magsaysay Awardee and RTI Activist Arvind Kejriwal,
>  Naveen Tiwari has definitely thrown the spotlight on a vital missing
>  link – THERE IS NO WELL LAID OUT POLICY TO APPOINT RIGHTEOUS AND APT
>  PEOPLE TO SIC. Read more…
>
>
>  … E X C E R P T S ..
>
>  STATE GOVERNMENT MAY RENDER THE WHOLE ACT INEFFECTIVE BY APPOINTING
>  THE WRONG PEOPLE AS INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS
>
>  TURNING AN AQUARIUM INTO FISH SOUP IS SIMPLE. TURNING THE FISH SOUP
>  BACK INTO AN AQUARIUM IS NOT. FOR THE EX- COMMUNIST COUNTRIES,
>  STABILIZING ECONOMIES AND INTRODUCING MARKET MECHANISMS HAS PROVED
>  THE EASY BIT. REMAKING PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS, AND MAKING THEM CLEAN AND
>  EFFICIENT, IS MUCH HARDER TO DO AND MEASURE – (The Economist)
>  —————————————
>
>  Dear Arvindji,
>
>  I congratulate you on getting the Magsaysay. Belated greetings though.
>  I don’t know if you remember my last email regarding the state of RTI
>  Movement in Uttar Pradesh and the way state government may render the
>  whole
>  Act ineffective by appointing the wrong people as information
>  commissioners.
>
>  Although you did acknowledge my mail and appreciate the point I made
>  in my letter we could not take the issue further. I realize how busy
>  you must be and understand your preoccupation but my own role in the
>  whole movement is now at a point where I have to take a decisive step
>  as to which course I should take; the one in which I am a part of the
>  group led by sandeep and guided by you and arunaji or  go alone in my
>  own small way and do what I feel is more crucial need of the hour.
>  Let me explain myself once again:
>
>  Although it is very important to jointly fight against the proposed
>  amendment of RTI
>  I think it is equally important, if not more, that we see to it that
>  by the time this fight is over with some success, the governments of
>  the states do not damage the institution of SIC.
>  I don’t know about the success stories in delhi and other states,
>  even Lucknow will have some to boast about but these are exceptions.
>  Look at the simple scenario: if the 1st application for information
>  doesn’t get the right response and the appeal also ends up at the
>  dead end then a person has the only recourse of going to SIC with
>  final appeal. Imagine the SIC is just like another bigger version of
>  Lokayukta having a bunch of ineffective incompetent and callous
>  appointees drawing fat salaries and almost static for five years.
>  That would mean that people aggrieved by the decision of the SIC will
>  have the only option of going to the High court? How many ordinary
>  citizens can do that? And why people like me who can afford to go to
>  the high court will waste five months time running between a dead
>  pillar and a dead post?
>    The huge number of frustrated applicants will end up disillusioning
>  people about the effectiveness of your weapon -RTI.
>
>  Although the act was drafted by intelligent people who thought that
>  if the chief minister
>  And his colleague cabinet minister tries to bungle with the
>  appointment of information commissioners at least the leader of
>  opposition will foil that attempt and public interest will be
>  protected. But look at the situation in Uttar Pradesh! Both Mulayam
>  Singh Yadav and Lalji Tandon have no qualms about appointing buffoons
>  for the job of CIC and IC. And even the Governor is giving his
>  consent to this open abuse of the norms and propriety  as well as the
>  spirit of the act.
>
>  Let me again draw a  simple parallel example. The best of laws can
>  not get a person Justice if the judge is corrupt or incompetent or
>  both. I hope I have been able to bring the point home? This is the
>  reason why I have been crying my heart out right from the beginning
>  during the meetings at lucknow but somehow I get the feeling that the
>  social activist also gets carried away with activism of a popular
>  kind. If  it is a war it has to be fought on many levels. You cant
>  win a war by defeating the enemy in the air and getting defeated on
>  the field because the infantry was in the barracks.
>
>  I came across a very interesting passage in The Economist which I
>  quote:
>
>  “Turning an aquarium into fish soup is simple. Turning the fish soup
>  back into an aquarium is not. For the ex- communist countries,
>  stabilizing economies and introducing market mechanisms has proved
>  the easy bit. Remaking public institutions, and making them clean and
>  efficient, is much harder to do and measure.”
>
>  If we let  the politicians corrupt the institution of SIC it will be
>  irreversible and the whole movement of RTI will fail. As the Russian
>  proverb says, a fish tends to rot from the head.(I quote from the
>  same article in economist).
>
>  Please let us give it urgent attention that it requires lest mulayam
>  singh will appoint all his stooges as Information commissioners and
>  strangulate the newborn. Its same story of kansa hounding the avtar
>  Krishna or king herrod hunting for the child jesus who would be the
>  savior.
>
>  Thanks,
>
>  Naveen Tiwari
>  Email: bantus_interiors@yahoo.com
>  ——————————–
>
>
>
>———————————
>  All-new Yahoo! Mail – Fire up a more powerful email and get things done faster.
“PARIVARTAN”
G-3/17, Sunder Nagri,
Nand Nagri Extn.
Delhi-110 093
Ph. +91 11 65254077

Please sign the online petition opposing amendment to RTI act at following link:
http://www.petitiononline.com/save_rti/

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Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC

Posted by rtiact2005 on September 9, 2006

From: Arvind Kejriwal <parivartan_india@rediffmail.com>

Date: Sep 8, 2006 9:06 PM
RESPONSE: Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC
Arvind Kejriwal
Parivartan, New Delhi, India
Email: parivartan_india@rediffmail.com
—————————–

Comment: This response from Magsaysay Awardee 2006 Arvind Kejriwal is
to a valid question raised by Mr Naveen Tiwari, (POINT-TO-PONDER:
Saving RTI also means appointing right people to SIC), which is
available online at:
http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/DailySouthAsian/message/845
Meher Engineer had also responded with a frontline experience of
trying to get a copy of an official Gazette in WB, (The Kolkata
Gazette ~ aka The ELUSIVE Gazelle!), which is available online at:
http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/DailySouthAsian/message/846
——————-

“THESE COMMISSIONERS, HAVE SILENTLY AMENDED (OR RUINED) THE R.T.I.
ACT. WHEREAS THE ENTIRE COUNTRY FOUGHT AGAINST AMENDMENTS, NONE IS
PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS CRITICAL QUESTION” – Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Naveen,

I fully agree with what you are saying. In fact, I have been
insisting with all RTI activists that we need to focus on Information
commissioners. These commissioners, have silently amended (or ruined)
the RTI Act. Whereas the entire country fought against amendments,
none is paying attention to this critical question.

But the bigger question is “what do we do?” In Delhi, we are
organizing a public hearing on 24th September, 2006, in which the
information commissioners will come and their orders will be publicly
parivartan_india@rediffmail.com

Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:
   http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/DailySouthAsian/

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
   DailySouthAsian-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:
   http://uk.docs.yahoo.com/info/terms.html

“,0] ); D(["ce"]); //–>discussed. We hope to build public pressure on them to change.

But what else should we do? Please suggest.

In solidarity

Arvind Kejriwal
(Parivartan)
Email: parivartan_india@rediffmail.com

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5 SPARKS THAT FIRED THE NATION’S IMAGINATION

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 11, 2006

5 SPARKS THAT FIRED THE NATION’S IMAGINATIONCompiled by Deeptiman Tiwary and Amit Sengupta

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main16.asp?filename=Cr011406_5_Sparks.asp

Diehard Warrior: Kejriwal has fought relentlessly for civil society rights

Patience Infinite: Empty buckets and veiled thirst in Delhi’s suburbs

For The Rights That Were Due: Tribals in a protest demanding implementation of the Forests Bill

1 } RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Knowledge is power

The right to Information Act has been enacted, finally, after a protracted struggle by civil society groups and members of the National Advisory Council, like Aruna Roy and Jean Dreze with some crucial support from Sonia Gandhi. However, it was the long-drawn struggle by the people, in urban areas (led by people like Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan) as well as in remote villages, which turned the tide in support of a law which should go down in history as a political rupture of sorts. Villagers held innumerable people’s tribunals to book the entrenched nexus of corrupt politicians and officials by exposing corruption in development projects. This included the right to food campaigns, especially in areas terribly hit by drought. A section of the media helped the cause by pointing out that official secrecy in democracy can only help the corrupt in an unequal society. Despite severe criticisms of dilution and a section of the establishment refusing to play ball, this is two steps forward in a bleak scenario of stunning top-heavy corruption.

2 } WATER PRIVATISATION

Thirst is human

These are heady times, even in the metros. The middle class for the first time left its drawing rooms in Delhi and came out on the streets against the privatisation of power and water. They refused to pay huge bills for their faulty meters installed by big private companies. Later they, with a little help from Tehelka which led a campaign on water privatisation, categorically said that the backdoor entry of the World Bank and mncs in the water sector will not be accepted. Even Montek Singh Ahluwalia beat a hasty retreat. Water is a national resource, said the people, no one has the right to sell it. Parivartan led the movement. This could be a catalyst all over the nation in the globalised days to come.

3 } FORESTS BILL

Tribals and tribulations

Finally, the government at least thought about giving the forests back to their indigenous protectors, the adivasis. The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 being pushed by the government, though, has been bitterly criticised, especially by hardline pro-tiger lobbies. The debate is still on but the silver lining is that the original inheritors of the forests have, for once, hit the public space.

One cannot deny the fact that the organised elimination of tigers and their alarmingly dwindling numbers in the national parks and our forests is a direct result of the alienation of tribals from their habitat. With forests becoming a prohibited area, the tribals, who for centuries depended on them for their livelihood and also nourished and protected it, were suddenly pushed outside the margins. Is the search for a balance between man and nature not possible, despite the poaching mafia, underpaid forest guards and a bankrupt forest administration? Can’t the tiger and the adivasi co-exist, as it has been for centuries?

4 } CALL CENTRES

The show stinks

The call centres or the glorified bpos, the feather in the cap of globalisation, have suddenly become transparent. Gone is the projected flashy lifestyle, the yankee doodle nightlife, the long distance slangs, the fast bikes and cars and alleged fat salaries for undergrads and the swanky credit card future ahead; gone also is that daily nocturnal trip in that huge bully of a car, from the metros to the suburbs of the twinkling it cities. This manufactured gloss has been now decisively proved to be the creation of the profit-making sharks in the West who control these robotic sweatshops of outsourcing in the developing nations at dirt cheap rates. The reality is out that not only can women on night-shifts be raped, there is no dignity of work, abuse and exploitation is a norm, there are no fundamental rights, staffers are constantly under surveillance, a generation is dumbed down, its dreams trivialised, while sacking is not seen as an aberration. The call centres are stinking, and it’s showing.

5 } EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE ACT

One hundred days of solitude

The 100 days of work for adults in rural families in 200 districts have become a legal right after the Employment Guarantee Act was passed by Parliament. This has been a positive move backed by the National Advisory Committee led by Sonia Gandhi. The proposal was ambitious but possible given that several defunct food-for-work programmes already existed; but what makes this special is that it has arrived in the backdrop of successive years of drought, farmers’ suicides, starvation deaths, and widespread suffering in the post-wto, liberalised regime. Amply reflected in the rejection of the obscene India Shining plank by the poor in the last elections, the employment act was pushed by civil society groups, including the radical, energetic ‘Rozgar Yatra’ across the harsh summer landscape of rural India. Will the 100 days project work? Will work bring food, dignity, freedom? That’s a long haul in a democracy where it’s still miles to go before the dream.

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RTI: An enormous power with the people

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 9, 2006

RTI: An enormous power with the people

INTERVIEW: ARVIND KEJRIWAL

http://www.indiatogether.com/2006/aug/ivw-arvind.htm#continue

In conversation with Vinita Deshmukh, Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal talks about India’s RTI movement, and worries that a formidable tool of empowerment might slip out of the hands of citizens if amendments proposed by the UPA government are enacted.

07 August 2006 – An IIT graduate and a former bureaucrat with the Indian Revenue Service, Arvind Kejriwal has created a silent social revolution in the Right To Information (RTI) movement in the country through his organization, ‘Parivartan’. Propelling common people to invoke the Act, he streamlined the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Delhi where information obtained under the RTI revealed that the shopkeepers and food grain officers siphoned off 87 percent of wheat and 94 percent of rice meant for the poor. He used Gandhiji’s favourite weapon of Satyagraha in cases where the government departments hesitated to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) or where they refused to adopt transparency, as required by the RTI Act. He has been guiding hundreds of faceless citizens to use the RTI for their right to have proper public utility services, since they are the taxpayers to whom the local and state governments are duty-bound to provide the information.

His passion and dedication to this movement in India have been aptly recognized with this year’s Ramon Magsaysay award for Emergent Leadership, recently bestowed upon him. In an exclusive interview to India Together, Kejriwal gives an insight into the RTI movement in India, and worries that this formidable tool of empowerment might slip out of the hands of citizens if amendments proposed by Manmohan Singh’s government are enacted. Vinita Deshmukh spoke with him.

How does it feel to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsasay Award, and what are its implications for the Right To Information movement in India?

Firstly, I would like to clarify that the award does not belong to me – it belongs to the entire RTI movement and every RTI activist in the country. I am happy that the world has responded so positively to the RTI movement in India. Though sadly, the Indian government is all set to kill it through amendments, which it proposes to pass shortly in the Parliament, with disastrous effects on transparency, which had just made its presence felt in the country. I have procured the copy of these amendments and if it is passed by the Parliament, then it will practically kill the RTI movement in our country.

If the amendment is passed by the Parliament, then it will practically kill the RTI movement in our country.
 ·  Parivartan, on India Together
 ·  2006 Award citation
 ·  Magsaysay: Indian winners list

One of the crucial amendments is the deletion of ‘file notings’ by civil servants in administrative matters, which has created an uproar among RTI activists across the country. What are the implications of making file notings inaccessible to the common man? Also can you elaborate on other proposed amendments?

As for the file notings, the proposed amendment says that they will be provided only in case of ‘substantial’ social and development issues. The word ‘substantial’ has not been defined and it therefore has no meaning. What it implies though is that each time a citizen requests for file notings he or she will have to hire an advocate to argue his case of whether the particular social or development issue is ‘substantial’ enough to demand transparency. Secondly, for any information given, the name of the officer or reference to any individual will be obliterated, which means an end to transparency, as government officers and politicians, even if corrupt, will be shielded.

Also, no information on any development project will be given unless and until the project is completed. Which hypothetically means, if a river project is going to take 20 years to complete, the citizen will not be able to access any information about its contents or question its progress, never mind if it may happen to be environmentally disastrous. No one can question the progress of the Enron project until it is completed. In Delhi, we had successfully stopped water privatization after we invoked the RTI and found that it was flawed. Such privatisation would have made water more expensive for the citizens. At the ordinary level, people will not be able to find out the status of their passports until the passport has been issued to them. Sometimes, this may take two years, but the citizen will have no choice but to be at the mercy of the authorities. People will not able to demand as to why their ration cards are taking so much time to be issued. Otherwise, we have been invoking the RTI for these purposes and successfully speeding up the issuance of these vital documents of the common man.

Fourthly, now the Cabinet papers are never going to the disclosed until a Cabinet decision has been made. Until now, Cabinet papers were open to public scrutiny during the process of decision making, so that any decision that could adversely affect the good of the public could be questioned. These sometimes comprised notings of 10-15 files. Now, you can see them only after it’s too late – when the Cabinet decision has been finalised.

Now that you have won the prestigious award, people across the country would be looking up to you to spearhead a protest campaign against these proposed amendments, which aim at official secrecy instead of transparency. What is your action plan?

Of course, opposing the amendment is going to be my top priority and biggest challenge now. However, I want to tell everyone that nation-wide protests should not be confined to RTI activists only. Since these amendments are going to affect everyone’s life with disastrous consequences, the media as well as the people should wage a war. From this week onwards, up to August 25, a number of events are being organised in Delhi and large parts of the country to protest against the attempt of the government to strangulate the common man’s ‘right to know’ right. What’s distressing and scandalising is that, the government is extremely secretive about the proposed amendments and is not willing to even make the draft proposal public. Somehow, I have managed to procure a copy. It is also secretive about when it is going to pass these amendments. So, at a time when the country was successfully moving towards transparency, the government is hell bent on taking a retrograde step.

How successful do you think the RTI movement in India has been? Do you think there are some pockets where it has been particularly effective?

I would say that the movement has been more successful in those states where the Act existed even before the Central Act was implemented in October 2001. In union territories like Delhi and states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, people are well-versed with the Act and the government officers know what it means. Thus, the culture of RTI has set in firmly in these places. RTI has been invoked in innumerable cases across the length and breadth of the country with effective results. Thus proving that citizens can move the government if they are given a proper legislative and administrative set-up. However, this great power of transparency is slipping out of our hands.

Being a graduate from the elite IIT corridors of learning and having a cushy government job at the bureaucratic level, what drew you towards this people’s movement?

At a time when the country was successfully moving towards transparency, the government is hell bent on taking a retrograde step.
 •  Making utilities accountable
 •  Delhi’s ration system changing

It did not happen overnight, but took six to seven years to evolve. I was very happy with my government job but there was a lurking feeling of so much corruption, which existed at the level of the common man. He was asked to pay at every step for a work, which a government officer is duty bound to do by law. Thus, the common man was being forced into corruption, since he was asked to pay bribes at every stage. As a deputy commissioner of the Income Tax department, I helped people to get their jobs done without any middle men and without having to pay bribes to government personnel and also formed Parivartan as a platform to address people’s grievances.

However, when the RTI Act was implemented in Delhi in 2001, we realized its power accidentally. When a citizen, Ashok Gupta came with a grievance that he was not getting his electricity connection for two years because he refused to bribe the concerned Delhi Vidyut board officials, instead of taking up his complaint with the department, we asked him to file an application under the new found RTI. He wanted to know the names of the officials who have not taken action on his application, since, as per law, a consumer is supposed to receive his electricity connection within 30 days of applying for it. Immediately, he was provided with the connection. It was almost miraculous. How did this magic happen? In ordinary circumstances, such an application would have been consigned to the dustbin. This gave me the idea of the immense power of citizen empowerment. Thereafter, I went on a long leave and pursued the RTI campaign amongst common people, in full swing. In February this year, I finally resigned from the government.

Your success in streamlining the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Delhi is well known. What is its status today?

Streamlining the PDS in Delhi has been a long process. It also entailed attacks on women who were fighting for the cause. The Delhi government decided to systematise the areas and people have begun getting rations without hiccups. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) had been filed and we intervened. About two months back, the Supreme Court appointed the Wadhwa Commission to look into the distribution set-up in the PDS and make recommendations. The corrupt PDS officials, though, have yet to be booked.

You had formed the Delhi RTI Manch. Does it still exist now?

Yes, the Manch meets every second Sunday of the month. It is a platform for RTI activists to come and discuss any issue related to the right to know movement. In case of any urgent issue, we approach the relevant authorities. About 40-50 people generally congregate at every meeting.

What has been your moment of triumph in your RTI campaign?

My biggest moment of triumph was when a faceless woman, Triveni, filed an RTI application and followed it up. A resident of a slum colony, in East Delhi, she holds an Antyodaya card issued by the government for the poorest of the poor, by which she is entitled to food grains like wheat and rice at subsidised rates of two rupees and five rupees per kilogram respectively. However, Triveni used to buy wheat for Rs.5 per kg and rice for Rs.10 per kg. When she came to know of the actual rates from Parivartan in February 2003 she was shocked and with our guidance, she filed an RTI application. What she asked for was details of rations issued to her as per records and also copies of cash memos purported to have been issued to her. Cash memos are receipts, which a shopkeeper is supposed to issue for every transaction and take signature of the customer.

The reply stated that Triveni had been issued 25 kgs of wheat at Rs.2 per kg and 10kgs of Rice at Rs.3 per kg every month, in the last three months, when in actuality she had not received even a grain during that period. The cash memos showed thumb impressions in her name although she is literate and always signs. Shocked, she decided to confront the shopkeeper but having heard of the procurement of this information, the shopkeeper came to her house and pleaded to mend ways. Since then she has been getting the right amount of ration at the right price, thus proving that the tool of RTI places enormous power in the hands of the common people. Otherwise, no one would have listened to a poor woman like Triveni. This is a fine example of how the right to know redefines relationships between the people and the government in real terms.

And what has been your moment of agony?

Undoubtedly, the ongoing attempt by the government to dilute the Act.

Vinita Deshmukh
7 Aug 2006

Vinita Deshmukh is a freelance journalist and writes on environment, heritage, social and civic matters. She was formerly a senior editor at The Indian Express, Pune. She won the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting 2004 for her story on reverse migration to villages in Maharashtra.

 

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Common man is one up!

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 9, 2006

Common man is one up!

Arvind Kejriwal feels the Magsaysay Award is a victory for the people’s movement.

Big changes always begin with small steps. And a lot of guts Arvind Kejriwal should know. This Ramon Magsaysay Award winner gave up his IRS job to bring a change his organisation, Parivartan.

And from then, it was a struggle to help common people get a right to know what the babus did the Right to Information.

For 31-year-old Kejriwal, the dichotomy is ironical. While the world recognises and is awarding his work, the Indian government is trying to put a stopper.

“The government is trying to kill the Right to Information Act by bringing amendments in it. The whole idea is to empower poor citizens to fight against corruption and while the world recognises this, the government is quietly diluting it,”rues Kejriwal.

But when did this urge to change the Indian system get so strong for him that he even chucked his job? “I was working as an additional commissioner in the Income Tax office. But I always felt strongly against rampant corruption. Things had to be changed. I took up the challenge and formed my own organisation, Parivartan, in 2000. Since my job didn’t leave me with enough time for this work, I finally decided to quit.”

And did his family support him? “Completely, especially my wife Sunita who is working as a joint commissioner with the IT department,”he smiles.

kanpur.times@timesgroup.com

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India lacks participatory democracy: Kejriwal

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 8, 2006

India lacks participatory democracy: Kejriwal

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1869261,curpg-2.cms

NEW DELHI: Right to information crusader Arvind Kejriwal, the winner of the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight corruption”, believes that graft is just a symptom of India’s larger problem – the lack of participatory democracy.

“In a great country like India, corruption is just a symptom of a greater social malice. The real problem lies with our democratic practices. I think people in India need a complete switchover from representative democracy to participatory democracy,” Kejriwal, 38, said in an interview.

“Unless people get their share in decision- making, it would be very difficult to get the tag of world leader. We believe that every single person needs to be empowered, and the Right to Information (RTI) Act is a potent tool to empower the poorest of the poor,” the former government officer told IANS.

An Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur graduate, Kejriwal became an Indian Revenue Service officer before resigning in February this year. He launched Parivartan, an NGO he calls a “people’s movement”, in 2,000 to help citizens in Delhi to fight for their rights.

Speaking about his selection as one of the six luminaries to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, he said: “For me, it’s not a ticket to fame, but rather recognition of all those associated with the RTI movement. It’s recognition of the work not of any individual.”

In the citation, the Manila-based awards committee said: “The brazen corruption of the high and the mighty may grab headlines, but for ordinary people it is the ubiquity of everyday corruption that weighs heaviest. And that demoralizes. Arvind Kejriwal, founder of India’s Parivartan, understands this, which is why his campaign for change begins with the small things.”

The award will be presented Aug 31 in Manila.

Asked what next, Kejriwal said: “My first target is to stop the government from amending the RTI Act. Next I would like to promote the concept of local self-government in the national capital. Like ‘gram sabhas’, we would like to see ‘nagar sabhas’.”

He said when the international community was recognising a good thing (RTI Act), the Indian government was hell bent on diluting it. “The government’s decision to amend the RTI Act to exclude file noting from its purview is an attempt to curtail its advantage. It looks like a deliberate attempt to take away the teeth from the act.”

Asked about his experience in the IIT system and later as an additional commissioner of income tax, the activist said: “While IIT drilled a never-say-die attitude into me, the government job was a binding factor in the initial stage of public life.”

Kejriwal believes that training ordinary citizens to secure transparency and accountability at all levels of government was important and his anti-bribe campaign was an example. Some 700 groups across the country took part in the July 1-15 drive.

“As part of the campaign 1,500 volunteers were trained to handle the RTI centers in 55 cities. They helped commoners to file RTI applications. The campaign was a huge success and over 20,000 applications were filed in two weeks.”

Kejriwal has taken on the income tax department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the public distribution system and Delhi electricity authorities besides running a successful campaign to stop the privatisation of water supply in Delhi.

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Portrait of an activist

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 7, 2006

Portrait of an activist

Aasheesh Sharma

August 5, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1761281,0008.htm

He watches Bollywood movies and is a fan of Aamir Khan. But Arvind Kejriwal, the 38-year-old Magsaysay winner, would have liked a different ending for Rang De Basanti.

“Instead of killing the minister, Aamir and friends should have filed a right to information (RTI) application to find out why so many fighter planes were going down in flames,” he says.

If MIGS could fly, the father of two would have continued to lead a cushy life as an income tax officer in the Indian Revenue Services, or carved a corporate career with Tata Steel in Jamshedpur.

But unlike the celluloid protagonists he loves, Kejriwal did more than just look back in anger at the rot in society.

He pioneered a civic movement where ordinary men and women refused to be cowed down by the corrupt. Kejriwal used the RTI Act to equip citizens with the power to question the government.

Through his NGO Parivartan, he has been promoting participation in governance by showing people how simple information requests can benefit their lives.

When Triveni, a slum dweller from Sundarnagari, was denied her share of ration from the public distribution system for seven months, she approached Parivartan.

“We helped her draft an RTI application. The shopkeeper from where she was getting her rations had been forging her thumb impressions. But when she filed an application under RTI, he fell at her feet and apologised.”

His zeal to empower the poor is not without risk. An East Delhi don’s personal assistant threatened him with dire consequences. Doctors at a government hospital have physically assaulted him. And at least one RTI volunteer had her throat slit (but survived miraculously) allegedly by the ration shop mafia.

But if Kejriwal is dismayed, it is by the growing cynicism of young professionals in the country. “There is idealism as well as helplessness. RTI provides a vent for youth to do something about the wrongs in society.”

And Parivartan, he says, is attracting a variety of fired-on-idealism youth. Shuchi Pandey, for instance, holds an MBA degree from an Australian university.

She has decided to work full-time on RTI. Pabitra Roy Chowdhary, a chartered accountant is contemplating plunging into activism. “Even STD booth operator Rajiv closed shop to join us and find more meaning in life.”

There was no one moment that made him leave the IRS, it was a gradual evolution, says Kejriwal. “I was never victimised for being an honest officer. But there were a large number of people who visited government departments, unwilling to pay bribes, but were forced to do so.

We set up Parivartan in January 2000 telling people to approach us with their grievances. For over two years, we helped hundreds solve their problems.

But over time, we got the feeling we were just like touts who didn’t charge a fee. This was only half the job done. We were struggling with this dilemma when the Delhi RTI Act was passed in October 2000.”

A lot of water has flown down the Yamuna since. Kejriwal has become synonymous with the Right to Information.

In a nationwide campaign across 55 cities in association with the Hindustan Times, 21,000 RTI applications were filed in just 15 days. Some 42,000 visitors attended camps where 1,500 trained volunteers helped process their applications.

Kejriwal is unhappy with the attempts to water down the RTI. “File notings are an esoteric thing. If a corrupt officer sits on the file, the applicant would not have any basis of accountability for delays. Under the RTI Act, we could ask for daily progress made on the application and the names and designations of the officials. These questions won’t be answered under the amended Act,” he adds.

If the RTI Act is throttled, Kejriwal vows to launch another campaign to restore it to its former glory. If resolve and sincerity are any criteria, this real life hero’s script is bound to have a happy ending.

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Kejriwal flays parties for RTI amendments

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 7, 2006

Kejriwal flays parties for RTI amendments

Press Trust of India

London, August 7, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1762605,0008.htm

Criticising political parties for trying to make the Right to Information Act meaningless through proposed amendments in the original bill, Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal has said a nationwide agitation would be launched in protest against the move from Wednesday.

“Sonia Gandhi played a major role in getting the RTI Act passed in Parliament. We have no hesitation in admitting this. However, I am quite surprised at her silence on the proposed amendments.”

“She should stop her party’s government from tampering with the Act. It seems as if the majority of political parties have succumbed to the pressure of a section of corrupt bureaucracy, which does not want to divulge information to the people,” Kejriwal told a private news channel on Sunday night.

Enactment of RTI law was a major victory of Indian democracy and was one of the most beautiful legislations in the world. However, after its passage, the Union Government will lack the will to implement it in the right spirit- Right from the appointment of former bureaucrats to State Information Commissions and the Central Information Commission, he said.

The Government’s attitude clearly shows it wants to scuttle the implementation of this bill.

“More recently, the move to amend the RTI Act barely less than a year after it came into existence, clearly shows that a majority of political parties in the country are under pressure from a section of corrupt bureaucrats, who want to repeal this Act through back-door manipulations,” Kejriwal, a noted RTI activist, said.

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